Before you begin working your way to foreign language fluency, it helps to understand the culture behind the language you’re learning. After all, language exists to help a group of people express their ideas and beliefs. Italy is an old country with a rich history and culture. As you begin your Italian language program, gaining a strong grasp on this history, the values, and the etiquette will help you rapidly achieve success. In particular, the history of Italy plays a vital role in defining what it means to be Italian while showing how Italy interacts with the rest of the world.
In ancient times, southern Italy was a Greek colony known as “Magna Graecia,” or Greater Greece. The proximity the culturally wealthy Greek cities inspired Roman sculptors to copy the work of the Greeks, so many Roman copies of Greek sculptures can be found in Italy. Some of the world’s most impressive ancient Greek monuments and feats of architecture are still standing in southern Italy and the Sicilian islands.
The church of San Clemente in Rome is the most memorable place to take in the multilayered history of Italy, from ancient Greek times to the Renaissance. An eleventh-century Romanesque mosaic dominates the ceiling,and the walls and floor are adorned with Renaissance paintings and Baroque décor. Imposing white Roman columns line both sides of the room leading up to the altar. An underground chamber contains relics of Italy’s ancient history: fragments of frescos and a relief dedicated to the Greek god Mithras.
To truly experience the glory of ancient Roman architecture, visit Pompeii and the Herculaneum. Both cities were buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E. Volcanic ash buried the cities, preserving them until their excavation in the mid-eighteenth century. Pompeii and the Herculaneum are open to visitors from 9:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. inApril through October, with earlier closing times at 5:00 p.m. from November through March. You will want to set aside at least three or four hours for either site, as a perfectly preserved ancient Roman city is a lot to take in.
Although many Italians would prefer to live and work in the region where they were born, necessity has forced many southern Italians to migrate to the north or to the United Kingdom and US. However, even though they have left their regions, these Italians still hold fast to their culture, including their ways of life, their history, their food, and their attitudes.
Although Italy is one nation, it is often perceived as many, as Italians identify more with their region than the country. Italian children tend to live at home longer than in other cultures and when they do move, they tend to stay close to home. You can often find extended families living in the same city or even in the same house.
When meeting with an Italian, it is important to show respect and reverence for their culture. If you are offered a local food or wine, you should be very appreciative. If someone offers to show you a favorite spot in his or her community or gives you a gift that is symbolic of his or her region, her or she is showing you the utmost honor. You should treat all gifts and offers with reverence and appreciation.
When you meet with an Italian, they will often not identify themselves as Italian, but rather by their region of origin, such as Venetian or Florentine. You will find that they often support their local football team, another symbol of regional culture.
Italy has a long history of welcoming outsiders. For centuries, the country has opened itself to artists, poets, pilgrims, and even invading armies. This has made the country open to new people and ideas. The country is and has always been a top destination for tourists. In fact, in the 1800s and 1900s it was very common for English nobles to take a tour of Europe, and of course, Italy was an important stop. The country is constantly full of visitors. Take Venice, which has a population of around 270,000 yet has 9.8 million visitors each year.
Italians are known for being welcoming to outsiders [Italian Etiquette: How to Behave in Italy] and enjoy meeting people from other cultures. They enjoy sharing their own culture with visitors, such as food and favorite places. They also love learning about their visitors’ cultures. They will easily make friends with new people, even those from a foreign country. The Italian people can be described as “esterofili.” This translates to a love for things from foreign cultures. Italians are fascinated by other cultures and may even adopt some characteristics of those other cultures. Italians often take English words and use them into their own culture, particularly in sports and economics. Italians do not do this because their own language is short on words, but because they like to include foreign buzzwords in their language. For example, in football, the coach is known as “il mister,” and the terms “dribbling,”“corner,” and “offside” are also used.
One of the reasons that Italy is such a wonderful place to visit is because the place has truly stood the test of time. The language that the people who live there speak is one that has spread throughout the world. It’s one of those languages that people pretend they know how to speak to feel as though they have a connection to Italy.
These days, places like Malta, San Marino, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, France, and the United States all have people who consider Italian either their first or second language. Vatican City, long considered a region or place all on its own and separate from Italy speaks the language.
Italy isn’t just spreading its language. The culture of Italy is all around us and it’s one of the reasons so many people want to see where it all began. Food is just one part of the culture that has seen people fall in love with the kind of coffee Italians favor, and of course pizza and pasta. Some of these foods are even considered to be Italian but really aren’t.
Italy has one of the world’s top 10 economies and has only strengthened itself after it had to pick up the pieces following World War II. The country exports quite a few different goods all over the world and quite a few of those goods are considered to be among the best when it comes to craftsmanship.