While visiting Italy over the summer, our tour guide pointed our the difference in cultures in the various cities. Even Italian constants such as pasta differed from region to region! For example, Bologna was famous for inventing lasagna and tortellini, while I learned how to make ravioli in Rome.
Many of these cities also have different histories. Before Italy was a unified country, it was a collection of states — each with their own way of operating and separate governments. To this day, the different regions and cities boast their own history.
In Rome, the residents celebrate the Roman Empire and the days when all roads lead to Rome. In Florence, they show off all of the important works of art that originated there and the crucial role their country played in the Italian Renaissance. Meanwhile, Venice teaches tourists about the days when the doge, or chief magistrate, ruled and their world-class glass blowing. Despite all of this, every region comes together to share in the collective history of Italy.
Seeing all of the cultural differences in Italy made me think of how we view culture in America. For the most part, we celebrate our own culture, and cherish different familial traditions. Many Americans hold tightly to where their ancestors came from and what their heritage means to them. All of the different cultures in America contribute to a mixture of different traditions, which is expected since America is a nation of immigrants.
However, there is still hostility towards cultures that certain Americans view as different and wrong. Instead of celebrating our differences and how the influx of immigrants has always brought prosperity and growth to America, some of us tear each other down. In Italy, the difference between regions is melded together to create a united country. While regions do compete with each other, it is always friendly and many choose to focus on similarities rather than differences.
I think that Americans should learn to see different religions and cultures in a friendlier way, and we should celebrate the things that make America wonderful. Heritage is important to all of us, and we should still work hard to preserve our history and our culture. Many of the social problems that America is currently facing stems from the fact that we don’t respect each other ‘s differences. I believe that if we can learn to see each other as contributing something special and unique to the “American Melting Pot” culture, then we will have a much more accepting America. Italy showed me what it meant to truly love thy neighbor.
Nina Grotta is a Girl Scout Ambassador from Hinsdale, Illinois.