National anthems stir many thoughts and feelings. Inciting anything from healthy love of country to overly aggressive patriotism. For music has an extraordinary ability to ignite hearts and passions. And Song of the Italians, Italy’s national anthem, is no exception.
Not being Italian, I can’t really say what The Song of the Italians does to the Italian heart and mind, though I imagine this probably changes with each generation.
Our Zio Pietro
But I do have an idea what it might have meant to Zio Pietro (Uncle Peter) as we fondly called him. When we bought our tiny house the Zio, I’m sure, was the happiest of all people. For this is the home he grew up in. And it was he who planted our two olive trees, now around 40-50 years old!
Spry and cheerful, right up to his death at 92, we often passed him on his long walks around town.
But more than anything he loved visitors and telling of old times! We always found him ready with a warm welcome and good story. Like how, after marriage, he and his wife lived in this 645 sq.ft. (60 sq meters) house along with his parents and two unmarried sisters.
Although he often repeated the same stories, we listened eagerly! And he never failed to thank us for buying his father’s house and fixing it up. Knowing that the old place would live on seemed to bring him great joy!
The zio’s olive trees
Hubby and I have a special affinity with older people. He, perhaps, because of being raised by older parents (aged 42 and 43 at his birth). And I grew up surrounded by grandparents, and even a great-grandmother! We love talking with them. Hearing of days gone by, and learning from their wisdom.
His WW2 stories
Zio Pietro’s best story, or at least our favorite, involved his trip home from Russia after World War II. Hearing of his transcontinental trek during the dead cold of winter with his feet wrapped in rags. And how he trudged slowly homeward, Europe’s railways strewn about him in ruins. It always made us realize how blessed and spoiled we are.
We always came away a sense of greatness. Of a generation who did their duty, endured great hardship and overcame. And even though Italy’s involvement with the Axis powers on the Eastern Front (Russia) was not admirable, it always made us think of those who fought to end the evil and aggression.
Of people who fought because they believed there were things in this world worth fighting for. Who were willing to suffer and die for their people, their nation, and what they felt was right. And of all the Italian soldiers who fought for what was right after Italy’s freedom from dictatorship.
Song of the Italians
Zio Pietro would surely have known The Song of the Italians, or Brothers of Italy, as it also known. Listen to it (below) and try to imagine what this paesano (villager) may have felt while listening to his national anthem. Glad to be going home, satisfied at having done his duty.
[Italy’s National Anthem via Wikimedia.]
Italians usually refer to this patriotic battle hymn as Mameli’s Hymn, in honor of its author. It was already well known in the mid 1800s. Especially after its first public debut during a patriotic celebration in front of the Madonna of Loreta Sanctuary in Genova (below) in 1847.
Even though it wasn’t until 1945 and the end of World War II that it became the unofficial national anthem. For the hymn had fallen out of popularity during the Fascist days when only Fascist songs were acceptable.
This unofficial status continued up until 2012, when it was officially declared Italy’s national anthem. Which to me, is highly symbolic of Italy – the land of slow living. “We’ll get around to it domani (tomorrow).” But here in Italy domani is often a long time in arriving!
Let us join in a cohort (military unit). We are ready to die. We are ready to die, Italy has called, the chorus says.Mameli’s Hymn (Italy’s National Anthem)
But what did Zio Pietro think of when he heard those words of victory, valor, and hope? Did he remember his long march from Russia? Glad that his battle days were over?
Listen to the song. Can’t you just picture him coming, back straight, rifle against his shoulder, marching home from Russia? This well-known refrain playing in his mind?
How did you feel while listening to the Song of the Italians? And how does your national anthem make you feel?