Saturday, July 27, 2013

Year of Italian Culture - You might be more Italian than you think!

26 July 2013 (ORCNS) - This year, 2013, is the Year of Italian Culture in the United States. Know what else? You might be more Italian than you think! Are you French or Celtic? You might be Italian. Let's get some background first.

American perceptions of what it means to be Italian typically follow the stereotype of a Sicilian or Neapolitan with a Mediterranean appearance. Not surprising at all, since so many Italian immigrants to the United States came from those areas and other places in Southern Italy. But there is more to Italy!

The concept of Italy as we know it today really didn't start until the Kingdom of Sardinia annexed (that's a fancy term for conquering, partly through military force and partly through diplomatic means) the entire Italian peninsula. Pretty tall order, eh? Before that, "Italy" was a collection of sovereign (another fancy term for "independent") states that existed at various times, including the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Duchy of Milan, the Republic of Venice, the Kingdoms of Sardinia, Etruria, Naples, and the Two Sicilies, and several others. It was kind of like the United States, only the States weren't united under one common government.

And what about that Kingdom of Sardinia that unified Italy? That's the House of Savoy...which is from...that's right, you guessed it...Savoy! But wait! Savoy is in France! Turns out that whole border in Northern Italian is sort of a figment of someone's imagination. It's really just a political boundary. Savoy (home of fondue and skiing) is actually Italian, but the House of Savoy gave it to France as a little thank you gift. Nice gift, eh?

Let's go beyond the border all the way to the north of France...Normandy! Viking, right? Only in part. Ethnically, Normans are Scandinavian, Frankish (just like Charlemagne), AND Gallo-Roman. The Gallo-Romans were Romans who moved up into Gaul (France during the Roman Empire) and stayed. So, if you're of French ancestry, then you have strong ties to the Italians, too! And, while William the Conqueror was leading the Norman Conquest of Britain, Roger (another Norman) was leading his own conquest of Sicily.

But wait, there's more! The ancient civilization of central Italy, the Etruscans, were getting squeezed by the Romans from the south and the Celtic tribes from the North. The Romans eventually took over, and the Celts moved up into France, Spain, and the British Isles where they really became famous in just about everything. Art, government, military, farming, and invention, including Guinness beer! So, if you're of Celtic ancestry, you also have strong ties to Italy. After all, your ancestors used to live there!

So, whether you think you're Italian or not, let's celebrate the great culture of the Italian peninsula with a glass of wine and a cup of espresso! Buon appetito!