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The Culture of Italy - Architecture, People and History

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Anthropology
Wordcount: 3749 words Published: 26th Apr 2018

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The main focus of this culture project will be the nation of Italy. Italy is a peninsula, with two main islands which include Sardinia and Sicily, located in south central Europe and extending into the Mediterranean Sea. Italy has a land mass, including the islands, of about 116,300 square feet. To get a better proportion in mind, Italy is only slightly larger than the state of Arizona. Italy is the land neighbor of several countries including Austria, France, San Marino, Slovenia, and Switzerland (Cia.gov). The country of Italy has a unique range when it comes to climate. In northern Italy, the weather is more extreme with temperatures dropping below freezing with snow typically blanketing the region. Southern Italy on the other hand has more a more moderate climate with warmer weather. Southern Italy is the less populated region, and despite the hot temperatures the area is more known for its rural areas and farming communities (GoAbroad.info). Throughout the nation, Italian culture is as alive today as it ever has been, but it goes back a long way. Evidence of human existence has been shown through recent excavations in Europe, which date back to the Paleolithic and Mesolithic time periods (Italy1.com). Italy is a nation rich in culture and customs, and this will be an interesting journey.

4C Archaeology

To understand any culture, it is first important to get an understanding of the history of the location. One way to do this is to study from an archeological stand point. Archaeology is one of four subplots of Anthropology, and is the excavation, recovery, and analysis of remains of past human behavior. Archaeologists look for artifacts (such as tools, ceramics, textiles) to give them an idea of and show evidence for past human behavior. Italy, especially Northern Italy and around Rome, is rich in archaeological findings. Currently there about 56 active sites around Italy, which include sites in Pompeii and Rome. Rome may be the most well known area, because it is still populated today, but the ruins of Pompeii are full of findings of a civilization over 2000 years old. Pompeii (located near the present day Naples) was completely buried by a volcanic eruption that basically set all signs of life in stone for years ahead. The earliest signs of life show that this city was destroyed in 79 AD, which gives archaeologists insight to a city that was popular at the same time as the Roman Empire was at its peak. This site was left virtually untouched until about 1748 when one man found the site and would dig at random searching for treasure only for his own personal gain. Not until 1861 was the proper approach taken, and this included an extensive and systematic excavation led by an Italian appointed representative who was responsible for making plaster casts of the victims. Many objects are still being excavated to this day; these objects include paints (found still in the pottery), tiles, paintings, and floorings. The most interesting is the large amount of brothels found in the city (GoEurope.about.com). Photographer Corrine Gill captured some of the erotic images found, and below is one of her more famous pieces.

4D Culture

Culture, in its simplest form, is a set of beliefs, ideas, behaviors that are shared and learned. The “culture” of Italy is a beautiful and unique one. From greetings to the food, Italian culture is something special. One really distinct difference between foreign and Italian culture is the way Italians will greet each other. The most common way to greet someone and see them off is with a light kiss on each cheek. This practice will usually seem strange to a foreigner and Italians expect this and most Italians will usually stick to the typical handshake to make the outsider feel more comfortable. Another aspect of this culture that may seem strange to foreigners is the way Italians dress. A foreigner will be the obvious stand out if they have not dressed in the same, up to date fashion as the rest of the culture. Italians of all ages typically dress in the same way, following the newest trends and fashion codes. The only real clothing restrictions come when you are entering a church or sometimes even a museum, there will typically be written rules for proper attire (ItalyHeaven.com). Growing up in a mostly Italian family, I know the part of Italian culture that is most important to me: food. Italy has nearly 20 different regions, all of which have their own style of food. Food is a great tradition in Italy, and this is usually paired with a love of wine. Wine is not looked at in the same light in Italy as it is in America. In Italy, wine is the typical drink to have paired with a fine Italian meal. An example of when a large meal would be prepared would be after a funeral. The whole family would be together, and they would celebrate the life of the lost loved one together. An Italian funeral is a beautiful ceremony that gets many of the loved ones involved, with most of the family holding candles throughout the service and most of them offering prayers in front of the casket. The whole family will then lead the deceased to his final resting place. Italians like to make a big deal out of their ceremonies, most notably their wedding ceremonies and Christening services (Windsor-Communities.com). The Italian wedding has a few special traditions that are worth noting. One of these traditions is that the groom will carry a small piece of iron ore which is meant to “ward off the evil eye.” The other tradition unique to Italian weddings is when the bride and groom shatter a vase or piece of glass, they do this so that each piece will represent one year of happy marriage (CompletelyWeddings.com). Both events (weddings and Christenings) will be held in a church for a special service, and then will be followed by a special party afterwards. The party will usually include lots of families and friends, food, wine, and also music. The music typically played at these events will be Opera or anything that can be danced to. Italians love most styles of music, as it is a major part of their daily lives. Opera has the largest following in Italy because that is the origin of this style (Windsor-Communities.com). Below is a picture taken from CompletelyWeddings.com (the photographer is unknown), and it shows what a typical Italian wedding is like.

4E Domestication

Much of Italy is covered in mountains which therefore include forests which are home to many different plants and trees. Tuscany, part of the northern region of Italy, has many trees which include beech, pine, fir, yew, oak, wild oak, and ash. The mountains of Tuscany are also home to animals like the fox, mountain goat, bear, and both the Apennine wolf and lynx (KidCyber.com). On top of the many trees and plants throughout the country, Italy has many herbs including rosemary, lavender and thyme.

4F Cities/States

For most of Italy’s history the country was run by a dictator and for some time before that it was ruled by the Catholic Church with the Pope having control of the territory. Until 1948, the nation was ruled by different dictators. In 1948, after World War II, Italy switched over to become a Republic (EveryCulture.com). A Republic is the most common form of government, and it is basically where citizens of a nation have the ability to help control the government. A Republic government leaves a lot of room for change, but the static point is that citizens have the right to vote for their elected officials (WiseGeek.com). Italy is currently led by the Head of State Giorgio Napolitano. Napolitano was elected, as is any Head of State, for a seven year term by the Electoral College. Below Napolitano is Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who was elected for a 5 year term. Italian government is easy to understand because it is very similar to the United States government (Fco.gov). An interesting point when looking at Italy and their form of government is the Vatican City, which is the only surviving city-state left in the world. A city-state is, as stated by Professor Kuba from class, a “political system of an independent city to rule over a fixed area.” The Vatican City has not always been an independent state though, as it was only made to be its own state in 1929 due to a treaty that was signed between the city and Italy. The ruler of the Vatican is not necessarily an elected official either, because the leader of the Vatican is actually the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope to the rest of the Catholic community. The Vatican City is actually very small in land size, as it is only slightly larger than The Mall in Washington, DC (Buzzle.com).

4G Social Stratification

To judge if a society is socially stratified, we look at three main traits which include prestige, power, and economic resources/wealth. It is difficult to place Italy in any of the categories, but it is best represented by a Class Society due to the unequal access to everything. The major differences within the nation fall between the northern and southern parts of Italy. The unemployment rate of the nation is very high, which causes the differences in wealth to be highly noticeable. Wealth is especially apparent in immigrants because they typically come from poorer countries. Lower classes have been affected recently by budget cuts to the welfare system which were required by the European Union (which Italy founded in 1957). The most prominent markers of social class are speech and dress. The closer ones dialect is to the national language, it is common that the speaker is wealthier than others. Also, fashion is a big deal in Italy, and it is also a statement in class. Certain designers or labels will be out of reach for the lower class, and they will stand out because of how up to date Italy is with fashion. Another factor to judge someone by is the amount and style of their leisure time. Where a person goes for a vacation, the amount of time they spend there, and where they stay are usually good ways to gauge an Italians social status. Fashion, leisure, and food are three key factors when looking at Italian culture. Two of these have been discussed; the third and not yet talked about is food. Food is a universal constant and no matter what your social status, you will eat it. Food can also help gauge a person’s social status by what kind of food they are eating. Meat will usually be eaten mainly by the wealthy, while the less fortunate will stick to just Pasta or simpler foods (EveryCulture.com). In Italy there are differences in classes, but there are no noticeable different groups. The only difference lies within a person’s social status, such as their prestige, power, or economic resources.

4H Marital Residency and Kinship

Italy is not unique in any real fashion when it comes to marriage practices in comparison to the rest of the world. When it comes to marriage, Italians have followed practices common throughout. In the past, marriages were typically arranged by the parents and the daughter would bring a sum of money to the husband at the time of the wedding. It was not uncommon though for the son or daughter to have the chance to influence their parent’s decision, and this practice was much easier for the poorer class. Most people in Italy will eventually marry, but it is not unheard of to have a restriction for the child to hold off marriage so they can care for their older parents. When the marriage does take place, most couples will move in with the bride’s parents and follow the matrilocal residency. Alongside of this, it is typical for two nuclear families to live together (EveryCulture.com).

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Kinship in Italy is a little more difficult to understand. Italy and people of Italian decent are known for their large families, so the question is, how are they related? The family will typically extend and include both the fathers and mothers side of the family. There a couple of generalizations that can be drawn from Italian kinship. One of these is the bond that is typically found between the males of a family and to his mother’s sisters. It is believed that is due to the fact that the son chooses to be with the more loving side, rather than the strict side that the father offers. Following this line of thinking, it would mean that I would be really close with my two aunts from my mother’s side but have a typical, not resistant, relationship with those on my father’s side of the family.

4I Religion and Magic

Religion is a set of beliefs, attitudes, and practices pertaining to the supernatural (Notes). Religion is also one universal constant. No matter when or where society has existed, signs of some form of religion or magic have been found. As discovered through writings or archaeological sites, Italy is no different. Witches and sorcerers are now all but forgotten, but they used to hold a strong position in the past. These practices led many to believe in spells, charms, and many different types of omens. Many of these beliefs have succeeded to modern day religion, but some people still believe in this ancient line of thinking.

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Italy, home to the Vatican City (the home of the Catholic Church), is a highly religious country. Over 90% of all of Italy is Roman Catholic, with the other religions being a mix of Jews, Muslims, and Orthodox. Italy is full of religious history, with Rome and the Vatican being the focal point for tourist attraction. The cities are full of churches and religious relics, and people flock from around the world to view them first hand. The Roman Catholic Church is very strict with its practices and holds many events throughout the year. The main holidays celebrated in Catholicism are the Immaculate Conception, Christmas, Easter, and the Pentecost. These are celebrated throughout the world, but for a nation nearly all Catholic, they are very important. In Italy, death and the celebration of the death are regarded as highly important. Most Italians believe in the afterlife, and view heaven and hell as reality (going along with Catholicism, they also believe in Purgatory). The funeral for a deceased loved one is held in a funeral home, and Italians view attendance as mandatory. Missing the funeral of a loved one can cause serious harm to that persons relationship with other friends and family (EveryCulture.com). So far I have identified Italy by three major things: family, friends, and food. Religion, and specifically Catholicism, can be added to this list.

The Vatican City

Home to the Catholic Church, a religion followed by over 90% of Italy

4J Linguistics

The official language of Italy, not surprisingly, is Italian. Italian is the number one used language, while German is second, and French and Slovene have a small role in the nation’s linguistic history (Cia.gov). Italian has a long history, and it is said to be a part of the Romance group, a subplot of the Indo-European family. All Romance languages were spawned from Latin, and Italy is the one that closest resembles it to this day. One issue with the Italian language has always been the number of different dialects found within the country. Dating back to the early 13th century, different dialects can be found in different regions, and this caused many different writings and schools of thought in numerous dialects. It was not until the 17th century, when Tuscany began to be one of the most successful regions in the nation that the Tuscan dialect began to take over and is now considered to be the true national language and dialect. The earliest form of the written word of Italian is said to be from the 13th century, where we find numerous popular plays and stories. Dante Alighieri is one of Italy’s most famous authors for his work, Devine Comedy, which was written in Latin. The Italian language is basically entirely derived from Latin, and Latin is the official language of the Vatican City (Italian.about.com).

The Italian language has a less than half of the letters that English does, as their language only has 14 letters. Italian is a very “romantic” language, and because of this many common Italian phrases are well known to much of the English speaking society. 

4K Sex and Gender

Italy is surprisingly equal when it comes to gender roles. I would have viewed Italian culture as very old fashioned, with women staying at home while the husband went off to work, but this is not entirely true. It could be said they are old fashioned in the sense that they have stuck to their almost original gender roles, but that means the men and women are treated as equals. Archaeological sites have shown evidence that men and women were almost equal in the amount of work they contributed to society. In modern society, prior to World War II, men would be the ones who went to work while the woman would stay at home, but these practices have changed and stayed the same since. Now, men and women are equals in every aspect of Italian culture. The numbers of men and women enrolled in universities and the work force is almost the same throughout Italy. Women still hold the same role as the leader of home life, but have taken on new roles to make themselves equals with men in social, economic, and political areas of life. These facts show that Italian women are the most liberated in all of Europe (EveryCulture.com).

One major difference between Italian men and women is the effects of having a child. Italian men typically have little to do with the child rearing process and offer little support and guidance to the mother. This absence leaves a very heavy job for the mother to handle alone. The job market is very tough, and it is nearly impossible for a mother of even one child to re-enter the job market after a short absence. This puts a strain on a family because of the difficulty it brings to the family because they have to live off of one income. These facts have caused a dramatic decrease in the amount of children being born in today’s Italy (Family.jrank.org).

4L Genetics and Evolution

The first sign of any human life comes from nearly 200,000 years ago when signs of human remains were found at villages excavated just west of Rome. The evidence of the existence of Homo Erectus humans is shown with the flint axes that were excavated from this site. About 100,000 years old, signs of more humans were found in Rome, and these people are believed to have been Neanderthals. In terms of modern day Italians, the first existence of modern day humans came about in 10,000 BC during the Upper Palaeolithic. Stone tools and engravings of animals in caves and on bones have been excavated from these sites. The engravings were not as detailed or impressive in comparison with those found elsewhere in Europe such as in France and Spain. It is believed that this is a sign that the population of Italy was rather small at this period in time (HistoryForKids.org).

List of Resources

  • http://www.everyculture.com/Ge-It/Italy.html …Used for general information throughout the project
  • https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/it.html …Used for: 3A, 3B, 4J
  • http://italy1.com/history/ …Used for 3B
  • http://www.goabroad.info/Italy.html?gID=3207 …Used for 3C
  • http://www.loc.gov/rr/international/european/italy/it.html …Used for basic search engine
  • http://mapsandflags.com/it.html …Used for general information
  • http://goeurope.about.com/cs/italy/a/pompeii.htm …Used for information on Pompeii
  • http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/pompeii/ss/BrothelsPompeii_2.htm …Used for Pompeii brother picture, Corinne Gill
  • http://www.italyheaven.co.uk/manners.html …Used for 4D
  • http://www.windsor-communities.com/italian-traditions.php …Used for 4D
  • http://completelyweddings.com/ethnic-wedding-themes/ …Used for 4D
  • http://www.kidcyber.com.au/topics/italyflora.htm …Used for 4E
  • http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1108/897192220_3020362cf4.jpg?v=0 …Used for “Pine Forest in Tuscany, Italy” picture
  • http://www.caninest.com/types-of-wolf/ …Used for Apennine wolf picture
  • http://bubbles6612.wordpress.com/2007/11/ …Used for Apennine mountains picture
  • http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-republican-form-of-government.htm …Used for 4F
  • http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/country-profile/europe/italy/ …Used for 4F
  • http://www.buzzle.com/articles/vatican-city-facts.html …Used for 4F
  • http://www.mapsofworld.com/flags/vatican-city-flag.html …Used for picture of the flag of the Vatican City
  • http://scrapetv.com/News/News%20Pages/Everyone%20Else/pages/Popes-appeal-for-Mid-East-peace-falls-on-surprisingly-deaf-ears-Scrape-TV-The-World-on-your-side.html …Used for picture of Vatican City
  • http://italian.about.com/library/weekly/aa060699a.htm …Used for 4J
  • http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/language/italian-phrases.html …Used for 4J and phrase chart
  • http://family.jrank.org/pages/979/Italy-Education-Gender-Roles.html …Used for 4K
  • http://coquinadaily.com/daily/htmldaily/080305.shtml …Used for picture in 4L
  • http://www.lifeinitaly.com/potpourri/fun-facts.asp …Used for 4M
  • http://fragmentssynapses.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/thermometer.jpg …Used for thermometer picture
  • http://stephaniedoes.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/easiestloaf.jpg …Used for picture of bread
  • http://jonjonsmith.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/mcshit.jpg …Used for picture of cologne
  • http://www.webweaver.nu/clipart/img/entertainment/music/baby-grand-piano.jpg …Used for picture of piano
  • http://www.thedailygreen.com/cm/thedailygreen/images/1-30days-pour-wine-lg-63555269.jpg …Used for picture of wine


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