Happy Birthday to a Crazy Old Broad!!
And no I’m not talking about Betty White. The signora in question is Italy and she’s 150 years young. Today the entire country (except those mean green Leghisti) is waving the green white and red to celebrate Italian unification.
Patriotism has never been an easy sentiment for Italians. They feel more kinship to their own town or region than to their country. This is natural for a relatively new nation with such a fractured past. And these days, most Italians weren’t even in the mood to celebrate the anniversary, what with all the political, economic and cultural turmoil. Up until recently, everyone from politicians to business leaders were debating whether or not March 17 should be declared a national holiday. This was a bit shocking to me even if chronic existential crises over national unity is nothing new to a Canadian.
But in the end hatchets were buried and schools and offices will be closed all over Italy. I tried to get my kids interested in the occasion and taught my daughter the national anthem (as I’m pretty sure they don’t do it at school anymore). The kids also came home with tricolore flags and were very proud when I hung them outside. We also inadvertently celebrated over dinner this evening. Bellie and Diggy insisted on having both tomato sauce and pesto with their gnocchi, because tomato sauce alone would have been just too healthy an option. After I finished serving I noticed that their dishes were in keeping with the patriotic theme.
Then I asked my husband to briefly explain the Risorgimento to the kids but they were more interested in wolfing down taleggio cheese and singing, or rather, screaming the national anthem than hearing about Garibaldi and Mazzini.
Perhaps I’ll let them watch Roberto Benigni’s subdued rendition of the Inno di Mameli from this year’s San Remo festival. It conveys all the strength, elegance and emotion that unites all the citizens of this maddeningly wonderful country.