Italians are proud of a lot of things – proud of their local cities, proud of their food, proud of their appearance and fashion, but probably most proud of their mark on history. Any city in Italy can be hailed as the birthplace of modern something and an Italian would be thrilled to tell you how and why that is.
Rome’s impact on history is tangible. You can see and feel the ancient sculptures, ruins, and buildings and feel like a part the past. Numerous guided tours and busses are available to take you around the city, stopping at every major historical landmark and each tour guide will have something new and different to tell you. But you don’t need to pay for a guide to learn about the history. Not only are there placards all around the city describing the historical importance of anything you see, put in place by the government as proof of their pride, but any local Italian nearby will happily stop to tell you what that landmark, monument, or building really represents. As Rome is the birthplace of modern democracy, large and ornate government buildings stand tall as reminders that they’ve been around for a very long time. But Rome is not the only Italian city with history to be proud of. Just a short train ride north of Rome is Siena, the birthplace of modern banking. I know this because while sharing a table on a train, a Siena resident was very excited to share that with me upon learning my destination that day (fun fact: I later learned that Siena is also home to the steepest cobblestone hills that you could possibly imagine). You don’t have to travel far, once in Italy, to find a birthplace of something you see back home today.
I also technically visited another nation on this trip. Vatican City, the smallest sovereign nation in the world, is a living, breathing museum. The Catholic Church’s as well as much of Italy’s history is on display and open for interaction. Art and history collide in Italy and nowhere is that more clear than in Vatican City. While it technically is not a part of Italy, Italians are so proud of and passionate about religion and Catholicism specifically, that they would defend its sanctity at all costs. Inside the city, before you even come close to entering the museum or chapel, locals can be seen and heard lecturing passing tourists about the dress code. Italians demand that the Vatican gets the respect it deserves, because to them it is one of the most important places in the world, and they are proud of protecting it.