Tuscany, Umbria, Puglia, Abruzzo, Sardinia, Sicily… names that conjure up images of glorious, sun-soaked holidays, breath-taking scenery, fabulous food, cultural richness and delicious wine.
Much of the unique quality and appeal of Italy comes from the variety and individuality of Italy’s regions. There are twenty regions in Italy, and although Italy has been a unified country since 1861, the regions are still proudly independent. For outsiders, the differing characteristics of certain regions can be obvious,
…to the iconic Tuscany countryside landscape…
…or maybe you will like the changing landscape of Abruzzo…
All of the regions of Italy are very distinctive and often the landscape and way of life changes quite dramatically between one region and the next. Although Italian is spoken throughout Italy, many of the regions have their own dialects, some totally unrecognisable from standard Italian. But don’t worry, many Italians, especially those in less touristy areas, want to practice their English and encourage you to practice your Italian!
Other than the landscape, there are often differences in the appearance of the Italian people.
Venetians can be taller and thinner than some of their cousins from Naples and the dark hair and brown eyes of the Mezzogiorno can look very different from the blonde hair and blue eyes of the regions in the far north.
But the main thing that makes each Italian region unique is the attitude of the people. Italians are fiercely loyal to their own region, each believing that theirs is better than any other. There is even an expression for it: ‘Campanilismo’ (the love of one’s own bell-tower).
This can be seen by wandering the streets of towns and seeing the flags hung out by the Italians with their region’s coat of arms (or ‘stemma’) on them. But it is not just each region that has its own coat of arms! Every province and commune within a region has its own coat of arms – that means there are a total of 8,230 stemme in Italy.
Although the climate does differ and gets more Mediterranean the further south you go, food and wine hold the biggest regional differences.
Recipes are handed down for many generations and certain dishes that we have grown to love outside Italy are only eaten in one small corner of a particular region and are almost unheard of elsewhere.
In Italy, these differences in eating habits and tastes are the backbone of many heated and animated discussions, and don’t even think about putting in an ingredient that was not in the original recipe and calling your dish authentic! Spaghetti Carbonara – a popular creamy dish with many Brits. However, this Roman dish originally has no cream in sight…
Italy and politics go hand in hand
Politically, the regions of Italy are the primary administrative divisions of the state. Each region has an elected parliament and a regional government headed by the regional president, who is elected directly by the residents of the region.
Each region has a constitution or ‘statute’. Of the twenty regions, fifteen have ordinary statutes and five have special statutes. These special regions are: Sardinia, Sicily, Trentino-Alto Adige, Aosta Valley and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
These regions effectively have home rule and keep between 60% (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) and 100% (Sardinia) of all taxes raised. In return they are responsible for funding almost all of the public services themselves.
The regions with ordinary statutes keep only 20% of the local taxes raised, which is used primarily to fund the region-based health service.
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