Pizza & Pallone: an Italian stereotype, by Giuseppe Gesualdi

Italy is so famous worldwide that everyone knows about its ethereal beauty, whether they’ve been there or not. It has a great history and strong traditions. All these elements lead to a positive, loving and exciting image of Italy, but what do people really think of this country?

Veronica D’Amico, from the blog italiani.lu, the Italian portal in Luxembourg, wrote an article about the image of Italy abroad. She describes Italy as having two sides: on one hand Italy can boast of its traditions, full of art and beauty. Just think how many famous songwriters and artists or delicious dishes are Italian,  which makes Italy one of the best countries ever. On the other hand, Italy is also known for corrupt politicians, mafia, xenophobia and its economic crisis. D’Amico’s article also shows that people have the tendency to express negative opinions about Italy and its citizens. What I’d like to ask is how these views impact on their overall picture of Italy, with reference in particular to two of the most important and much-loved things Italy is famous for: food and sport.

First of all, I admit I’ve chosen these aspects of Italian culture because I enjoy cooking and I love football, but also because the stereotypes of Italy’s corrupt politics and mafia have been widely discussed  and they represent an insurmountable problem, fought but unsolved at the moment.

Italian cuisine is famous all around the world: it has an indisputable quality and the majority of cities, like Naples or Rome, can be considered the best which handle and follow the real Italian food tradition . But the Italian cuisine isn’t preserved and it isn’t often recognized: according to MyEnglishSchool Magazine, an Italian internet blog, Italian food abroad is a nightmare! There are some dishes created in other countries, made with presumed Italian original products and those recipes are passed off as Italian or publicized as Italian, like Spaghetti Meatballs or Chicken Parmigiana; you may also also encounter variants of traditional food such as pizza, or different ways of cooking pasta. This is the problem: Italian cuisine is not like that so there is a false representation of it!

I can’t blame only other countries for this mix-up; they are being ironically intelligent, because they take advantage of the quality of Italian products and use them as their own, modifying the original Italian traditional recipe. Another post, from Italian blog Piano inclinato, argues that this is also Italians’ fault: by not protecting their products, they are giving resourceful restaurateurs the opportunity to benefit from Italian cuisine.

Another aspect of Italy that is much-discussed abroad is sport, particularly football. The 1990s in particular was a great period, with the FIFA World Cup and several European victories by Italian football teams. For example, in the UEFA Champions League 2003, three Italian teams – Inter, Milan and Juventus – reached the semi-finals. But in 2006 came the Calciopoli scandal, when lots of Italian football teams were accused of match-fixing with referees. This episode, despite the victory of 2006 FIFA World Cup by Italy’s National Team, damaged the image of Italian football and led to a growth of stereotypes about Italian teams and their matches (story in Italian here). The economic crisis also influenced the transfer market between teams and for this reason many famous footballers decided to go and play abroad, mostly in China in recent years. Is the decline of Italian football indicative of the decline of the entire country? Maybe.

But I think that the biggest mistake made by Italians is considering themselves and their country as inferior. Unfortunately, the economic crisis has affected Italy in so many ways that it has lost the high esteem of the past, not only with reference to  culture and history, but also in ordinary things like cooking and sport.

Maybe we need to distinguish between opinions about Italians and opinions about Italy. People need to stop associating Italy only with scandals and corruption. I’d suggest reading this article, which gives 20 reasons why non-Italians should love Italy. These reasons provide a starting point for (non)Italians to learn to appreciate Italy’s beauty. I’ve told you what I like the most about it and I admit that to destroy the stereotypes, you need to see the truth with your own eyes. So obviously, to understand, you’ll need to visit Italy!

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