When we think about Italian culture, several things might immediately pop into our heads. The first thing that comes to mind for me is always “Civilization” and the many connotations of the word. Beginning with ancient Rome and the Roman Empire, most of my concepts about Italian culture are framed with this deep history as of one of the cradles of our modern, western ways of life including our governmental systems, infrastructure and architecture—from philosophers and writers like Virgil and Ovid, to emperors, roadways to aqueducts, to temples and the Colosseum. We also always certainly imagine majestic columns, frescoed walls and marble sculptures of ancient times along with the mythology of the gods and the writings and teachings of the philosophers. And this is only the ancient history!
In more “recent” times, the Italian Renaissance provided us with the works of artists like Michelangelo and DaVinci, the frescoes of Raphael, Botticelli’s beautiful depictions of women, and of course the literature of Dante, Petrarch and Machiavelli among others. We can also call to mind the creative, scientific discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo from this important period along with the musical “innovations” of polyphony and the creation of madrigals. Just imagine sitting in one of these gorgeous, frescoed rooms, with their high ceilings, listening to the blended voices of the polyphonic singers!
We can then leap to a more modern Italy and imagine civilization in the context of “civilized”. The profound sense of style of the Italians can be a bit daunting (at least for me, a non-fashionista.) I find myself wishing I had that seemingly effortless, innate, elegant fashion sense! I’m also reminded of the undeniable elegance of Italian leather goods (bags and shoes), their multitude of high fashion labels, automobiles, furniture/interior design, the famous Venetian lace and other textiles, and their glorious Murano glass. And we cannot forget the Italian contributions in more “contemporary” opera and film. And finally, there is the obvious importance of food and wine, which we’ve already touched on in their own articles.
Nice juxtaposition amongst ancient SPQR evoking the ancient infrastructure alongside the modern Roman sidewalk and my negroni cocktail “to go”!
As we continue our new Italian adventure over the next 20 months, beginning next month with the beautiful region of Umbria, we will dive deeper into the extensive additions to world culture that are held by each of the unique and endlessly interesting Italian regions, looking at architectural sites of great importance, museums, festivals and customs. We will provide you with some historical context for each region, the historic traditions they hold dear even today, and highlights of their architecture, art and other cultural contributions. We hope you’ll enjoy coming along for the ride! And as always, we’d love to hear some of your favorite aspects of Italian culture. Please feel free to share in the comments!