Italians, only humans. After all.

Time to open a discussion on the famous ability of Italians to be “human”. True or just a myth?


What is the fatal charm of Italy? What do we find there that can be found nowhere else? I believe it is a certain permission to be human, which other places, other countries, lost long ago.

As I was born in this country and I couldn’t obviously have an objective perspective on the matter, at first I could not totally understand the meaning beyond these words of Erica Jong, nor the fascination this alleged “Italian humanity” exudes on foreign people. Why people say Italians are “human”? And most importantly, do we deserve such a fame for it?

This is legitimate question I had, as when you grow up in this country, you tend to become a little disillusioned and even bitter over time; moreover, we usually focus on the negative aspects that characterize our mad society and the positive aspects tend to be overlooked.

Then, as all the things in life, you gain a perspective once you get to know other cultures, new people and different countries you can make some sort of comparison with. The great advantage of travelling and also of the Internet is that you have the opportunity to get to know people from different realities and social classes that open your eyes and make you see the positive and the negative aspects of your own culture. They allow you to come out of the cage of prejudices you’ve built around yourself and evaluate a certain matter with a more detached and objective point of view.

So, going back to that thing about humanity…yes, even if most of the time, Italians want to hit each others on the head because of the infamous “regionalism” and the inborn and utter incapability to form a line, I do think we have a knack of connecting on a emotional level and of showing compassion for others’ miseries. Our society’s core value is not “success at all costs” and if one does not succeed in life is not usually treated like an outcast.

Even if I didn’t particularly like Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza, there’s a quotable monologue of Servillo’s character, pronounced during the so-called “rooftop scene”, where he sorts his pretentious and radical-chic sister out:

Stefa’, mother and woman…you’re 53 and have a life in tatters, like the rest of us. Instead of acting superior and treating us with contempt, you should look at us with affection. We’re all on the brink of despair, all we can do is look each others in the face, keep each other company, joke a little…don’t you agree?

This represents the Italian approach perfectly: we might be mediocre and miserable, but it’s no good to put one down even more by rubbing in one’s face the successes of the others. You should recognize your own misery in the miseries of others. Obviously, there are the occasional idiots like Stefa’ who gloat over your dead corpse, but it’s a behaviour which is generally considered not socially acceptable.

It’s also true that if on one hand we are very good in being accepting and feeling sorry for one’s misfortunes, on the other hand we can be rather bitchy with those who actually are successful in their life, but that is a topic for another time.

The innate ability to resonate with those who have failed in life is probably consequence of our history and the wisdom of our ancestors who, through shared DNA, have instilled in us the belief that all the power and glory are supposed to vanish one day. Italian people do have experienced multiple crises and the weirdest stuff throughout their history.

Another example of art expression representing the Italian way of acknowledging the fragility of the human nature is a musical piece by Maestro Ennio Morricone, in my opinion.

There’s this piece called The Crisis, written for Tornatore’s movie “The Legend of 1900” ( Spotify ref. ), which entirely revolves around a dissonance.

That dissonance, bothersome if extrapolated from the context, in this instance is the core and the “soul” of the piece, the acknowledgment that imperfection is part of the human nature and exactly what makes us real and accessible. Italians relate to the real thing and can usually tell if you’re hiding behind a mask of (fake) perfection. I think only an Italian artist could express this concept with such effectiveness, and well, Mastro Morricone, other than ridiculously talented, is also very Italian.

I’m open to discuss it with you. What do you think, is it true that “the permission of being human” is one of the best asset of the Italian culture? Does this resonate with you? Leave your comment!



15 thoughts on “Italians, only humans. After all.

  1. Ohh, a splendid piece. It reminded me how much I love Erica Jong. She is a smart one. Once I was reading her books in which she marvels over Italy, but now forgot all about it.

    Living here as a foreigner is something completely different than just visiting, and yet I can’t complain, I’m tucked in my corner of Tuscany, rarely communicating with “the natives”. My reality is one Italian man, his immediate family and one Italian dog. Two bestie is quite the maximum as to what one is able to take in. 😀

    As Italian humanity is concerned, I believe they are borderline human/beast and that’s what separates them from the rest of us who pretend. They growl or purr. The way they get rid of their emotions to preserve health is legendary, even if not always pleasant if you’re on the receiving end. The one to prohibit them from enjoying life hasn’t been born yet.

    Of course, it might also be that I’ve just been extremely lucky with the family into which I’ve landed. 😉 In any case, in the totality of the human race, you are the refreshment. Now Italy as a state, that is another matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. fkasara

      Thank you, Manja! ❤
      Agree, Jong is a smart one!

      "Two bestie is quite the maximum as to what one is able to take in" HAHA!

      Right, if you're on the receiving end of an "emotional rant", you're probably gonna face 15 minutes of dread, but I also think that's exactly the plus side of this attitude: you face "the problem" immediately, without having negative emotions boiling inside of you and escalating dangerously. Those 15 minutes are a true mess, but then…all kind of go back to normal, I think…until the next crisis obviously, haha!
      Is the "Slovenian approach" really that different? You are our neighbours after all 😉

      " Italy as a state, that is another matter " DEFINITELY.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Slovenian approach is COMPLETELY different. We accumulate. We suffer. We have car accidents. We fall ill. We drink. We suicide. And also, we are envious, negative, pessimistic, self-deprecating and masochistic. There are 1001 reasons why I’m in Italy. 🙂

        Those 15-minute rants, though… After almost five years I’m STILL not used to them. And I believe I was lucky to get a Romano… more to the south it might be half an hour. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. fkasara

        I see :\ I asked you, because you’re actually the only Slovenian I know and I don’t know much about your country and culture!

        HAHA, right! But romani are VERY straightforward and I think it’s still quite a challenge! 😛

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m not a typical Slovenian. Also, 1/4 Serbian (or in that general direction). Challenge is right. 😉 But I know how it is to be from the capital, I’m from one too. It makes you a bit… stronzo is too harsh. You choose a word. Hihih.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great topic you decided to write on, completely intriguing to get your perspective on it because tons of foreigners might nod their heads in agreement with Jong but maybe not for the same reasons. I think in permission to be human, I find that Italy and Italians are more permissive with emotions. If you’re angry at something, well you let it out or if you are freaking ecstatic that Milan just scored, you scream your head off. That’s where I find the humanity here. It’s strange though, because, in one way, it’s all about making a good appearance and looking the right way…but on the other hand, Italians are very good at telling you exactly how they are feeling at any given moment. So inside you can be all a mess, but you look good at the same time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. fkasara

      Ah, EMOTIONS! Definitely! This reminds me of a post I shared on instagram not long ago in which we were discussing exactly about this topic

      ” It’s strange though, because, in one way, it’s all about making a good appearance and looking the right way…but on the other hand, Italians are very good at telling you exactly how they are feeling at any given moment.So inside you can be all a mess, but you look good at the same time! ”
      Eheh, we truly are walking contradictions! But you know, I feel like we don’t have the same concept of “looking good” of other countries. Some cultures think that showing emotions is not proper and it can represent a lack of control and hence you don’t look good…here, I think, it’s quite the contrary: if you show no emotions, you are either considered soulless (and THAT is bad form! ) or you have something to hide ( and that is suspicious).


  3. Great post, Sara!

    And I love what Jasmine said about the contrast between the obsession with ” bella figura” and emotional spontaneity and acceptance.
    I find it funny and frustrating at the same time. And what about the North and South differences? In the South, nobody dreams of asking you what your job is. If you wanted to brag about your success, you’d be met with a blank stare! Probably simply because so few people have jobs but that’s another matter!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. fkasara

      Thank you very much ❤

      As I was telling Jasmine, I think that, in contrast to other countries, here it's "bella figura" to actually show your emotions as showing none is considered suspicious…one might think you have something to hide or that you're soulless!

      So true about the South! Nobody really asks about jobs or careers!


  4. Another very interesting topic with so many good points. I often run into people who really want to reach out and make that connection. (Of course, I’m not talking about the crazy driver determined to run you down or the furbo who’s the last one in the door but the first one to the counter.) I also agree with the idea of acceptance of people for who they are, not for their “success” in life. And I, for one, am very happy not to be asked about my employment, so I think that has given me a certain level of comfort, as you say, particularly in the south.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. fkasara

      Thank you, Karen! ❤

      So true about the South! Nobody really asks about jobs or careers and that is good for one's self-esteem, especially if one doesn't have "the dream job", is not paid well or is unemployed :\ I think many of them understand it can be a tricky topic and don't want to risk to rub salt into the wound.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True. I must say, though, that I don’t know if it was just my mother’s point of view, but she taught me to never ask anyone what they did for a living. It sort of surprises me when people ask straight out. So, I suppose I was trained from early on not to go down that road or to ask any personal questions, but to let the other person decide what they wanted to share about themselves, if anything, but usually they do.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. fkasara

        That is very good advice, actually. People should feel like they won’t be judged, before opening up…and if you give them the third degree from the very beginning…well, this is not gonna help!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: 7 History Facts and Lessons about Italy – The Rover in Leather Jacket

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