I’m Anna and I’m Russian, but Italy has now become my second home. I studied and worked in Florence; the country and the people have left an indelible mark on my heart; I fell in love with the Italian language and culture. I follow with anguish what you are facing in these months and I would really like to support you in some way, only that I would not know how. I wrote a small letter to Italy, describing ten reasons why I fell in love with it, in which I tried to convey all the love I have for your country. I really think that such content can raise morale a bit and give resources to continue fighting; and I wish I could share it with as many people as possible. I really hope you have a look at it and that you can appreciate it.
1) Beauty of nature
It is no coincidence that Italy is one of the most visited countries in the world. Embraced by the sea, embellished by mountains, hills and lakes, surrounded by greenery; from the light green of the olive trees, the darker one of the pines to the dark green of the cypresses, it is of an overwhelming beauty. Traveling from region to region, the landscapes change and each represents something different and unrepeatable. Living in Tuscany in one day you can organize a day at the beach, or, taking the same time, go skiing in the mountains, walking in a natural park or in the hills. It is incredible that the conditions have formed within a country to do activities for all tastes, and always within reach.
2) Beauty created by man
Side by side with the extraordinary gift of nature goes the human being’s ability not to spoil natural beauty, but to have managed to bring architecture and nature together harmoniously. Unlike many places where human activity completely destroys the intrinsic harmony of a place, three or four-storey buildings of warm colors with shutters fit perfectly into the surrounding environment, not to mention red tiled roofs, buildings and churches, historical masterpieces of unmistakable beauty. Along with the ability to create, you also have the ability to preserve and preserve your history. Isn’t it impressive that Italy boasts the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world? Isn’t it sensational that Rome has a history dating back almost three thousand years, and we can still touch it and contemplate it live? It is perhaps not incredible that Florence, like many other large cities, has remained intact in its historic center, let alone the small medieval villages, where time seems to stand still.
I like that the family is considered a sacred thing, that children often have very tender relationships with their parents. I like the fact that there are so many regional traditions that count for many centuries, the carnivals, or, to say, the historical Florentine football or the Palio di Siena. I think being faithful to your traditions, unless they are just out of date and inhibitory, now out of place, means maintaining the link with your roots, losing which you risk losing your identity.
The Italian people are known worldwide for their expressiveness. Growing up in Russia, where this feature is often missing, I am fascinated by your ability to express feelings, thoughts and moods not only through words, but also through gestures and intonation. Combined with the habit of talking a lot and everything and apparent vitality, expressiveness adds to the natural and architectural beauty also the beauty of an emotionally open and alive people. Another thing that struck me immediately was the welcome and being affable and open. The welcome is perceived from the first moments, when at passport control they greet you with a smile; and always accompanies you, whether you go to a dinner or just have a coffee in a bar.
It would be trivial to say that Italian is one of the most beautiful languages in the world (and the most beautiful ever for me). I would like to dwell on other aspects, besides its evident beauty and musicality. For me it is a language that more than many others (personally I have studied seven) favors the expression of feelings. The language is formed by the people who speak it; and the expressiveness of the Italians meant that the language became emotionally rich. The language contains several nuances related to feelings, emotions and attitude. For example, not all languages allow you to express love in at least two different ways: I love you and love you. And how many words can we use to communicate that we are angry? Point-blank I could name at least nine, obviously of a different semantic weight: anger, anger, anger, indignation, resentment, fury, fury, outrage, exasperation. Let alone the subjunctive, a construction that can be used to express one’s attitude or degree of certainty. So in addition to being a beautiful language, Italian is also literally convenient for communicating and expressing oneself.
6) Culture (or rather cultures)
We can talk lont about Italian culture. Architecture, literature, history, art … It would take an entire library to describe all that Italy has given to the world. One who arrives in Italy for the first time is appalled by the art that surrounds him: historic buildings, museums, bridges and towers, sculptural and artistic masterpieces. The visual impact is doubled from the auditory one: whether you go to the theater to listen to opera, who gets acquainted with Italian music, or who hears the language, musical in itself. But the most beautiful thing that always amazes me is cultural diversity. Each of the twenty regions gives something unique in the national cultural framework, whether it be regional traditions; dialects that are very difficult to understand very often unless one knows them; cooking; of different ways of living. Each region, marked by its own particular history, enriches the general cultural landscape in its own way, making it expressive, of great impact, which is imprinted in the memory.
Music is part of culture, but for me it must also be considered separately. Not to mention the Italian classical music that is famous all over the world. My first approach to Italian music went through Celentano, Pupo, Ricchi e Poveri – all famous in Russia since the 1980s. Then I discovered and loved De André, De Gregori, Battisti, Dalla and, above all, Battiato. Their songs manage to enter deeply into the heart, but they also have a characteristic that I would dare to call “Italianness”. Musicians of the genre are so authentic and genuine that through the music they make they transmit the most beautiful jewels of the Italian soul to the world. I obviously appreciate the music of all peoples from all countries … But who if not the Italians can speak in such a beautiful way of love? Of happy or unhappy love, of reciprocal and non-reciprocal love … Who can talk in such an incredible way about everything that is found around it, who can make music like that is such a text? The most beautiful language in the world and extraordinary vocals come into harmony with the music that comes from the soul and together they make fantastic masterpieces.
Cooking is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to Italy. Pizza and pasta have conquered the world, but unfortunately the knowledge of Italian cuisine is limited several times to these very popular dishes. Instead, Italian cuisine is multifaceted and refined. Risottos, cheeses and meats; incredible sweets. Here the benefits of cultural diversity always come into play and each region brings something delicious in its own way. The quality of the raw materials is remarkable. While in some countries spices, salt and various sauces are excessively used to intensify the flavor; the simplicity of some Italian dishes does not flatten them, because being good and quality products in themselves, they do not need to be masked. Through the relationship you have with food you can see how important it is for you to enjoy life: what for many others is nothing but a requirement, you know how to transform into an art that can be savored, which can become a sublime pleasure.
9) Distance and spaces
It may be that I come from Moscow, which is a huge city, but I always feel a very strong influence of distance on the mentality. Italy is smaller, cities are smaller and more compact, many streets are narrow. The first thing I noticed in Rome and Florence was the space between the tables in many restaurants, its almost absence; and the way of parking that at first seemed absurd to me: how many times have I happened to see one slipping between two cars in a confined space without leaving even twenty centimeters away and giving a good hit to the car behind, perhaps even more than once. Physical distance influences how social life is organized, that is, in my opinion people are “forced” to stay closer to each other, and psychological proximity arises over time. In Italy I found this thing that I always missed in Russia – the psychological distance between people is different. It is easier to meet someone on the street, to establish dialogue with a stranger. People seem less isolated from each other; we smile more, we talk more; you exchange more; it seems to belong to something bigger instead of being alone.
It may seem an insignificant detail or a foregone conclusion, but the sun has a huge impact not only on the climate, but on the mentality. For one who lives practically sunless six months a year, the difference is immeasurable. Italy is a sun-kissed country, and this can be seen from the nature that is grateful to it and by the people who reflect this light, radiating it.
Dear Italy, I hope for your speedy recovery, so we can meet again soon, I love you.