A first editorial by Valeria Cescato, inspired by an interesting reflection on the theme of Italianness. This is how we open a conversation on territory and the experience of hospitality in Italy. Italianness, Valeria explains, has a much older origin than you might imagine.
An ancient history and a modern value
Italianness comes before Italians. Because first, long before having anything to do with us, it is a characteristic of the Italian Peninsula. The geophysical formation and geolocation of this long strip of lamb make it a concentration of biodiversity on the planet.
Further, the diversity of terrains, environments, and climates that characterize Italy has favored an immense variety of vegetation, fauna and, and humanity. The latter translates into capacity and thought.
Italianness is a quality typical of the territory in which we live, even before being a characteristic of its inhabitants.
A peculiar feature of the Peninsula is that along its entire length you can find an uncommon distribution of sea, mountains, hills, lakes, and rivers in equal measure. Over the millennia, the Italic people have modeled that soil with great skill.
Likely inspired more by hunger than by art, instinctively sensitive to beauty, the Peninsula’s inhabitants got busy. They terraced steep slopes and reclaimed marshes. Early Italians built fortified cities, traced kilometers of dry stone walls, and built safe harbors.
On the hills that make up most of the Italian territory, people created a mosaic of crops and activities, turning them into products of outstanding quality and for which Italy has become famous the world over.
Amazingly, you can define this attitude truly an Italian peculiarity. It has very ancient origins and has remained true until today throughout the national territory. That landscape shaped by the coexistence of man with the earth is a masterpiece in which we all still recognize ourselves in the present moment.
The gift of biodiversity
Territorial diversity is the reason why our beautiful country produces foods of extraordinary quality and variety. Not only are there many species of large animals, plants and herbs, but also bacteria, fungi, lichens, and yeasts.
This biodiversity allows Italians to have an almost infinite territorial variety of raw materials to generate as many unique products. Environmental differences determine the mixture of crops, breeding and processing and the multiplicity of tastes, specific sensory and nutritional properties.
Italy is the country with the largest number of quality branded products in the world (DOP, DOC, DOCG, IGP and TSG). Italians themselves are learning to recognize in this variety an essential value that is truly “theirs.”
In this historical moment, in which monocultures and intensive farming are counted among the culprits for the degradation of planetary ecosystems, Italians must feel immensely lucky. At the same time, they must become responsible carers for their landscape, to ensure it doesn’t suffer discontinuity.
The protection of every fold of the Italian territory and its characteristics must become a primary objective for every person who steps into it.
The meaning and the value
It’s difficult for many to understand, but if humans can learn to perceive their differences as a unique and precious set of features, then we will re-discover our greatest potential.
Then, instead of undermining patriotic sentiment with silly parochialism and abhorrent politics, we can reinvigorate the unitary sense of belonging. When we behave as persons, we can give strength and structure to our identity and make this awareness our greatest wealth.
Ultimately, Italianness is a kaleidoscope of fragments of color and flavor which, mixed with exceptional randomness, make up figures of extraordinary beauty. We must handle this beauty with sensitivity and intelligence, so that everyone can enjoy it: citizens first, and then the rest of the world.
- Edited from original.
- Images credit: Claudio Capiani.