Most Italians thrive on rivalries. It is one thing to be a supporter of your favorite team, but the real joy is when they can trounce a bitter rival. In the United States, we most commonly associate this with sports – Yankees vs. Red Sox; Giants vs. Eagles or Cowboys or Redskins… Most people have a team they love to hate. In Italy, it is taken to a different level, almost an art form. Where in America a simmering rivalry exists for years and on occasion lasts for decades, in Italy, rivalries are often measured in centuries.
From sporting squabbles to disputes over a dessert, there are a number of rivalries that you need to know about. You never know when you might be asked to pick a side.
Pisa vs Livorno
The two Tuscan cities of Pisa and Livorno might be neighbors but there is no love lost between them, thanks to a grudge that goes back to the time of the Medicis. With the backing of the Florentine dynasty, Livorno grew from a small fishing village to become an important strategic port city. This elevation of its status did little to endear the town to Pisa, a once-powerful maritime republic.
After being eclipsed by the ‘vulgar’ and ‘rude’ Livornesi down the road, Pisans came up with the saying:
“Il sogno di un pisano è di svegliarsi a mezzogiorno, guardare verso il mare e non vedere più Livorno.” (The dream of a Pisan is to wake up at midday, look towards the sea and not see Livorno anymore). Livorno, of course, has its own phrase for its snobbish neighbor, which translates as “Better a death in
Friuli-Venezia Giulia vs Veneto
Italians are very passionate about food and perhaps the next best thing to consuming it is arguing about it. This inevitably became the case when two regions both claim to be the birthplace of one of Italy’s most famous desserts.
Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia lie side by side in the north of Italy, but are separated by a dispute over the origins of tiramisu. It has long been considered that the layered dessert was created in the late 1960s at Alle Beccherie, a restaurant in Treviso, Veneto, by pastry chef Roberto Linguanotto. In recent years, however, Friulians have hit back with their version of dessert’s origin, claiming that a hotel in Udine was also serving tiramisu during that same period.
The Friulians’ claim to the title was bolstered further when, in 2016, two food writers discovered tiramisu recipes from the region dating back to the 1950s. In 2017, the dessert was officially added to a list of traditional dishes of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, but the two regions still couldn’t resolve their differences. Venetians responded with calls for the decree to be suspended, claiming officials must have been given inaccurate information and so the love/hate relationship continues.