Lucia Clark's home page
Classical papers
My Thesis
Other papers
personal papers
My family
Human Rights
Food of Ancient Rome

Ethnic Identities in Cyberspace:

Italy, Ethnicity, the European Union and the Internet. The URL as Villaggio Virtuale

 This is the title of my Master Thesis. My thesis deals with the role of the Internet in the celebration of ethnic identities in Italy. Are you thinking "what identities"? So did a professor of mine at Harvard University when I wrote my first paper on the topic of Italian ethnicity. Since I got a 94 on that first paper, I must have done a half decent job of convincing him. My thesis director was David Maybury-Lewis, and my thesis advisor, Don Ostrowski. Both have trusted me and guided me with their insight. But instead of taking my word, just read on.


Ethnic Identities in Cyberspace:

Italy, Ethnicity, the European Union and the Internet. The URL as Villaggio Virtuale


Lucia Dentice-Clark



A Thesis in the Field of Anthropology


for the Degree of Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies


Harvard University


June 2004


Copyright 2004 Lucia Dentice-Clark


For all the voices that were stilled, and all the songs that were silenced. May they be heard again.




I wish to thank all the people, from the North of Italy to the South, that have welcomed me in their mailing lists, web sites, and in many instances in their homes and schools.

Foremost, my thanks go to the ladies of the house, who welcomed this peculiar new entity, the Web Anthropologist, in the time-honored hospitality of Southern Italy. Over the years of my research, we have become, I know, close friends.

To my family in Italy, thank you for your patience. I came and went over and over again, leaving precious little time to stay with you.

To my children, believe me: you did not hold me back. You helped me grow.



Chapter I

The Internet: the Digital Present

The Internet can be defined as a pivotal event that has charted a new course for mankind and in effect has changed our lives. It is perhaps of the same magnitude as the discovery of fire, the invention of the wheel or gunpowder. And, logically enough, its definition, even if somewhat glorified, can be found on the Internet itself:

The Internet has revolutionized the computer and communications world like nothing before. The invention of the telegraph, telephone, radio, and computer set the stage for this unprecedented integration of capabilities. The Internet is at once a world-wide broadcasting capability, a mechanism for information dissemination, and a medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers without regard for geographic location (Italics mine).[1]

As Leiner and Cerf, the authors of this quotation, point out, the Internet is the culmination of other technological discovers that helped create a society without barriers, where communication and interaction are truly instantaneous. And this fact has aroused the worries of many that saw in this instantaneous speed of communication the dangers of uniformity. The age of the Internet is not, however, the first phenomenon that has brought mankind to a state of globalization. In fact, a quick look at history tells us that the focal point of its discourse has always been the meaning of globe as “known world”, where “known” can be a relative term. “Known” can be read as “important to us.” Benedict Anderson pointed out the reality-or fallacy-of imagined groupings that resulted in political entities.[2] Often it is religion or the very cultural core of a civilization that determines the political reality of a given group. We can say that a political entity is an imagined reality par excellence: Judaism and Hellenism are good examples of this imagined reality. In this respect, globalization has taken place several times, in the form of Hellenism, Judaism, the Roman Empire, the Chinese Empire, the Spanish Empire, the British Empire, and the spread of American capitalism. Nor the principal character of the Internet, its transcendence of time and space, is totally new. For the Roman consuls, the fact of granting Roman citizenship to the conquered peoples solved the spatial complexity of the ever-expanding Roman dominion. Conversely, the concept of time was transcended in an eternal present during the Italian Renaissance. In that time wealthy merchants in Florence and elsewhere affirmed their emerging social status by commissioning portraits of themselves in adoration in front of a newborn Jesus and his mother. All of them, the merchant and the saints, Mary and the Babe, even the angels, are all dressed in the latest Florentine fashion of the time. For the devout Florentine who prayed in the chapels, and for the merchant who commissioned it, Christianity had elevated their belonging to the Christian world to a state of perpetual present. It was, in fact, a form of eternity.[3] Anderson defines communities where time and space are transcended as Imagined Communities.  And it is precisely the transcendence of time and space that defines the Imagined Community that is the focal factor of any Internet society.  Marshal McLuhan, in his visually brilliant little book The Medium is the Massage, reflected the thoughts of contemporary scholars whose vision was at times somewhat catastrophic:

The major advances of civilizations are processes that all but wreck the societies in which they occur. (Whitehead)…Electric circuitry has overthrown the regime of time and space…You can’t go home again. The media gives us packages that we swallow wholesale. [4]

McLuhan finally, and perhaps unintentionally, created the definition of our age: THE NEW ELECTRONIC INTERDEPENDENCE CREATES THE WORLD IN THE IMAGE OF A GLOBAL VILLAGE [5] (capitals mine). Somewhat prophetically, the image accompanying this now famous statement is a tribal scene, complete with a grimacing shaman and a spellbound, bare-breasted audience. It was a joke by Alan Dunn, published in the New Yorker in 1966, which summed up McLuhan’s ideas brilliantly. In it, a college student explains the new revolutionary concept to his father. Typically, it is the young that has grasped the new idea: 

You see, Dad, Professor McLuhan says the environment that man creates becomes his medium for defining his role in it. The invention of type created a linear, or sequential, thought, separating thought from action. Now, with TV and folk singing, thought and action are closer and social involvement is greater. We again live in a village. Get it? [6]


Did most people “get it?” The term Global Village came to be understood to mean that the world would become uniform at the expense of marginalized communities left out by the new economic and cultural realities. This belief is true to a large extent, but not entirely so. 

In 1996, Arjun Appadurai maintained, “media creates communities with no sense of place.” [7] He also saw them as “imagined communities that seek to create states of their own.”[8]

The early fear was that globalization brought about by international trade, international politico-economic alliances, and the speed of the new media had created a world without differences, where national or ethnic identities would be sacrificed to the modern gods of progress in what Watson has called the Mcdonaldization of the World.[9]  In 1996 Castells, in The Rise of the Network Society wrote:

A technological revolution, centered around information technologies, began to reshape, at an accelerated pace, the material basis of society. Economies through the world have become economically interdependent, introducing new form of relationship between economy, state and society. The collapse of the soviet statism, and the subsequent demise of the international communist movement, …altered global geopolitics. [10] 

The new communication system, the digital communication, creates new forms and channels of communications, in which English seems to be the prevailing lingua franca.  Speculating on the possibilities of the Internet was sometimes a wishful look at Utopia:

There are many visions of what the Net can become: a universal library where any book is available electronically,… an on-line community…an electronic democracy…a digital shopping mall…These dreams give us glimpses into possible new orders.[11]

Stefik also noted that with the Internet we are in a state of change, so rapid that is difficult to maintain a balance:

The struggle is between the old order and the new, between what society is and what is becoming.  The Internet is now at this stage of becoming, a period of rapid growth and change. It is still being invented and is characterized by open options, unknown possibilities, confusion, and imperfect technology. Our social structures, cultural assumptions, and legal structures are co-evolving with the Internet.[12]

Stefik published The Internet Edge in 1999.  Shortly after the publication of the book Polaroid announced the design of a technology that allowed photographs to be sent via the Internet and printed on photo paper with professional results. Then came the digital camera. At the time they were amazing discoveries. Now it is hard to believe that only a few years ago there was only one way to take photographs, that is, buying film and having it developed. The advantages of digital photography are great. We can see the result immediately; we can edit our photos and share them with friends and family instantly. The disadvantage is that our memories captured by the digital camera are out of our control. If our computer “crashes,” they are lost forever. We can save them on a disk, but disks deteriorate in time[13]. It would seem that we are caged in a perpetual present, and we have little control over it. This is contrary to the way we have been culturally conditioned to look at ourselves. Typically, we look at our past in order to know ourselves. But the digital past is now, and we are spectators and actors. We see ourselves acting in a digital mirror, and we do not have a script. At this point no one, not even the most confirmed Luddite, is untouched by computers. At the very least having a bank account has put us in the age of cyberspace.

Because significant byproducts of digital technologies were the ability to play games, it was inevitable that for perhaps the first time in history it was the very young that became the experts, as Dunn’s joke brilliantly illustrates. It is a common sight, even today, to have academic parents ask their teenaged children for help, and this writer is no exception. The generation that came into its own during the 1980s saw the tremendous possibilities of digital technologies, and jumped into the wagon, so to speak. They are the new millionaires, only now, at the beginning of the third millennium, entering their forties.  Bill Gates was still in his teens when he left Harvard to put his digital stake in the new frontier, the software industry. He had to hurry to be the first, before someone else would get “there” ahead of him.  And “there” is always a step too far.  “There,” the future, is being forged and changes constantly. “There” is nowhere. I am writing this paper on a laptop no bigger than a book, purchased only a year ago. But the next generation, the new product, is already lighter, easier to use, less expensive and more powerful than mine. But every expert tells me “wait! The next generation is coming out shortly, lighter, more powerful, easier to use, less expensive.” “There,” the time and place where I will be content with my laptop, is always a step ahead, unless I make the conscious decision to live-and be content-in “this” present. I have to decide that this is my “there.”

“Global Village” or “Virtual Villages”?

Waters introduced the notion of “circuit of gossip,” something inevitable, and necessary, to the vitality of a functioning village.[14] And in 1995 McLuhan’s Global Village lacked precisely that. Global communication was possible, but not the instantaneous exchange that defines gossip. He also, very prophetically, saw the Internet as the media that would make such circuits of gossip possible. And of course, in 1995 the chat rooms and the mailing lists, systems of multiple and instantaneous communication, were not yet possible. As technology improved, it became possible, indeed, to interact around the globe, regardless of location. And, since time had to be “of the moment,” regardless of the globe’s time zones, a new time dimension took place. It was the time for encounters and gossip, quite apart from the daily schedules of our geographical locality.

Events that had been taking shape in Europe, with the creation of the European Union, created a ground particularly receptive of the possibilities of the WEB,

Chapter II

Europe as Imagined Reality: Europe of Nations or Europe of the People?


 Let us expand our analysis of the events in Europe, the birthplace of many of Anderson’s Imagined Communities, and the current arena of its latest form, the European Union (EU). A movement to eliminate economic barriers had begun shortly after World War II, with the creation of the European Common Market. After this first step, a colossal task began to take place: the creation of a federation of the European nations, the ramifications of which where certainly unknown at the time.  The creation of the European Union has unified the economic and strategic interests of many countries, and indeed many new countries are admitted into it every year. Of course, an endeavor of this magnitude, the union of countries whose national identities have been differentiated by history, is bound to have problems. Yet we should remember that the European political entities are recent, coming from the collapse of the great empires in the 19th century.[15]  The conception of the European Union spurred endless controversies on what precisely the new Europe should be. Paul Treanor in Europe: which Europe? [16] analyzed in depth the current trends:

“The opponents of the EU (and EU extension) usually take a simple defensive nationalist position. Often, they are suspicious of “super states.” Some opponents have more specific grounds for a Europe of nations. They may support …[the] belief that competition among nations is necessary for the 'health' of each nation. There is a militarist version of this belief, but also the version of Mazzini: competition for cultural prestige.”

Currently politicians work on the model of a free-trade area, and of the defense of national interests. According to Treanor this model is not only a Europe of the nations, rather, it is “Europe for the nation state” (italics his).

Another model is the official regionalism, the assemblies of regional and local governments. This is the model favored by most Italian groups. In fact, Treanor brings as an example the Bologna and Europa – European Project, an initiative launched in 1986. From their site:

This association of European cities was founded in 1986. Today there are about a hundred members, including universities and chambers of commerce. The main aim is the improvement of the quality of life for the majority of European citizens.
In order to become a Eurocity a city must have at least 250,000 inhabitants and a democratically elected government. When a request is made by a city to join the network, the international dimension, the local importance and the activities carried out on a Community level are all important criteria.
The aims of the association are as follows:

·   to make European institutions aware of urban politics so as the cities become   recognized as important participants in European politics;

·    to bring cities in direct contact with the European and international institutions that deal with urban development, with the objective of participating in European Union projects;

·    to facilitate the exchange of information, experiences, staff and best practices between the cities;

·    to enable cities of central and eastern Europe to get to know the European Union and its resources, as well as helping them on the way to a market economy and democracy.

In order to facilitate international co-operation between the member cities, the structure of Eurocities has been organized into different working groups: social affairs, environment, culture, east/west, economic development, transport. Participation in these groups enables the cities to exchange information, share experiences and to create consortia for the presentation of projects to the European Community. The Eurocities administration also diffuses information regarding methods of attaining the available resources for projects and also offers relevant technical support. Bologna was President of the association in 1995 and 1996.

Treanor recognized that the most important trend, and the one most challenging to the “Europe des Patries,” the Europe of the Nation States, was the Europe of the Peoples, the Europe of the ethnic identities. And in fact after the creation of the European Union we have seen a process of rethinking of what a national identity should be. This has caused the formation of secessionist groups in many parts of Europe, such as the Catalan, the Corsican, the Basque, and Scottish and Corsican minority movements.


Italy and Cyberspace

This process of rethinking of what a national identity should be has caused a re-evaluation of the regional identities in Italy, where they have complex and deep roots.  Italian scholar and politician Massimo Fini coined the term “Piccole Patrie,”[18] the small fatherlands, in contrast with the Europe des Patries, Europe of the Nation–States. This pattern has gained recognition in Italy, mostly in the North, where Anderson’s pattern of the medieval and Renaissance imagined community of the City-States is still strong. What we see in Italy today is mostly a form of ethnic federalism in the North that, curiously, was expounded by some scholars, and ignored by the vast majority of politicians during the Risorgimento. In the 19th century Carlo Cattaneo spent most of his adult life writing about the necessity of a federation of regions in Italy, in order to save the integrity of the regions’ identities. His work was ignored and he died destitute. Only recently his work was recognized as being ahead of his times and has finally been published in book form.[19] The very title, Stati Uniti d’Italia, United States of Italy, carries a powerful and very specific message: for Italians, the political reality of the Italian nation–state is very different from the ethnic reality of its peoples.

By contrast, in the South we see a movement for restorations of ancient Greek alliances on ethno-religious grounds beginning at the roots of Italo-Mediterranean history, from the ancient Magna Grecia, and the Byzantine Empire, again stressing the ethno-religious roots of their history. In the aftermath of the creation of the European Union the Internet has facilitated the rebirth of those ethnic identities that have remained dormant during the political events of the last 140 years.[20] Of course, an ethnic Europe would mean revising all borders, thus obliterating the nation–states created during the 19th century. This revision of borders has a potential for disaster. One has only to remember the Balkan conflict. But perhaps, at least in Italy, its long history of ethnic fragmentation has created a great capacity for tolerance. We must, at this point, now turn our attention to the nature of Italian ethnic identities.

To a casual observer, Italy’s North, from Milan and Turin to Bologna, is a bustling and “efficient” place, more akin to the rest of Northern Europe than the South, again seen as lagging behind the time, and oppressed by the Mafia lords. As we will see later, reality is far more complex than the stereotypical vision created by internationally famous films like The Godfather. And it is a fact that many Northern Italians believe this stereotype to be true. The Italian Risorgimento created a political entity from a profoundly diverse population, and this entity, the Italian nation, exists only since 1870, when Italy was proclaimed to be a Nation under the Savoy kings. Nevertheless the polarization of North and South is a profound reality that has split Italian society since the Risorgimento. Therefore, when Italy finally saw its entrance in the EU as an immediate possibility, the old polarization of North and South surfaced immediately. Politician Umberto Bossi mobilized other sympathizers in the northern regions and formed the Lega del Nord, an association whose intent was to secede from Italy and to join the EU as an independent state. As we have seen, other separatist movements were forming elsewhere in Europe, but the distinction of the Lega del Nord was that it was formed within the legitimacy of the Italian political system. The emerging power of the Internet was seen as a new tool of communication and, as often the case in Italy, politicians appropriated this latest tool as web pages proliferated at a rapid pace. The southern states responded almost immediately launching their own web page, the Due Sicilie, condemning the exploitation they had suffered at the hands of the Italian government since the Risorgimento. [21]  Since then other web pages have been launched by groups that saw themselves as minorities, in Italy and elsewhere in Europe[22]: among them the Griko Milume, the Partitu Sardo, and the Friul in Italy, the Corsica Nazione in France, and the Catalans and the Basque, whose borders, a typical problem with minority groups, actually fall both within the Spanish and French nation–states. Each site offers different ways of communication to their subscribers, and, as technology advanced, the communication improved and became increasingly sophisticated. Subscribers to the mailing lists can launch messages that reach everyone and communicate in what can be described as a virtual symposium. When voice technology became available, other services, the Chat rooms, allowed the subscribers to meet at determined places and actually talk to each other. The Internet is now a place where people can set at a virtual café in a virtual village piazza and there talk about different topics, regardless where their geographical locality might be. Every Thursday afternoon, a group of people in the East coast of the US log on to a “Paltalk”, a chat room dedicated to the speakers of Griko, a form of Greek with Italian, Latin and other elements spoken in a few villages in southern Italy.  It is 3 PM in Boston, 12 AM in Los Angeles, 9 PM in Salento and Calabria, the places in Italy where this language is spoken. But at this time the participants of this chat room drop whatever they are doing and sit in front of their computer. It is easier for Italians to do so, at the end of their day. Yet Griko speakers in Los Angeles or Boston use their lunch or mid–afternoon break to sit in this virtual café in cyberspace, to meet old friends and welcome new ones, to talk about “local affairs,” where “local” has to be intended as out of spatial limits, and in a multiple temporal place, in the present that has transcended earth’s limitations. In the same way, a large and very active group of scholars exchanges opinions daily on the diversity of languages spoken in the Po region, roughly the place that saw the birth of the Lega del Nord. Their intent is not political per se; rather it is a laborious exercise in the codification of the intricacies of their languages. The city of Bergamo alone counts 26 variants of its own dialect. For all of these people the meeting place is an imagined reality, a place of their own making. This is the locality of desire,[23] where the will of the participants forges their own community. These are the communities where time and space are transcended and recreated in a “virtual” reality. These communities reflect the nature of their “real” diversity, the imprint that Italian history has given the peoples that inhabit its land.

Chapter III

The Italians, or the Peoples who Inhabit Italy

All Italian schoolchildren learn of the glorious Risorgimento, the period from 1848 to 1870, during which the Italian peninsula was finally united under one ruler, Victor Emanuel of Savoy, king of Piedmont and Sardinia, and of legendary heroes like Camillo Benso count of Cavour and Giuseppe Garibaldi, who swept though the peninsula and created a united kingdom. Several wars were fought, from 1848 to 1870, against the Austro-Hungarians in the North and the Borbons in the South. The last Risorgimento war was won against the temporal power of the Vatican. In 1870 the Vatican was reduced to its purely religious function, and the Pope remained in a state of quasi–captivity inside the walls of the Vatican. It was only during the Fascist era that Mussolini, with the “Concordato,” assigned to the papacy a small section of Rome surrounding Saint Peter, creating a small independent state, the Vatican City.

After Italy’s unification one of the statesmen, Massimo D’Azeglio, coined the famous phrase “L’Italia e` fatta, dobbiamo fare gli Italiani,” “We made Italy, now we must make the Italians.”[24] This statement reveals one fundamental thing, implicitly recognized by the makers of the Risorgimento: as recently as 1870, there was not such an entity as an Italian people, and the task to “make” the Italians was recognized to be of enormous importance. Yet, Italy’s rich and ancient culture has been a beacon for the entire Western civilization. But even a superficial knowledge of Italian literature and art reveals that the character of the Italian culture is strictly regional. Before Dante’s Divina Comedia gave legitimacy to the Tuscan vernacular, the poets of the Scuola Siciliana had written superb works in Sicilian vernacular. Artists where often known by the place they came from: Leonardo Da Vinci, or Michelangelo Merisi, known as the Caravaggio. In both cases what is assumed to be the family name is in reality the name of their hometown. One can say that it is the diverse ethnic traditions that have given Italy its deep cultural strength. These diverse ethnic identities have survived repeated attempts at assimilation into the mainstream–that is, the identity of the dominant group, from the Roman Empire to the Catholic Church and more recently the Risorgimento and Fascism. And the “dialects,” the ethnic languages that have been marginalized by the emerging Nation State have defined the identity of the people. The power of language in the definition of ethnic identities was well recognized by the makers of Italy after the Risorgimento. They instituted a practice still in use today: schoolteachers were sent to districts in other parts of Italy than their own. The intent was to force both students and children to speak the “lingua franca,” Italian. This worked fairly well for the rich and the “borghesia,” the urban middle class. As we will see later, it was an unmitigated disaster for the poor and rural, particularly in the South, where immediately after the Risorgimento many schools were closed down.[25] The result was a disenfranchisement of the poorer classes. Il Problema del Sud, the problem of the South, began then. Historian Alberto Sorbrero has written:

The violence suffered by ethnic-linguistic minorities is with no precedents, …because it is a despoliation that takes place with the very annihilation of the individuality, the deliberate deprivation of the means of survival.[26]

Therefore the task of “Fare gli Italiani” failed. We are still a diverse society, and we identify first and foremost with our own hometown. The first thing we ask other Italians is “Da dove viene?” “Where do you come from?” But most often we can tell the origin of our interlocutor the moment that person speaks, for, if we all speak Italian, our Italian is flavored by our hometown language. The Italian spoken by a Milanese is vastly different from the Italian spoken by a Sicilian or my Italian, still unmistakably Roman. Yet we all feel, fiercely, that we are Italian.


Analysis of the Nature of Italian Identities

Figure 1. Language distribution in pre-Roman Italy

We must look at Italian history and its legends in order to understand the nature of this “being Italian by being ethnically distinct.” What has emerged on the Web, the virtual villages, is the manifestation of a need to reaffirm, and legitimize, the ethnic fragmentation in Italian society. This fragmentation has its origins deep in Italy’s history. In pre-Roman times, Italy was populated by a number of small nations (see figure 1). From the mythical founding of Rome in 753 BCE, the Romans did not complete their conquest of Italy until 200 BCE. Italy was already populated by a number of diverse peoples who put up a fierce fight against their invader, the emerging power of Rome.


The Latins, who did not speak Latin yet but a number of languages either separate from or ancestral to Latin, started settling in around 1000 BCE, roughly the same period that saw the arrival of the first settlements of Etruscans.

During the 10th century BCE a group of refugees and settlers from the neighboring towns, mostly Etruscans, built a village on the Palatine hills, by the Tiber, far enough inland to be protected from Phoenician pirates but close enough to the sea for trade. The legendary foundation of Rome is dated on April 21, 753 BCE. During the same period, Greek colonists occupied lands in the south of Italy and Sicily, displacing or assimilating the original populations, such as the Messapics in Puglia. Important cities were founded, like Syracuse and Cumae. Gradually, between treaties and wars of expansions, Rome conquered the entire peninsula. It was not until 260 BCE that Regium, in Calabria, fell to the Romans.[27] It took Rome 500 years to consolidate their rule within Italy. The states they conquered each had their own strong alliances, either inside Italy, like the Latin League, or within the Mediterranean, like the Greeks and the Carthaginians. 

The very legend of the origins of Rome, as sung by Virgil, represents the kernel of reality in Italy’s ethnic plurality.  Aeneas, with his aged father on his back, his son by the hand, and the family gods under his arm, escaped the destruction of Troy and eventually landed in central Italy. Legends say that Aeneas, conveniently widowed during the last moments of Troy, wandered around the Mediterranean until he reached Carthage where he seduced its Queen Dido, who committed suicide when he abandoned her.[28] Finally safe in Italy, he established an alliance with the local king by marrying the king’s daughter Lavinia.[29]  Aeneas exemplifies the typical ancestor of Italic peoples, who inserts himself successfully in his new land while managing to hang on to his own ethnic traditions and identity.  Aeneas brings his family gods with him, including his divine mother Aphrodite, who under the name of Venere assumes a local identity and goes on to become Rome’s Patron Goddess.[30]

Early Rome was almost certainly an Etruscan city and grew under the Etruscan influence. Two of the seven kings came from the Etruscan family of the Tarquinii, and the second king, Numa Pompilius, was an Etruscan High Priest, as his name Numa indicates.[31]  The Etruscan nation came to centro-northern Italy from possibly Asia Minor, where Troy used to flourish.  They were a people of warriors and merchants, and were organized in a confederation of 12 states.  Their cities, still today perched on hilltops, were impregnable and tended to be self-supporting.  They put up a long fight against Rome, and Roman historians say that their destruction was complete. However, many of their customs were already part of Roman culture, as well as some of their technologies, particularly in irrigation and architecture.  If Aeneas might be seen as the legendary quintessential Etruscan, Odysseus, under the romanized name Ulysses, can be seen as the quintessential Greek, who wanders through southern Italian coasts and Sicily, and creates a satellite Greek culture, Magna Grecia. The symbol of Odysseus has been appropriate by the Greek–inspired web sites. Often the captions read references to Ithaca, Odysseus’ island, and Greece is referred to as the “homeland,” rather than Italy.

By its very position, jutting out from the Alps and slicing the Mediterranean Sea in the middle, Italy has always been a land of transit, and, I like to think, because of its beauty, the inevitable destination of settlers and invaders. It is difficult to name a people who could be defined “autochthonous” to Italy. Countless peoples came and remained. The antiquity and diversity of the peoples that inhabited Italy is indeed documented by the diversity of languages spoken in the Italian peninsula before the advent of Rome.


The Languages of Italy

 Un populo

Mittutolo a catina


Attuppatici a vucca

E’ ancora libiru


Livatici u travagghiu

U passaportu

A tavola unni mangia

U letto unni dormi

E’ancora riccu


Un populu

diventa poviru e servu

quannu ci arrobbanu a lingua

addutata di patri,

a predi pi sempri

Diventa poviru e servu

Quanno I paroli non

Figghianu paroli

E si manciano tra d’iddi.

Mi nn’andugnu ora,

Mentri accordu a chitarra du


Ca perdi na corda lu journu
Un popolo

Mettilo in prigione


Chiudigli la bocca

E’ ancora libero


Levagli il lavoro

Il passaporto

La tavola dove mangia

Il letto dove dorme

E’ ancora ricco


Un popolo

Diventa povero e servo

Quando gli rubano la lingua

Ereditata dai padri

E la perde per sempre.

Diventa povero e servo

Quando le parole
non generano parole,
e si mangiano fra di loro

Me na accorgo ora

Mentre accordo la chitarra del dialetto

Che ogni giorno prende una corda            
  A people

Put them in prison

Despoil them

Silence their mouths

They are still free


Take away from them their work

The passport

The table where they eat

The bed where they sleep

They are still rich


A people

Become poor and enslaved

When they take away their language

Given to them by their fathers

And they lose forever

A people becomes poor and enslaved

When words do not create words

But they eat each other

I realize this now

While I tune the guitar of my dialect

That every day loses a chord

Ignazio Buttitta, Sicilian Poet. Italian and English translations mine. I am indebted to Gino Pugliese for the last stanza, in Sicilian and Italian.


     A Venetic inscription on a bronze nail, translated here into Latin and English:
Venetic: mego zontasto sainatei reitiai porai
Latin: me donavit sanatrici Reitiae bonae
Venetic:   egeotora aimoi ke louzerophos
Latin:   Egetora (pro) Aemo et (-que) liberis

English: Egetora gave me to the Good Reitia the Healer
on behalf of Aemus and the children

The interesting thing is that “me”, the pronoun that has remained the same in Latin, Italian and English, has also remained virtually the same in Venetic : Venetic “mego”, modern Venetian “migo”.

Figure 2                                                                                                                       


 The classification of the Italic languages has been the topic of intensive research, and pre-Roman inscriptions give us a vivid picture of vibrant societies (see figure 2). According to some scholars some could possibly be of non–Indo–European origin: In the North, Raethic and possibly Etruscan, and Sicanian in Sicily.[32] It is easy to see how the peoples that came into the peninsula were of diverse stock. The northern lands, below the Alps,


saw the immigrations of peoples of Gallic stock, who gave the region a name derived from their origins. Gallia Cisalpine, Gallic lands this side of the Alps. It is important to remember that before the rise of Rome these small nations had a brisk commercial and political interaction that demanded a working knowledge of several languages.

As we have seen, eventually Rome succeeded in conquering all of Italy. When the conquest went relatively peacefully, Rome allowed the former independent kingdoms a strong degree of autonomy, as long as laws were obeyed and taxes were paid. Latin never replaced completely the local languages, but became a lingua franca, and gave a base of mutual intelligibility to the developing new idioms. But what came to be spoken in the provinces maintained enough of their original languages to create forms of Latin somewhat differentiated from each other. It is from these languages that the Italian “dialects” developed.[33]

The fall of the Roman Empire saw the fragmentation of Italy along two fronts. Northern Italy, where the pre-Roman city-state came back under the form of independent small potentates, and remained well in contact with the rest of Europe, and Magna Grecia, which came under the influence of the Arab culture beginning in the fifth century, and subsequently was invaded by Byzantium, the Normans, and the Spanish Borbons.  The rich culture of the former Magna Grecia was shaped by a strong and centralized foreign rule. The spokesmen of today’s Due Sicilie include, with some reasons, as we will see later, the kingdom of Savoy among their invaders.[34]

Rome regained a strong temporal power of its own with the emerging Catholic Church, and created an insurmountable barrier between the two Italies. However, medieval Italians were not aware of a North/South division, but relied on geographical divisions. Dante in the Eloquentia Vulgaris describes Italy as being divided east/west by the Apennines.[35] The North/South division implies a unity, real or imagined, of the Nation State. And Dante and his contemporaries did not see Italy as one Nation. The vernacular of Dante had gradually acquired prevalence in Northern Italy, aided by the bustling Florentine business.

The South went under a linguistic Odyssey of its own. In 535 Southern Italy came under the power of Byzantium, and consequently Greek was restored as the official language, and cultural ties with the Hellenic mainland were reaffirmed. In the 7th century, Greek–speaking immigrants refugees from Syria and Egypt, recently occupied by the Moslems, escaped to the cities of Southern Italy. The Byzantine culture of the area was therefore strengthened. Saracen and Norman invasions from the 9th to the 11th centuries drastically altered the conditions of the area, and the Hellenic culture suffered a serious blow. The Normans preferred the use of the contemporary southern Italian koine, and favored the Latin-rite Catholicism of the Holy See, their political ally. The Byzantine Christians were therefore severed from the jurisdiction of the Greek Church, by now in schism from Rome, and Latin supplanted Greek as the language of worship.

The Byzantine rite lingered in some localities of the traditional Greek areas of Puglie, Calabria and Sicily until the 17th century, when it was forbidden by the policies of the Counter Reformation. From the fourteenth century South Italian began to spread in the area at the expense of Greek.[36]



The Concept of Campanile

The Italian landscape is dotted with the bell towers of its many charming medieval towns. The bell tower, the “campanile”, was used in the past to call citizens to arms and other important events. Neighboring towns, and often neighborhoods in the same town, took pride in competing for the best and tallest tower. Bologna has no less than nine campanili. The campanile became the symbol of the ideals that sustained the citizens: the alliance to their ruler, the fierce defense of their interests, their alliance to their church and to their saints. These alliances, their imagined communities, took form in brick and mortar with their campanili. Far before the term “global village” was coined, the term “campanilismo” came to signify the allegiance to one’s immediate neighborhood, often against other campanili in the same small town. Many cultural traditions illustrate even today the strength of campanilismo. The Palio of Siena is perhaps the most famous. Each “rione”, neighborhood, races its best horses and horsemen who gallop bareback through the narrow streets at a frightening speed. Winning is the only important thing: there have been documented episodes of bribing and hurting of horses and horsemen alike. The paramount goal is victory for one’s own rione. The winning rione will display proudly the Palio, the banner of victory, until the next race in the next year. The symbolic meaning of campanilismo is a fierce allegiance to one’s own town, family, and circle of friends. Even in the mailing lists of the Internet, the virtual piazze hold meetings of peoples who might live at opposite ends of the globe, but who “belong” to the same virtual locality.


The Risorgimento: Unification or Invasion?

As we have seen, in 1848 Victor Emanuel, the Savoy king of Piedmont and Sardinia, waged the war of independence, the Risorgimento, with the intent of expelling the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the North and the Spanish Bourbons in the South. At its completion in 1870 the king, newly installed in Rome, was faced with the task to create an Italian people in a land that had not been unified since Roman times. And as we have seen one of the primary tasks was to create that entity, the Italian people that almost 30 centuries of history had failed to forge. To this end the new government established a nation-wide school system where teachers were routinely assigned to different parts of Italy rather than their hometowns. The intent was to force people to communicate in Italian rather than in their own languages.[37] The language of choice became, typically enough, the language of the victors. While the Savoy dynasty had traditionally been Francophone, Florentine Tuscan had become the literary and business language of choice in the North. This form of Italian had been protected and developed in the literary academy “Accademia della Crusca,” based in Florence. The Accademia had its origins in an informal group of goliards (college students who liked to poke fun at serious scholars) that had called themselves the Brigata dei Crusconi (Brigade of Bran-eaters. Crusca means bran, and the name refers to the poor people’s bread they could afford), and lampooned other scholars whom they found solemn and boorish. This sense of humor was lost with the arrival of Leonardo Salviati in 1583, who took on the goal of preserving the Florentine language of Dante.[38]

The academy maintained its mandate under the Austrian Empire, and under the newly formed kingdom of Italy. This academy was deliberately chosen by the Savoy to represent the Italian language. Again typically enough, a sort of cultural slash and burn policy accomplished this task. Shortly after unification, when the “Italian people” was supposed to be forged, the newly minted government closed down most southern military and cultural academies, and several universities. Giuseppe Salvarese, a Neapolitan scholar who actually sympathized with the cause of the Risorgimento, said it well: “Ci trattano come paese conquistato” (They treat us like a conquered country).[39] We have seen how teachers from other parts of Italy, who did not understand the local vernacular, were sent to the remaining schools. The result of this policy was that while most people today are able to speak and write in Italian in addition to their own language, for many others this policy also resulted in the disenfranchisement of the poorest social classes, whose children could not attend school long enough to learn the Italian of the Accademia della Crusca, and who were effectively left out of social mobility.[40] Furthermore, the South acquired a “second class citizen” identity. One friend, resident in Turin but originally from Puglie, has told me that when she first came to Turin as a little girl, she had to endure the cruelty of one of her teachers, who, in a heavily Piedmont–accented Italian, opened each class with a speech on the inherent inferiority of Southerners.

More and more frequently, ethnic fragmentation became a phenomenon linked to economic lines. Carlo Cattaneo was in fact in favor of respecting the ancient ethnic divisions and proposed to create a federation of the ethnic regions shaped by history. His work, Stati Uniti d’Italia, has a prophetic tone today, but was ignored by the prevailing politics of the new nation. The rise of Fascism after the chaos left in the aftermath of World War I dealt an even more serious blow to ethnic identities. To be aware of one’s ethnic identity became downright unpatriotic.

 A Good Fascist is a Citizen Without Ethnic Roots

Like all totalitarian regimes, fascism was an example of imagined community brought about by obliterating ancient identities. In order to create a faithful Fascist citizen, Mussolini, who spoke Italian with a marked Bolognese inflection, had to destroy any previous ethnic identity. His efforts were made easy by the very school system that was supposed to have created, finally, that mythical Italian. The “modern” Italian, the citizen of the new kingdom, spoke fluent Florentine (albeit, the Crusca decided, with a Roman accent, since the distinctive Tuscan lenition of voiceless stop consonants, the Gorgia, was certainly ethnic). The marginalization of the rural poor had already created the ideal candidate to Fascism: urban, conscious, and proud to be a citizen of a modern kingdom in a modern world. The new Fascist urban class, the borghesia, looked at village life and culture as the relicts of an antiquated past. Unfortunately, a vital part of this past was forgotten in the process, the rich ethnic cultural patrimony, whose roots went back to Roman and pre-Roman times.[41] Unlike other European nations, Italy lost much of its popular music and dances, and only in recent years, as a reaction to the uniformity inherent in the culture of the nation–state, there has been an effort to revitalize this patrimony. Logically enough, it is among the classes that had been marginalized by the Savoy and Fascism that the folk arts survived. The Tarantella, the dance that most defines Italian folk dance and music, originated in Puglia and spread in the entire South as a form of musical therapy against the bite of spiders.[42]

Does the mythical Italian wanted by the Savoy exist? Did they and Mussolini succeed? The answer to this question is a qualified yes. The school system has created a sense of patriotism, a love for Italy as the Fatherland. The correct Italian language is unaccented, devoid of those idiomatic expressions that have their roots deep into our pre–Roman past.  Both the Savoy and Mussolini succeeded in creating the imagined community of Italy as the Patria, the fatherland under a king and again as the Fascist fatherland reclaimed directly from the Roman glorious past. Do Italians, as a general rule, belong into these imagined communities? They do, to a certain extent. But with their imagined Italianism taken for granted, so to speak, their ethnic identity has been able to surface again. It is the way we pronounce the Crusca’s “Florentine spoken by a Roman,” that effectively becomes a koine flavored with local inflections. It is the way we ferociously cling to our regional cooking. But most of all, it surfaces in the strength it has given our theatre and cinema. When we play out our stories, we speak the languages of our hometowns.


The Italian Cinema. Famous, but Whose Italy Are We Talking about?

It is unimaginable to think of Neapolitan theater played out in Italian. The strength of the plays written and staged by the De Filippo family, that is now in its second generation of life in the theater, lays in the use of Neapolitan, and has given Neapolitan theatre and cinema prominence in the mainstream Italian culture. But written and spoken in Neapolitan as they may be, works like Filomena Marturano[43] are strong commentaries on Italian society. Filomena is a pre–war “call girl” who fiercely wants legitimacy for her sons, and demands it from the father of one of them. “Only one of them is yours,” she says. “But I will die before I tell you who he is.”  And the father does the only honorable thing: he marries her, and recognizes all her sons as his own. The terrible stigma of illegitimacy is wiped from their life. 

Cinema directors Wertmuller, De Sica, Fellini, and others have created accurate portraits of an Italian society that struggles to coexist and come to terms with regional differences that have, as we have seen, deep roots indeed.[44] Their portraits are often chilling. The portrait of a Naples determined to survive at all costs the misery of the Allied occupation in Wertmuller’ Seven Beauties is without pity. Echoing Curzio Malaparte’s book The Skin, Wertmuller’s Naples is a city where to survive is far harder than to die:

For a crust of bread we are ready, all of us, to sell our wives, our own daughters, to defile our own mother, to sell our brothers and our friends, to prostitute ourselves to other men…These people who bartered themselves, their honor, their bodies and the flesh of their own children in the streets, could they possibly be the people who a few days before, in the same streets, had given such conspicuous and horrible proof of their courage and fire in face of German opposition?[45]


The children of Naples, the “Scugnizzi”, hurled themselves onto the German tanks holding hand grenades.  When the Allies, after the battle of Salerno, entered Naples, the Germans had already been repelled by the Neapolitans. But what the Germans with their brutality could not do, the Allied forces, clean, well fed, their crisp uniforms bulging with chocolates, did achieve. The American GI, unknowing, purchased a people’s dignity at the price of a chocolate bar. But Pasqualino, the protagonist of Seven Beauties, comes back to Naples and starts again with the girl that, like him, has done the unthinkable to survive. Gradually surviving another day becomes, simply, living.

In Italy’s long history World War II was but the last one of a long series of wars waged on its soil. And, as in the rest of Europe, survival gradually became triumph. The Miracolo Economico of the 1960s did not breech the gulf between the North and the South. In La Seduzione di Mimi Wertmuller again points out the profound differences of these two societies that have precious little in common. Mimi, sent to the North to work in bustling Milan, tries to start life again with the Milanese love of his life, but the ties to his traditions are too firmly held in the hands of the Mafia. “Sono tutti cugini! They are all related!” He cries, defeated.

The portraits of our people are undeniably funny, profound, and inexorable. With heartless, surgical precision our writers and filmmakers see us for what we are. They compel us to laugh at ourselves, fully conscious, as we are, that the laughter is a little bitter, disenchanted, and lonely. We are all Italians, but we have, inside our soul, the cultural DNA that marks our diversity.


Chapter IV

Italy of the People: The new Virtual Federalism


At a political level Italian diversity is recognized in the regional structure in Italy today. Italy is divided into 20 administrative regions, each with its own capoluogo, or provincial capital city. The ethnic diversity of some regions has been sanctioned at a further level. Sardinia, Friuli, Venezia Giulia, Valle d’Aosta, and Sicily have been granted administrative autonomy. The Capoluoghi tend to be the same potentate cities that flourished during the Middle Ages.  In the North, in Tuscany, Umbria, Romagna, Liguria, Veneto, and Lombardia, where most neighboring towns were independent states, this is clearly not possible.  The long history of political independence has strengthened the ethnic identity of each region, indeed of each town. 

Cattaneo did speak of languages before Latin, but he was ignored and the fallacy of Italian being the heir of the greatness of Rome came forth. It served the purpose of the Savoy; it created the imagined reality of Italy. Arbitrary Borders

The arbitrary delineation of borders of the nation–states that dissected the world landscape by sword or by the stroke of a pen have separated countless people and forced them into separate destinies. The borders imposed by nature and politics on the Alps have separated peoples belonging to the same linguistic groups.

Gino Pugliese, a Calabrian scholar who lives near Modena, whose life work deals with the languages of Italy, is compiling a linguistic map of the peninsula (see figure 3). His passion is reflected in his words conveyed to me in an e–mail of January 2004:

My erudition is born only from that intrinsic passion for the subjects we both deal with, you in an academic way and myself in a romantic manner, without asking anything more than I deserve, a little attention and an exchange of information, all that we do in our web listings, the ALP, the Magna Grecia, the Lingua Siciliana, etc.

Figure 3: Carta Etnolinguistica della Padania

(Courtesy Gino Pugliese)




In this linguistic map one can easily see that the Alpine borders cut across peoples belonging to the same linguistic groups. In some areas, this arbitrary division has caused political unrest that has been alleviated only by granting those regions political autonomy. This is the case of Trentino Alto Adige and Venezia Giulia.


Lega del Nord and Padania: From Secessionism to the Virtual City State

It is time now to stroll in a virtual piazza. All piazze have similarities, and so all web sites present some uniformity. The web sites are structured somewhat like magazines. There is a homepage with catchy statements of purpose, maps, slogans and links to different areas of interest that reflect both the level of organization and the evolution of the group, as well as the artistic flair and technical expertise of its webmasters. The level of organization of the groups is reflected in the number of links offered: history of the group, history of the region, cultural events, school organizations, women groups, sports, free e–mail and even beauty pageants, and, from the year 2000 on, commercials. I have followed the evolution of some sites since 1998 and can remember the “old days,” when the design of the sites was free from advertisements for “The Best Spaghetti in Sicily,” and my computer screen was free from pop up offers of sunglasses and trips to Barcelona. We begin with the Lega del Nord, with the “Home Page” of the Lega del Nord as it was in the year 1998 (see figure 4). There are links to information, politics, lists of activities, and, as audio technologies improved, a link to “Radio Padania Libera online!!!” at the bottom of the page. The three exclamation marks indicate the novelty of the new technology. The cut out figure on the right is the spearhead of the secessionist movement, Umberto Bossi, during one of his inflamed speeches, in 1989:

Our chosen form of Autonomy had to be ethno federalist, i.e. a union of several ethno national entity in a unified political instrument capable of victory. Not isolationism, but a fight against the centralized power of the State! The Lega Lombarda, originally named Lombarda League for Autonomy, had to grow to encompass all other Autonomist movements… adjacent to Lombardy. [Our] federalism… needed not only the union of several federalist movements in a unified political instrument, but also that its members would reflect economic and social needs. It was inevitable that at some point the Lega Lombarda, the Liga Veneta, the Autonomist Movement of Piedmont, would have to merge in one federalist movement. (translation mine, no English translation available)[46]








Figure 4 Lega Nord, 1998

It is evident that in 1989 Bossi’s movement fell neatly in Treanor’s “federalism of the people.” His ideas shaped the politics of the time, and were reflected by other statements posted on the web site. We must note that these statements reveal another type of activity in our virtual villages: the Comizio, the political speech given in the public piazze since Roman times. This is how the concept of Federalism was reintroduced on the web site:

Foreign policy speech to the 1997 Federal Congress of the Lega Nord[47]

·       1990 German Unification

·       1991 Independence of the ex-Soviet Republics

·       1992 Independence of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia

·       1993 Separation of Czechoslovakia and the Independence of Slovakia and the Czech Republic

·       1995 Democratic Referendum for the Sovereignty of Québec

·       1996 Declaration of Independence of Padania

These dates summarize the contemporary process of the reawakening of identities. After having swept over what at one time was called the Third World during the period of decolonization, it hit the countries suffering under communist dictatorship. Today it has reached the heart of Western civilization, from Québec to Catalonia, from Padania to Flanders. With the fall of communist regimes and the twilight of the bipolar conflict, the peoples of Europe and the West are affirming their right to choose with whom they want to live and with whom they don’t, with whom to unite and from whom to separate.
A look beyond the specific cases reveals a need developing in Europe for a supra-national system of regulations for governing fundamental economic and environmental choices. At the same time people feel the no less pressing need to be closer to the political institutions, which more accurately reflect their spheres of identity. In addition such a system must be robust enough to meet the challenges of preparing local and European-wide economies for the increasingly interdependent and competitive global marketplace.

The re-emergence of historical regions and ethnic nationalities
Historical regions, and linguistic groups which have been part of single would-be Nation-States, in some cases, for centuries and which centralist authoritarianism succeeded in repressing only superficially, are re-emerging. Padania's demands for autonomy confirm once again that our Peoples are among the forerunners of fundamental movements in the most advanced parts of Europe. In spite of what the regime-controlled Italian mass media would like to make people believe, “localism” is not a sign of backwardness. On the contrary, the evolution and forward development of our movement is unstoppable. It is a European-wide phenomenon which the retarded and provincial Italian State, culturally and economically mired in the backwaters of Europe, cannot and wishes not to see for evident reasons.
The panorama of the revival of Western identities is vast: the different demands ranging from full sovereignty to basic cultural autonomy correspond to the level of self-awareness and identity achieved up till now by the respective groups. The social and economic situations also vary considerably. But viewed as a whole, the strength and depth of the phenomenon and its political meaning are clear. 







Figure 5. Lega Nord 2003

Since then, Bossi has joined the government of Silvio Berlusconi, and at this

writing, in 2003, with Berlusconi and Carlo Prodi both at the steering wheel of the European Union, his early ideas on secession seem outdated. Perhaps unintentionally, the latest web site of the Lega Nord has posted quite a different image of the political leader. Bossi is depicted dressed in his governmental finery, a formal suit and tie, and looks down. The passionate leader, dressed in the party green colors, pointing to the future, has become one of the many politicians crowding the hallways of Palazzo Madama, where the Italian government resides (see figure 5).

            As we can see, the web site has expanded, and it reflects the increased range of services and organizations offered by the Lega. We can see links to a Lega-sponsored bank, newspapers and radio stations, cultural, sports and youth organizations, a link to Lega ministries, and even a link to the “unsubscribe” sector of the RAI, the state owned radio stations. The link to affiliated organizations reveals a typical political fragmentation within the Lega. According to a linguist from Bergamo who has chosen the pseudonym Checchin de Rus (a Bergamasc rendition of his name) this is the typical behavior of the organizations in the North, and follows the historical traditions of the city–state. During an interview on October 2002, in Treviglio, near Bergamo, he pointed out that the potentates of the Padania region (the land adjacent to the river Po, that cuts across Northern Italy from west to east) formed several leagues in time of emergency, as, for example, against Frederick Barbarossa, but withdrew as soon as their interests were saved. This has been the case of modern day Friul that withdrew from the organizations as soon as it received political autonomy from the government of Rome.


Figure 6.  Lega Lombarda


Some other sites show enthusiasm and a typical “tongue in cheek” sense of humor. The site Lega Lombarda (see figure 6) can be defined as a nostalgia piece.             It was formed by one of the first veterans of the Lega, who joined in 1984. It is full of plays-on words: the URL www  becomes “viva viva viva”, “long life long life long life”. W in Italian is intended as double V, the consonant present in the word “viva”.  The web master specifies that it is not a Lega site, since recent politics have “thrown to the nettles” (“buttata all’ortica” in Italian, I guess a good translation would be “thrown to the dogs”) early ideals of the Lega. Instead the site is defined as “Nationalist”, where Nationalist is intended as the “Ancient Nation of Lombardia”, and each Nation has to defend its own interests. This last statement confirms Cecchin’s hypothesis.  The language used is a delightful mix of Italian and dialectical forms. “Italiano is spelled “Itagliano”, and the honor of being the original Romance language goes to the ancestral Lombard language, predating the Celt and Longobard tongues. One has to suspect that the knight in armor is a self-portrait. 







Figure 7  Associazione Internet Padano


The next site is dedicated to the cultural activities and congresses for the revitalization of the Padane languages. We note immediately that the Internet has entered the imagined community, with the site Associazione Culturale Internet Padano. The virtual piazza has a café dedicated to…a virtual piazza. The slogan of the youth movement reads “potranno toglierci la vita ma non ci toglieranno la liberta`,” they can take away our life but not our freedom,” one of the slogans of the medieval city states, and reminiscing of New Hampshire’s “Live free or die” (see figure 7). There are links to music, poetry, legends, and papers presented at the frequent symposia organized by the ALP, Associazione Lingue Padane, an association with a very active mailing list dedicated to the revitalization of the Padane languages. In entering the site, I was very pleasantly surprised to see a paper of mine presented during one of the symposia in October 2002. The language used for the paper is defined as “Tuscan”, rather that Italian.


The Autonomous Regions: Val d’Aosta, Friuli, Trentino Alto Adige, Sardinia and Sicily

Several regions have been granted autonomous state. Val d’Aosta was the first one, in 1946. Sicily followed shortly after, and gradually the linguistic “hot spot” received

Figure 8  Republiche Democratiche Friulane


recognition and autonomy. Friuli, for example, achieved autonomy in 1964, and its site, together with the usual links to youth and sports associations, women pages, etc., has an unequivocal message that confirms Cecchin’s observations: “No alle Alleanze”, No Alliances. The city-state marches on (see figure 8).

Another Italian region that has achieved autonomy is Sardinia. The political fervor of this small island is exemplified in the variety of sites, each one presenting a particular political slant. The site “Regione Autonoma della Sardegna” (see figure 9)











Figure 9  Regione Autonoma Sardegna


is the official site of the island as a region that has achieved autonomous state, but within Italy. The site is a navigation map of governmental services, commerce, and tourism. However, the federalism movement has been brewing for some time. Other sites have strong political messages. The Home Page of an early Separatist site, posted in 1999, shows the slogan reflects the reaction to the fallacies of the Risorgimento: “No one except for Sardinian people can free Sardinia from its colonialism and transform it into a civilized island” (see figure 10).









            Figure 10  Partito Sardo d’Azione 1999



Other sites have a marked political flavor, not surprisingly since Italy has about fifty political parties. The constant theme in other sites is the involvement of the people. A message in the text is:  “A larger involvement of the people in the liberation, national and social, of Sardinia.” This message was conveyed personally to me during a “mailing list” dialogue:

What is taking place in Sardinia now is more than “risveglio etnico.” It is, explicitly, a demand for auto determination and a declaration of sovereignty of the Sardinian Nation.  It is not simply a political message, it is the voice of our soul…that soul that is our ancestral and historic memory, our identity is one and the same with our language, our culture and our motherland” (Antonmaria, in a mailing list message of 5/1/2000, translation mine).

Over the past three years, the political message has found a deeper dimension in the defense of the environment. The new Partito Sardo is written in Italian rather than Sardinian (see figure 11). 







            Figure 11 Partito Sardo d’Azione 2003


This is probably done in deference to the government of Rome, since Sardinian, in its purest form, is a language totally different from Italian. Its most prominent message is “no alle scorie radioattive in Sardegna” “No Nuclear dumping in Sardinia.”  The key concept here is the involvement of the people, but also the concept that each region is a Nation in its own rights. Cyberspace has allowed a reality that is not possible in “real” time and space. And that independence offered by regional autonomy is a step closer to a real form of federalism. Language notwithstanding, the Europe of the People has become the Europe of the Piccole Patrie. What happens, then, when we encounter sites that reflect the other category analyzed by Treanor, the allegiance to an historic past?


Due Sicilie, Griko Milume, the Grecia Salentina and the Bovesia.

We have seen how the annexion of the Borbons kingdom of the Due Sicilie and the “making of the Italians” left the South disenfranchised. We must see how this discontent is being expressed in the virtual piazze of the old Regno delle due Sicilie. We will see that there is a strong sense of ethnic traditions. Their roots, however, are not in Italy but in Greece (see figures 12 and 13).

Figure 12  Griko towns in Salento




These are the lands of Odysseus, where the Greek cities sent off their people to build colonies that would expand the culture of Greece into Southern Italy. As we have seen earlier, these lands were inhabited already by diverse autochthonous peoples. The Greeks brought their superior civilizations to them, so say the Greeks, and so it is written in most of the history books. Or perhaps the Greeks occupied these lands with the same stealth used by Odysseus at Troy or by the Romans at Tarquinia. 




Figure 13 Bovesia in Calabria


Be as it may, the Griko communities have managed to preserve their culture and languages all through the historical events that have shaped Italy.

The Griki live and operate in Italy as fully assimilated Italians and they switch effortlessly from Italian to the local dialects, depending on the situation. While being full-fledged Italian citizens, they are acutely aware of their Greek roots. And the defense of their language is the key to their identity.[48] The Grika Milume` site is one of the oldest sites, dating to 1998 (see figure 14) . One of his creators is a young man

Figure 14. Griko Milume`


recently graduated in Medicine from the University of Perugia, Francesco Pensa. In 1998, Francesco was a young student who had just completed a study of his own family’s Griko roots. Versant in computer technologies, he decided to put his message “out there,” and was soon joined by other Griko scholars. And that is how I found the site, acting on a tip given to me from a Greek friend, Theonie Mark, who had come across a site of “Italogreeks”. And the rest is, if not history, this thesis.

 Per Raggiungere Itaca


One of the mandates of the web sites is to spur further participation between organizations with similar interests. For this purpose, the Internet seems ideal, and in fact the mailing lists count members from Europe, the United States, and, on occasions, even New Zealand. For the Italo-Greek organizations, the messages on the web pages stressed the importance of their Greek heritage.  The message on this early version of the Grecia web site reads: “Per raggiungere Itaca”, “To go back to Ithaca” (see figure 15).







Figure 15  Per Raggiungere Itaca


The reference  to Odysseus is clear. During all his travels, Odysseus longed to go, finally, home to his island. The Griki of Southern Italy are his children.

The second version of the same site follows the format we have seen in most  other “second generations” (see figure 16). 




Figure 16  Portale Grecia



The site looks like a newspaper, with several links to other activities and information. The activities of cultural exchange have proliferated in the last few years. One of the announcements is for vacations, fully paid, offered to fifty Griko-Italian students in the island of Zante, and 25 or 30 older Griko-Italians in the city of Sparta. It seems that Ithaca is taking an active part in bringing Odysseus home. Many Greek Nationalists and sympathizers are taking an active part in this effort. Lately, many of the messages in the mailing lists consist of commemoration of Greek historical events and the notice of the expansion of Greek cultural activities, including “gemellaggi”, twin cities projects, between Greek cities and Italian cities outside the Magna Grecia area.


Two Linguistic Islands Rooted in their Past: Grecia Salentina and Bovesia

Grecìa Salentina.  Griko has the distinction of having being studied by a number of linguists since the early 1930s. Gerard Rholfs, a German linguist, dedicated most of his life to its study. The consensus favored by Rholfs and many other linguists is that the Griko speakers were migrant workers that came to work in the rich estates of Roman landowners. This view has been challenged by Greek nationalists who favor a Byzantine identity for the Griko population. Greek linguists Hatzidakis and Karanastasis sustain the theory that Greek communities would have survived, and their culture and language would have received new impetus in Byzantine times.[49]
            The Greek cities in Magna Grecia flourished under the government of Rome, even if the ties with the Greek motherland were always strong. The collapse of the Roman Empire put that part of the Mediterranean firmly under the influence of Byzantium. Ties with the West remained strong, however, during the Norman and Lombard occupations up to the 12th century. Cultural and commercial exchanges increased and strengthened the local use of Greek. It was under the Counterreformation that Rome imposed the use of Latin in every church and the old Greek communities were singled out and forbidden to worship in Greek. As it would happen much later when Italian was imposed in the post-Risorgimento school system, it was the poorest classes that suffered the most. Unable to understand Latin, they were deprived of the comfort of their religion. But with their typical resilience and the strength of their traditions they managed to keep their culture and their worship alive. Forbidden to use Greek in Church, the Salentine Griki moved their traditional practices outside the churches. Even today Griki celebrate their traditions in Griko, and they do it outside the churches (see figure 17).


Figure 17  U Passiuna Tu Kristu`, Zollino, 2002

Every year during the Easter week, the streets of the few Griko villages in the Salento area resound with the ancient songs of the Passion of Christ, which for them has remained, over the centuries, U Passiuna Tu Kristu.[50]

 As we have seen, after the Risorgimento Italian became the official language, but only the wealthy could afford to stay in school long enough to properly learn it. Griko therefore continued to be the language that gave identity to this minority within the dominant culture. The multilingualism necessary from the Roman Empire onward did not disappear entirely. Griko villages were, and still are, essentially trilingual: Italian, reserved for higher education and official business, Romanzo, the Italian based dialect, for everyday business, and Griko. 

Griko became the language of family relations and friendships. Marriages outside the group and emigration reduced the number of Griki substantially. The easiest way to preserve Griko would have been to speak it to the children, but typically children were taught the languages of progress, Italian, English, and recently Modern Greek. Therefore, Griki maintain their identity by joining in an effort to save their language. Griko has been actively reconstructed and studied by young college students and middle-aged intellectuals since the last part of the 19th century. To increase the readership these works are published in Griko and Italian, and sometimes in Romanzo as well. But the group identity is maintained with the music festivals, which celebrate its ancient musical traditions as an integral part of its culture. The movement toward establishing stronger ties between Greece and Southern Italy began well before the Internet age.  In 1975 a group of young people from the Greek communities in Puglie came together in one of their towns, Sternatìa, to form a cultural association for the defense of their traditions. The result, in 1978, was the Centro Studi CHORA-MA (CWRA MAS). For the past 20 years the association has spurred a number of cultural initiatives with similar aims: the defense of their traditions and their language, Griko, and the revitalization of the area’s tourism. These initiatives included folkloristic events, photography and art exhibits, and cultural symposia.[51]

The traditional oral poetry and popular songs were collected and written down. In 1980 writer Paolo Stomeo collected and published a volume of folk tales, Racconti Greci Inediti di Sternatìa.  Cultural initiatives continued and in 1982 one of the few Greek Orthodox churches in Italy joined a symposium by celebrating mass in Lecce, the largest city near the Salento area. That same year Nikos Perkizas, mayor of the Greek town of Xalandri, initiated a series of cultural exchanges by visiting Sternatìa. By 1985 the Greek-Salentine cultural exchange were frequent and vigorous, and contacts with Greek cultural centers intensified, among which the Apollonic Academia of Corynth and the Magna Grecia Center of Athens, both of which visited the area on

numerous occasions. Other exchanges have taken place with the cities of Athens, Corinto, Joannina, Kefalochori, Komotinì, Rethymno, and Sparta. While the purpose was to defend the language and culture of the Italo-Greek communities, the initiatives promoted by the Greek government were focused on the propagation of Modern Greek rather than preserving the vitality of Griko. From 1994 onward the Greek Ministry of Culture and Education has sponsored Greek teachers to the Salentine areas, in order to offer multilevel classes in Modern Greek. How the teaching of Modern Greek is going to help the defense of language on the brink of extinction has caused vigorous debates, of which I have been a participant. Finally in 2003 the town of Calimera decided to do away with the teaching of Modern Greek in the secondary schools.  On the other hand, after the European Union passed the declaration for the defense of minority languages, and provided funds for it, Griko, as well as classes in folk dances have been offered in the school system. During one of my visits in Salento, in 2002, I saw school children hopping merrily with their parents at the sound of guitars and tambourines (see figures 18 and 19).



Figure 18 Little dancers at Easter celebrations in Salento, 2002




Figure 19 Dancers at Easters celebration in Salento, 2002


Bovesia. The situation of the Greek speakers of Calabria, or Grecanici, is somewhat different. Even Nature has given these two places a different setting. While Salento, in southern Puglia, is a peaceful, fertile plane dedicated to the cultivation of vineyards and centuries-old olive groves, the Bovesia, at the very tip of Calabria, is nestled in the folds of the Aspromonte, the mountain chain aptly called “harsh mountain”. Bovesia consists of a few small towns, among which Bova, perched on the slopes of Aspromonte, and Bova Marina, a more recent satellite town on the sea, and, now, the principal town of the area. Either by car or by train, the trip to Bovesia reveals a land of awesome and forbidding beauty. Sicily beckons at the other end of the Messina straight, its Mount Etna towering in the postcard-perfect blue sky.  The straight is called after Scylla and Charyddis, the two furies that used to wait in the darkness of their caves for whatever prey the stormy sea would bring. Odysseus, Homer says, barely escaped their grasp. The land is marked with its history and legends, and is difficult, and perhaps useless, to separate the two. The land is worked in small terraces flanked by cactuses, while olives and grapes grip the side of the mountains with their twisted roots. Flocks of sheep and goats meander around the slopes. In the narrow planes at sea level, the cultivation is more varied, but large stretches of land are given to groves of bergamot, a citrus fruit used in medicine and perfumery.

What nature has given Calabria, history has taken away. We have seen that Reggio was the last city in Italy to be conquered by Rome in 260 BCE, and that Latin never really replaced local languages. This was particularly true in the case of cities in Magna Grecia. In fact, as Rome progressed, Greek became the language of academics and diplomacy, a bit like French in Tsarist Russia. And with Greek, Hellenism, the culture of Greece, became widespread in the Empire. As we have seen, the rise of the Byzantine Empire reinforced Hellene influence in the Mediterranean. Of course, Hellenism was not the only influence in the area, particularly during the Norman and Lombard occupations. The collapse of the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman invasions at the end of the 13th century engulfed the former Magna Grecia. Even today, watch towers dot the peaks of Aspromonte, where fires were lit to alert troops of the arrival of Saracen invaders. The areas in Southern Italy came under Christian Rome, and Latin, as we have seen, became the only official language. But by the 15th century the vulgar languages, languages of the vulghi, the people, had developed into the proto Italian languages. From that time on they began to prevail in everyday interaction, especially in the large, cosmopolitan cities. While Greek remained present in small remote pockets, by the beginning of the 19th century, Griko was still in common use in only twelve villages. At the end of the Risorgimento, their number had been reduced to seven. The effect of school policies, compulsory military service, and emigration policies all caused serious depopulation in Calabria, and the growing influence of radio and television further reduced the use of Grecanico. Several of the teachers at the local school have studied in Greece and by preference speak Modern Greek among themselves. After WWII there was a widespread impulse to revive the forgotten language, thanks to the efforts of scholars in Reggio Calabria and Bova Marina and the interest shown by Rohlfs. In 1970, a group launched the La Ionica Cultural Circle, and the pamphlet became a periodical, in which poetry and prose in Italian and Greek are published. Later, cultural groups from Calabria established contacts with the Greek speakers of Grecia Salentina, which brought about the creation of the UGIM (Unione dei Greci dell'Italia Meridionale). Finally, the Greek Government, through the International Association of Greek Speakers (SFEE), established close links with La Ionica and invited the Griko children from Calabria every year to attend summer camps in Greece.[52]

Calabria has suffered the most from the ill-advised post–Risorgimento policies, when many factories and schools where closed down. Here, I was told over and over again, the Mafia has a real foothold. Private enterprises are often thwarted, and the inexorable status quo remains.  Absentee landlords often do little to improve the economic situation of the area. Bergamot used to be a major industry, and in fact I have visited the groves, production plants, and residences of the local nobility who still own most of the land. The houses and plants were abandoned in disrepair. The only edifice kept in good order was the funerary chapel (see figures 20, 21 and 22).


Figure 20.  Abandoned villa of the owners of the bergamot groves



Figure 21. Broken machinery for the extraction of bergamot


Figure 22 Interior of funerary chapel

Bova Marina has eleven “theoretical” hotels, but in reality the funds were siphoned off to build private villas for Mafia lords.[53] As a result, tourism is almost nonexistent in one of the most beautiful places in the Mediterranean. The one hotel on the sea is rumored to host a prostitution ring. I was told, in strong terms, not to get a room there. Instead I was welcomed in the home of Savatore Dieni, a professor at the local middle school, who runs most of the youth activities in the local Greek association. His group of young folk dancers takes part every summer in the dance and culture festivals sponsored by the Greek government. As I had done so in Puglia, where I was welcomed in the families of many people, I soon found out the extent of the Southern Italian hospitality. Either Professor Dieni or Professor Filippo Violi, a researcher and author about local culture, were ready to take me around and to introduce me to other scholars. Filippo Violi has collected the legends and popular tales of his people in a series of books Sui Sentieri della Memoria, “Along Memory’s Paths”.[54]  Unlike the books published in Salento, typically written in Griko and Italian, the stories are written in Italian only. The resilience and the wit of Bovesia are tangible, but the language recedes in the past. For the Violi family, the cultural preservation effort is a joint affair: Mrs. Violi runs a project of rediscovery of the old broom textile and weaving systems. Broom is a plant indigenous to the Mediterranean and can be woven into a sturdy cloth. Many other young professionals of the area have personal connections with Griko. As elsewhere in Italy, it was their grandparents that used to speak and comfort them as children in the old language. This is the case of Dr. Tito Squillaci, a pediatrician who lives and works with his family in Bova Marina. For him, Grecanico is part of his identity and needs to be preserved, but Modern Greek is the key to the Hellenic world.

At the present time there are several Bovesian cultural groups: Zoí ce glossa (Life and Language) in Reggio Calabria, Cinurio Cosmó (New World) and Jalò tu Vúa in Bova Marina, CUMELCA in Gallicianò and Roghudi and Apodiafázi (Daybreak) in Bova Superiore. These groups have organized various different activities to promote the language, with conferences, cultural exhibitions, and poetry prizes.


Avvli` Grika: Let’s chat in Griko

The European Union’s defense of minority languages is reflected in a number of sites dedicated to Griko. In the first chapter, I mentioned live interaction possible with Paltalk. Figure 23 shows the site, functioning in Greek and Italian for now, that opens the portal to the live chat room.

Other sites offer links to history, tourism, and articles. One can notice that the site is in construction. This is a problem that crops up often. For many reasons, sites have to be reconfigured, and while it is possible to save the old versions “off line” on a computer, I have it found it impossible to transfer them to a different computer. So I had no other trace of them than the still images I had captured earlier on during my research. There is no past in Cyberspace. We have the perpetual present, and then there is oblivion.









 Figure 23 Paltalk






The Revision of the Risorgimento in the Due Sicilie.

We have seen how the European trends toward secessionism have been expressed in the web sites. The major dichotomy is not from left and right but from modernism, the Hegelian state, and postmodernism, what Fini defines “le piccole Patrie”, the regions. All groups want a voice and a place on the EU, but it has to be their own voice and their own place, distinct and separate from the voice of the Italian State  (see figure 24).

            The movement “Due Sicilie” has a clear message:

The Movement does not have partisan overtones. Its purpose is to form a single political block representing the entire Southern part of the Italian peninsula, with the aim of realizing the interests of those peoples originally belonging to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, later annexed by force to the state of Piedmont.
We Neapolitans and Sicilians, in order to be able to realize our interests, must become autonomous players in the upcoming European Union, since the Italian State, in its 138 years of unity, has always employed a colonial type of politics toward us, continuing even today the policies employed by the Savoys which favor only the "industrialist triangle" formed by Piedmont, Lombardy and Liguria. In those regions, in fact, they have become rich at our expense; this would not have happened had the "Italian" governments always carried out a truly "national" politics, that is, if they had developed the economy and the social structure in a uniform way throughout the entire Italian peninsula.
This form of governing, which has now been in effect for 138 years, will never change; this is obvious from the compulsory teaching even today of the falsehoods of the Risorgimento in the various levels and grades of the schools and universities, and from an economic policy consistently and exclusively focused on the interests of the so-called "industrialist triangle". It is evident that if even today it continues to hide the historical truth that the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was attacked in order to make it a colony of Piedmont, this "Italian" State also wants to hide the current interests of those who really govern in Italy: the big industry of the North which was born out of the robberies, massacres and continuous exploitation of the Two Sicilies.
There is, therefore, no other solution to improve our condition than to form our own autonomous government which would be a confederation of the peoples of Naples and Sicily.
The Italian State, by its participation in the upcoming formation of the European Union, has already surrendered many of its sovereign prerogatives to the European Parliament, so that we who are already party to these accords no longer belong to an "Italian" State, but to the European Union, which affirms as the fundamental basis of its beginnings that of the people’s right to self-determination.
Because of this new legal situation, We the People of the Two Sicilies legitimately can and must therefore aspire to found again our State in Europe, as we had had it for eight hundred years before the invasion by Piedmont, when we "alone" belonged to a very flourishing State.

 Figure 24 Due Sicilie

The Due Sicilie is perhaps the most comprehensive site, and it has links to most of other Southern and the Italo-Greek sites. It is necessary to scroll down to see all that is offered. We can see, clearly stated, the Due Sicilie position on the Savoy. “Savoia? No Grazie!” (see figure 25).

The question of the return to the monarchy is not as idle as it seems. Recently the exiled Savoy king Umberto II was allowed to return to Italy, and in fact his son Emanuele Filiberto was married in Rome in September 2003. The royal visit in Naples was marked by protests that left the Savoy totally unprepared. Traditionally, Neapolitans are pro-monarchy. But if a king has to be had, then the descendants of the Borbons have a better chance.            


            Figure 25 Savoia? No Grazie


Secessionist Groups in European Politics: from the Lega Lombarda to Enotita

Our next inquiry is on the movements that transcend the Europe of the People, and long for a return to old ideologies based on religion and ethnicity. Enotita is a site that expounds a return to the Greek Orthodox ideals. Again, there is the choice of a “perfect past” against the “flawed present” (see figure 26).

Enotita is an organization that stresses national and religious pride amongst all Orthodox people. It is our belief that Orthodoxy is in danger of extinction. Since the time of the Crusades in 1096 to the present day bombing of Yugoslavia the Western world has tired to enslave and destroy us for staying true to the path set before us by Jesus Christ himself and the original Church instead of bowing down to the control of the Pope. We have sat back and watch the Genocides of 50 million Orthodox brothers and sisters without lifting a finger. We have been divided and pined against each other by outsiders for far to (sic) long. Christianity was kept divided by the Turk to keep us under Islamic control. Macedonia has become a heated area for Orthodoxy by the Turk backing of and Communists Creation of ethnic problems to keep us fighting against each other. In Cyprus, where Cypriots were pined against each other to try and keep Western control over the area. In Yugoslavia, the west uses Nazism and ethnic fighting to rip apart Slavic unity so that they could control our region even more. Well those days of Genocide, shame, and disunity are over. We will no longer sit by and watch our people be destroyed by Pan-Turkism, Greater Albanian Dreams, and Western expansion.

 Figure 26 Enotita

I include this site among my Italian discourse because many of the Italo-Hellenic organizations defend fiercely the theory that the Griki’s ancestors are of the Byzantine period. This is not the only site dedicated to a remake of the political reality of the Mediterranean. Other sites call for a Hellenic rebirth, with the purpose to recreate a Hellenic Federation.  The site’s scope is to create a federation of ancient Byzantine cities on a cultural and racial basis, including Italian cities all over the Adriatic coast. Is this meant to be a reality limited to Cyberspace? A federation of Byzantine cities would be an Andersonian imagined             
reality in all its aspects. As a political reality, the possibilities raised by such a site would include a remapping of the Mediterranean. Would such a remapping remain peaceful? Perhaps. The former Czechoslovakia did divide itself into two political entities without bloodshed, in what has been called a “Velvet revolution”. Would the former Byzantine cities be able to regroup with the same “velvet touch”? Perhaps. But the Balkan recent history leaves a terrible scenario.

For the past five years, since I began my analysis, the possibility of secession has always been in the background of my research. The message in Enotita can be disturbing, particularly after the Balkan wars. How far will the “old” identities go? Will the disillusion with the Risorgimento take a concrete form? Perhaps the time has come for the form of federalism proposed at the time of the Risorgimento by Carlo Cattaneo. Perhaps the Italian peoples would be better served by a form of federalism that would more accurately reflect Italy’s history. Both the Lega Nord and the Due Sicilie based their political message on a rejection of the nation–state. However, Bossi has joined the right–wing government of Silvio Berlusconi, and the original Lega Lombarda has undergone a “secession” of its own. The Due Sicilie site, on the other hand, has shown a consistent unity. The Italian government has also a consistent history of neglect in the region. The interactions between Southern Italians and Greece are changing from strolls in the virtual villages to very real symposia, study in Greece, paid vacations, and summer camps. The study of modern Greek will put Southern young people, typically neglected by the Italian government, within the sphere of Greek economic and academic opportunities. In the next ten or fifteen years, when these young people will enter the job market, the virtual reality could become real. The pull of the ancestral motherland could mean simply another “brain drain”, another migration phenomenon, this time to Greece instead of the United States or Northern Europe. Will Greece be able to absorb the new migrant workers?  The Greek government is certainly funding many summer camps and vacations for the young and old alike. But will the Greek economy be able to absorb this new wave of migrant workers, albeit “lost children of the motherland”? Or will the message of Enotita take concrete form? Again, the answer is in the future.

Chapter V

Redefining Languages and Identities: the Linguistic Walls


It was difficult not to notice the peppering of English in all the sites. In fact, the Internet has introduced a new form of glossary, which defines all the Web-based activities (see figure 27). 




            Figure 27 Anglicism in Italian Sites

The Italian language has acquired verbs like “ciattare”, derived from “chat”, and “cliccare”, derived from “click”. Nor are the minority languages purist enough to stay away from these terms that are, after all, nearly impossible to translate. The terms “cliccare” and “chat” have become universal, but while these new terms reflect the extent of the influence of the Web in Italian society, the languages used in the sites have become a tool in the affirmation of the new campanilismo. Earlier sites operated in their “minority language” and Italian was offered among the other foreign languages. My latest survey reveals that a choice of languages has lost importance. Many sites are posted only in their language, or, like the Due Sicilie, have “pop ups” in a variety of area languages–that is, Neapolitan, Sicilian, Greek, etc. The language has become, however, a tool of tremendous importance.


In 2001 in Bologna a group of dedicated people has opened the first school of Bolognese, and the first class has held a graduation ceremony completed with diplomas. Unlike other sites, Al Sit Bulgnais maintain a strict bilingualism (see figure 28).



Figure 28 Al Sit Bulgnai                   

The city of the many towers has given up, it seems, its campanilismo. And also unlike other sites, there are no Anglicisms. The Home Page is Premma pagina, first page. There are several initiatives to revitalize Bulgnais: meetings, plays, and publications. The Site has announced the publication of “The Little Prince” in Bulgnais, Al Pränzip Fangén.  The founders of the movement have devised a Bulgnais spelling method, which can be downloaded in a zip file. There are instructions for adapting the keyboard to the Bulgnais spelling, or one can order a new keyboard already reconfigured. Below is an example of “shortcuts”:
F2 F3 F4 F5 F6 F7 F8 F9
â ä å ê î ó ô û

And here is an example of Bulgnais, the announcement of the publication of The Little Prince:

Ai é vgnó fòra Al Pränzip Fangén in bulgnais! Tradótt da Bertéin ed Sèra e publichè da Wesak, al srà presentè prèst a Bulåggna e lé, ala presentaziån, a l prî cunprèr, pò pôc dåpp a l prî anc catèr in tótti äl librarî! As trâta dal clâsic cgnusó in tótt al månnd e scrétt da Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. La versiån bulgnaisa, naturalmänt, l’adrôva l’urtugrafî lesicogrâfica e dånca as i pôl anc studièr al bulgnais in vatta! 

The announcement underlines that the book is written with the correct Bulgnais spelling,

 One of the co-founders, Daniele Vitali, has launched an initiative, in the best tradition of Rholfs, by which volunteers go from village to village, from big city neighborhood to neighborhood, in order to tape the speech patterns typical of the place.

Both cofounders, Daniele Vitali and Roberto Serra, have strong emotional ties with Bulgnais. For Roberto and many of his students, it was the language used by their grandparents and neglected by their parents, who saw Italian as the key to adequate education and opportunities for their children, and Bulgnais as a relict of the past. This was the case of my own Bolognese mother, who always spoke Italian to us, her children, and discouraged us from speaking the Umbro language of our father. Living in and around Rome, we inevitably picked up a Roman inflection, eventually learning the true Roman language. My case is typical of many Italians, and while I have chosen to study the whole broad picture of Italian minority languages, many Italians of my generation and the generation of my children have embarked on a journey into their linguistic roots.


Associazione Lingue Padane

The Associazione Lingue Padane covers the area around the Po River, which cuts west to east the broadest part of the Italian peninsula, from the Alps in the north to the sweeping curve of the Apennines in the South, roughly near Bologna. This is the land of the Italian City-States, industrious and fiercely independent, and also the launching point for separatist Umberto Bossi and his Lega Lombarda. The members of the Associazione Lingue Padane, or ALP, convey periodically to discuss all the problems related to maintaining a virtual association. In November 2003 the debate was focused on which name best defines their identity. Here are some choices:

Antica Congrega Linguistica Reto Cisalpina

Accademia delle Lingue Reto-Cisalpine

Associazione Riconoscimento Lingue Minoritarie Panpadane

Associazion Lenguistega  Reto-Cisalpina


The first two choices are historico-geographical, the third clearly underlines the need of a formal affirmation of their state as a minority language, and the fourth uses the language itself to affirm a local identity.

The members also convene periodically to codify new forms of spelling that better convey those sounds that do not conform to the Tuscan pronunciation of Standard Italian. I often wondered what reaction the Goliards of the early Crusca would have had when confronted with spelling like the Bulgnais or the one in the e--mail message below.

Vurevi strengegh i man al Gioancarlo per ul "Diare bergamasch".

Se ognidün de nüm, inveci de nàgh adree a quij pirlunad inütil di iniziativ de la Regiun Lumbardia, el fasèss cumpagn del Gioancarlo, de chì a des agn ghe sariss un quai bagai bun de parlà la so lengua ...


Salüdi a tücc


I would like to shake Giancarlo’s hand for the Bregamasc assignment book. If every………would be ….of Giancarlo…..of speaking our language….Greetings to all

 As we can see, I was unable to complete the translation of the message written in Bergamasc. I could have looked for another message, a little easier to understand, but I wanted to illustrate the tremendous power of minority languages. With the use of an obscure language spoken in only one town, and sometimes in only one neighborhood, the “audience” of that discourse becomes restricted to the few ones that can understand it. The implications of this fact are enormous. The very concept of “globalization” implied that information was available, instantly, to all. But a quest to rediscover and codify their minority language has given them back the legitimacy that the Crusca had taken away. Paolo, Roberto, and Daniele, and all the people that toil with them to resurrect their languages, have recreated the medieval city walls. Virtual villages are once more impregnable city-states that open their doors only to the people who have the indispensable key, the language, or who are willing to learn. The despised “dialect” of old has become the new Grail, and the enchanted key. The Portal has, it seems, to be opened, and only few have the key.

Chapter VI

Defending the Future with Old Traditions, or Defending the Future by Abandoning them?: Gioancarlo Giaàss in Bergamo and Maria Montinaro in Calimera, and the Experiment in Bova Marina


The EU mandate to protect minority languages has encouraged the creation of many linguistic projects. But the EU mandate only reflects a profound need to reaffirm one’s identity, in the form of tradition and, most of all, language. Carlo Guarini, a Griko scholar, has summarized it well in a message posted in the Magna Grecia mailing list on November 4, 2003. Below is a synopsis in English.

Dialect survives where it is learned in the warmth of the family….Where it is not learned at home, it loses its roots in the land, ceases to exist. Furthermore, the use of dialect …is the affirmation and nurture of one’s origin and identity, different and separate from the national identity. In Italy many dialects are in dangers of extinction, beside the Griko. Parents do not speak to their children in dialect because they do not think the children can learn more than one language, and that is not true, children can learn even four languages and thrive, in fact they are stimulated….I can’t imagine an Italy, or an Europe, without dialects…It would be like eating soup without salt…Don’t be ashamed of who you are!

This same need has inspired a young father at the other end of the peninsula to create a delightful school assignment book in Bergamasc. The illustrations were made by his school-aged daughters, and each page sports a fairy tale and other nuggets in Bergamasc (see figure 29).  The charming drawings, tidbits of information, and most of all the fairy tales written in Bergamasc are designed to introduce young children to the language of their ancestors, and will certainly do so. The cycle has been completed: if


Figure 29  Assignment book in Bergamasc


many parents forbid their children to speak “dialects”, this father lovingly encourage his children to remember the language of their ancestors even in the classroom. When I asked him if I could use his name, he replied, in Bergamasc:

“Se te gh'é òia de fà 'l mé nòm in mèret a 'l "diare de scöla 'n bergamàsch", fàl: Gioancarlo Giaàss (of course), bergamàsch de Padània (not Italy, please). Ciao Gioancarlo”  “If you want to mention my name regarding the school assignment book in Bergamasc, Use :Gioancarlo Giaàss, of course (in English in the answer), Bergamasc of Padania, not Italy please (in English also)”.

You will notice the use of Bergamasco and English, and the conspicuous absence of Italian. So here it is, Gioancarlo Giaàss of Padania, author with his daughters of the first school assignment book in Bergamasc.

I have spoken with several scholars all over Italy who submit proposals to the town councils for the preservation of languages. Professor and artist Paolo Dimitri of Calimera, who incidentally first invited me in Salento, has designed a project by which restaurants should hire Griko–speaking waiters, and perhaps elderly people as well, who would intermingle with the patrons to talk Griko and explain various aspects of their traditions. Interestingly enough, Paolo envisioned the clientele to come mostly from mainland Greece.  According to Paolo, Greek tourists would come to Salento to get in touch with their own linguistic past. The Salento region has a good and active tourism industry, advertised on the Web, with a variety of hotels, bed and breakfast and Ecoturism facilities. For me, going back to Le Conce, the ecoturism farm where I usually stay, has become a glad homecoming. Tourists do come from the rest of Europe and the United States as well as from Greece. Another project designed by Franco Corliano`, poet, artist and songwriter also of Calimera, aims to literally plunge students into the meaning of the language of their ancestors. Franco proposes to “show” the meaning of each word. Craune, coal, would be explained by taking the students in the fields where the piles of wood are slow-burned into coal.  Each word would convey to the students its own smell, its own taste, the cold of winter and the heat of summer.

Franco Corlianò’s wife, Maria Montinaro, teaches Italian in the Middle School in Calimera. She has structured her three-year classes in a project of research of the local traditions. Her students learn how to conduct library research and interviews, and organize their findings into essays that are published, in the third year of middle school, into a book of professional quality, even if funding are necessarily limited (see figure 30).



Figure 30  Il Grembiule degli Angeli


I have followed her students in the preparation of the book Il Grembiule degli Angeli, “The Angels’ Apron,” published by the town council in 2003, about the struggles of Calimera’s women during the pre–World War II times. I am convinced that this project gives the students precious skills not only in writing, organizing research and editing, but foremost in a sense of pride in their own roots. They research and write on what their own grandparents have achieved, and in so doing they also become familiar with their own traditions and language. As I mentioned earlier, most Salentinian Griko speakers have a familiarity with the language as children, but decide to study it as young adults.[55] I am certain that projects like this one are a strong factor in their decision.

The age of the Internet has given the effort to save Griko, both in Salento and Bovesia, a new weapon. Most of the present–day Griki communicate through an Internet forum, the Magna Grecia. As I have mentioned earlier, across the globe, Griki speakers enter “chat rooms” which operate only in Griko. At a conference in Irakleion in 1999 the Italo-Hellenic organizations voted for a return to the Greek alphabet and the “cleansing” of non-Greek words from Griko, substituting them with “proper” Greek words. Bovesia agreed follow this path. This solution has made Grecanico almost unintelligible for most of its older current speakers. But the focus of the efforts of the Italo-Hellenic organizations is on their youth. Many children go to Greece every summer, and since 2001 Bova Marina has introduced Modern Greek in Middle School, a unique step in Italy, where Greek, Classical or Modern, is offered only in specialized high schools. Professor Dieni and the Principal of the school, Dr. Squillanti, explained to me that, considering Italy’s chronic neglect of the area, the hope for the young people lies with Greece, and they can retain their identity only by adopting the language of their ancestral homeland. Another professor in the same school, Leo Campanella, explained to me that the role of Calabria is to be a bridge for Greece and the rest of Europe. The ancestral motherland has called, and the Grecanici, with typical generosity, have answered. Walking along the ruins of the bergamot plants, I understood their feelings. Calabria has been betrayed by the Italian government since the Risorgimento, and so its Greek children look to Greece. Grecanico as it has been transmitted through the centuries will probably perish. Will the identity of the people be able to remain? The answer to this question remains hidden in the future. As someone who has grown to love deeply these lands and their people, I wish I could go back in time and petition the great seers of its past, at Delphi or Cuma, to give me an answer.


Alessandra Belloni: Rhythm is the Cure

The renewed interest in cultural roots in the form of ethnic traditions and folk dances has facilitated the revival of ancient entertainment art forms. In the South, where the traditional folk music and dances where better preserved, there have been several musical groups that count among their repertory old ballads, songs and lullabies.

One artist in particular, Alessandra Belloni, is based in New Yokr where she has formed a company, I Giullari di Piazza, dedicated to the performance of the traditional Laudae (see figures 31 and 32). Alessandra travels to Italy and other countries to perform the old dances and songs and study the traditional percussion music. In her words,

our mission is to educate audiences, both in theatres and schools, on the rich southern Italian folklore, through concerts, theatrical productions and workshops, all of which are based on extensive library and field research by Directors Alessandra Belloni and John La Barbera. Our troupe specializes on the improvisational style of Commedia dell’Arte theatre, with music and dance, using masks and giant puppets, and combining mythic rituals of Pagan-Christian origins. Through the creation of new work based on these old traditions, our goal is to encourage Italian-American awareness, interest and pride in this rich ethnic heritage that has been lost due to integration and assimilation into the American culture.[56]



Figure 31  Alessandra Belloni and Franco Santoro in Tuscany, 2003



Figure 32  Alessandra Belloni’s Web Site


            The site advertises concerts and workshops that take place all over the world.  I took part in one of the workshops in August 2003, in Tuscany. The weeklong

workshop took place at La Chiara di Prugnano, a country estate nestled in the hills outside Florence. The participants, all women, came from Europe and the United States. La Chiara is a charming complex of old houses around a villa, surrounded by vineyards in a rolling hill landscape.  Our meals of typical Tuscan cuisine were served under a pergola. Our rooms were furnished in typical farmhouse style that reminded me strongly of my own childhood country house in nearby Umbria. We had morning and afternoon dance and tambourine sessions.  The only male instructor was a Shaman, Franco Santoro, a gentleman from Bologna who operates in Scotland, at the Findhorn Foundation (see figure 33). 


Figure 33 Findhorn Foundation



This adaptation of ancient practices into new forms of spiritual and psychological healing has an ideal outlet in the Internet. It serves an audience that is contemporary enough to be comfortable with the new media of communication, but that yearns still to find a sense of spirituality lost in the fast pace of modern life, and in conventional religion. Franco’s form of shamanism is defined in the Web site as follows:

The term astroshamanism identifies a spiritual system of healing aimed at enlarging human perception through the integration of the experiential principles of shamanism with esoteric astrology, the archaic planetary mystery traditions and the context of contemporary society. Its present form is the result of research developed by Franco Santoro since 1976, thanks to the contribution of shamans and medicine people of various cultures. The original reference of astroshamanism is based upon an initiatory lineage strategically defined as ProvOrdo Etnai and currently integrated in the work of the Sacred Cone Circle. The basic intent of this tradition is to foster the process of release of grievances and reawakening of our original memories through a direct relationship with multi-dimensional realities. The principal trait of this and other similar shamanic tradition is that its teachings are not communicated by one human being to another. Although masters or shamans provide precious inspiration and tools to access basic information, the actual mysteries are revealed to the initiates only by direct experience and connection with shamanic realities.[57]

Franco Santoro proved to be a valid companion to Alessandra teachings of ritual dances. Some of the dances have a hypnotic quality, and a few participants had a hard time coming out of their trances. Franco was next to them, quietly bringing them into full consciousness. The dances are connected with folk festivals that in some cases predate Christian traditions, such as the Carnevale, but particularly the cult of the Black Madonna, still venerated in many parts of Europe. The most powerful dance was however the Taranta, the dance of the Tarantula from Salento. The origins of this ritual dance go back probably to the cult of Dionysus and Demeter in ancient Greece. The ritual spread to southern Italy, Spain, and the Islamic part of North Africa. In Italy it remained a popular dance, and in fact most people connect the “Tarantella” with Italian folklore. Most people, including many Italians, are not aware of the powerful social significance of this dance and that it was performed in Salento as a healing ritual as recently as 1958[58] (see figure 34).


Figure 34 Tarantata in 1958 (from La Terra del Rimorso)


The great majority of the “Tarantate”, those bitten by the Tarantula, were women, most often either unmarried or in abusive families, scorned by their loved ones and by the community. The bite of the tarantula provided a reason for their asocial behavior. In fact, they became “marked” by the supernatural being. In ancient times this would have been Dionysus.  Christianity gave this role to Saint Paul. The saint’s protection gave the women immunity for their behavior, and found a role for them in a society that had no place, or even name, for battered women. On Saint Paul day, the women could dance in the chapel and even sit on the altar. The bite of the tarantula would put the women into a trance, but periodically, often on the anniversary of the original bite, they would go into a trance again.   At this point a group of musicians was called. They performed the hypnotic pulsing rhythm of the Taranta, often for days on end, around the tarantata, who was dressed in white and laying on a white sheet on the floor.  Gradually, the tarantata would respond to the dance, first on the floor and then on her feet, and then, finally, she would dance on her feet, and eventually wake up. The miracle was performed. Marked by the saint as his own, she was able to take her place in the community, until the next trance.

We performed the Taranta at the end of the week, the culmination of our journey. Dressed in white and playing our tambourines, we filed in procession to the small chapel at the far end of the compound. We chanted traditional Madonna festival songs, “Nigra Sum sed Formosa”, and “Yesce o’ Sole”. After chanting in the chapel we filed in a lower–level room in the villa, and there the dance started. One by one we gyrated to the rhythm of the tambourines. Some of the women again went into a deep trance, and again Franco gently brought them back. I understood then the power of the ancient mysteries. In ancient times the underground room would have been a cave, and the women, much as we did, would have come out spent but stronger, ready to face another year.


Music and its Symbolism

  The majority of the sites have a musical theme. The Padania Web page did use for a while the aria Va Pensiero from Verdi’s Nabucco.  The opera Nabucco was, in fact, specifically written for the Risorgimento, and its author, Giuseppe Verdi, became the spokesman of Italian independence.  As the director of the theater La Scala in Austrian occupied Milan, in 1842 he wrote and introduced Nabucco, a story of Jewish slavery in Mesopotamia.  In the fervor of the wars, the aria Va Pensiero, the lament of the Jewish slaves for the lost fatherland, became the Risorgimento battle hymn.  Giuseppe Verdi lived to see Italy unified.  At his funeral in 1901, an enormous crowd sang again  Va Pensiero.  This time it was a hymn of farewell and thanks.

Va Pensiero” continued to symbolize patriotic feelings for Italians.  One of the first operas staged after World War II, in 1949, at the San Carlo theatre in Naples was the Nabucco.  Naples and its people had suffered terrible losses during the war.  Nabucco was not chosen by chance.  It was supposed to serve as another symbol, this time of healing and unity after the fratricidal civil war of 1943-45.  At the most poignant verse, Oh mia patria si bella e perduta (o my fatherland so beautiful and lost), the audience exploded in shouts of “long live Italy, long live the king, and long live the republic.”  The process of unification was going to be long and laborious and, as this thesis points out, was doomed to failure.  One of the artists exhorted the audience to put aside bipartisan feelings.  At the encore, as 100 years before in Milan, the audience joined in. [59]

Va Pensiero is still a powerful symbol. But until recently it was appropriated by the secessionist movement of the Lega Nord as their own symbol. Only we, the message was, are the heirs to the ideals of the Risorgimento. Since then the thought process has evolved. Both North and South are looking past the Risorgimento ideals. And Va Pensiero, which did indeed stir and inflame souls, is back to the essential, a very beautiful lament for something loved, and lost.



Chapter VII


Rewriting history and Archetypes


The message from the Greek participants of the Magna Grecia mailing lists has typically been based on symbols taken from Greek language and traditions. G. A., a resident of Athens who is particularly enthusiastic about the greatness of his motherland, has coined, and used frequently, the term “Androgigante”, from aner (genitive andros), man, and gygantos, giant. The Giant Man is the ideal Magna Grecia Man, who maintains his Greek identity regardless of 250 centuries of Italic influence. I did ask him once why not using Geagigantessa, the Giant woman, and he amended, eventually, his message to “Androgiganti e gigantesse”. G. A. can become quite inflamed when the unique greatness of Greece is put in question, either by a casual comment or by linguistic evidence, that puts, heavens forbid, the Greek language among other Indo–European languages, rather than at the very beginning of the development of languages.

This is one typical G.A. message that followed a question of mine. Harvard University had invited Prof. Babiniotis of the University of Athens to give a speech for the Classics department. In answer to my question on the presence of Greek teacher in Salento and Bovesia, Prof. Babiniotis had replied that “dialects are dialects” and the future of the Greek language, in all of its forms, was with Modern Greek. When I invited the comments of the Griko audience, somewhat typically the Griki themselves withdrew in the background, and the Greeks spoke forth. Our exchange took place in December 2001, in English and Italian. For space sake I will use English only.

Subject: [magnagraecia] Discorso del Sig. Babin...iotis

Dearest Lucia, always you used to surprise us with your messages but this time I must admit that you did an excellent job. Your "employers" must be very proud of your "work".

Unfortunately I cannot  do any comment on it because -according to my opinion -we are in front of an uncomplete work. At first of all we have not the complete speech of Mr. Babin....iotis in nour disposition. Secondly, you do not explain to us ,for what kind of affairs, of the greek governement with the minority of the griko community, are you talking, how you came to know about these affairs and how you were involved in these presumend affairs??

Thirdly, how did you expect to have an answer  from Mr. Babin...iotis, on this matter, if you knew that he was invited to have a speech in a complete different matter? In the hopeness to have few e-luci-a-dation on it, I take the opportunity to send my greetings to you and to  Magnagrecia people.

G. A.

My reply:

As I said, Harvard's department of Greek Studies invited Prof. Babiniotis to present this prestigious lecture. He is the one who wrote the lecture, I only listened to it. His answers reflect the typical attitude of the academic word that puts in two different categories "languages" and "dialects". My "employers" and I are involved in the defense of ethnic minorities. Myself personally, I am involved, beside in the Griko culture, in the Rom and small groups in Canada. The Griki are a shining example of a group that has successfully managed to retain their own traditions while integrating fully in the dominant culture. The Rom, on the contrary, have huge problems that still have to be resolved. I extend my wishes. By the way, can you give us the Greek roots of the word "paranoia"?


Please note the mention of “my employers”, the plotting Harvard quasi-spies that under the cover of an organization like Cultural Survival would send me into the field to undermine the glory of Greece.  In fact, my mention of my other field of research inflamed G.A. even more. Forgetting that I had described the Grecia Salentina as a shining example of cultural stability, he demanded how did I dare put the Griki on the same level with savages.

Unfortunately sometimes the stalwart defense of Greek supremacy has had the effect of driving away serious linguists. A couple of years ago a noted Swiss linguist, Renato Piva, joined the mailing list and offered interesting and learned insights on the origin of Greek and other Indo-European languages. G.A. again went to the defense of Greek as the mother of all languages, and Renato withdrew from active participation in the list. This has been a real loss for linguists in the list, because a learned exchange of opinions would have benefited all the participants. However, several list members, including myself, have continued to contact Renato Piva on our own. I have noted that when the Greek interventions become vehement, the Griki withdraw from the fray, following that very historical pattern that has allowed them to survive, withdrawing quietly in the background. By contrast, the Padane groups exchange opinions freely, even if this results in a fragmentation of groups. Can we speak of culturally determined archetypes? Generally speaking, archetypes and symbols go hand in hand. And the written history I have studied in school, that portrays Garibaldi as a hero, has been challenged by the very people he “liberated”.

Neither northern nor southern scholars agree with the “official” history of the Risorgimento. Northern scholars point out that Cavour and King Victor Emanuel preferred French to Italian, and indeed spoke Italian rather badly. Southern scholars lament the invasion of their land by Garibaldi and his  “ruffians”. Was the ‘official history” written in schoolbooks a monumental exercise in the recreation of history? Writes historian Nicola Zitara:

It is evident that if even today [history] continues to hide the historical truth that the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was attacked in order to make it a colony of Piedmont, this "Italian" State also wants to hide the current interests of those who really govern in Italy: the big industry of the North which was born out of the robberies, massacres and continuous exploitation of the Two Sicilies. [60]

We have seen how Giuseppe Verdi wrote Nabucco specifically for the Risorgimento. Other songs sprang up to celebrate Garibaldi, depicted here as the Warrior Hero of this saga. Garibaldi led the uprisings in Argentina before being called back by Cavour. The ballad below describes his journey.

Goes through wind and waves the small ship

Piloted by the good pilot

Who stand at the mast like a king in his kingdom

Guided by his valiant arm used to the task,

like of the whip and ax he mastered

when the Hero was herdsman and woodsman [61] (translation mine).


It is essential to note that this collection was reprinted in 1927, after World War I and just before the advent of Fascism, when Italy needed a Hero recent enough to be considered “one of us”. Let’s go now and follow the life of a “Garibaldino”, one of Garibaldi’s volunteers, Ludovico Beha. He had left his studies at the University of

Bologna to respond to the call to arms. The atmosphere was exhilarating: groups of conscripts marched around town singing a patriotic song: “Addio, mia bella addio: l’armata se ne va, e se non partissi anch’io sarebbe una vilta” “Farewell, my pretty, farewell, the army is leaving, and if I dint’ go it would be a cowardly thing.”  The stage was set: Garibaldi and his mission were placed in the realm of heroism.  But Ludovico’s life in the trenches proved to be far from glorious: the uniforms didn’t fit, food was abysmal: Ludovico had to let the soup settle in his cup to skim the lice out of it.[62] While Garibaldi passed along in his carriage, his soldiers dealt with lice and mud, but Garibaldi was the Hero, and his soldiers fought and died for him. This is an undeniable fact. Even in the South, the Bourbon government had to acknowledge that the enemy had a following. In a telegram to Francesco II in June of 1859, his High Commander Paolo Ruffo Prince of Castelcicala states:

Yesterday a large group of sailors of the Sardinian Navy went around Messina shouting “Viva L’Italia” and inciting the citizens to rebellion. A crowd conveyed to the port to wait for the Sardinian Commander (i.e. Garibaldi, n.o.a.) We intervened in force and the majority of the crowd dispersed, but 2 or 3 hundred went along to welcome him, with flowers and shouts of Viva L’Italia… [63] (translation mine)

The powers of symbols and archetypes are undeniable. No matter how this fact is unpalatable for my secessionist friends, Garibaldi the Hero did move many to wave flags and bring flowers. But the same archetypes can now move just as many to take a second look, and, perhaps, to rewrite history, or perhaps to reshape the face of Europe. Which Europe indeed?

Chapter VIII

Looking at Change with a Smile: Is This the Italian Secret of Survival?


The Goliard tradition that is at the very birth of the Accademia della Crusca is deeply rooted in Italian history. Goliard poets were among the first ones to write in vernacular as well as in Latin, and prolific writers they were. This tradition has remained among students today and has created some delightful sites run by Roman University students.  The web sites reflect the traditional character of regional identities. Perhaps because they had to cope with the temporal power of the Vatican for many centuries, the people of Rome have always had a unique sense of humor. This old Roman sense of humor remains undefeated and sums up the role of the web. From the site Mancolicani (Noteventhedogs), in the Webmaster’s own English:


Someone think that in this global Era, all the old traditions will disappear. The purpose of this site is to extend in all the World, Italian treasures as. “There is no Christ” or “sleeping of fat woman” or also “To eat to UFO.” Let’s try to explain it to an English man! 

The expressions are indeed treasures of the Roman vernacular. ‘Non c’e` Cristo’ ‘There is no Christ’ (No way), ‘Dormire della grossa’,  ‘Sleep like a fat lady’ (sleep soundly) or   ‘Mangiare a UFO’, ‘Eat like a UFO’ (Eat too much). There is an interesting evolution of this expression. I remember it as ‘mangiare a uffa’, ‘to eat until you can’t stand it’. ‘Uffa’ is an expression that means more or less ‘that’s enough’, possibly a phonetic derivate of ‘enough’, picked up from the many English tourists that visited Rome through the centuries. Young Romans have adapted it to the more modern UFO. Logically enough, the search icon is called “mancolotrovo” (I can’t even find it). (See figure 35)


Figure 35 Mancolicani Home Page



Ahoo!: Search Engine Roman Style

The site Turbozaura has created a search engine that reflects best the Goliardic spirit (see figures 36 and 37). 



Figure 36 TurboZaura Home Page

Ahoo! Is a typical Roman expression that means, more or less, “Hey!” The pun on Yahoo! is clear. The old campanilismo is recognized in a web article featured on Turbozaura. The humor, indeed, is typically Roman (see figure 36). The article points out that Ahoo! brings back the regional sense of humor that needs not  be lost with globalization. Turbozaura uses English freely and has no concern of achieving anything serious. Like their Goliard ancestors, the only aim is to poke fun at everyone, including themselves. Another article recognizes this fact. The web master is a serious student of engineering that likes to laugh in his spare time. The Renaissance Crusconi must be rejoicing in their graves. 







Figure 37 Campanilismo Roman Style


The students have published a few books of Roman jokes, and, again, the English language is more than welcome “Speak like you eat”, “parla come magni” in Roman, means to speak simply, avoiding abstruse words dear to some academics. “Speak like you eat” is therefore an expression in the purest Goliard tradition (see figure 38).






Figure 38 Ma Parla come Magni



I found myself faced with the age-old dilemma of Anthropology, that is if my mere presence there (albeit a “virtual” one) was “contaminating the field”, so to speak, influencing the course of events, or acting as a catalyst for something that could have happened even without me. I had written a message in the ALP list asking suggestions for some local wines to serve at a dinner, and upon receiving a huge response, I wrote a hurried thank you mentioning that I was struggling with a difficult paper on Uchronia, the concept analyzed by Italian historian Alessandro Portelli, of “created time” in opposition with Utopia, the “created place” we are all familiar with.  The response to that e–mail cascaded a sequence of events that led to a sublist dedicated to Uchronia. And the rest, allow me to add totally tongue-in-cheek, is global village history. The Uchronia concept caught the attention of a member of the list whose pseudonym is Helmut Rennpferd, who asked more elucidations and then proposed to try to open up a new list. I explained that Uchronia is a case of sublimation of memory, in which the uchronic, or “created” history makes so much more sense than the “chronic history”. Again, for brevity I omit the Italian.

-----Original Message-----
From: Helmutt [64]
Sent: Monday, April 28, 2003 8:59 PM
Subject: Re: [alpdn] Ciäo! E Grazie!

I could tell you so many things…here in Milan there are so many types that really believe the stories given them by their own memory…returning to the more “noble” (in quotes) Uchronia, what would you think of creating a list where one can rewrite counterfactual events…

 My reply:

Certainly, it would be interesting at several levels. For me, as a student of imagined localities of the Internet, this one becomes an exercise in which I assume the role of a founder…a virtual Romulus of a web Rome. At another level, I am attracted by the possibility of a deeper investigation of Portelli’s worlds. I feel an affinity for it, to bring clarity into my mother’s memories, she who incessantly revisited episodes of the War, shuffling them around to put some sense into them. History becomes the History of the Yearned for, of the Wanted, but not any more of the Suffered. Oh look, another chapter….

  The History of the Yearned for has become, indeed, a list of the “what if history”, and from the musing in a web café, it has grown to 50 some members. I shied away from becoming the moderator of the list, conscious of my role of “participant observer”, but with typical generosity, my virtual friends have given me a role nevertheless:

-----Original Message-----

Sent: Thursday, December 04, 2003 4:57 PM


Subject: [utopiaucronia] Riker Dominae Eowyn salutem dicit

Noo, let’s say that the list has Lucia Clark in the role of muse (hoping that she will take part more often in the future), the undersigned as actual founder….

So, if I did not become Romulus, I was placed in a virtual Olympus as the Muse of this endeavor, the Utopiacronia List[65]. In later e–mails, we branched off to Camelot, and I was given the role of Guenevere, which I firmly refused. I choose instead that of Viviane, the ruler of the mythical Avalon. Since the beginning the topics of discussions have expanded from Italian history and literature to world events to science fiction. In each case the level of knowledge of the material is astounding. The subject line of the e–mail above (addressed to another member of the list) furnishes in itself a case in point:  “Riker Dominae Eowyn salutem dicit”, (Riker sends his regards to Lady Eowyn). To start, the sentence is in Latin. This happens from time to time, and has caused me many thumbing of dictionaries in order to give adequate answers. But Riker, the pseudonym chosen by the writer, is taken clearly from Star Trek (Number One Commander William Riker to Captain Jean Luke Picard). Domina Eowyn is clearly Lady Eowyn from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Rings. So the profile of the Portellian list member emerges as the following: a buff of fantasy and science fiction genre, with a solid grounding in languages, often in mathematics, information technologies and history and literature, and we should add, a great sense of humor. 

My metamorphosis was not over. Helmut decided to write a little story, where I rival Indiana Jones for valor and adventure. Again for brevity, I include only my English synopsis.

Indiana Clark and the Rosetta Papyrus

Mrs Clark, nicknamed Indiana by her close friends for her fearless adventures, is an Anthropologist who studies and defends minority languages. One day she comes across a strange book that describes a lost community in Africa. This community has catalogued all endangered languages in a Papyrus called the Rosetta Papyrus. In the book there is a map as to where to find this lost community. Clark embarks for Africa and after a grueling horseback journey reaches the lost community. Taking possession of the Papyrus means nothing less than saving all endangered languages. The task is full of dangers: the fearless adventuress fights and neutralizes the infamous knights Homo Globalis, Here-We-Are-In-Bananaland-And-We-Talk-Bananatongue, and One-And-Indivisible. Her trials are not over. Clark is faced with The Labyrinth of Deceit, whose paths are lined with the murky arguments against minority languages. To her help comes a wizard, Cecchin de Rus, who guides her to the Portal Of Rosetta. The key of the Portal is a magic word, but in which language? The enigma is solved by Cecchin, who writes the word in Bergamasc, and the portal opens. Cecchin recedes in the mists, but upon crossing the portal a dark haired knight joins Clark, and together they gallop along the road to the Papyrus, while they chat in Farsi, Cimbrus and Swahili. Eventually, they arrive at a valley where with other feats of stealth Clark secures the Papyrus. Now another journey, on horseback, Jet, and the New York subway, takes Clark, the knight and Cecchin di Rus to the United Nations. Here they gallop in the middle of the General Assembly, read the Papyrus, and therefore save all endangered languages.

One generation ago our Portellian friends would have discussed alternative history on a Sunday afternoon drinking San Pellegrino at the local café. Now we are off galloping in virtual adventures, like characters in a computer game, gently poking fun at each other, and at ourselves.



Far from becoming the great equalizer, the Internet has indeed acted as a forum for the reaffirmation of long dormant Italian ethnic identities. This fact is beginning to be recognized, and I like to think that my efforts for the past five years might have helped in this respect.

All the web sites cited have achieved a worldwide system of information on a variety of activities, both on line and in the geographical towns. Chat rooms keep people talking on a variety of topics in their languages, and traditional festivals can be advertised on line and they attract people from all over the world. This is really where the Virtual Village and the Real Village become one. I have seen virtual friends become real ones when they visit each other during traditional feasts. I have taken part on a workshop on the ancient dances of my land and participated in several feasts in southern Italy, in the Grecia Salentina, and have seen religious and secular celebrations conducted in Griko. I have also visited the Grecanic community in Calabria, and I have attended, in the North, a Bolognese language class in Bologna and a symposium on the languages of Padania in Vaprio, near Milan, where I presented my preliminary work on the revival of ethnic languages in Italy.  The readiness of the web sites makes it possible for all messages to be reached. But because the messages “are all there”, they are also, in a way, well hidden. In the old days, messages of protest would have been pasted on the walls of our street, where every passer by, and every member of the police force, could read them. Today freedom of expression allows political views to be printed in journals and newspapers, but it is the Web that has given dissent an instantaneous forum. The messages are there, but one has to know where to look, and has to have that elusive key, Cecchin di Rus’ magic word, the knowledge of the language used. So far the meeting point between the virtual world and the real one have been festivals, symposia, and workshops. We have already seen how the Lega Lombarda, founded on the streets but propagated on the Web, has found a political place in the Italian government. It remains to be seen if the Due Sicilie or Enotita will be able to materialize their ideals in concrete form. The Italian Nation was forged in diplomatic circles, literary drawing rooms, the Opera, and the battlefield. Will the new Federalism take place on the Web, and descend from Cyberspace on Palazzo Madama, or for that matter another government palace? This remains to be seen. My work in Italy is by no means completed.

As I continue my research in Italy, I marvel at the extraordinary vitality of our cultures. They have survived countless invasions, from within and without our borders. They have maintained their individuality in spite of many attempts to uniformity, again from within and without. They are even managing to survive globalization, with their sense of humor and their “dialects”, that wealth of linguistic traditions that truly defines who we are.


For all the voices that were stilled, and all the songs that were silenced. May they be heard again.


Bibliography and URLs

Cited Works

Alighieri, Dante. Della Volgare Eloquenza, (Trissino traslation.1529) Milano: Bernardoni Editore, 1868.

Anderson, Benedict.   Imagined Communities. London: Verso, 1983.                  

Appadurai, Arjun.   Modernity at Large. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

Beha, Ludovico. Memorie d’un Garibaldino. Roma:Paolini 1884

Castells, Manuel.  The Rise of the Network Society.  Blackwell Publishers, 2000.

______________  The Power of Identity. Blackwell Publishers, 1997.

Cattaneo, Carlo.  Stati Uniti d’Italia.  Milano: Sugarco Edizioni. 1992.

Clark, Lucia. “On the Brink: Griko, a Language of Resistance and Celebration.” Cultural Survival Quarterly, July 2001, 56.

__________ “ My Home Town is a URL in Cyberspace: the Internet, Italian Ethnic Identities & the European Union.”  Cultural Survival Quarterly, January 2001, 59.

__________ (My Home Town Is an URL. Ethnic Identities in Cyberspace. Global Communication and Social Fragmentation.) Harvard University, Spring 2000.

__________(Continuity in Ethnic Diversity. the Italian Paradox as Seen in Fascist Italy through its Cinema.) Harvard University, Summer 1998.

__________(The Tuscan Gorgia, Dialects and Regional Identity: a Survey.)  Harvard University, Summer 1999.           

__________(Television, Cyberspace and the Political Process in Italy.) Harvard University, Fall 1999.

__________(The Role of Latin in the Koinai in Medieval Italy.) Fall 2001.


De Martino, Ernesto. La Terra del Rimorso, Il Saggiatore, Milano, 1961

De Tiberiis, Giuseppe, Le Ragioni del Sud, Napoli: Edizioni Scentifiche Italiane, 1969

Hull, Jeffrey. Polyglot Italy.  Sidney: CIS Educational, 1988

Malaparte, Curzio, The Skin.  Northwestern University Press 1997


Marradi, Speri. Rapsodie Garibaldine. Firenze: Barbera. 1927


McLuhan, Marshall. The Medium Is the Massage. Ager Producers, 1967

Montanelli, Indro.  Storia di Roma. Milano: Rizzoli Supersaggi, 1988.

Moscati, Ruggero,   La Fine del Regno di Napoli Le Monnier 1960

Stefik, Mark.   The Internet Edge. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999

Stille, Alexander. The Future of the Past. New York: Farrar, Strause and Giroux, 2002

Violi, Filippo. Sui Sentieri della Memoria, Bova Marina: Edizioni Centro Studi Ellenofoni, 1993.Waters, Malcolm. Globalization.  New York: Routledge, 1998.

Watson, James.    Golden Arches East. Stanford University Press, 1997


Consulted works

Appadurai, Arjun. “Globalization. Millennial Quartet. Duke University Press, 2000.

Bauman, Zachary. Globalization. European Perspectives. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

_____________.   The Internet Galaxy. Oxford University Press, 2001.

Devoto, Giacomo e Giacomelli, Gabriella.  I Dialetti d’Italia. Bompiani, 2002.

Galli Della Loggia, Ernesto. Identita` Italiana. Bologna: Il Mulino, 1998.

Lessing, Lawrence.  The Future of Ideas.  New York: Random House, 2001.Maybury-Lewis, David. Indigenous People, Ethnic Groups, and the State.  New York: Allyn Bacon, 1997.

Montanelli, Indro. L’Italia dei Secoli d’Oro. (1967) Rizzoli Supersaggi, 1997.

______________ L’Italia dei Notabili. (1973). Milano: Rizzoli Supersaggi, 1974.

______________   L’Italia del Millennio. Milano: Rizzoli Supersaggi, 2001.

Masciano, Chuck and Kennedy, Bill. HTML: The Definitive Guide. O’Reilly and Ass. Inc. 1997.

Putnam, Robert. Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy.   Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Shapiro, Andrew L. The Control Revolution: How the Internet Is Putting Individuals in Charge and Changing the World We Know. New York: Public Affairs, 1999.

Shenk, David. The End of Patience.            Indiana University Press, 1999.

Vattimo, Gianni.      La Fine della Modernita`. Milano: Garzanti, 1985.

______________ La  Societa` Transparente. Milano: Garzanti, 1989.

Zitara, Nicola.   La Storia Proibita.  Napoli: Controcorrente, 1995.







Alessandra Belloni: <http.//>


Area Ellefona Calabrese: <>


               Due Sicilie  <http.//>

European Charter for Regional Minority Languages :


Friul  <http.//>

Grimaldi, L and Remberger, EM. The Promotion of the Sardinian Language and Culture via the Internet. Fields of Activity and Perspectives  <http.//>

Grecia Salentina: <http.//>

Grika Milume`  <http.//>

History of Internet   Leiner B, Cerf al.: Internet Society,<http.//>

Italian Parties  <http.//>

Languages of Italy  <>

La Patrie dal Friul  <http.//>

L’Istrice  <http.//>

Liber  <http.//

Lega Nord list  <http.//à.htm>

Magna Graecia  <http.//>

Mancolicani  <http.//>

Padania         <http.//>

Partito sardo  <http.//>

Regione Autonoma della Sardegna  <http.//>


The Role of Latin in the Koinai in Medieval Italy, Clark, Lucia.; <>

Storia Della Sicilia  <http.//>

Sa Limba Sarda  <http.//>

Sardigna Natzione  <http.//>

Sardegna Corsica     <http.//>
[1]   Bernt Leiner, Vinton Cerf et al., Internet Society, <> [2] Benedict  Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983).  [3] Anderson  Imagined Communities, 40. [4] Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage. (Ager Producer 1967) 16.

 [5] McLuhan:  The Medium is the Massage, 66-67.

 [6]  McLuhan : The Medium is the Massage,  157.[7] Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1996) 29.

 [8] Appadurai, Modernity at Large, 39

 [9] James Watson, Golden Arches East, (Stanford University  Press 1997)

 [10] Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, Volume 1, (Blackwell, 1996) 1.

 [11] Mark Stefik, The Internet Edge (Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1999) 6.

 [12] Stefik, The Internet Edge,1999, p.4


[13] Alexander Stille, The Future of the Past.  (Farrar, Strause and Giroux, New York, 2002).[14] Malcolm Waters,  Globalization ( New York: Routledge 1998), 150[15] Anderson, Imagined Communities.

 [16]  Paul Treanor, Europe, Which Europe? <>[17]  Eurocities: <>[18] Massimo Fini, La Grande Sfida delle Piccole Patrie: <>

 [19] Carlo Cattaneo, Stati Uniti d’Italia (Sugarco Edizioni, Milano 1992).

 [20] Castells, The Power of Identity.

 [21] Lucia Clark. (My Home Town Is an URL in Cyberspace.) Harvard University, Spring 2000.

 [22] Lucia Clark, My Home Town is a URL in Cyberspace: the Internet, Italian Ethnic Identities & the European Union.  (Cultural Survival Quarterly, January 2001) 59.

 [23] Clark, (My Home Town Is an URL). 


 [24] Other scholars attribute the quote to Giuseppe Mazzini. It is a case of a famous phrase entering the Italian folklore.

 [25]  Giuseppe De Tiberiis,  Le Ragioni del Sud, (Edizioni Ascentifiche Italiane, Napoli, 1969).[26] Alberto Sorbrero, in Grecia Salentina:               <http.//>

 [27] Roman Empire (no author given): <>

 [28] This legend explains the long enmity of the Carthaginians against Rome, and depicts the Roman as the aggressed rather than the aggressors during the Carthaginians wars.

  [29] Indro Montanelli,. Storia di Roma. (Milano: Rizzoli Supersaggi, 1969) 7.

 [30] Lucia Clark, (My Home Town Is an URL in Cyberspace.).

  [31] Montanelli, Storia di Roma. 24.

 [32] Languages of Italy, Viteliu: <WorkingDirs/forms/langs/GetListOfAncientLgs.cfm>; <>

 [33] Lucia Clark, The Role of Latin in the Koinai in Medieval Italy, 1999 in Padania City: <>  [34] Due Sicilie site, no author given  <>

   [35] Dante Alighieri, Della Volgare Eloquenza , (Trissino Traslation (1529) Bernardoni Editore Milano, 1868).[36] Jeffrey Hull, Polyglot Italy.  (CIS Educational Sidney, 1988).[37] Lucia Clark, (Continuity in Ethnic Diversity. the Italian Paradox as Seen in Fascist Italy through its Cinema.)  Harvard University Summer 1998

 [38]  Accademia della Crusca: <>

 [39] Giuseppe Salvarese in De Tiberiis,  Le Ragioni del Sud. 61

 [40] Lucia Clark,(Continuity in Ethnic Diversity. the Italian Paradox as Seen in Fascist Italy through its Cinema.)  [41] Lucia Clark, (Continuity in Ethnic Diversity. the Italian Paradox as Seen in Fascist Italy through its Cinema.). [42] Ernesto De Martino, La Terra del Rimorso, (Il Saggiatore, Milano, 1961).[43]  For a quick reference, see Paolo Landi, I De Filippo, <>

 [44] Clark, (Continuity in Ethnic Diversity. the Italian Paradox as Seen in Fascist Italy through its Cinema.)   

 [45] Curzio Malaparte, The Skin, (Northwestern University Press 1997) 39[46] Leganord: <>[47] Unfortunately, some authors are not listed.[48] Lucia Clark, On the Brink: Griko, a Language of Resistance and Celebration. (Cultural Survival Quarterly, July 2001) 56.

 [49]  Grika Milume, <>[50] Lucia Clark,. On the Brink: Griko, a Language of Resistance and Celebration. The photograph shows the Passiuna performed in Zollino in 2001. For the song, go to track 3 of the CD[51] Chora Ma:  <>[52] For an example of Griko conversation and of Tarantella dance, go to tracks 1 and 2 of CD[53] From personal interviews in Bovesia.

 [54] Filippo Violi, Sui Sentieri della Memoria, (Edizioni Centro Studi Ellenofoni, Bova Marina, 1993).[55]  Lucia Clark, On the Brink: Griko, a Language of Resistance and Celebration.[56] I Giullari di Piazza: <>[57] The Findhorn web site: <.>[58] Ernesto De Martino, La Terra del Rimorso.  [59] Lucia Clark, (Television, Cyberspace and the Political Process), Harvard University, Fall 1999.        For the Va Pensiero performance in Naples, go to Track 4 of the CD[60] Nicola Zitara, La Storia Proibita, in Due Sicilie: <>

 [61] Speri Marradi,  Rapsodie Garibaldine. (Firenze Barbera. 1927).

 [62]Ludivico Beha, Memorie d’un Garibaldino. (Roma:Paolini 1884).

 [63] Ruggero Moscati, La Fine del Regno di Napoli.[64] I have omitted the e--mails addresses[65] Another interesting mix of languages:  ‘Utopiacronia’ is the Italian spelling, but “list” is used in the English