Your Italian Vacation: Getting Up Close And Personal
Ciao! Welcome to your Italian adventure! Before you immerse yourself deeply with the charm and irresistible allure of its art treasures, the Venetian gondola, Lake Como as well as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Vatican City and all the classic Italian dishes – take time to know more about this famous tourist location nicknamed as Bel Paese (beautiful country).
The Italy of Modern Times
Unlike other people that forget the past and continue to move forward, Italy has been able to merge its past and present seamlessly. Italy is immersed in tradition and history and is under the impression that change takes place gradually, or might not take place, at all. Although the country has undergone war and urban changes, it has managed to preserve a major portion of its past and history. Its history has been preserved in such a way that the centuries-old ancestors of the Italians would easily recognize the historical centres of the cities. The narrow streets made of cobblestones – that were originally designed for carriages and horses – are used by scooters and small cars very skilfully.
Hip and Happening
While preserving its past and traditions, Italy has managed to create major styles of today. Italy has carried its traditions with it to create new styles and fashion. Modern architects and designers of Italy have mixed beauty into people’s everyday lives around the world by creating different things, from skyscrapers to coffee pots. Leonardo and Brunelleschi bound the concepts of functionality and beauty together and the Italians have proved to be their true offspring.
Italian design is synonymous with the term ‘modern’ as the country is always up to date with the current fashion trends; in fact, it is in Milan – which is the epicentre of fashion and style – that new styles and designs are developed. As compared to other Europeans, the Italians are obsessed with the latest trends in fashion. It is very easy to find classic business attire as the shops are always up to date. However, you will need to search hard for casual wear, or something that is not the latest fashion. Frayed or worn clothing is not tolerated at all by the Italians. The Italians have very skilfully blended their traditions with their modern lifestyle.
United in 1861, Italy is one of the newest countries of Europe. Before it became unified, Italy was divided into an endless number of states; some of them were glorious and independent, but for a major portion of their existence, they were dominated by France, Austria, the Papacy, or Spain. This is why every region of Italy has its own individual culture and the Italians identify more strongly with their city or region rather than with entire Italy. Differences in linguistics and culture have been maintained by the different regions.
With its vast variety of sub-cultures present within the Italian culture and region, Italy is an amazing place to visit. But because of the differences existing among the people, the Italians are weak at developing a workable and feasible nation state. The country’s frequent instability in the political arena can be attributed to the foreign domination that ruled over Italy for centuries; therefore, rendering Italy weak and unable to create and maintain strong political and social institutions.
The majority of its population believes that Italy cannot govern herself. Foreign powers very skilfully, clearly and indirectly forced the Italian government, which was inept and corrupt, to step down from power. And that gave birth to a new government.
Towards the end of 2011, the European leaders understood that Berlusconi had created fiscal chaos in Italy so much so that the EU’s economic stability was gravely threatened. The European Union had pushed Berlusconi to introduce the important labour market and fiscal reforms so as to reconstruct the confidence that was lost in the Italian economy. The reforms were aimed at stimulating the economy’s growth so as to keep Europe strong.
The country had to face harsh remarks about the international financial market’s lack of confidence in Italy. The European Union threatened Italy to withdraw its fiscal support; this would have resulted in extreme chaos in the Italian economy. The EU’s withdrawal threats and the international financial market’s lack of confidence led the Parliament to end the power of Berlusconi. Mario Monti was elected as the new prime minister of Italy by the Italian president. Mario Monti was to start and execute reforms that would completely restructure the economy and society of Italy, for the better. Although the European Union is happy with Mario Monti’s efforts, the new prime minister has to face fierce and strong resistance from people in parliament as well as the general population, who are the allies of Berlusconi.
The Italians are known for their hospitality and amiability. However, it seems that their reputation has undergone a change. The Italians have started leaving their country and immigrants, in search of better worldly life, have started coming to the country from Eastern Europe and from the other side of the Mediterranean. As compared to other western European countries that are full of immigrants, Italy has a smaller percentage of foreigners residing in it. Also, the increase in immigrants has not led to increased unemployment or crime. The government of Berlusconi was able to manipulate people’s opinion against the immigrants and unlike before, the Italians now are considered the most prejudiced people in Europe. The EU’s body of human rights strongly condemns the Italian government for its prejudice and biasedness.
Although Berlusconi manipulated people against immigrants, the Italians have maintained their traditions and there is still some hospitality and friendliness left in them. Despite complaining about immigrants, the Italians continue to give generous contributions to charities that aim to help the immigrants. Also, unlike other European countries, Italy has much less acts of violence targeted at its immigrants.
All the Catholics of the world consider Rome their spiritual home. However, like other countries in Europe, Italy also has a decreasing number of people attending the church. The number has been decreasing since the 20th century. There are less than one in five people who make regular attendance at church. Although the Italians are known to be much under the powerful influence of religion, the Church was not able to effectively voice its opposition towards the xenophobic and anti-immigrant measures taken by the Berlusconi government.
The Church has managed to effectively oppose the legalization of gay-marriages, but has been unable to do the same with other issues that are concerned with the Italians’ personal interests, such as divorce and abortion.
A crucifix is decorated in class-rooms and courts, even though Italy claims to be a secular state. If you unluckily end up in jail, you will be greeted by the statue of Madonna when entering. However, the courts say that these objects symbolize their culture, not their religion.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is still so much to learn and understand about Italy. But the best thing to do right now is just enjoy a cup of authentic gelato while dining al fresco.