I was asked recently why I was so proud of my heritage. My immediate response included that Italy can lay claim to so many historical and cultural elements that I did not have nearly enough time to list its contributions and achievements. But I wanted to explain myself to the poser of the question and started to explain why “Italy is Italy.” It was easy to begin with the Roman Empire and the Renaissance for I can make a strong case that they serve as the foundation of Italy. One is the strength behind the unification of Europe and the other molded the world’s modern view of life with ‘the cultural transformation’ of Western Civilization. And as my wife says, “Italy even has the Vatican.”
Just under the cultural heading, what other nation can ‘trumpet’ the names of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vince, Caravaggio, Bernini, Raphael, Donatello and so many more?
I could begin to see the expression on the face of the questioner change as I mentioned the composers Puccini, Verdi and Vivaldi, as I then followed with famed designers and architects Palladio, Brunelleschi and Bramante. My friend had to be seated when I explained that Italy was responsible for double-entry bookkeeping, the electric battery, the seismograph and telegraph. I purposely treated lightly, the Trevi Fountain, the Tower of Pisa, the Basilica of Saint Peter’s and St. Mark’s in Venice because I could see I had created a ‘convert.’ With that said, I had to include that Italy had more UNESCO sites than any other country in the world. Many more!
Knowing that I succeeded in explaining my pride, I had to get one final ‘punch’ into the belly of my listener. I concluded with a quote from the famed movie The Third Man. “In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock!”