The Regions of Italy: A Reference Guide to History and Culture

Article excerpt

ROY DOMENICO. The Regions of Italy: A Reference Guide to History and Culture. Westport, Connecticutt and London: Greenwood Press, 2002. 472 pages. $65.00. GINO MOLITERNO, editor. Encyclopedia of Contemporary Italian Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 2000. 704 pages. $145.00. Two recent publications provide abundant data about modern Italy. Roy Domenico's 472-page The Regions of Italy focuses on the characteristics and qualities of Italy's regions and smaller localities, while Gino Moliterno's 704page Encyclopedia of Contemporary Italian Culture offers the reader up-to-date information about Italian institutions, practices, and social activities since the end of the Second World War.

"From the time people first uttered the word 'Italia,' or some variation of it, until this century, Italians have identified more with their own locales than with what we now know as 'Italy' (xiii)." So begins the Introduction to The Regions of Italy: A Reference Guide to History and Culture. Domenico goes on in the Introduction to sketch a brief history of the tumultuous changes that the peninsula has seen over the centuries since ancient Roman times: through the Dark Ages, the high Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Risorgimento, and the twentieth century. Domenico's principal aim in delineating this varied but never dull history is to underscore the continuing vitality of Italy's local and regional institutions and customs, often at the expense of a sense of national identity and cohesiveness.

The book is divided into twenty chapters that mirror the twenty administrative units into which Italy was divided during the period of Risorgimento, or Unification (1830-1870). These regions are Abruzzo, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Emilia Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardy, Marche, Molies, Piedmont, Sardinia, Sicily, Trentino-Alto Adige, Tuscany, Umbria, Valle d'Aosta, and Veneto. Each chapter begins with a short description of the region's characteristics, economy, cuisine, history, and recent politics, and is followed by subchapters that describe the history and the cultural and artistic importance of the region's most important cities. Smaller and less historically important regions such as Basilicata and Trentino-Alto Adige have only two subchapters each, while regions of greater power and significance have many more; Lombardy, in northern Italy, holds the record with eleven cities highlighted, followed by Tuscany, in central Italy, with ten. A beautiful black-and-white photo essay depicts the most important architectural monuments of the nation's regions. At the end of the book the reader will find useful tools for locating specific data and for clarifying potentially confusing details about Italy: a glossary, a chronology, a bibliography, and a detailed index.

The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Italian Culture explores and seeks to elucidate the profound social, economic, and historical transformations that have

shaped Italy since the end of the Second World War. As noted in the Introduction, these transformations have occurred neither easily nor painlessly. In the past sixty years, Italy seems to have been in an almost constant state of crisis; to cite just one obvious example, since the inauguration of a republican form of government in 1947, Italy has had approximately one government per year. …


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