Italy’s Identity Crisis

When one thinks of March 17th, one’s mind probably thinks of green, shamrocks, and corn beef and cabbage. While Italy does not revel in the festivities associated with the observance of St. Patrick’s Day, the date has its own significance to the peninsula: on March 17th 1861, Italy became a unified country.

Considering the peninsula’s rich history with the Holy Roman Empire, the Renaissance, and the Roman Catholic Church, one might be surprised when learning that Italy only marked its 150th birthday this year. Though some scholars refer to the United States as a young country, its birth came in 1776, more than 90 years before Italy’s. At the same time as the Mediterranean nation’s unification, America was already 85 years and on the brink of Civil War.

Spurned by ongoing conflicts between city-states and nobility, unification for Italy was a gradual and difficult process. While such divisions subsided shortly to allow the peninsula to become unified, Italy has always been troubled by its difficulty to cultivate a national identity.

This piece was written for the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and its Junior Year Abroad Network. You can read more, by visiting here.

La Dolce Vita Senza Religione

In director Frederico Fellini’s renowned masterpiece La Dolce Vita, the film begins with the statue of Christ flying over the city of Rome. As the protagonist Marcello rides in the helicopter carrying the divine figure, the sight of three women sunbathing on rooftop quickly distracts him. Through these first few minutes of the film, Fellini introduces the audience to the Catholic Church’s strong presence in the Italian culture. Yet, by simultaneously portraying Marcello’s easy distraction, the director presents a growing trend among the Italian citizenry towards a decline in religious faith and spirituality.

The opening scene of La Dolce Vita depicts a noticeable shift in religious identity and beliefs that began in Italy during the 1950s. At this time, Italy underwent an “economic miracle,” in which industry boomed, the standard of living increased, and social mobility was on the rise. As wealth prospered, the economic hardships of the years immediately following World War II became distant memories. Although the growing prosperity meant well for Italy’s economy, it also introduced a new challenge to the country. With the increase in the flow of money, there was a simultaneous decline in the religious sentiment of its citizenry as people replaced spiritual fulfillment to material.

This piece was written for the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and its Junior Year Abroad Network. You can read more, by visiting here.