The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoples

The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoples

Language: English

Pages: 480

ISBN: 0374533601

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A provocative, entertaining account of Italy's diverse riches, its hopes and dreams, its past and present

Did Garibaldi do Italy a disservice when he helped its disparate parts achieve unity? Was the goal of political unification a mistake? The question is asked and answered in a number of ways in The Pursuit of Italy, an engaging, original consideration of the many histories that contribute to the brilliance―and weakness―of Italy today.

David Gilmour's wonderfully readable exploration of Italian life over the centuries is filled with provocative anecdotes as well as personal observations, and is peopled by the great figures of the Italian past―from Cicero and Virgil to the controversial politicians of the twentieth century. His wise account of the Risorgimento debunks the nationalistic myths that surround it, though he paints a sympathetic portrait of Giuseppe Verdi, a beloved hero of the era.

Gilmour shows that the glory of Italy has always lain in its regions, with their distinctive art, civic cultures, identities, and cuisines. Italy's inhabitants identified themselves not as Italians but as Tuscans and Venetians, Sicilians and Lombards, Neapolitans and Genoese. Italy's strength and culture still come from its regions rather than from its misconceived, mishandled notion of a unified nation.

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the station and find yourself in the Piazza Garibaldi, the feeling is intensified by the sight of so many foreigners, young men from Africa and Latin America selling bracelets, sunglasses and fake designer bags, young women from Senegal and Brazil selling themselves, standing in clusters around the market by the Porta Nolana, trying to look unobtrusive to the police but obvious enough for potential customers to realize what they are offering. Yet even without the immigrants, the place seems

the inspiration for the future Christian Democratic Party. Leave us in the south to govern ourselves, plan our own financial policy, spend our own taxes, take responsibility for our own public works, and find our own remedies for our difficulties … we are not schoolchildren, we have no need of the North’s concerned protection.13 In 1899 Giustino Fortunato, one of the wisest of Italian politicians, declared that it was ‘no accident that there are those who say – and I am quoting my father! –

increase in pensions. He had failed to create the jobs he had promised, he had failed to reduce the crime rate and he had failed to lower taxes, though he had made it easier for the rich to evade them. Above all, his assertion that the Italian economy needed an entrepreneur like him to get it moving had been made to look ridiculous. Over the course of his second premiership Italians became poorer, and their economy grew at an average annual rate of just one-third of 1 per cent, slower than in any

reasonable and lenient with their arrangements afterwards. In 381 BC they gave the Latin city of Tusculum all the privileges of Roman citizenship and allowed it to retain its government as well. Roman justice was not an oxymoron. The favour the allies most desired was citizenship, the right to say in Cicero’s phrase civis romanus sum and thus feel protected against any high-handed behaviour from Roman officials. Yet most of them had to put up with lesser rights until the lifetime of Caesar.

independence of Milan extinguished as a consequence of Ludovico’s encouragement of Charles VIII’s aggression in Italy. The rest of the peninsula also suffered as a result of the French invasions: Venice had to fight its Cambrai War; Naples was seized by both the French and the Spanish; Florence went backwards and forwards between republicans and the Medici; and in 1527 Rome was sacked by an imperial army. As the historian Richard Mackenney has noted, the savage wars fought in Italy mainly by

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