The Culture of the New Italy
As already indicated, Italy after unification felt the influence of Europe more strongly. No longer obsessed by the fight for freedom and now masters of their own fate, the Italians created an economic infrastructure intimately linking the peninsula to the rest of Europe. In the North, this development stimulated industrialization and social conditions closely resembling the more- advanced European countries. In the cultural arena, the free circulation of ideas allowed the country’s thinkers to participate vigorously in the constructive and the destructive intellectual currents of the age. In the South, industry did not develop to the degree it did in the North, but southern intellectuals had a notable role in cultural affairs. As might be expected, the intermixture of modern and ancient, a continuation of old traditions and the introduction of new trends characterized Italian society and thought during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Before the 1848 revolutions, Italian family life was provincial, formal, and static. Children addressed their parents in the polite form (Lei). Parents decided which trade or profession their children would pursue and negotiations between families determined marriage partners. Girls typically married at sixteen, and boys were in danger of being drafted at nineteen. Young middle-class couples spent their marriage night not on a honeymoon but in the house of the bride’s family. These generally large houses usually had a room with a double bed reserved for the bride and groom, an area that would later serve as their children’s birthplace. On the morning following the wedding night, the relatives congregated to congratulate the newlyweds and bring gifts such as chocolate or snuffboxes. Poorer households usually lived together in one large room but sometimes had a bedroom that parents and children shared.