Italians love their dogs. Strolling the polished limestone streets, marveling at the gorgeous buildings and people all around, you have to watch your step. Walking with my friend in Siena, I barely missed a dog mess. In a disgusted voice, my Sienese friend said, “Those Florentines are everywhere these days.”
National, regional, and civic pride has brought war and suffering for centuries. Today in Europe it survives, but only brings off-color jokes and fills soccer stadiums.
National pride can be abused. Of course, when a nation has a Hitler or a Mussolini, flag-waving spikes…and then takes a serious dive. (Actually, if flag-waving spikes in any country, wise citizens with an appreciation of history and an ability to see beyond their borders know to be concerned.) Understandably, in post-WWII Europe, Italians and Germans did less patriotic singing and flag-waving than their neighbors.
On a related note, post-WWII Italy had the strongest communist party in Western Europe. Locals tell me they were not really leftists as much as anti-rightists (after the catastrophic fascism of Il Duce). The result: a generation of bad entrepreneurs. Today, in Italy’s business world, I see the “generation next” filled with entrepreneurial creativity and energy. On this trip, I find Italy thriving with creative small businesses driven by new young management as never before. (The banks and government support this with fewer restrictions and easier and longer business loans — 30 years rather than 5 or 10, as in past years.)
You can draw some fun conclusions from movie-translating practices in different nations. Italians are notorious for dubbing just about all foreign movies, while the French are inclined to read subtitles when they watch a “foreign” (i.e., American) movie. Some say the French are more into the subtleties and art of the movie, while the Italians are just lazy and don’t want to read. Others say Italian dubbing itself is an art form. It’s true that the Italians actually have famous dubbers who lip synch so artfully you think Robert De Niro is actually speaking Italian. In fact, Robert De Niro insisted on the same Italian voice for his parts. He actually traveled to Italy to meet with and coach Amendola, the man with his Italian voice. And now, the big news in the Italian movie world is that the king of dubbing voices, Amendola (the voice of Dustin Hoffman, Sylvester Stallone, and Roberto De Niro), has passed away.
Enjoying the wonders of Italy this month, the movie star that comes to mind for me is Roberto Benigni. Like Benigni, I need no Amendola to declare (as I seem to do several times a day), “Life is good”–La vita è bella.