National anthems stir many thoughts and feelings. They can incite anything from healthy love of country to overly aggressive patriotism. Music has an extraordinary ability to ignite hearts and passions. And Song of the Italians, Italy’s national anthem, is no exception.
Not being Italian, I can’t really say what The Song of the Italians does to the Italian heart and mind, though I imagine this probably changes with each generation. But I do have an idea what his national anthem (play below) might have meant to our Zio Pietro (Uncle Peter). Listen, and try to imagine it along with me.
[Italy’s National Anthem via Wikimedia.]
The zio was, surely, the happiest of people to have us move into the home we now live in. For he grew up in it, and even planted our two olive trees, now around 40-50 years old! Spry and cheerful, right up to his death at age 92, a couple of years ago, we often passed him on his long walks around town.
But more than anything he loved visitors and telling of old times! We always found him ready with a warm welcome and good story. Like how, after marriage, he and his wife lived in this 630 sq.ft. (58 sq meters) house along with his parents and two unmarried sisters.
Although he often repeated the same stories, we listened eagerly! And he never failed to thank us for buying and his father’s house and fixing it up. Knowing that the old place would live on seemed to bring him great joy!
Mario and I have a special affinity with older people. He, perhaps, because of being raised by older parents; 42 and 43 when he was born. And I grew up surrounded by grandparents, and even a great-grandmother! We love talking with them. Hearing of days gone by, and learning from their wisdom.
Zio Pietro’s best story, or at least our favorite, involved his trip home from Russia after World War II.
We always felt blessed and spoiled after hearing of his transcontinental trek on foot. During the dead cold of winter, his feet wrapped in rags. Europe’s railways strewn about him in ruins.
And we always came away with the sense of having been in the presence of greatness. Feeling like we’d entered a bygone era. Of a generation who believed there were things in this world worth fighting for. And of folks willing to suffer and die for their people and nation.
Zio Pietro would surely have known The Song of the Italians, or Brothers of Italy, as it also known.
Although Italians usually refer to it as Mameli’s Hymn, in honor of its author. This popular patriotic battle hymn was already well known in the mid 1800s. Even though it wasn’t until the end of World War II that it became the unofficial national anthem.
Let us join in a cohort (military unit). We are ready to die. We are ready to die, Italy has called, the chorus says.
When he heard those words of victory, valor, and hope, did he remember the long march from Russia? Glad that he had fought for his Brothers of Italy?
The unofficial status of the anthem continued from 1946 to 2012, when it was finally made legal. Which to us, is highly symbolic of Italy — the land of slow living. “We’ll get around to it domani (tomorrow). But here in Italy domani is often a long time in arriving!
Can’t you just picture Zio Pietro coming, back straight, rifle against his shoulder, marching home from Russia? This well-known refrain playing in his mind.
How does the Song of the Italians make you feel? And how about your national anthem?