The cultural tradition of Italy is one of
the richest in the world. In art, architecture, literature, music, and
science, Italians have often stimulated cultural development far beyond
Even before the great contributions of the Romans, the Etruscans in Tuscany and the Greeks in the south of Italy created flourishing cultures. Following the Roman period, however, Italy shared in the general European cultural decline that lasted until the medieval revival of European culture in the 11th century. In the 14th century there began the great flowering of Italian culture known as the Renaissance. The Renaissance lasted for almost three centuries, and during that period Italians led all Europe in learning and the arts. Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo are among the most famous painters and sculptors in the history of art. Writers such as Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio developed new forms that influenced writing outside Italy for centuries.
Italian culture developed in many different centers because of the country's long history of political fragmentation. From the Renaissance to recent times every large provincial city in Italy has been a cultural capital, on however modest a scale. Each center has its own history and distinctive culture. In recent years, however, cultural regionalism has been giving way to the effects of political unity, modern education, and mass communication with national and international scope. From lyric opera to popular music, from architecture to painting, from cinema to fiction, Italians have continued to make outstanding contributions to contemporary culture.
Italian literature is a comparatively late
arrival on the European literary scene. Latin persisted as the literary
language in Italy into the 13th century and was still important until the
16th century. The vernacular tongue, Italian, was slow in asserting itself
for literary expression. Perhaps the first genuinely Italian literature
was a tradition of courtly love poetry developed by the Sicilian school
in imitation of Provençal models. Courtly love poetry thrived in
the court of Frederick II at Palermo in the early 13th century. At about
the same time, a simple type of religious poetry flourished in Umbria,
in central Italy, inspired by the works of St. Francis of Assisi.
It was in Tuscany, however, that Italian truly emerged as a literary language. The most important Tuscan poet was the Florentine Dante Alighieri, whose Divine Comedy is one of the great works of world literature. He was the outstanding literary figure of the late Middle Ages, and his example helped make the Tuscan dialect the standard form of the Italian language for all educated speakers and writers. Dante was followed by early Renaissance writers Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca), a lyric poet, sonneteer, and humanist, and Giovanni Boccaccio, noted for the worldly prose tales of his Decameron.
The literary awakening stimulated by Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio persisted for three centuries, although a renewed interest in the use of Latin during the 15th century temporarily eclipsed literature in the vernacular. Two of Italy's greatest poets wrote in the 16th century: Lodovico Ariosto, whose fanciful Orlando furioso exemplifies the High Renaissance, and Torquato Tasso, who reflects the militant Catholicism of the Counter-Reformation in his Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered ). In the 18th century there was a revival of classic comedy by Carlo Goldoni, of tragedy by Vittorio Alfieri, and of poetry by Giuseppe Parini. The movement for reform and independence in the 19th century drew heavily on literature. Alessandro Manzoni, poet, dramatist, critic, and novelist, is noted for his great historical novel I promessi sposi (The Betrothed ). The deeply emotional poetry of Giacomo Leopardi expressed a patriotic nationalism as well as a philosophy of profound pessimism. Giosuè Carducci became the principal literary figure of newly united Italy and, in 1906, the first Italian to receive the Nobel Prize for literature, for his poetry and essays.
After unification, Italian fictional writing followed broader European genres. The Sicilian writer Giovanni Verga established the school of verismo (realism) with his stories of life among the peasants and fishermen of southern Italy. His tale "Cavalleria Rusticana" from the collection Vita dei campi (Cavalleria Rusticana and Other Stories ) inspired the opera by Pietro Mascagni. Grazia Deledda, who won the 1926 Nobel Prize for literature, wrote more than 30 novels and several volumes of short stories dealing with her native Sardinia. The leading writer of early 20th-century Italy was the flamboyant Gabriele D'Annunzio. D'Annunzio's writing was strongly influenced by the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche and articulated a contemptuous critique of Italian society.
Another writer who acquired considerable reputation immediately after World War I was Alfredo Panzini, a keen and profound humorist. His best work is Fiabe della virtù, in which he interprets both the passions of human beings and the economic problems of modern society. Italo Svevo gained sudden fame in the 1920's as the author of penetrating psychological novels, such as La coscienza di Zeno (Confessions of Zeno ). Other writers of the older generation are Riccardo Bacchelli, author of the historical trilogy Il mulino del Po (The Mill on the Po); Aldo Palazzeschi, who wrote genial satire in such novels as Le sorelle Materassi (Sisters Materassi ) and Il codice di Perelà (Perelà, The Man of Smoke ); Giovanni Papini, known for his Storia di Cristo (Life of Christ ), Un uomo finito (A Finished Man ), and the intellectual satire Gog; and Corrado Alvaro, chronicler of the peasants of Calabria.
The towering intellectual figure in Italy during the first half of the 20th century was Benedetto Croce. Humanist, philosopher, and critic, Croce expounded a philosophy of idealism that viewed mind as the ultimate source of existence and values. In addition to scholarship, Croce was active in politics, openly opposing Fascism. Many other Italian writers were forced into exile during the Fascist period, among them the left-wing political writer Ignazio Silone, whose works include both regionalist novels set in the hills near Rome (Fontamara, Pane e vino [Bread and Wine ]) and a satirical tract on Fascism that appeared in English as School for Dictators . Carlo Levi, a physician, artist, and writer, was banished to southern Italy, where he recorded the misery of peasant life in Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (Christ Stopped at Eboli), one of the first Italian books to win international acclaim after World War II.
Fascism, the war, and the Resistance left a deep imprint on Italian fiction writing. Alberto Moravia's Gli indifferenti (The Time of Indifference ) explored the conformism of the Fascist years, a theme that recurs in some of his postwar novels, for instance, Il conformista (The Conformist ). Moravia's best-known works in English are Two Women, The Woman of Rome, Conjugal Love, Roman Tales , and New Roman Tales . As in the cinema, in the immediate postwar period, neorealism was the dominant type of Italian fiction and played a major role in reestablishing the novel as a literary form in Italy. Translations by Cesare Pavese and Elio Vittorini introduced Italian readers to the work of foreign -- and, in particular, American -- novelists. Giuseppe Marotta's L'oro di Napoli (Neapolitan Gold ) and San Gennaro non dice mai no (Saint Gennaro Never Says No ) and Vasco Pratolini's A Hero of Our Time and Cronache di poveri amanti (A Tale of Poor Lovers ) are fine examples of neorealist novels, set respectively in Naples and Florence. By the 1960's, writers like Giorgio Bassani (Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini [The Garden of the Finzi-Continis]) and Natalia Ginzburg (Lessico famigliare [Family Sayings]) explored more personal themes as neorealism gave way to neo-avant-garde. These more experimental approaches were strongly influenced by the rediscovery of the earlier work of Carlo Emilio Gadda. The Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia moved from narrative to mystery and detective stories, and many of his books have been translated into English (including Salt in the Wound, Mafia Vendetta, The Death of the Inquisitor, The Council of Egypt , and A Man's Blessing ). Italo Calvino also achieved an international reputation, as a master of the modern fable and as a literary theorist. His translated works include The Path to the Nest of Spiders, Our Ancestors, Italian Folktales, Cosmicomics, T Zero , and If on a Winter's Night a Traveler. The experimental form was evident in the later writing of Moravia, and in the work of Umberto Eco, whose Name of the Rose became an international best-seller in the early 1980's. Earlier Italian best-sellers included the work of Giovanni Guareschi, author of the popular Don Camillo stories that recounted the battles between a parish priest and the local Communist mayor. In 1958 Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's Il gattopardo (The Leopard ) became the first Italian novel to sell over 100,000 copies within 12 months. Carlo Cassola and Giorgio Bassani were among the most widely read Italian writers in the 1960's, and in 1974 Elsa Morante's novel La storia (History) broke all previous records. Dino Buzzati, Mario Soldati, Ottiero Ottieri, Beppe Fenoglio, and Pier Paolo Pasolini have all written major novels, while many Italian authors have successfully crossed the boundaries between literary genres and between literature and journalism.
The greatest Italian playwright of the 20th century was Luigi Pirandello, recipient of the 1934 Nobel Prize for literature. His best plays include the enigmatic Six Characters in Search of an Author, Henry IV , and Right You Are (If You Think You Are ), all of which deal with the conflict between illusion and reality and which present problems that are inherently incapable of solution. Sem Benelli wrote Maschera di Bruto ("Mask of Brutus") and Cena delle beffe ("Supper of Derision"), historical tragedies in blank verse. Ettore Moschino in Tristano e Isolda ("Tristan and Isolde"), Enrico Butti in the fanciful Castello del sogno ("Castle of Dreams"), and E. L. Morselli in Orione and Glauco also wrote effective blank verse. The fame of Roberto Bracco as a dramatist rests on Piccolo Santo ("Little Saint"), one of the masterpieces of modern Italian dramatic literature. Most of his plays, pronouncedly feminist in sympathy, are psychological and spiritual tragedies with little external action. Diego Fabbri's Il processo dí Gesú (Jesus on Trial) has been performed throughout Europe. Since the late 1950's Dario Fo and Franca Rame have also established international reputations for their brilliant satirical theater.
Italian poetry, like Italian art, was affected early in the century by futurism, a movement that turned to the new realities of modern life -- the metropolis, the machine, flight, speed, excitement, tension -- for the content of compositions. Launched in 1909 by the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the movement attracted few first-rate poets but profoundly influenced Italian thought, particularly with its glorification of war. Italy's outstanding poet in the 20th century was Salvatore Quasimodo, the exponent of a very different movement from futurism. Quasimodo's "hermetic" poetry is highly personal writing using complex techniques and polished concentrated language to represent only the essence of the poet's isolated lyric inspiration. Other established hermetic poets are Giuseppe Ungaretti and Eugenio Montale. Quasimodo was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1959, and Montale won it in 1975. Younger poets who have gained prominence since World War II are Pier Paolo Pasolini, Franco Fortini, Margherita Guidacci, Rocco Scotellaro, Andrea Zanotto, Antonio Rinaldi, and Michele Pierri. (See also Italian Literature)
Italy's artistic greatness began in the 14th
century with the paintings of the Florentine school, whose greatest figure
was Giotto di Bondone. Giotto broke with many of the highly spiritualized
Byzantine conventions that had dominated Italian art during the Middle
Ages and gave natural warmth and emotion to the figures in his great frescoes
at Florence, Assisi, and Ravenna. The naturalistic principles of Giotto
and his followers were extended by Masaccio, who produced magnificent realistic
frescoes and made dramatic use of light and shadow. Other great Florentines
of the early Renaissance were the painter Fra Angelico and the sculptor
and metalworker Lorenzo Ghiberti. By the early 15th century, Florence had
become a major center of Italian art. Paolo Uccello experimented endlessly
with the laws of perspective. Ghiberti's pupil Donatello produced the first
freestanding nude sculpture and the first equestrian statue since Roman
times. Filippo Brunelleschi brought the Renaissance style to architecture.
Fra Filippo Lippi and his son Filippino Lippi painted delicate religious
pictures. The superb draftsmanship of Florentine painting was continued
throughout the century by such artists as Domenico Ghirlandaio and Alessandro
Three great artists dominate the art of Italy during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Michelangelo Buonarroti, perhaps the greatest artist of the Renaissance, is equally famous as a sculptor (The Pietà, David, Moses ), as the painter of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and as the designer of the great dome of St. Peter's Church in Rome. Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper and Mona Lisa are among the world's best-known paintings. The third artist, Raphael, painted the Sistine Madonna, St. George and the Dragon , and numerous portrait and fresco masterpieces.
Venice achieved greatness in art later and retained it longer than Florence. The Venetian paintings are less concerned with line than are the Florentine but possess an ebullience, a love of color, and a lush sensual quality that have ensured them lasting fame. Titian, the greatest of the Venetians, achieved new heights with his melting contours and glowing colors. With Titian, Giorgione, Palma il Vecchio, Tintoretto, and Paolo Veronese dominate Venetian painting in the 16th century.
The leading Italian artist of the 17th century was a sculptor and architect, Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, who designed the colonnaded approach to St. Peter's as well as many monumental statues in Rome. In painting, Caravaggio and Carracci developed important new styles. Venetian painting underwent a brief revival in the 18th century with the landscapist Canaletto and the decorative painter and frescoist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Italian artists of the 18th and 19th centuries include the engraver Giovanni Battista Piranesi, famous for his renderings of the antique ruins of Rome; the neo-classic sculptor Antonio Canova; and the Macchiaioli (1860-1880), a group of Florentine painters whose focus was color and light.
Italy has produced a number of major painters in the 20th century. Amedeo Modigliani gained prominence with his melancholy nudes and portraits, which have characteristically long oval faces and almond-shaped eyes. Giorgio de Chirico and Filippo de Pisis were metaphysical and surrealist painters in vogue following World War I. Many Italian artists, including Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, Giacomo Balla, and Gino Serverini, participated in the futurist movement, which lasted from about 1910 until the 1930's. The paintings of this radical school, which borrowed some of its techniques from the Cubists, make extensive use of regular geometric forms.
After World War II the younger generation sought new freedom in abstract art. Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, and Emilio Vedova were key figures in the postwar revival of Italian painting. They laid the basis for what later became known as arte povera ("poor art"). More recently, Sandro Chia, Mimmo Paladino, Enzo Cucchi, and Francesco Clemente have achieved international acclaim.
The major Italian sculptors are the Swiss-born Alberto Giacometti, known for his unusually proportioned bronzes and terra-cottas; Mirko Basaldella, who makes monumental abstractions in metal; Giacomo Manzù; and Marino Marini. In architecture, the major modern figure is Pier Luigi Nervi, who has applied modern engineering principles to the erection of arenas, airplane hangars, and factories.
From the fourth century a.d., when St. Ambrose
introduced the Greek styles of church chant to the West, Italy has been
a leader in the creation or development of new vocal forms. It was in Italy
that the madrigal came into being. Pietro Casella, a friend of the great
poet Dante Alighieri, is one of the earliest-known composers of madrigals.
The form reached its height in the late 16th century with the lyrical and
emotional madrigals of Luca Marenzio, the dancelike fa-las of Giovanni
Gastoldi, and the anguished, dissonant outpourings of Don Carlo Gesualdo,
prince of Venosa. In sacred music, too, Renaissance Italy produced one
of the world's greatest composers, Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina, whose
Masses and motets are still used as models of musical perfection.
It was in opera, however, that Italian musical creativity achieved its greatest peak. Probably the first opera was Jacopo Peri's Dafne, written in 1594. Dafne and Peri's Euridice laid the foundation for the work of the great Claudio Monteverdi, who was already noted as a madrigalist. Monteverdi developed the crude new form into the true modern musical drama with his Orfeo. Opera became the dominant musical form of Europe for more than 100 years, with Italian masters setting the fashion.
Italian opera reached its height in the 19th century. The great early 19th-century masters were Gioacchino Rossini, famed for The Barber of Seville and Semiramide, and his contemporaries Gaetano Donizetti and Vincenzo Bellini. The mid-19th century brought a new wave of opera composers, beginning with Giuseppe Verdi, who displayed his mastery of brilliant melody in such dramatic masterpieces as Rigoletto, La Traviata, Aïda , and Otello. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, verismo ("realism") came to the operatic stage in the works of Pietro Mascagni (Cavalleria rusticana), Ruggiero Leoncavallo (I Pagliacci ), Umberto Giordano (Andrea Chénier ), and Giacomo Puccini (La Bohème, Tosca, Madame Butterfly ). While the Italians still prefer the great operas of the past, there is a growing appreciation of contemporary opera. Among 20th-century composers who have achieved successes are Ildebrando Pizzetti, with his Vanna lupa and Ifigenia; Franco Alfano, with Il Dottor Antonio and Sakuntala; Pietro Canonica, with La sposa di Corinto and Medea; Luigi Dallapiccola, with Il prigioniero; and Goffredo Petrassi, with Il Cordovano.
Italy's two great opera houses are the Teatro dell'Opera in Rome and La Scala in Milan. Like most of the country's opera houses, they are subsidized by the state. There are outstanding opera seasons at Naples, Palermo, Venice, Florence, Bologna, and Turin. Summer seasons in the open air are held at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, the Roman Arena in Verona, the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, the island of San Giorgio in Venice, and at the Naples Mediterranean Theater. Italy has produced many world-known operatic performers, among them tenors Enrico Caruso, Beniamino Gigli, Tito Schipa, Mario del Monaco, Carlo Bergonzi, and Luciano Pavarotti; baritones Antonio Scotti, Tito Gobbi, and Giuseppe Taddei; bassos Ezio Pinza and Cesare Siepi; sopranos Adelina Patti, Amelita Galli-Curci, Renata Tebaldi, Renata Scotto, and Mirella Freni; and mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli.
It is not only in opera that Italians have exercised their musical talents. There were brilliant innovators in many musical fields. In the 11th century the monk Guido d'Arezzo invented a system of musical notation, including clef signs, which is the ancestor of the present-day system. Instrumental music throughout the Western world received a great impetus from the creativity of the Renaissance composer Andrea Gabrieli and his nephew Giovanni Gabrieli. In the 17th century, Girolamo Frescobaldi made many developments in organ music, Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi pioneered in the development of the concerto form, Alessandro Scarlatti developed the harmonic basis for the later symphony, and his son Domenico Scarlatti was one of the founders of modern keyboard technique.
Italian conductors have played a brilliant role in modern musical life. Arturo Toscanini and Victor de Sabata were among the foremost figures of the first half of the century. In 1992 three of the five most prestigious musical directorships were held by Italians -- Claudio Abbado in Berlin, Riccardo Chailly in Amsterdam, and Riccardo Muti in Philadelphia -- while Carlo Maria Giulini (b. 1914) remained at the summit of his profession.
The Italian educational system is controlled
by the national government. The ministry of education maintains schools
at every level and closely regulates private schools. The ministry prepares
school curricula and holds competitive examinations for the appointment
of teachers in all government schools. However, although most universities
and other institutions of higher learning are maintained by the state,
they all have autonomy in their organization and curricula. Nevertheless,
to ensure high standards, state examinations are required for the practice
of most professions.
For children below the age of six there are kindergartens and nursery schools, known as asili infantili and scuole materne. They are privately run or maintained by individual communities and are not compulsory. However, the ministry of public instruction provides considerable financial assistance to these schools.
Education is free and compulsory for all children from 6 to 14 years of age. The elementary, or lower, school is a five-year school for children from the ages of 6 to 11. Prior to 1963, when a child completed his or her elementary education at 11 he or she might enter either a three-year academic school for classical, scientific, or teacher training, or a vocational school to learn a craft or trade. In 1963, both types of lower secondary school were assimilated to a single three-year scuola media inferiore (junior high school), and, for the first time, education at this level was made compulsory.
Upon completion of junior high school, generally at the age of 14, the student who wishes to continue schooling has two courses open: academic schools and technical institutes, both five-year schools. The academic schools are specialized for classics (ginnasio liceo classico), science (liceo scientifico), teaching (istituto magistrale), and fine arts and architecture (liceo artistico). Completion of an academic school program qualifies the student for university admission. The technical institutes offer programs in agriculture, commerce, surveying, naval science, and industry. Their programs qualify the student for admission to the appropriate university faculties for the fields of study in which he or she has prepared.
At the start of the 1990's there were 41
state universities in Italy. The five largest were the universities of
Rome, Naples, Milan, Bologna, and Padua. There were also polytechnic institutes
at Milan and Turin and a number of private universities, of which the largest
was the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart at Milan. In addition,
many Italian cities had conservatories of music and academies of art. Of
the state universities, 20 were established before 1600. The University
of Bologna, founded in the 11th century, was one of the most distinguished
schools of the Middle Ages. Other very old Italian universities and their
dates of founding are Parma, 962; Modena, 1175; Perugia, 1200; Padua, 1222;
Naples, 1224; Siena, 1240; Macerata, 1290; Rome, 1303; Florence, 1321;
Camerino, 1336; Pisa, 1343; Pavia, 1361; and Ferrara, 1391.
About 1.2 million students were enrolled in Italian institutions of higher education in the early 1990's, including more than one million in the state universities. In the late 1930's enrollment was only 75,000. An important part of the increase in university enrollment results from the greater number of women students. In the late 1930's women made up only 20 percent of the total registration; by the late 1970's they constituted more than 40 percent. Despite these gains, Italy continues to trail the leading European states in terms of expenditure per student and the average educational attainment.
Courses in most university faculties last four years, but the faculties of chemistry, engineering, and architecture require five years, and medicine requires six. Since 1963, in lieu of scholarships and fellowships, university students who have above-average grades and can show need receive moderate stipends for each academic year.
In the early 1990's there were more than 25,000 foreign students attending Italian universities. Several universities offer special programs in Italian language, literature, art, and civilization for foreign students.
Illiteracy, particularly in the South, was a serious problem in Italy. Although illiteracy has dropped steadily from 73 percent in 1871 to 24 percent in 1927 to about 5 percent in the mid-1970's to 3 percent in 1990, semiliteracy continues to be a problem in many areas.
Under the supervision of the ministry of
education, there are more than 200 academies and cultural institutes. These
include study centers and associations, Italian history groups, and scientific
and literary institutes and societies. The National Academy of Lincei,
founded in 1603, is devoted to spreading knowledge in the sciences and
in history and philology. The National Dante Alighieri Society aims to
encourage the study and teaching of Italian language and culture outside
Italy. The Arcadia Literary Academy, founded in 1690, is devoted to the
study of literature and the sciences. Other major academies are the Academy
of Sciences of Bologna, the Crusca Academy for the Italian Language, the
Lombard Institute of Sciences and Letters, the Virgil Academy of Sciences,
Letters, and Arts of Mantua, and the Academy of Sciences, Letters, and
Fine Arts of Palermo. These academies and institutes sponsor frequent conferences
of scientists, writers, and artists from Italy and often from abroad.
Many European and American nations have academies of their own in Italy, the oldest and most famous of which is the French Academy in Rome, founded in 1666. Other foreign institutes, particularly for art and archaeology, are to be found in Florence, Bologna, Naples, Rome, Milan, and Turin. The American Academy, located in Rome, offers courses in architecture, painting, sculpture, classical studies, and musical composition.
All the large and many of the smaller cities have excellent library facilities. In addition to special libraries and to university libraries, most cities have national and provincial libraries, which are open to students without charge. The most important Italian libraries are: the Vatican Apostolic Library; the Senate Library, the Library of the Chamber of Deputies, and the Central National Library in Rome; the Ambrosian Library, the National Braidense Library, and the Library of the Commercial University Luigi Bocconi in Milan; the Medicea-Laurenziana Library in Florence; and the national libraries in Florence, Naples, and Venice. To encourage reading, a National Book Loan Network has been established.
The best-known Italian museum is the Vatican Museum, a world-famous collection of art and antiquities. Other major museums are the Capitoline Museum, Galleria Borghese, Roman National Museum, and Villa Giulia in Rome; the Uffizi Gallery and Pitti Palace in Florence; the Poldi Pezzoli Museum and Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan; the Museo Civico in Bologna; and the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.
In the early 1990's, Italy had 73 daily newspapers
with combined daily circulation of approximately nine million, or an average
of one copy for every six persons. There were 38 daily newspapers published
in the North, 23 in central Italy, and 12 in the South. This distribution
reflects not so much differing degrees of political consciousness as the
variations in illiteracy and purchasing power in the three regions. Daily
circulation ranges from 10,000 or 20,000 copies for small provincial papers
to 500,000 or more for the national papers. The major independent dailies
are the Corriere della Sera, La Notte, Il Giornale Nuovo, and Il Giorno
of Milan; La Stampa of Turin; Il Messaggero, Il Tempo , and La Repubblica
of Rome; Il Resto del Carlino of Bologna; La Nazione of Florence;
and Il Gazzettino of Venice. The official organs of the major political
parties are Il Popolo of the Christian Democrats, L'Unità
of the Democratic Party of the Left, Avanti! of the Socialist Party, and
L'Umanità of the Social Democratic Party. Italy's leading financial
newspapers are Il Sole/24 Ore of Milan and Il Fiorino of Rome.
L'Osservatore Romano , published in Vatican City, is the semiofficial newspaper
of the Holy See.
The pride of the Italian press is the "third page," or cultural section. Its elzeviro, or leading article, has become a specialized form of literary essay. The contributors to the third page are all well-known men or women of letters, historians, artists, jurists, sociologists, and scholars.
The illustrated weekly is a highly successful journalistic form in Italy. Some publications of this type have an average weekly circulation of more than 900,000 copies. Among the major illustrated weeklies are Europeo, Epoca, Tempo, Oggi, Gente , and Espresso.
Radio and Television
The government charges a subscription fee for the use of radio and television sets. In 1991 there were 15 million subscribers to television and 14.8 million subscribers to radio. Radiotelevisione Italia (RAI), the state-owned broadcasting company, had a monopoly on broadcasting from its founding in 1924 until 1976. There are three RAI television channels, one for the Christian Democrats, one for the Socialists, and one mainly for the former Communists. In 1991 there were almost 2,000 local private television stations and more than 1,000 local private radio stations. Seven private television networks have been set up.
The Italian motion picture industry has had
great success since World War II. The artistry of the Italian film has
been given worldwide recognition, and the economic growth of the film industry
has been substantial. The film style most closely identified with Italy
in the immediate postwar period is known as neorealism. Neorealistic films
tried to record life in a direct and unembellished fashion without direct
propagandizing for solutions of social problems. However, because the films
portrayed poverty, the havoc of war, and the more sordid and brutal aspects
of human existence, they had an implicit element of social criticism.
The earliest examples of neorealist films were Roberto Rossellini's Open City (1945), Paisan (1946), and The Miracle (1948), Vittorio de Sica's Shoeshine (1946) and Bicycle Thief (1949), and Dino de Laurentis' Bitter Rice (1950). Other films of this genre have been De Sica's Umberto D (1952), The Roof (1956), and Two Women (1961) and Federico Fellini's La Strada (1954). Later, Italian directors were influenced by the French cinema's nouvelle vague ("new wave") and produced a group of films that treat problems of the upper and middle classes: Rossellini's General della rovere (1959), Fellini's La dolce vita (1960), and Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura (1961).
The thematic diversity of Italian films in the 1960's is illustrated by Pietro Germi's satirical comedy Divorce Italian Style (1962) and Pier Paolo Pasolini's realistic The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1966). Fellini dealt increasingly with a world of fantasy in such films as 8¹ (1963), Juliet of the Spirits (1965), and Fellini Satyricon (1970). In the 1970's leading Italian filmmakers showed a greater interest in historical subjects. The events of the Fascist period were explored in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist (1970), De Sica's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1971), Pasolini's highly controversial Salo (1976), and Lina Wertmüller's Seven Beauties (1976). Outstanding films of the 1980's and the early 1990's include Antonioni's Identification of a Woman (1982), Franco Zeffirelli's La Traviata (1983) and Otello (1984), Fellini's And the Ship Sails On (1983) and Ginger and Fred (1986), Wertmüller's A Joke of Destiny (1984), Giuseppe Tornatore's acclaimed Cinema Paradiso (1989), Gianni Amelio's Open Doors (1990), Pupi Avati's The Story of Boys and Girls (1991), and Tornatore's Everybody's Fine (1991).
An annual film festival, the International Exhibition of the Arts of the Cinema, is held in Venice.
Italy has a long and impressive tradition in the physical and natural sciences. Among its great scientists of the past are Galileo Galilei, one of the founders of modern physics; and Evangelista Torricelli, another pioneer physicist and inventor of the barometer; Alessandro Volta and Luigi Galvani, early students of electricity; Amedeo Avogadro, father of the modern molecular theory of gases; and Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the wireless telegraph. Italian scientific progress suffered when Facism forced the exodus of a number of Italy's finest scientists, among them the nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi, winner of a Nobel Prize for physics, who helped develop the atomic bomb in the United States. Until relatively recently science did not have the large-scale financial backing from the government, private foundations, or industry in Italy that it has had in many other countries. The government, through its scientific body, the National Research Council, has introduced programs to give Italian institutions the financial support necessary to carry on research projects.
Immediately after World War II many Italian scientists joined in a National Institute for Nuclear Physics, and in 1952 a National Committee for Nuclear Research was formed. This was replaced in 1960 by the National Committee for Nuclear Energy (CNEN), set up for the purpose of creating an independent Italian nuclear energy industry. A research center for nuclear studies was established at Casaccia, near Rome, in 1959 and provided with one of the world's largest research synchrotrons, capable of producing energies of one billion electron volts to accelerate atomic particles. Later, other research centers were established, including the Ispra center, at Varese; the Palermo center, at Palermo; the Saluggia center, near Vercelli; and the Enrico Fermi Center for Nuclear Studies, near Milan. Italy is a member of Euratom, the European agency for the development of the peaceful uses of atomic energy, and is a founder of the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN).
Soccer (association football) is the most
popular participant and spectator sport in Italy. Every weekend the stadiums
are filled with crowds that are fiercely loyal to their teams. Gli Azzurri
("the Blues") is the national professional soccer team. Italy has been
among the winners of the World Cup and Olympic soccer competitions. Bicycle
racing and touring are also popular, and Italy has produced most of the
international champions for many years. The Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy)
is the leading annual cycling event. The route covers the entire
country, and the tour lasts about three weeks. Italian racing cars and
drivers have dominated automobile racing for many years. The famous racetrack
at Monza is one of the world's finest and attracts the world's top drivers
annually. Other sports in which Italians have become famous include
contract bridge, tennis, fencing, horseback riding, bobsledding, and yachting.
Sports received a tremendous boost in Italy when the Winter Olympics were
held at Cortina d'Ampezzo in 1956 and the Summer Games were staged in Rome
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