Northern vs Southern Italy: Attitudes and Culture
Italy, a beautiful country nestled beside the Mediterranean ocean. What do you think about when you think of the country? The Pizza? The pasta? Perhaps, it is those red Vespa’s speeding by or the gorgeous warm weather. Though Italy is known for these things, you need to realise that Italy has a wide the variety of culture, cuisine and attitudes within the different regions of the country – but generally, it is split in the middle by the North and the South of Italy. Many tourists, including the ones who stay at our Miramonti Boutique Hotel, say that they want to return to explore Italy more than just the first time they visited it. This is no surprise! Italy has 20 unique regions that each have their own special gem. But if you were to decide where to travel to, it’s helpful to find what are the differences between the North and the South!
WHY ARE THERE DIFFERENCES?
Interestingly, the Italian Peninsula only became unified as a single nation in 1861 (which is relatively recent). Before this, the Italians had their own kingdoms and even spoke in their unique languages. Despite this unification being 2000 years ago, the Italians today still retain a strong regional identity, with the term ‘Campanilismo’ referring to ‘neighbourhood pride’. For instance, still this day, many Italians refer to themselves as Sicilians, Neapolitans, Venetians and Florentines! The divide between the North and South can be explained through history. The Arabs, Greeks and Spanish ruled southern Italy while the French, Celts and Germanic tribes ruled the North. Because of this, the culture, customs and cuisines were highly influenced by these different countries, though the term is often used lightly in conversation, it continues to create a divide between regions. The difference between North and South is so prominent that there was a movie made called “Welcome to the South” and “Welcome to the North” – which became high grossing films, highlighting the stereotypes that the North and South have of each other; it could be entertaining but shows the sort of disdain that each side has of each other. Despite this difference, it makes the country an even more vibrant and unique place to visit!
You cannot judge someone based on stereotypes; however, there are many Italians that have thoughts about each region’s attitude. Though they may not be necessarily true, there are widely believed generalisations that could be heard in regular day-to-day conversations. There is a stereotype that Northern Italians tend to be more hardworking and business-oriented, but can also be quite snobbish. For Southern Italians, they are thought to be more laid back but could become borderline lazy. This is likely because the North accounts for the vast majority of the country’s wealth, so the region has many businesses. While the South has gorgeous beaches and the summer sun, this could create stereotypes that the South is more relaxed.
ALPINE/GERMANIC CULTURE – Due to the North’s proximity to the Swiss border and the Alps, it is highly influenced by the cultures of Central Europe – mainly Alpine culture. This is made evident through the local dialects of the region, many of which are shaped by French, Germanic and French languages like the ‘Franco-Provençal’ which is spoken within East-Central France and northwestern Italy. There is also ‘Swiss Italian’ in which the ‘Lombard’ dialect comes under. The cultures that the North has adapted include the cattle and cheese culture where many of the dishes are similar to the Central European region such as polenta, meat and cheese (while the South is more Mediterranean). They also have the ‘transhumance’ event in which the Alpine livestock descend from the mountains when it shifts from summer to winter.
MEDITERRANEAN CULTURE – While Central Europe influences the North, the South is found to be closer to Mediterranean culture – think of Turkey, Spain and Greece; the warmth and the abundance of olive trees. Like Northern Italy, they have their own variety of dialects that differ from each other such as Neapolitan or Sicilian. The life in the South tends to go much slower than the North, with a calmer and casual atmosphere, they even celebrate siestas in the South – this is when most local businesses and stores close their shutters for an afternoon break. Southern Italy is particularly proud of its role in the arts, for instance, the popularity of Neapolitan songs worldwide and the history of opera. You will be pleasantly surprised to find that ‘pizza’ was invented here also!
We hope that you learnt about the difference of culture between the North and the South – this is just part one of our 3-part Northern vs Southern Italy blog series! If you are curious about staying in Northern Italy at all, visit Miramonti, we have a Hotel Spa and Cigar Lounge for you to relax in!
Want to learn more about Italy and possibly, the Italian Alps? Read the blog: