King Victor Emmanuel II, united Sardinia, Sicily and all the other city-states
in Italy in 1861. An era of parliamentary government came to a close when
Benito Mussolini established a Fascist dictatorship in the early 1920s. His
disastrous alliance with Nazi Germany led to Italy's defeat in WWII. A
democratic republic replaced the monarchy in 1946, and Italy began an economic
revival. It has been at the forefront of European economic and political
unification, joining the Economic and Monetary Union in 1999. Despite
persistent problems including illegal immigration, organized crime,
corruption, high unemployment, sluggish economy, and low incomes and technical
standards of southern Italy, compared to the prosperous north, Italy continued
its renaissance to the world.
In January 2002, the euro became its sole currency. Although Italian is their
official language, German is predominantly spoken in parts of Trentino-Alto.
French is spoken in Valle d'Aosta, and in the Trieste-Gorizia area Slovene is
spoken. Italy's long coastline invites tens of thousands of illegal immigrants
from southeastern Europe and North Africa. Their religion is mostly Roman
Catholic with Protestant and Jewish communities scattered about, together with
a growing Muslim immigrant community.
This boot-shaped country exports engineering products, textiles, clothing,
production machinery, motor vehicles, chemicals and minerals, to name a few.
It has a diversified industrial capitalistic economy divided into a developed
industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less developed
south with 20% unemployment.
I lived in Rome for over a year while studying music and Italian, working for
West Film typing contracts for Clint Eastwood for his spaghetti westerns, and
translating titles of his films from Italian into English, such as: "For A
Hundred Thousand Dollars I'll Kill You;" "Hang 'Em High;" "Fistful of
Dollars;" etc. I paid no attention to him because he came by the office in
dusty jeans, and besides, at the time, I was dating an Italian count from
Bologna. Attilio insisted they "did not use tomato sauce on their pasta like
they did in the south." Who needed Clint Eastwood? I was
busy learning Italian
- Italian style! We ran around this city of popes in his red BMW taking photos
of all the fountains as he educated me on the history of his beautiful
country. We spent a glorious month together in Sardegna, while he submerged
himself in the Golfo di Cagliari waters searching for Atlantis as I scorched
my skin in a bikini.
The region south of Rome on the Amalfi Coast is a lovely drive. You pass
quaint little towns such as Pozzuoli, where Sofia Loren comes from, and of
But its beauty has a rival up the Ligurian Coast in charming towns such as
Portofino, La Spezia and Santa Margherita.
Opera - my passion! How I annoyed my teacher, Dr. Capilongo, who did not
approve of my zipping around Rome on the back of Attilio's scooter. "You will
dry out your throat with all that dust!" He would yell at me when I cracked on
a high C. I think I saw every opera written by Verdi, Puccini and my favorite
(because I sang coloratura)
Rossini. Along with other students, I sat in the "piccionara" (the pigeon
roost) with the other conoscitori of classical music. While the connoisseurs
in the audience booed the divas when they did not sing properly, and the
audience in the front rows shooshed them to be quiet, we applauded to silence
them as we couldn't hear the singers. One thing Italians are not - and that is
reserved. They are a boisterous, fun-loving, opera-mad, opinionated and
friendly people who love to eat.
Whenever I need to reconnect with any of my five senses, I fly off to Italy to
feast my eyes on fine art, magnificent architecture full of history, hear
fantastic opera, and smell the flowers in Tuscany or Napoli; touch the
expensive tapestries and leather in Florence, and taste their delicious pasta
and wine everywhere. As an incurable romantic I spend as much time as possible
in Dante's country to reinvigorate my muse.
My one claim to fame? I once sat on Luciano Pavarotti's lap. I was singing in
the chorus of The Miami Opera Guild, when he made his American debut with Joan
Sutherland in Lucia di Lamermoor. After the performance we all went to a
friend's house in Coconut Grove as Luciano wanted to prepare a pasta dinner
While relaxing and talking he said: "vieni bella - sit!" At the time, he was
not so famous but was well-known for his crazy antics. The
night before his
debut he had been put in jail for pinching a woman's bottom. Acceptable in
Italy, a slappable offense in Coral Gables. The impresario, Dr. DiFilippi, had
to rush to rescue him otherwise the understudy would have had to perform, and
who knows where Luciano's career would have gone! However, with a voice never
missing high Cs, I imagine he would have done equally well.
Never a dull moment with my Italian friends who were always part of my