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Italy Culture



Italy is a popular European country for its rich history, excellent tourist destinations and also for its enriched culture. Italy has a significant cultural influence over the Mediterranean countries simply because it is one of the oldest provinces of Europe and had been the cradle for human civilization for a long time.

The favorable climatic condition of the region had helped the human civilization to flourish in this region even during the prehistoric period. Evidences of human inhabitation that were found in different parts of Italy can be dated back to the Old Stone Age and Bronze Age. It is during the 1st B.C. Italy unified under the Roman Empire. It is during this time that arts and culture flourished in Italy and it became the dominating political as well as cultural power in Europe.

To know the country better let us now look at Italy culture which still has a powerful influence over the European continent.

Formation of Italy under the Roman power
The ancient city of Rome was founded during 735 B.C. and it was ruled by the Etruscan kings from 616 BC. After the decline of Etruscan kings the Romans grew in power and it was under them that unification of Rome begun. They started conquering new lands and by 1st B.C. the entire peninsula of south of Alps came to know as Italy. The kingdom of Italy was then spread from Alps to Sicily. Along with political dominance the Romans were also successful in unifying the entire region under a common language- Latin and by that the cultural dominance of Rome was also established upon the Italian peninsula.

During the able governance of Roman Emperors there was a spurt of both culture and linguistic works in Italy. Many of the great sculptures and architectures, which can still be witnessed, were built during this time. Some of the ancient architectures of Rome are,

  • The pantheon
  • The Colosseum
  • Baths of Caracalla
  • Cloaca Maxima
  • Trajan's Column

Italian culture through Middle age
When during the 5th century A.D. the Roman Empire collapsed the province became the open territory for foreign attacks and barbarian raids. There were local rulers and landlords who turned Italy into a constant battlefield over land acquisition and succession. There were also conflicts between the Pope, who used to control the central Italy and Rome, and the Holy Roman Emperors. Both of them claimed Italy to be their domain.

During this period there was a general aversion towards arts and culture. This period was therefore known as the Dark Age in the history of Europe.

Reawakening of Italy: Renaissance
Italy took the leading role during the reawakening of Europe in 14th and 15th centuries. Historians attribute several factors, such as- free political environment, climatic condition as well as commercial prosperity, in favor of Italy in becoming the cradle of Renaissance. Italy also enjoyed the linguistic advantage over the other nations in becoming the pioneer of Renaissance. Italians were familiar with Latin, which was the language used during the ancient period and their country was full of text and scriptures from that period.

During this time many great talents were born in Italy who had brought in radical changes against the Papal control of Middle Age.

  1. Petrarch, Tasso, Ariosto in poetry
  2. Boccaccio, Machiavelli and Castiglione in prose
  3. da Vinci, Raphael, Botticelli, Fra Angelico and Michelangelo in painting, architecture and sculpture.
  4. Galileo Galilei, Evangelista Torricelli, Giovanni Fontana, Giovanni Antonio Magini in science.

It is during this time most of the great paintings, sculptures, architectures as well as literary works were created. The modern Italy culture also flourished during this period. Many of the traditions that are now in practice in Italy took shape during the Renaissance era.

Modern Italy culture: How to be Italian
Doing it the Italian way is a very common saying now-a-days. Modern Italians have very distinct ways with them which separate them from rest of the European communities. Following are some of the common practices in Italy which you to can easily adopt to feel at home while traveling to Italy.

Language: Italian is the most commonly spoken language. Around 93% of the population speaks Italian when 50% speak local dialects as well. Italians are very sensitive about their language and speaking some of the commonly used words will help you get better deals from the locals. Italians are also helpful if they see that you are trying to adopt their ways.

Dress: Although Italians are lenient about dress codes but they have the tendency to judge oneís social status as well as age from their dresses. Italians really believe in the importance of first appearance and they are likely to build an idea sometimes about you from your dresses even before a word is exchanged. Hence, if you are in Italy prepared to be judged by your clothes, shoes and accessories.

Bella figura: In Italian Bella Figura isnít only restricted to looking good but the meaning actually extends to the aura that you carry around you. Bella Figura therefore comprises of your confidence, style, demeanor etc.

Religion: Italians are predominantly Catholics. Italy has most number of churches per capita than any other countries. Remember to dress properly if you are visiting the religious places.

Greeting: For strangers formal handshakes, maintaining the eye contact would suffice. For more informal greetings, blowing air kisses and a pat on the back is normal with men.

Dining etiquette: If you are invited to an Italian household dress up elegantly for the party. You donít have to be punctual in arriving at the party. Being late is normally accepted. Bring gift of wine or other items properly wrapped for the host. Donít sit on the table until you are asked. Normally, the hostess will sit first, eat first and is expected to be the first one to leave table. She will also be the first one to offer toast. So, wait for your turn. If you are the special guest, return the toast at sometime during the meal.

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