Italian culture is today a reflection of the rich history of one of the most fascinating countries in the world. In fact, it is a culture based on a country which, at the height of its power was the centre of an empire that spanned the known world. The Roman Empire exported its culture to countries across Europe and it is no exaggeration to say that the Roman Empire probably did more to influence modern society (at least in the Western World) than any other civilization before or since.
The Pillars of Italian Culture
Today, Italian culture revolves around a number of pillars; family, religion, history, the arts, architecture, language, and last – but by no means least, food.
Italy is home to over 62 million people and of that population around 96% are of Italian heritage. The rest of the population hails from diverse other countries and Regions such as North Africa, Germany, Albania and a variety of other countries in Europe and further abroad.
However, it is the countries that border Italy that have had the most influence on the culture that today is uniquely Italian. Countries such as France, Switzerland, and Austria have all played their part in providing influences that have shaped Italian language, culture, art, and cuisine. The result is a country that boasts a depth of culture and uniqueness that continues to draw visitors from across the globe to its many attractions.
For any culture, the role that language plays is an important one. It allows for thoughts and ideas to easily permeate a society if there is a common method of communication. In Italy, more than 90% of those who call the country home speak Italian. However, there are a large number of regional dialects that have served to make the country rich with thought and philosophy for hundreds of years.
1. The central role played by family
One of the most important foundations of Italian culture is the central role played by family. It is the bonds that extend across the extended family that have for generations allowed the Italian people to maintain a unique culture even when emigrating to other countries.
The Italian idea of family is somewhat different to that which one encounters in other Westernised nations where the concept of the ‘nuclear family’ is seen as all important. The Italian concept of family encompasses a far more extended model in which ties of blood and marriage are much more widely dispersed.
The relationship with children is also a large part of what makes the Italian culture and its extended family units so strong – in the face of adversity. Whereas in other cultures children are encouraged to make their own way in the world and seek a large measure of independence, in Italian families the reverse is by and large true. Children are encouraged to maintain extremely close ties to the family – including attending frequent family gatherings even once they reach adulthood.
2. The influence of religion
Another influence on Italian culture that cannot be overlooked is religion. Not surprisingly the overwhelming majority of Italians are Roman Catholic. The central role of religion in a country that plays host to the Vatican is no surprise. But the issue of faith is one that is central to family and cultural life in Italy, and remains a strong unifying force for those who call the country home.
3. A glimpse into the architecture
The sheer delight of visiting some of Italy’s most wonderful cities can offer a glimpse into the architecture that has shaped thought and style across the globe. The planning and execution of the many buildings that took pride of place in the Roman Empire continue to shape thought and influence the culture of modern day Italy.
The grandeur of these edifices is a source of justifiable pride for those living in Italy. The joy that is reflected in these buildings and the idea that Italy was once the master of all of Europe makes Italians among the proudest of nations – and so they should be. But it is not only the form and balance of these buildings that continue to influence what the world today recognises as the unique culture of Italy – but also what is contained in many of these buildings.
4. Art and culture
Art and culture continue to be inspired by Italian past – and continues on today. Any visitor to the country cannot but be awed by the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel where the genius work of Michelangelo is on display.
It is also in the art and beauty of the opera that the culture of Italy breaks barriers between cultures and nations. The soaring notes and beauty of this art form continue to be part and parcel of the Italian culture. One would be hard pressed to spend any time in the country and not notice how much pride and joy Italians place on expression through song.
However, if there is one popular foundation that Italy has provided the world to aid in its understanding of the culture of the country and what it means to be truly Italian, it is in the area of cuisine. It is an understatement to say that Italian culture has been spread through the international acceptance of its cuisine.
The central role of food and wine in Italian culture cannot be underestimated. This is a country where a meal is a cause for celebration – and one where the breaking of bread is viewed as an opportunity for friends and family to further cement the ties that bind them together.
Regional variations and the quality of the ingredients that are used to produce Italian masterpieces all contribute to the rich tapestry that today continues to fascinate, entertain, and provide joy to millions, if not billions of people across the world. The rich history of Italy has influenced cultures across the globe. This is a country where culture is king and where family is the foundation of all things good. Food, wine, song and beauty all combine in Italy to provide that special and unique culture that has influenced people across the globe.