The geography of Italy: negotiating historical heritage and current political challenges

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Professor Papotti speaking at the University of Denver. Photo by Amanda Roesser.

Professor Davide Papotti spoke at the University of Denver on Tuesday, May 10, 2016, to an audience of professors, undergraduate and gradate students, and local Italians who live in Denver.

Professor Papotti was born in Naples and is an associate professor in the Geography department at the University of Padua, and the author of more than 70 scientific articles. He was brought to the University of Denver through the endowment of Italian culture at the University of Denver, which endows Italian culture, scholarships for Italian majors, and AHSS faculty research grants in Italian culture. Professor Papotti was also sponsored to come to the University of Denver through the Italian and geography and environment department.

Professor Papotti began his lecture by saying, “Grasping national identity as far as Italy is concerned, is certainly a challenging task.” This opening line set up the scene for the rest of the lecture, which focused on Italy attempting to grasp an national identity within a country  that is broken up between many regional boundaries and municipalities.

According to Professor Papotti, after World War II, Italy went under a major change from a kingdom to an actual republic. The republic constitution was approved in 1948, and recognized regions in Italy as local governments and entities with specific tasks and duties. This recognition of regions with certain tasks and duties within the republic constitution, slowly grew through the decades, creating a greater gap between the regions of Italy.

The regions in Italy were created from statistical entities, pre-existing boundaries, and electoral districts. Though, according to Professor Papotti, the creation of the regions did more harm than good, “When you replace and re-do borders, it will establish a distinction, even if there wasn’t one before.” This is where Professor Papotti’s major theme shines through, the lack of identity in Italy due to the split up of regions, and the sharp difference between the regions.


Professor Papotti stated that each of the regional boundaries contain: an unbalanced partition with population, unbalanced industrial development between the northern and southern part of Italy, differences in income per capita with the wealthier being in the northern part of Italy, differences in the quality of life versus the north and the south, and export to the EU better in the north versus the south. Within these regions there are also 8,000 municipalities, which adds to the lack of overall Italian identity.

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Professor Papotti speaking at the University of Denver. Photo by Amanda Roesser.

In 2010, the Italian government attempted a collaboration of the municipalities, to overcome the incredible fragmentation that Professor Papotti’s speech was focusing on. However, the efforts of the Italian government failed. But that wasn’t the last attempt at limiting the amount of municipalities and regions. In 2015, a reform plan was created to limit the amount of regions in Italy, but it did not pass either.

The end of Professor Papotti’s lecture focused on the idea that there are irreconcilable differences that Italy cannot overcome. He highlighted a quote from Massimo D’Azeglio stating, “In order to reform Italy, Italy must reform themselves,” and then continued by saying that “I personally think this will never be solved, but of course, there are different ways of governing it.”

When looking at this lecture in regards to the University of Denver community, students must understand the amount of lack of identity they are going to come into contact with while they are studying abroad. University of Denver students must enter the countries they are studying abroad in with open minds, and an understanding that from afar countries might seem to have a cohesive identity, but within, the country could be struggling.


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