Italy is home to many of the world’s most famous landmarks, art works and cuisine. But, what really makes Italy unique is its people and culture. The Italian people have a passion for life and a belief that food is not just fuel, but something to be enjoyed and shared with friends and family. The Italians also value a sense of style, elegance and social approval known as bella figura.
Unlike most of Western Europe, where nations have long histories, Italy was only unified as a country in 1861 after a period of unification called the Risorgimento (Rise Again). It is therefore no surprise that Italy has a diverse population with different cultures and traditions. This is evident in the fact that there are numerous regional differences in the country’s cuisine. For example, the sauces in northern Italy tend to be heavier due to the climate and Germanic food influences, while southern dishes are typically more tomato-based.
In terms of religion, the majority of Italians are Catholic. Despite this, Italy is a secular state that respects all faiths. It is also a very family-oriented society where the nuclear family is usually the primary unit of residence, although extended families often live together in the south. This is also reflected in the emphasis on family values, such as family reunions and celebration of patron saint days.
Eating is also seen as a leisure activity, with meals often not being finished until 8 or 9 pm at night. People take their time and enjoy conversation over a meal and drink with a lot of laughter. Italians also have a great love for music, and there is a strong tradition of classical singing in the country.
Education is also important to the Italians, and children go to school six days a week. They have a morning break and snack, followed by lunch which can be up to two hours long! After school, they may have a snack before going to their extracurricular activities such as sports, art or music.
Politics is another big part of the Italian culture, and it is a major factor that affects daily life. There has been a history of political violence from both left and right extremists, including terrorism. The 1970s saw a decade of violent attacks by the Red Brigades, and there were several scandals involving high level corruption in the 1990s that brought down the government.
Italy is a parliamentary republic with the President (elected for seven years by Parliament and 58 electoral votes) acting as a figurehead with the Prime Minister being the real chief executive. The legislative power is in the hands of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, both with equal voting rights. The Italian Constitution, which is amended regularly, lays down the fundamental principles of the country and guarantees fundamental freedoms.