One of the most surprising parts of lockdown has been the solidarity of the Italian people. Unlike the U.S., it is rare to see Italians flying national flags outside their homes. My grandparents have always had an American flag flying for as long as I can remember. It was normalized for me and something I didn’t give much thought to; however, since being in lockdown in Italy, it has returned to my mind.
The first full official day of lockdown for the entire Italian population was Wednesday March 11th. The first couple of days were confusing for everyone. Lots of shops in my city of La Spezia were still open and lots of people still roaming the streets. Things would soon change though, and we would eventually end up not even being able to leave our home alone for a recreational walk outside.
That first weekend was when I saw a big change. I started seeing my neighbors hang Italian flags from their balconies. One neighbor even got creative, I thought it was an Italian flag, but upon further inspection, it was just three towels, green, white, and red, hanging side by side from their railing. On Sunday March 15th people in my town for the first time, at precisely 6 pm, played from their balconies the Italian National Anthem (Il Canto degli Italiani) and sung along.
According to the website of Classic FM, a U.K. based national commercial radio station, the Italian National Anthem also known as Inno di Mameli or Fratelli d’Italia was written in 1847 by Goffredo Mameli and set to music that same year by Michele Novaro. The song was popularized around the time of the Italian unification known as Risorgimento, which directly translates to resurgence in English. In 1861, however, after the unification of the Italian peninsula into the Kingdom of Italy, the national anthem was changed to Marcia Reale. After WWII when Italy became a republic, they returned to the anthem written by Mameli. (1)
Below are the lyrics in Italian (with translation in English) of the 1st verse and chorus of the Italian National Anthem. The 1st verse and part of the chorus can be heard in the following video.
Il Canto degli Italiani (1)
Fratelli d’Italia, Brothers of Italy,
L’Italia s’è desta; Italy has awakened;
Dell’elmo di Scipio Scipio’s helmet
S’è cinta la testa. She has put on her head.
Dov’è la Vittoria? Where is the Victory?
Le porga la chioma; Offer her the hair;
Ché schiava di Roma because slave of Rome
Iddio la creò. God created her.
Stringiamci a coorte! Let us unite!
Siam pronti alla morte. We are ready to die;
Siam pronti alla morte, We are ready to die;
L’Italia chiamò. Italy called.
I have heard Il Canto degli Italiani everyday at 6 pm since that first day on March 15th. This has continued for almost a month now, and I don’t think it will stop any time soon. The Italian National Anthem is not the only song though, there is a whole hour of music around 6 pm. All different genres are played, from Volare (Nel blu, dipinto di blu), written by Franco Migliacci and Domenico Modugno and released in 1958, to Back to Black by Amy Winehouse. It is a part of the lockdown routine now; I see my neighbors come out on their balconies in the last light of the day and uplift each other’s spirits.
Since moving to La Spezia one and a half years ago and spending most of my time in Northern Italy, Italians here do not seem as nationalistic as Americans. I do not see Italians flying national flags from their homes. Italian school children do not stand and recite daily anything like the American Pledge of Allegiance. However, it seems in times of crisis, Italian solidarity is strong.