Thursday, December 16, 2010

Le Campane

Le campane, or bells, are an everyday part of Italian life. Every where you turn, you see the bell towers or campanile. You hear the bells tolling regularly throughout the day. Every day. I hear them on my walk in the park in the morning, I hear them as I drive to work, I hear them everywhere, as we travel around Italy. And, on special occasions like Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, you can hear them clanging joyously from every direction, all at the same time. 

It's not really the sound of the bells that are unique in Italy, it's what the campanile symbolize: Community, home town. Each little town, or even sections within a city, have a strong pride in their little slice of the world. This sense of community pride is called campanilismo, which has no direct translation in English. It's a sense of belonging to this place in the world, that this place is theirs, and it is the best there is. It is stronger than any sort of regional or national identity here in Italy. I found a great little summary of what it means and where it comes from here.

I've personally observed it, in my time here. When we talk to Italians in our travels, you get the sense of pride and belonging. Italy is not a mobile society, like we are in the US. Most people grow up and then live their entire adult lives in the same town or region, and it's hard for them to fathom moving as much as we do in the US, much less moving abroad. My Italian colleagues here are on the more mobile side, they are from all over Italy and some have lived abroad as well. But still, when you get to talking about places to visit, beautiful places in Italy, food, wine - the campanilismo shows up. Their town is the most beautiful place in the world. Their food is the best food that you could ever taste. The rivalries between them are joking and in fun, but underlying it is the same strong sense of community that has persisted for hundreds of years.

Yesterday morning I went out to capture the closest bell tower, in our town of Vedano al Lambro. Just before this the bells were ringing their little hearts out. It was hard to get a good pictures, since it's tucked along a tiny street, probably originally from medieval times, and there was construction scaffolding right in front of it. At this angle though, I was struck by the contrast of the roof adornments. The simple crosses on the church as compared to the antennae on the roof next door. A commentary on how society has changed through the years. And through it all, the campanile have stood, as a symbol of place like no other. 

Today's 9 Muses Musing prompt is BELLS. Tomorrow's prompt is JOURNEY. I hope you will join in! 


  1. What a fascinating piece of information Kat. It's always interesting to learn about different cultures. I wonder if that sense of place ever existed in England to the same extent - it has always been such an outlooking country, maybe due to the fact that it's a small island that wanted to be larger!

  2. so interesting a place, Italy. We live next door to a school that has a (modern) bell tower and love to hear them ringing throughout the day. During the holidays, the bells play Christmas songs. It's a nice little touch in the middle of the city.

  3. A wonderful post about one of my favorite topics, Italy! We have a Catholic church a few blocks away from our home, and we can hear the bells hourly. Such a peaceful and reassuring sound.

  4. So lovely! We have a church that is a few miles away but we can hear the bells. They delight me every time. I am always so happy to learn more about Italy.

  5. Fascinating to read about campanilismo. Some day I'll go to Italy but meanwhile I am so enjoying your blog posts.

  6. Sounds like an odd combination of love and hatred in the extreme cases (like the graffiti and sayings mentioned on that blog--love of their own place of birth and hatred of others.) The bells ringing does sound like a charming addition to the days, tho. Love the detail on this bell tower. :)

  7. I really love that idea of the sense of community. No, we do not have it here. Hardly anyone I know who lives in this town was born here! There is definitely something to be said for that and for that sense of local pride. Love it!


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