Cover image for The Italians
Title:
The Italians
Author:
Hooper, John, 1950- , author.
Publication Information:
New York, New York : Viking, 2015.
Physical Description:
xvii, 316 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Summary:
How can a nation that spawned the Renaissance have produced the Mafia? How could people concerned with bella figura (keeping up appearances) have elected Silvio Berlusconi as their leader, not once, but three times? Sublime and maddening, fascinating yet baffling, Italy is a country of seemingly unsolvable riddles. John Hooper's entertaining and perceptive new book is the ideal companion for anyone seeking to understand contemporary Italy and the unique character of the Italians. Digging deep into their history, culture, and religion, Hooper offers keys to understanding everything from their bewildering politics to their love of life and beauty. Looking at the facts that lie behind the stereotypes, he sheds new light on many aspects of Italian life-- football and Freemasonry, sex, symbolism, and the reason why Italian has twelve words for a coat hanger, yet none for a hangover. Even readers who think they know Italy well will be surprised, challenged, and delighted by The Italians.
Language:
English
Contents:
1. The beautiful country : Porta Pia ; Glory and misery ; "The crux of the Italian problem" ; Islands, highlands and plains -- 2. A violent past : Leo's legacy ; Goths, Lombards and Byzantines ; A holy forgery ; The communes ; The Venetian exception ; The medieval Mezzogiorno ; The Italian wars and the Sack of Rome ; Under foreign yokes -- 3. Echoes and reverberations : Two Italies, or three? ; Civismo ; A linguist's playground ; Superiority and sensitivity ; The vincolo esterno ; Of furbi and fessi ; Fragile loyalties ; The prime minister who vanished from history ; Trasformismo -- 4. A hall of mirrors : The Minister for Simplification ; A plethora of laws (and law-enforcers) ; Bureaucracy ; Truth and verità ; Mysteries and the "misty port" ; Pirandello -- 5. Fantasia : Myths and legends ; A phantom army ; Pinocchio ; Copiatura ; Masks and messages ; Opera ; Padania declares independence ; Dietrologia -- 6. Face values : The neo-Fascist's bare arms ; Style and look ; Symbolism ; Talking visually ; Videocracy ; Bella (and brutta) figura -- 7. Life as art : Treasuring life ; A thick layer of stardust ; Work and leisure ; La tavola ; The Mediterranean diet ; Slow food and fast food ; A brief history of pasta ; Foreign food, what foreign food? -- 8. Gnocchi on Thursdays : D'Antona and Biagi ; A love of the familiar ; "Acts of God" and acts of man ; One step to the right ; Conservatism, technophobia and gerontocracy ; The "BOT people" ; From catenaccio to gambling fever -- 9. Holy orders : A blurred line ; The bloody end of Muslim Italy ; Jews and ghettos ; The Waldensians ; Freemasonry ; Blasphemy ; The Lateran Pacts ; Christian Democracy ; A less Catholic Italy ; Comunione e Liberazione ; Sant'Egidio ; Padre Pio ; The "testicles of His Holiness" -- 10. Le Italiane, attitudes change : Great-aunt Clorinda ; From Mozzoni to the Manifesto di rivolta femminile ; Gender and language ; Veline ; Desperate housewives ; Ricatto sessuale ; The influence of Berlusconi ; If not now, when? ; Change in (and on) the air ; La Mamma: glorified but unsupported -- 11. Lovers and sons : Al cuore non si comanda? ; A sexual revolution (within limits) ; Sensuous she-cats and "Italian stallions" ; Adultery ; Prostitution ; Contraception and the mystery of the (missing) unplanned pregnancies ; Mammismo ; Gender stereotyping ; Homosexuality --

12. Family matters : An honored but changing institution ; Divorce ; The decline of marriage ; The Italian family firm: myths and realities ; The arrival of the badante ; Stay-at-home kids: spoiled or just broke? ; "Amoral familism" ; Menefreghismo -- 13. People who don't dance : From behind shades ; Wariness ; The Fox and the Cat ; To ciao or not to ciao? ; A love of titles ; Mistrust ; Alcohol (and teetotalism) ; Narcotics -- 14. Taking sides : Il piacere di stare insieme ; Guelphs and Ghibellines ; From the Genoa Cricket and Athletic Club to Berlusconi's AC Milan ; Professionalism, and professional fouls ; Gianni Brera and the footballing press ; Il processo del lunedi ; Fan radios ; The ultras ; Referees ; Calciopoli -- 15. Restrictive practices : Possessive instincts ; Catholicism and liberalism ; Lottizzazione ; Capitalism without competition ; Protectionism ; Shareholder pacts ; Enrico Cuccia and il salotto buono ; The never-ending tale of the foreign lettori -- 16. Of Mafias and Mafiosi : A relatively crime-free nation ; What makes a mafia? ; Cosa Nostra decapitated ; The rise of the Camorra and 'Ndrangheta ; Sciascia's palm tree line: organized crime creeps north ; An absence of trust and the legacy of unification -- 17. Temptation and Tangenti : How corrupt is Italy? ; The role of patronage ; A tolerance of graft ; Corruption and corruzione ; Nepotism ; "Everything in Rome comes at a price" ; The culture of the raccomandazione ; The cost of graft ; A "renaissance of corruption" -- 18. Pardon and justice : The navel of Italy ; Abusivismo ; Laws and conventions ; Pardon and justice ; The Sofri case ; Slow-moving courts ; The 1989 legal reform ; Garantisti versus giustizialisti ; The magistratura -- 19. Questions of identity : Italy has a birthday party ; Campanilismo and the frailty of separatism ; Concepts of Italia ; Diversity and disunity ; Dialects lose ground ; The north-south divide: perceptions and statistics ; "Italian-ness" ; Immigration ; Racism ; Sinti and Roma -- Epilogue : Blue skies, blue seas, and unhappiness ; Italy's economic decline ; Rules and change ; The need for a dream ; Jep's smile.
ISBN:
9780525428077
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Washington Post bestseller
Los Angeles Times bestseller

A vivid and surprising portrait of the Italian people from an admired foreign correspondent

How did a nation that spawned the Renaissance also produce the Mafia? And why does Italian have twelve words for coat hanger but none for hangover?
 
John Hooper's entertaining and perceptive new book is the ideal companion for anyone seeking to understand contemporary Italy and the unique character of the Italians. Fifteen years as a foreign correspondent based in Rome have sharpened Hooper's observations, and he looks at the facts that lie behind the stereotypes, shedding new light on everything from the Italians' bewildering politics to their love of life and beauty. Hooper persuasively demonstrates the impact of geography, history, and tradition on many aspects of Italian life, including football and Freemasonry, sex, food, and opera. Brimming with the kind of fascinating--and often hilarious--insights unavailable in guidebooks, The Italians will surprise even the most die-hard Italophile.


Author Notes

John Hooper is the Italy correspondent of the Economist and a contributing editor of the Guardian (London). He has also written or broadcast for the BBC, NBC, and Reuters. His book  The Spaniards  won the Allen Lane Award and was revised and updated as  The New Spaniards  in 1995 and 2006.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

American tourists' favorite destination of the moment seems to be Italy, for its sunny climate, fashion leadership, and ineffable cuisine. But as much as Americans love to travel in Italy, the Italians continually mystify them with their chaotic politics and inconsistent behaviors. Hooper, a British journalist, has crisscrossed the peninsula and delved into the Italian character. Just as the country's geography makes generalizations about its food difficult, so Hooper finds some extreme contradictions in attitudes and behaviors from one part of the nation to another, even the language fracturing into a plethora of regional dialects. Italy's triumph in the world of design exposes a focus on surface appearances; yet, most Italians regard each other as invariably trying to hide truths about themselves and their values. In politics, particularly, scandals bring down governments regularly, while news media focus on candidates' sartorial endowments. Despite these frustrations, Hooper finds plenty of commonalities among Italians that provide them with ways to cope with life's outrages.--Knoblauch, Mark Copyright 2015 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

British journalist Hooper (The New Spaniards) draws on his years of experience as a correspondent in Italy to produce a nuanced look at its national character. He begins by describing the history of the peninsula, along with the topographic and linguistic variety that distinguishes its various regions. Topics like politics and the economy recur throughout, while the Catholic Church, soccer, the Mafia, and food receive their own sections or chapters. Hooper ranges from important issues, such as the centrality of family and the treatment and role of women, to minor ones, like the national penchant for sunglasses. Hooper continually returns to Italian vocabulary to explain terms that have no direct English equivalent but which are central to life in Italy. He selects certain people as examples of specific traits, suggesting that Silvio Berlusconi, for instance, managed to weather so many political setbacks before being convicted of tax fraud, in part because he seemed to offer an ability much desired among Italians: that of doing quello che gli pare (whatever he likes). This is a fascinating study of the fundamentals and foibles of Italy's people. Agent: Lucy Luck, Aitken Alexander Associates. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Hooper (The New Spaniards) draws upon his extensive experience as a British journalist living in Italy to explore the country's culture and character from medieval times to the present, with a contemporary focus. He begins by painting a wide overview of Italy's history, discussing events that have created political and cultural divisions between the northern and southern provinces, such as the creation of the Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages and the subsequent Italian Wars in the 16th century. The author probes aspects of Italian culture that have endured throughout the centuries, including defined gender roles, an obsession with appearance, a passion for football, and a mistaken comfort with corruption. Societal institutions come into play, leading to an investigation of political bodies, corporate culture, criminal justice, and, of course, the Mafia. VERDICT Hooper offers personal experiences and anecdotes from his many years living in Italy, creating a readable and entertaining work. However, owing to the book's large scope, the analysis of each cultural aspect is little more than an overview. As such, it is recommended for casual readers eager to learn more about Italian culture and people. [See Prepub Alert, 6/8/14.]-Rebekah Kati, Duke Univ. Pr., Durham, NC (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

The Spaniards The New Spaniards Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Group (USA) LLC 375 Hudson Street New York, New York 10014 USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China penguin.com A Penguin Random House Company First published by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 2015 Copyright © 2015 by John Hooper Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader. Photographs by Christian Jungeblodt ISBN 978-0-698-18364-3 While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers, Internet addresses, and other contact information at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors or for changes that occur after publication. Further, publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content. Also by John Hooper Title Page Copyright Dedication Maps Acknowledgments 1. The Beautiful Country Porta Pia . Glory and misery . "The crux of the Italian problem" . Islands, highlands and plains 2. A Violent Past Leo's legacy . Goths, Lombards and Byzantines . A holy forgery . The communes . The Venetian exception . The medieval Mezzogiorno . The Italian wars and the Sack of Rome . Under foreign yokes 3. Echoes and Reverberations Two Italies . . . or three? . Civismo . A linguist's playground . Superiority and sensitivity . The vincolo esterno . Of furbi and fessi . Fragile loyalties . The prime minister who vanished from history . Trasformismo 4. A Hall of Mirrors The Minister for Simplification . A plethora of laws (and law-enforcers) . Bureaucracy . Truth and verità . Mysteries and the "misty port" . Pirandello 5. Fantasia Myths and legends . A phantom army . Pinocchio . Copiatura . Masks and messages . Opera . Padania declares independence . Dietrologia 6. Face Values The neo-Fascist's bare arms . Style and look . Symbolism . Talking visually . Videocracy . Bella (and brutta) figura 7. Life as Art Treasuring life . A thick layer of stardust . Work and leisure . La tavola . The Mediterranean diet . Slow Food and fast food . A brief history of pasta . Foreign food . . . what foreign food? 8. Gnocchi on Thursdays D'Antona and Biagi . A love of the familiar . "Acts of God" and acts of man . One step to the right . Conservatism, technophobia and gerontocracy . The "BOT people" . From catenaccio to gambling fever 9. Holy Orders A blurred line . The bloody end of Muslim Italy . Jews and ghettos . The Waldensians . Freemasonry . Blasphemy . The Lateran Pacts . Christian Democracy . A less Catholic Italy . Comunione e Liberazione . Sant'Egidio . Padre Pio . The "testicles of His Holiness" 10. Le Italiane--Attitudes Change Great-aunt Clorinda . From Mozzoni to the Manifesto di rivolta femminile . Gender and language . Veline . Desperate housewives . Ricatto sessuale . The influence of Berlusconi . If Not Now, When? . Change in (and on) the air . La Mamma: glorified but unsupported 11. Lovers and Sons Al cuore non si comanda? . A sexual revolution (within limits) . Sensuous she-cats and "Italian stallions" . Adultery . Prostitution . Contraception and the mystery of the (missing) unplanned pregnancies . Mammismo . Gender stereotyping . Homosexuality 12. Family Matters An honored but changing institution . Divorce . The decline of marriage . The Italian family firm: myths and realities . The arrival of the badante . Stay-at-home kids: spoiled or just broke? . "Amoral familism" . Menefreghismo 13. People Who Don't Dance From behind shades . Wariness . The Fox and the Cat . To ciao or not to ciao? . A love of titles . Mistrust . Alcohol (and teetotalism) . Narcotics 14. Taking Sides Il piacere di stare insieme . Guelphs and Ghibellines . From the Genoa Cricket and Athletic Club to Berlusconi's AC Milan . Professionalism . . . and professional fouls . Gianni Brera and the footballing press . Il processo del lunedì . Fan radios . The ultras . Referees . Calciopoli 15. Restrictive Practices Possessive instincts . Catholicism and liberalism . Lottizzazione . Capitalism without competition . Protectionism . Shareholder pacts . Enrico Cuccia and il salotto buono . The never-ending tale of the foreign lettori 16. Of Mafias and Mafiosi A relatively crime-free nation . What makes a mafia? . Cosa Nostra decapitated . The rise of the Camorra and 'Ndrangheta . Sciascia's palm tree line: organized crime creeps north . An absence of trust and the legacy of Unification 17. Temptation and Tangenti How corrupt is Italy? . The role of patronage . A tolerance of graft . Corruption and corruzione . Nepotism . "Everything in Rome comes at a price" . The culture of the raccomandazione . The cost of graft . A "renaissance of corruption" 18. Pardon and Justice The navel of Italy . Abusivismo . Laws and conventions . Pardon and justice . The Sofri case . Slow-moving courts . The 1989 legal reform . Garantisti versus giustizialisti . The magistratura 19. Questions of Identity Italy has a birthday party . Campanilismo and the frailty of separatism . Concepts of Italia . Diversity and disunity . Dialects lose ground . The north-south divide: perceptions and statistics . "Italian-ness" . Immigration . Racism . Sinti and Roma Epilogue Blue skies, blue seas . . . and unhappiness . Italy's economic decline . Rules and change . The need for a dream . Jep's smile Notes Index Acknowledgments A book like this is built on myriad observations and impressions rather as limestone is formed out of an infinite number of tiny shells. So my first and most important thanks go to all the Italians I have met over the years that I have spent in their country--friends, neighbors and casual acquaintances--because it is their descriptions of themselves and their explanations of their society, their recommendations and advice, their hints and silences that have done more than anything to give substance to this work. I first lived and worked in Italy, briefly, at the age of eighteen and might never have returned except for the odd holiday had it not been for Paul Webster, who in 1994, while foreign editor of the Guardian, suggested that I rejoin the staff of the paper as its Southern Europe correspondent based in Rome. When I left Italy again, five years later, I had no plans to go back and probably would not have embarked on the writing of this book had Xan Smiley, the then Europe editor of the Economist, and Bill Emmott, its then editor, not arranged for me to become their correspondent in Italy. Warm thanks also to Alan Rusbridger, then as now the editor of the Guardian, who proposed that I be shared between the two publications and later agreed to my taking a period of unpaid leave to begin the writing of this book. John Micklethwait, the current editor of the Economist, also agreed to that, and later generously offered me a spell of paid leave so I could finish what I had started. John Peet, who has been the Europe editor of the Economist for most of the time I have worked for the magazine in Italy, has been unstintingly tolerant of my periodic retreats into book writing. In each of my spells as a correspondent in Italy, I have benefited from the hospitality of national newspapers: first La Stampa, and more recently Corriere della Sera. It has given me access to a wealth of information about Italy and the Italians. I am very grateful to those who edited these two papers during the periods in which I worked on their premises, Ezio Mauro, Carlo Rossella, Stefano Folli, Paolo Mieli and Ferruccio de Bortoli, as well as to the Rome bureau chiefs and Rome supplement editors who were my immediate hosts: Marcello Sorgi, Ugo Magri, Antonio Macaluso, Marco Cianca, Andrea Garibaldi and Goffredo Buccini. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the reporters, specialist writers and regional correspondents of both papers. Italian journalists are unsparing in the help and advice they offer to their foreign colleagues and over the years I have acquired a huge debt of gratitude to those of La Stampa and Corriere della Sera for their insights and their readiness to share their knowledge with an outsider. Those who made direct contributions to the contents of this book include Massimo Franco, Lorenzo Fuccaro, Daria Gorodisky, Stefano Lepri, Dino Martirano and Ilaria Sacchettoni. Thanks also to Eliza Apperly, Elizabeth Bailey, Lara Bryan, Simon Chambers, Bianca Cuomo, Giulia Di Michele, Bea Downing, Katharine Forster, Will Harman, Sophie Inge, Yerrie Kim of EF Education First, Tom Kington, Flavia Manini, Maria Luisa Manini, Hannah Murphy, Laura Nasso, Marie Obileye, Lorien Pilling of GBGC, Hannah Sims, Helen Tatlow, Katherine Travers, Ed Vulliamy, Tom Wachtel and Sean Wyer. Paddy Agnew, Antonio Manca Graziadei and Isabella Clough Marinaro generously agreed to bring their specialist knowledge to bear on Chapters 14, 18 and 19, respectively. Francesca Andrews and Maria Bencivenni read through large sections of the book. Their observations and suggestions, which could have come only from a rich experience of the cultures and societies of both Italy and Britain, were invaluable. It goes without saying that the errors that remain are mine alone. I could not have wanted a more involved, enthusiastic or charmingly persistent agent than Lucy Luck. And I have had the immense good fortune to have as my editor Simon Winder, who is not only a successful writer himself, but the author of books in a similar vein to my own. This one is all the better for his perceptive comments. Melanie Tortoroli at Penguin Group (USA) has been every bit as supportive (and patient). This edition of the book also owes much to Christian Jungeblodt, an outstanding photographer and a good friend whose memorable glimpses of Italy and the Italians enhance the pages that follow. Many of the photographs are due to be published in a book, Bella Italia Project, supported by VG Bildkunst. My wife, Lucinda Evans, read the entire manuscript with the keen eye of a former national newspaper subeditor. It has benefited greatly from her good judgment and feeling for words. But her main contribution has been a subtler one: she has been with me throughout my Italian adventure, and the insights and reflections she has shared with me along the way can be found in almost every chapter of this book. CHAPTER 1 The Beautiful Country Il bel paese ch'Appennin parte, e 'il mar circonda e l'Alpe. The beautiful country that the Apennines divide, and Alps and sea surround. Petrarch No one would choose to start a book at Porta Pia. It is in one of the least attractive corners of central Rome, a place where architectural styles from different periods sit uncomfortably together like mutually suspicious in-laws. The biggest building in the vicinity is the British embassy, which dates from the 1970s. Its architect, Sir Basil Spence, was at great pains to ensure it blended in with its surroundings. Not everyone is convinced he succeeded. The embassy looks rather like a colossal concrete semiconductor, torn from the motherboard of a gargantuan computer. The gate--the porta itself--takes its name from Pius IV, Michelangelo's last patron and the pope who brought the Council of Trent to a successful conclusion, thereby launching the Counter-Reformation. Michelangelo's friend and biographer, Giorgio Vasari, wrote that the artist offered Pius three designs, and that the pope chose the least expensive.* Nowadays, the gate he built forms one side of a bigger structure--the side that faces toward the center of Rome. How much of Michelangelo's design has survived is open to question. A coin minted in 1561, when work began on the gate, and an engraving made three years after its completion depict two substantially different structures. In the nineteenth century, another Pius--Pope Pius IX--had a courtyard put behind Michelangelo's gate (if it was any longer Michelangelo's gate) and added a new facade in the neoclassical style that looks away from the center of the city. Around the courtyard between the two facades, Pius IX erected some buildings for use as customs offices. Rome was still then the capital of the Papal States, a sizable territory that had been governed by the popes since the eighth century and whose latest ruler had indignantly refused to let it be incorporated into the new state of Italy. On either side of Porta Pia stretch the Aurelian Walls. These were begun in the third century AD for the protection of ancient Rome. Lofty and sturdy, they continued to defend the city, with greater or lesser success, for the next fifteen centuries, and it was only by blasting a hole through them at a point about fifty meters west of Porta Pia that Italian troops were able to force their way into Rome, complete the unification of the peninsula and put an end to the temporal power of the popes. Many of the soldiers who poured through the breach on that September morning in 1870 belonged to an elite corps of Italy's new army known as the Bersaglieri ("Marksmen"). The customs offices inside Porta Pia were later turned into a museum for the Bersaglieri. The area around the gate, then, is an eclectic muddle. But it brings together within a few hundred square meters tangible allusions to the bits of their history of which Italians are proudest: the Roman Empire, the Renaissance and the Risorgimento.* Some, though not all, would add to that list the papacy and the Counter-Reformation, which brought with it the splendors of Rome's Baroque churches. What other people of comparable numbers can lay claim to such an extraordinary catalog of achievements? One nation--even if it did not consider itself a nation until quite recently--produced the only empire to have united Europe and the greatest cultural transformation in the history of the West, one that shaped our entire modern view of life. Along the way, the Italian peninsula emerged as the preeminent seat of Christendom. No other nation can boast such a catalog of great painters and sculptors: Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael, of course. But also Donatello and Bernini, Piero della Francesca, Botticelli, Titian and Caravaggio. And there are others, like Mantegna, who are nowhere close to the top of the list but who would be hailed as national cultural icons in most other European countries. Then there are the architects--Brunelleschi, Bramante, Palladio--and the writers--Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio. And the composers--Italy has given the world Vivaldi, the Scarlattis, Verdi and Puccini. Saint Benedict, Saint Francis and Saint Catherine of Siena were all Italians. So too were Galileo, Christopher Columbus and Maria Montessori. Among other things, we owe their country the Gregorian calendar, the language of music, time zones and double-entry bookkeeping. Italians invented the telegraph, the seismograph and the electric battery. They gave us opera and Venice, the basilicas of Saint Peter's and Saint Mark's, the Duomos of Milan and Florence, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Trevi Fountain. Even if they have not actually visited them, most people know the names of historic cities like Bologna, Perugia and Naples. But there are others scattered across Italy that few foreigners have heard of--places like Trani and Macerata, Vercelli and Cosenza--that house more cultural treasures than are to be found in entire U.S. states. It is a mind-spinning legacy, and one that understandably mesmerizes anyone who goes to Italy. But the picture that visitors take away in their mind's eye when they catch the flight home is, if not misleading, then certainly unrepresentative of Italy's postclassical history--unrepresentative of the lives of most of the people who have lived in what is now Italy since the fall of the Roman Empire. More illustrative of their experience is the heavily fortified medieval tower that stands just a few hundred yards west of Porta Pia. It was put there in the ninth century and reconstructed between the twelfth and the fourteenth centuries. It is one of many such towers that were built into the Aurelian Walls and that punctuate them at intervals as the walls stretch into the distance on either side of Porta Pia. For nearly a millennium and a half, the majority of the people we now call Italians lived in territories that were either ruled by foreigners or so tiny or so weak that they were perpetually at risk of being overrun by outsiders. Why? For Luigi Barzini, the author of perhaps the best-known portrait of his people,1 this was "the crux of the Italian problem, of all Italian problems": "Why did Italy, a land notoriously teeming with vigorous, wide-awake and intelligent people, always behave so feebly? Why was she invaded, ravaged, sacked, humiliated in every century, and yet failed to do the simple things necessary to defend herself?" Part of the answer is to be found in Italy's divisive geography. For a start, almost one in every ten Italians lives on an island, physically detached from the rest of the nation. Sicily, the biggest island in the Mediterranean and with a population the size of Norway's, is quite big enough to be a state by itself. The landscape of the island is as varied as that of many larger territories. Sandy beaches and rocky shorelines, precipitous citrus groves and undulating wheat fields are all in their different ways typically Sicilian. There is an extensive plain outside Catania in the east, as well as several mountain ranges, one of which has a peak rising to almost two thousand meters. Even that, though, is dwarfed by Mount Etna, Europe's biggest active volcano, which is more than half as high again. Plans to link Sicily to the rest of Italy by means of a bridge or tunnel go back to classical times. But even though the island is only three kilometers from the mainland at the closest point, none of the plans has ever been realized--not least, in recent years, because of a fear that such a massive construction project could hand a bonanza to Sicily's Cosa Nostra and the 'Ndrangheta of Calabria, the region on the other side of the Strait of Messina. Sardinia, the second-biggest Mediterranean island, is a five-hour ferry ride from the mainland port of Civitavecchia north of Rome and a ten-hour journey from Genoa. The Costa Smeralda in the northeast of the island has become a playground for Hollywood stars, European socialites, Arab royals and Russian oligarchs. But parts of the rest of Sardinia are desolate and its uplands wild. The remote and hilly Barbagia district, once famed for brigandage, nurtures blood feuds the origins of which, in some cases, go back decades. In winter, communities in the Aeolian and Aegadian Islands off Sicily, the Pontine Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea between Rome and Naples, the Tuscan archipelago and even on islands like Capri in the Bay of Naples can be cut off for days on end by bad weather. The inhabitants of Lampedusa, seventy miles off the coast of North Africa, live farther from their fellow Italians in the Alps than do New Yorkers from the people of Atlanta, Georgia. Mainland Italians too are separated from one another, but by rock more than water. Though seldom described as such, Italy is one of Europe's most mountainous countries. The Alps stretch in a broad arc over the north so that on clear winter days their snow-capped peaks are as dramatically visible from Venice in the east as they are from Turin in the west. South of the valley of the river Po, which runs almost the width of the country at its broadest point, more mountains rear up. The Apennine Range extends the length of the peninsula, stuttering out into isolated massifs as it veers into Calabria, the "toe" of the Italian "boot." The reason Italians are not thought of as a mountain people, however, is that the vast majority live in the lowlands that account for less than a quarter of the country's surface and that essentially consist of the Po Valley and the coastal strip that fringes the peninsula. The southern mainland, though often considered a single, homogenous region, is in fact extremely varied. The coastal areas of Calabria are typical enough of the Mediterranean shoreline. But inland lie two large expanses of rugged, upland terrain: Sila in the north and Aspromonte in the south. In contrast, Puglia--the "heel" of the boot--is for the most part as flat as rolled-out pizza dough. Its endless sandy beaches have made it an increasingly popular tourist destination in recent years. Between Calabria and Puglia lies Basilicata, one of the most beautiful and least-known corners of Italy. Much of it is mountainous, and most of what is not is hilly. Though still one of Italy's poorest regions, Basilicata stands to benefit from the discovery there of a large petroleum deposit, the so-called Tempa Rossa oil field. Organized crime, which flourishes in Calabria, and to a lesser extent in Puglia, has made limited inroads here. The same can be said of Molise and Abruzzo farther north, both of which are also mountainous. The people of Abruzzo, or at least those who live in the interior (the region also takes in a broad coastal strip), are identified with the qualities associated with highlanders the world over, including physical and mental toughness. The regional capital, L'Aquila, has the only rugby team of importance in the Mezzogiorno.* L'Aquila is in a breathtaking location, on a broad plain bounded by mountains to the north and south. But while its inhabitants are encircled by reminders of nature's grandeur, they also live with an uneasy awareness of its ferocity. Abruzzo is intensely seismic and in 2009 L'Aquila was hit for the fourth time in its history by a major earthquake. More than three hundred people lost their lives. Campania, the region around Naples, offers a more easily recognizable image of southern Italy. South of Naples lies the justly famed Amalfi Coast. Beyond that, south of Salerno, is another enchantingly beautiful but much less celebrated area, Cilento. Naples itself has a setting at least as dramatic as that of L'Aquila. The broad sweep of its bay, overlooked by a brooding, smoking Mount Vesuvius, features on any number of old prints. When they were first made, Naples was regarded as a kind of earthly paradise. Goethe, who visited the city in 1787 and seems to have seen nothing of the poverty that has always been endemic to Naples, described it as a place where "everyone lives in a state of intoxicated self-forgetfulness." One wonders what he would make of the city and its surrounding region today. Campania is Italy's poorest region and in many respects its saddest. The vacationers who come to the region often see only Capri or resorts like Sorrento and Positano, but most of the people of Campania live in the immense hinterlands of Naples and Salerno, often in perilously sited or poorly built housing blocks--the visible manifestations of corruption and the capillary presence of the local mafia, the Camorra. Lazio, north of Campania, is the land of the Latins, the ancient Latium. Much of it is flat, especially around Latina, which--despite its classical-sounding name--only came into existence under Benito Mussolini in the 1930s when the surrounding marshes were drained. But Lazio also takes in the hills known as the Colli Romani, where the pope has his summer residence in a palace on the edge of an extinct volcano. Even a section of the Apennines falls within the region. Visitors to Rome in the winter who venture onto the Janiculum Hill for a panoramic view of the city are astounded to see, seemingly immediately behind it, a range of snowy peaks. They are not quite as close as they look, but you can nevertheless ski at a resort less than a two-hour drive from Rome. Beyond the capital, the countryside gradually becomes more characteristic of Umbria or Tuscany. Even before leaving Lazio on the A1, or Autosole, Italy's main north-south highway, you begin to see a distinctive terrain in which towering blocks of straight-sided, flat-topped rock jut out of the surrounding countryside. Some of these so-called buttes are inhabited, as is the case with Orvieto, one of the many central Italian hill towns that have been places of refuge since ancient times. Though it is the only landlocked region on the peninsula, Umbria is not mountainous except in the southeast. For the most part, it is a region of high green hills abundantly watered in the winter months (and sometimes in the summer ones too). The rain that falls on Umbria also replenishes the shallow waters of Lake Trasimeno, a rare example of an endorheic lake--one that has no rivers flowing in or out of it. Most people's images of Tuscany are of the peerless, undulating landscape of the Chianti, between Siena and Florence. But in this region too there are ample variations within relatively short distances. South of Siena are the Crete Senesi--literally "Sienese Clays"--which when parched in summer take on a lunar aspect. North of Florence is an extensive industrial belt. And then there are the ubiquitous mountains. The most celebrated are in the northwest of Tuscany. It is here that the quarries of Carrara are to be found, which have been providing sculptors with marble since classical times. Michelangelo's David and Pietà were both carved from blocks torn from the mountainsides near Carrara. A lesser range of the Apennines acts as a barrier to the Marche and its broad coastal plain. Going north, as the Apennines bend westward, the plain broadens out until it becomes part of the Po Valley in the region of Emilia-Romagna. As its name suggests, Emilia-Romagna is a composite of two regions: Romagna in the south, with its highly developed tourist resorts, which include Rimini, and Emilia, which extends as far as the Po and provides some of the best agricultural produce and most succulent cuisine to be found in Italy. Parma, home to both the eponymous ham and Parmesan cheese, is in Emilia. The Po Valley regions par excellence are Veneto and Lombardy. What divides Veneto is not so much geography (though the region extends into the Alps north of Venice), but a sharp division between the inhabitants of the flat Venetian hinterland and those of the city of Venice, who have traditionally looked down on the mainlanders as uncouth peasants. Although the hinterland has a number of historic cities, including Padua, Verona and Vicenza, it was until comparatively recently one of Italy's poorest areas. In the period leading up to the First World War, it was the biggest source of emigration outside the Mezzogiorno. And not even the years of Italy's "economic miracle," from the early 1950s to the early 1960s, had much of an impact on the region's backwardness. It was only in the 1970s that Veneto began to grow rapidly--so fast indeed that it is now Italy's third-richest region after Lombardy and Lazio. Evidence of its thriving, export-driven industries can be seen in the small factories and warehouses that break the horizons of Veneto's bleak landscapes. Topographically, Lombardy is not dissimilar: from the plains in the south, either side of the Po, you climb through hills into mountains. But what sets the region apart are its sublimely beautiful lakes. Maggiore, which stretches into Switzerland, Como and Garda are the biggest. Lombardy also includes Italy's financial capital, Milan, and a tradition of enterprise and prosperity that, in contrast to the Veneto, stretches back to the Middle Ages. Today Milan stands roughly halfway along a vast industrial corridor with, at one end, Mestre on the Venice lagoon and, at the other, Turin, the capital of Piedmont. Once joined politically to Savoy on the other side of the Alps in what is now France, Piedmont is the gateway through which many ideas from France and beyond have filtered into the Italian consciousness. It was the region whose leaders played the most active part in Italy's unification and the one that provided the newly unified state with much of its constitutional, administrative and legal framework. Turin, home of the Fiat motor company, was to an even greater extent than Milan the hub of the Italian economic miracle. Nor is Piedmont's importance solely political or economic: south of Turin is an area of steep, undulating hills known as the Langhe. If Emilia is by common consent Italy's center of gastronomic excellence, then few would dispute that the Langhe is its most outstanding wine-growing district: the home of Barolo and other, less well-known but highly prized wines like Barbaresco. The misty Langhe also yields most of Italy's white truffles and many of the hazelnuts that go into making Nutella spread. Farther south is rocky Liguria. Pincered between the Apennines as they curve west toward the French border and the Mediterranean, Liguria is small but densely populated. Its coastline, the Italian Riviera, was among the first holiday spots to be discovered by foreign vacationers in the twentieth century, along with the Amalfi Coast, which it resembles to some extent. Genoa, the capital of Liguria and its main port, was for centuries the seat of a maritime republic that rivaled--and sometimes bested--that of Venice. Christopher Columbus was one of the many seagoing sons of the Genoese Republic. Between the northern salients of Lombardy and Veneto is the composite region of Trentino-Alto Adige, which has a predominantly German-speaking north and a mainly Italian-speaking south. This Alpine territory was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was given to Italy as a reward for switching to the Allied side in the First World War. Since 1972, Alto Adige (which its German-speaking inhabitants prefer to call Südtirol, or South Tyrol) and Trentino have governed themselves more or less separately as autonomous provinces. The region as a whole is one of five with a special constitutional status. The others are Sicily, Sardinia and two more in the north. One, the Alpine Valle d'Aosta, has strong links with France. The other, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, which borders Slovenia, divides roughly half and half into a mountainous north and a flatter south. Over the centuries, the rivers that flow from the Alps across the lowlands have provided useful boundaries for the division of the region, parts of which have gone back and forth more than once between the Venetian Republic, the Habsburg Empire, the Kingdom of Italy, Austria-Hungary and the former Yugoslavia. The tortured history of Friuli-Venezia Giulia makes a significant point about the Italians. Physical division helps to explain many of the differences between them. The mountains, seas and lakes that have kept them apart--and which were once vastly greater barriers than they are in the age of autostrade, jet aircraft and high-speed trains--have contributed greatly to Italy's linguistic, cultural and gastronomic diversity. What is true of Sicily is unlikely to be true of Trieste. But then, what is true of the Umbrian town of Spoleto, say, may not even be true of Norcia, which is also in Umbria and less than twenty miles away but only reachable even today by a circuitous route through the hills that takes forty-five minutes to drive. If physical barriers had been the most important obstacles to interaction over the centuries, however, you would expect that the most important single distinction would be between easterners and westerners, because far and away the biggest hindrance to communication is the Apennine mountain range. In fact, differences between east and west count for little. The key contrast in contemporary Italy is between north and south. Why? The answer to that question, and to the "question of questions" posed by Barzini, can be found only in those passages of Italy's history that its people would rather forget--and of which most foreigners are barely aware. CHAPTER 2 A Violent Past In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace--and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. Harry Lime in The Third Man It was Christmas Day in the year 800. The king of the Franks, Charles I, who would come to be known as Charles the Great or Charlemagne, was attending Mass in the old basilica of Saint Peter's. Some years earlier, the then pope had appealed for the protection of the Franks, a Germanic people who had carved out a kingdom that stretched from today's Germany across most of modern-day France to the Pyrenees. Charlemagne's father, Pepin, had come to the aid of the papacy and his son regarded himself as its guardian. He was making what was to prove his last journey to Rome. His biographer, Einhard, wrote that he had gone to restore order in the city after Pope Leo III had been set upon by Romans who "tore out his eyes and blinded him."1 A later chronicler wrote that "when the king . . . rose up from prayer, Pope Leo placed on his head a crown; and he was acclaimed by the whole populace of Rome."2 Historians have since raised skeptical eyebrows at the implication--that the pope simply caught Charlemagne unawares. But the king's biographer Einhard insisted that Charlemagne "at first had such an aversion [to the title of 'Emperor'] that he declared that he would not have set foot in the church . . . if he could have foreseen the design of the Pope."3 Whatever the truth of the matter, Leo's initiative and the events that surrounded it were to have momentous consequences for Europe, and for Italy in particular. Very little of the subsequent history of the peninsula is comprehensible without some understanding of their effects, some of which can be felt even today. Until Pope Leo crowned Charlemagne, the history of Italy had followed a pattern not unlike that of the rest of Western Europe. The disintegration of the western half of the Roman Empire had laid open broad swathes of the continent to invasion by the wandering, mostly Germanic tribes that had gained military ascendancy over the Roman legions. The Italian peninsula, the heart of the original empire and the place where Roman culture and affluence reached its height, was particularly tempting to them. By the end of the fifth century, most of modern-day Italy was being ruled more or less peacefully by Theodoric, the able leader of the Ostrogoths, the eastern branch of the Gothic nation. Had his state endured, it might have left behind a greater sense of Italy as a natural political unit. But the Ostrogoths were to rule Italy for only sixty years. One of the few reminders of their passing is Theodoric's magnificent white marble mausoleum, which can be seen to this day outside Ravenna. Although independent in effect, Theodoric was a viceroy. He had been sent to claim the peninsula as an agent of what, until the collapse of the western half of the Roman Empire, had been its eastern half: the state with its capital at Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), which later historians would call the Byzantine Empire.* As the Italians were about to find out in the most violent fashion, the Byzantine emperor had not forgotten that Italy was still part of his domain. In 535, he dispatched an army to take back Italy from Theodoric's successors. It was the start of one of the goriest wars in history. The so-called Gothic War lasted almost twenty years and, according to most estimates, reduced the population by more than half. The Byzantine forces eventually emerged victorious. But Italy, drained of its human and other resources, was in no position to resist a new wave of Germanic invaders: the Lombards. Their arrival ushered in another thirty-odd years of intermittent warfare as the newcomers embarked on the bloody task of trying to drive out the Byzantines. They never fully succeeded. By the early years of the seventh century, Sicily, Sardinia and much of the south were all still held by Constantinople. So, at least nominally, was a broad stretch of territory that ran across the peninsula from Ravenna in the northeast, where the Byzantine governor had his seat, to south of Rome, where, amid the turmoil, the papacy had begun to play an increasingly prominent role in the administration of the city and its surrounding areas.* When in 751 Ravenna fell to the Lombards, there was every chance that Rome, which was theoretically under Byzantine protection, would follow in due course. Which is why Leo's predecessor had sought the help of the Franks. They did exactly what was expected of them. And more. After overcoming the Lombards, Charlemagne's father, Pepin, handed to the papacy the right to govern not only Rome and its environs, but the entire band of territory in north central Italy that was nominally part of the Byzantine Empire. In doing so, he created the Papal States, a theocracy at the heart of Europe that was to remain in existence for well over a thousand years. Leo's coronation of Charlemagne, an already crowned monarch, was more than just an expression of gratitude for the Franks' military intervention. The pope was declaring him to be the emperor of a reborn Western Roman Empire. Although the title conferred on Charlemagne was renounced for a while by his successors, it was revived in the middle of the tenth century and never subsequently relinquished. The territory that the emperors ruled eventually came to be known as the Holy Roman Empire--a reflection of their claim to a legitimacy that derived from the papacy, and through the papacy from God. Like the Papal States, the Holy Roman Empire would survive into the nineteenth century. At its greatest extent, it covered much of northern Italy, Sardinia, parts of eastern France, Switzerland, the Low Countries, Germany, some of western Poland, the modern-day Czech Republic and most of today's Slovenia. The interaction between the papacy and the Frankish kings may have been momentous, but it was also richly ironic. Pepin had little enough right to hand Byzantine territory to the popes. But Leo had no right whatever to confer on Pepin's son the title of Roman emperor. The claim of later popes to be the true heirs of Augustus and his successors was based on a document known as the Donation of Constantine. This purported to show that before making Byzantium his capital in 330, Constantine the Great, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, had entrusted the western part of his domains to the then reigning pope. But the Donation of Constantine was a forgery, a lie. It had been concocted in the papal chancellery at some point in the eighth century. By crowning Charlemagne, Pope Leo may have felt he was asserting the right of the papacy to decide who should be emperor in the West. But he was also creating a rival heir to the legacy of ancient Rome. The competing pretensions of the papacy on the one hand and of Charlemagne's successors on the other would again and again bring death and destruction to medieval Italy. After 962, the emperors were Germans and every time the emperor of the day felt the need to reassert his power or replenish his coffers, an army would come marching through the Alps. Cities would be sacked, the surrounding countryside ravaged. There would be slaughter, rape and looting. But the creation of this new empire did not just bring about conflict. It also led, in Italy as in Germany, to an abnormal degree of political fragmentation. Though a few of the Holy Roman emperors opted to rule from Rome, most spent their lives on the other side of the Alps. The popes, for their part, were often more concerned with ecclesiastical and theological matters than with the mundane details of civil administration. And in any case their military resources were limited: they relied for the protection of the Papal States to a large extent on moral authority and mercenary troops. The result was a power vacuum in the northern half of Italy in which many towns and cities, particularly those that had once enjoyed a degree of autonomy under the original Roman Empire, started to govern themselves. Successive popes, keen to curb the power of the Holy Roman emperors, encouraged the spread of these miniature semidemocratic republics known as communes. When the communes began to be replaced by more personal and autocratic forms of government in the fourteenth century, Italy north of the Papal States became a patchwork of semi-independent principalities, duchies, marquisates, counties and tiny lordships dotted with the odd surviving republic. Wars between them were common. The inhabitants of northern and north central Italy in the late Middle Ages may have been divided and vulnerable. But for as long as the communes survived, their citizens enjoyed a degree of control over their own affairs that was unthinkable in most of the rest of Europe. They were also increasingly prosperous: a surge in economic growth began toward the end of the eleventh century and lasted on and off until the start of the fourteenth, laying the material foundations for the Renaissance. The most powerful of the republics in the north was Venice. But it was also the least typical. Venice's lagoon-dwelling inhabitants--originally refugees from the German tribal invasions--had never been subject to the Holy Roman Empire. They had elected their first duke, or doge, back in the eighth century after cutting themselves loose from the Byzantine Empire. Enriched by trade with the East, especially after the start of the Crusades, the Venetian Republic, or Serenissima,* grew to be an important naval power. By the end of the fifteenth century, the doges had an empire of their own that stretched as far as Cyprus. By casting a protective mantle over the rest of northern and central Italy, the emperors not only encouraged the region to fracture internally, but cut it off from the south. In the thousand years that followed Charlemagne's coronation, alliances were sometimes forged that involved this or that southern state. From time to time, an emperor would lead his army into the Mezzogiorno. And for a while, the two halves of Italy were nominally reunited as part of the empire. But for the rest, the affairs of the north and the south were separate, and they developed as quite different societies. Sicily was gradually conquered by Muslim forces in the ninth century and remained an Islamic emirate until the end of the eleventh. The foot and heel of the Italian boot still came under direct Byzantine rule. But Muslim raiders established another, relatively short-lived emirate around Bari in the ninth century. A Lombard principality centered on Benevento survived for almost three hundred years after the Frankish invasion (it was divided after the middle of the ninth century). And when the Muslim occupation of Sicily isolated the emperors in Constantinople from their remaining possessions farther west, several territories nominally belonging to the Byzantine Empire became effectively independent. Sardinia was one. Provincial governors who were also judges took over the administration of the so-called giudicati into which the island was split. The giudicati soon became hereditary kingdoms, one of which survived as an independent state into the fifteenth century. On the western seaboard of the Italian mainland, a number of the ports together with their hinterlands--first Naples, then Gaeta, Amalfi and, briefly, Sorrento--became self-governing. Amalfi in particular enjoyed a golden age of wealth and influence in the tenth and eleventh centuries based on trade with the Byzantine Empire and a good deal of diplomatic opportunism. (Like the rulers of the other southern maritime states, the dukes of Amalfi had no qualms about forging alliances with Muslim potentates, or even pirates.) Sicily prospered too, and for longer. Under the emirate, Palermo was probably the biggest city in Europe after Constantinople. Muslim rule there was snuffed out in the same way as Byzantine control of the mainland: by Norman mercenaries who had come to take part in the incessant conflicts that raged among the petty states of southern Italy and between them and the Byzantine forces stationed there. By 1071, Byzantine rule in Italy had ended, and twenty years later a Norman was master of Sicily. Fanatically Christian descendants of the Vikings, the Normans proved to be unexpectedly tolerant and intelligent rulers. On Sicily, they allowed a fusion of Arab, Jewish, Byzantine and Norman elements to take place, creating a dazzlingly eclectic culture. And it was a Norman who in the twelfth century brought Sicily and the mainland together as part of a unified kingdom. The south was to remain territorially united for most of the next seven hundred years, even though for much of that period Sicily and the mainland were governed as separate entities under the same crown. In 1194, the emperor Henry VI conquered the Kingdom of Sicily, as the united state was misleadingly called, and for the next seventy years the whole of present-day Italy, with the exception of Sardinia, was brought within the Holy Roman Empire. For thirty of those years, under Frederick II, it was the rest of the empire stretching to the Baltic that was ruled from the Kingdom of Sicily and specifically from Palermo, where the emperor had grown up. Frederick's reign saw perhaps the most determined effort before the nineteenth century to bring all of Italy under the direct control of a single authority. But his efforts were resisted by the communes and resulted in almost thirty years of warfare. Vigorously opposed by the papacy, Frederick failed, and within a few years of his death a French dynasty had wrested the Kingdom of Sicily from the grip of the empire. The island of Sicily was subsequently lost to the Crown of Aragon, the state in northeastern Spain that included modern-day Catalonia. But in the fifteenth century a king of Aragon, Alfonso V, reunited the island (and Sardinia) with the mainland. After the Crown of Aragon merged with the Crown of Castile, southern Italy became a dominion of the new Kingdom of Spain, the realm that would soon be ascendant in the Mediterranean and far beyond. The unity of the south under a succession of foreign rulers contrasted sharply with the fragmentation of the north. But after a series of catastrophes in the fourteenth century, notably the Black Death, economic activity there recovered and gradually reacquired momentum. It was during this period too that the first great Renaissance works of art and literature made their appearance in Siena and Florence. As Harry Lime rightly observed, Italians produced some of their greatest cultural achievements in precisely those periods in which they were in greatest peril.* The prosperity and emerging cultural brilliance of the states that replaced or absorbed the communes masked the acute danger they were in. By the middle of the fifteenth century, at the height of the Renaissance, northern Italy was split into more than a dozen states. Farther south, the pope's temporal authority was severely circumscribed by the power of local nobles. For as long as the Holy Roman Empire held a cloak of protection over the whole of northern and central Italy, its inhabitants were safe from all but one another and the odd irate emperor. For all intents and purposes, however, the cloak had been cast off in the days of Frederick II, and just as the Italy of the fifth and sixth centuries had been a tempting prize for the Ostrogoths and Lombards, so the Italy of the fifteenth century--the land of the Renaissance and the richest territory in Europe--became an irresistible lure for the new nation-states that were starting to challenge the Holy Roman Empire for dominance of the continent. It is often said that the Germans have never recovered from the Thirty Years' War in the seventeenth century, that the brutality of that momentous clash between Protestant and Catholic armies hard-wired into their national character a sense of insecurity that they have never been able to shake off. Something not so very different could be said of the so-called Italian Wars that began in 1494, when a French army marched onto the peninsula. For almost sixty years, French, Spanish, German and Swiss armies crisscrossed Italy against a background of dizzyingly complex diplomacy that involved popes, foreign monarchs, the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and the rulers of Italy's tragically divided and competing states. In 1527, the violence peaked in an attack on Rome that shocked the whole of Europe. Some twenty thousand mainly German (and Lutheran) troops poured through the walls of the city at the start of an eight-day orgy of destruction that has come to be known as the Sack of Rome. Churches were pillaged. Nuns were raped. Priests were murdered. Noble houses were torched. Priceless classical treasures were smashed or looted. Romans thought to be wealthy were tortured so they would hand over their riches, and if they proved to have none they too were butchered. Nearly a quarter of the population was killed. The Italian Wars were scarcely the first to be waged on the peninsula in order to settle foreign scores. Nor were they necessarily more destructive than those that preceded them. But they were uniquely humiliating. They revealed in the most savage way the Italians' inability to sink their differences and work together for their common good. They put a ruinous and bloody end to the most culturally illustrious era of Italy's history. And they ushered in another in which much of the north would join the south under foreign yokes. In the end, it was not the French but the Spanish--already masters of the south--who emerged as the dominant power. Under the treaty that put an end to the fighting, the extensive territories of the Duchy of Milan were given to Spain. Venice retained its independence, as did the other Italian duchies and republics. But in the new era of big, centralized nation-states hungry for empire, their freedom of maneuver was severely limited. Though it was far from obvious at the time, the sixteenth century also marked the start of Italy's economic decline relative to other parts of Western Europe. There was more than one cause, but probably the most important were the changes that were taking place in the pattern of world trade. The routes across the Atlantic had already begun to carry far more traffic and generate far greater wealth than those in the Mediterranean, while the Far East would soon replace the Near East as a source of imports for the increasingly wealthy nations of Western Europe. The new political order imposed at the end of the Italian Wars was to remain in place for another 150 years. But that did not mean the intervening period was peaceful. In the first half of the seventeenth century Italy was the scene of several more wars, most involving the increasingly self-assertive Kingdom of Savoy. The conflicts that would determine its fate in the next century, on the other hand, were fought outside the peninsula. But that only drove home the point that the Italian states had become pieces in a chess game in which the important moves were made on other parts of the European board. Austria now supplanted Spain as the main arbiter of the peninsula's destiny, though it subsequently lost the south to the Spanish branch of the Bourbon dynasty. Thereafter, Italy's political geography remained substantially unchanged until 1796, when Napoléon Bonaparte, whose ancestry was more Italian than French, became the latest of many generals to lead his troops over the Alps. If only for a few years, the French were the masters of Italy. Napoléon redrew the boundaries of the various little states and gave them names borrowed from the classical past (so Tuscany, for example, became the Kingdom of Etruria). Excerpted from The Italians by John Hooper All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xv
1 The Beautiful Countryp. 1
Porta Pia
Glory and misery
"The crux of the Italian problem"
Islands, highlands and plains
2 A Violent Pastp. 12
Leo's legacy
Goths, Lombards and Byzantines
A holy forgery
The communes
The Venetian exception
The medieval Mezzogiorno
The Italian wars and the Sack of Rome
Under foreign yokes
3 Echoes and Reverberationsp. 23
Two Italies... or three?
Civismo
A linguist's playground
Superiority and sensitivity
The vincolo esterno
Of furbi and fessi
Fragile loyalties
The prime minister who vanished from history
Transformismo
4 A Hall of Mirrorsp. 40
The Minister for Simplification
A plethora of laws (and law-enforcers)
Bureaucracy
Truth and verita
Mysteries and the "misty port"
Pirandello
5 Fantasiap. 56
Myths and legends
A phantom army
Pinocchio
Copiatura
Masks and messages
Opera
Padania declares independence
Dirtrologia
6 Face Valuesp. 72
The neo-Fascist's bare arms
Style and look
Symbolism
Talking visually
Videocracy
Bella (and brutta) figura
7 Life as Artp. 90
Treasuring life
A thick layer of Stardust
Work and leisure
La tavola
The Mediterranean diet
Slow Food and fast food
A brief history of pasta
Foreign food... what foreign food?
8 Gnocchi on Thursdaysp. 104
D'Antona and Biagi
A love of the familiar
"Acts of God" and acts of man
One step to the right
Conservatism, technophobia and gerontocracy
The "BOT people"
From catenaccio to gambling fever
9 Holy Ordersp. 119
A blurred line
The bloody end of Muslim Italy
Jews and ghettos
The Waldensians
Freemasonry
Blasphemy
The Lateran Pacts
Christian Democracy
A less Catholic Italy
Comunione e Liberazione
Sant'Egidio
Padre Pio
The "testicles of His Holiness"
10 Le Italiane-Attitudes Changep. 139
Great-aunt Clorinda
From Mozzoni to the Manifesto di rivolta femminile
Gender and language
Veline
Desperate housewives
Ricatto
sessuale
The influence of Berlusconi
If Not Now, When?
Change in (and on) the air
La Mamma: glorified but unsupported
11 Lovers and Sonsp. 155
Alcuore non si comanda?
A sexual revolution (within limits)
Sensuous she-cats and "Italian stallions"
Adultery
Prostitution
Contraception and the mystery of the (missing) unplanned pregnancies
Mammismo
Gender stereotyping
Homosexuality
12 Family Mattersp. 170
An honored but changing institution
Divorce
The decline of marriage
The Italian family firm: myths and realities
The arrival of the badante
Stay-at-home kids: spoiled or just broke?
"Amoral familism"
Menefreghismo
13 People Who Don't Dancep. 186
From behind shades
Wariness
The Fox and the Cat
To ciao or not to ciao?
A love of titles
Mistrust
Alcohol (and teetotalism)
Narcotics
14 Taking Sidesp. 199
Il piacere di stare insieme
Guelphs and Ghibellines
From the Genoa Cricket and Athletic Club to Berlusconi's AC Milan
Professionalism... and professional fouls
Gianni Brera and the footballing press
Il processo del lunedi
Fan radios
The ultras
Referees
Calciopoli
15 Restrictive Practicesp. 216
Possessive instincts
Catholicism and liberalism
Lottizzazione
Capitalism without competition
Protectionism
Shareholder pacts
Enrico Cuccia and il salotto buono
The never-ending tale of the foreign letter I
16 Of Mafias and Mafiosip. 227
A relatively crime-free nation
What makes a mafia?
Cosa Nostra decapitated
The rise of the Camorra and 'Ndrangheta Sciascia's palm tree line: organized crime creeps north
An absence of trust and the legacy of Unification
17 Temptation and Tangentip. 237
How corrupt is Italy?
The role of patronage
A tolerance of graft
Corruption and corruzione
Nepotism
"Everything in Rome comes at a price"
The culture of the mccomandazione
The cost of graft
A "renaissance of corruption"
18 Pardon and Justicep. 249
The navel of Italy
Abusivismo
Laws and conventions
Pardon and justice
The Sofri case
Slow-moving courts
The 1989 legal reform
Garantisti versus giustizialisti
The magistratura
19 Questions of Identityp. 269
Italy has a birthday party
Campanilismo and the frailty of separatism
Concepts of Italia
Diversity and disunity
Dialects lose ground
The north-south divide: perceptions and statistics
"Italian-ness"
Immigration
Racism
Sinti and Roma
Epiloguep. 287
Blue skies, blue seas... and unhappiness
Italy's economic decline
Rules and change
The need for a dream
Jep's smile
Notesp. 295
Indexp. 301

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