Festa della Repubblica Italiana

Italy’s seventieth Republic day yesterday came and went with nothing much happening in Bagni di Lucca except more rain. Three years ago there was a good concert at the Teatro Accademico (see my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/viva-verdi/ ) but if there was an event in our comune I missed it because nothing was publicised.

Watching on RAI 1, however, I saw the impressive parade of armed forces (including, of course, the carabinieri) which this year was amplified by mayors from all parts of Italy, and the public services including nurses and fire-fighters, some in historic costumes.

Towards the end of the parade the Bersaglieri (Italian for marksmen – bersaglio means target) with their helmets adorned with black capercaillie feathers did their incredibly fast march past (180 steps per minute – a jog in fact) which must be difficult especially if you are playing a tuba!

Finally, the President, after greeting a group of children who presented him with a tricolour painting, entered his Lancia Flaminia preceded by the cuirassiers in their gleaming armour and went towards the Quirinal palace whose gardens are specially opened to the public on Republic day.

The proceedings were accompanied by a persistent light rain but, as one of the commandants said of his troops ‘a soldier never gets wet.’

Napoleon meanwhile was sheltering from the Bagni di Lucca rain and probably thinking ‘this is weather for the ducks’.

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The freccie Tricolori, the nickname given to the national aerobatic squadron of the 313th group of the Italian air force, crowned the morning with a spectacular fly-past painting the skies with the Italian tricolour.

The three colours in the Italian flag have been interpreted in several ways. The white could stand for alpine snow, the green for the land itself, and the red for the blood poured in securing a united Italy. The actor Roberto Benigni affirms that the three colours go back to Dante who in his Purgatory writes:

..sovra candido vel cinta d’uliva
donna m’apparve, sotto verde manto
vestita di color di fiamma viva. 
And down, within and outside of the car,

Fell showering, in WHITE veil with olive wreath’d,

A virgin in my view appear’d, beneath

GREEN mantle, rob’d in hue of living flame (RED):

(Carey’s Translation)

 Theologically the colours stand for green = hope, white = faith, red = love.

The most important point about Republic day is that it celebrates the time when Italian voting not only became free of totalitarian shackles but also when the franchise was doubled by the inclusion of women for the first time. The referendum of 1946 established the Italian Republic and the monarchy had to go into exile until 2002. (The vote was 12, 717,923 (54.3%) for the republic and 10,719,284 (45.7%) for the retention of the monarchy, a close-run thing it seems to me). Before that time women were largely deemed domestic factories for producing children, feeding their lords and masters and keeping the house clean.


(2 July 1946: one of the first women voters in Italy)

Although the representation of women in politics and industry is still far from satisfactory in today’s Italy it certainly has made major strides since 1946 – both the minister for defence and the leader of the Italian equivalent of the House of Commons are women.

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(President Sergio Mattarella in centre with Senate Leader Pietro Grasso to his left and Chamber of Deputies leader Laura Boldrini to his right)

Perhaps next year I’ll make it to Rome for real in time for Republic day although I’m sure I won’t get as good viewing as I obtained yesterday on the ‘panel’. (TVs are no longer ‘boxes’ these days unless you haven’t changed yours in years…).




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