The nice balmy weather we’re currently enjoying has delighted many this Liberation Day, one of Italy’s typical annual picnic days. Which has me wondering if every nation has traditional picnic days. I really only know about the U.S. and Italy.
Americans, of course, are familiar with picnics on Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day, among others. But ask any Italian, and they’d tell you that a picnic (pronounced “peek-a-neek-a”) is a must on the following holidays.
Tradition always calls for a picnic on Italy’s Liberation Day.
Italy’s other traditional picnic days:
- Pasquetta, or Little Easter — the day following Easter
- Liberation Day celebrating freedom from Nazi Germany — April 25
- Labor Day, or International Worker’s Day — May 1
- Republic or Flag Day, for the formation of the Republic — June 2
- Ferragosto, for the traditional summer holiday period — August 15
Personally, these picnic traditions and the almost religious adherence to them have always amused us. Especially here in Italy, where they not only include normal picnic foods like sandwiches and grilled meats. But they’re often preceded by the ever-present pasta! And it’s all washed down with glasses of wine and a thermos of espresso!
Perhaps there’s too much of the rebel in us, but hubby and I prefer waiting to visit the parks on less crowded days. Especially here, because it’s hard to find Italian parks with bathrooms. And those that do have long cues, and quickly become a nasty mess.
Italy’s first Liberation Day.
Liberation Day, or the Festa della Liberazione, marks the fall of Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic and the end of the Nazi occupation towards the end of WWII. And although in present western Europe it’s hard to imagine the dismal atmosphere of the time, we know from historical accounts how dark it was.
Imagine with me the dreary political climate preceding that first Liberation Day in 1945. My thoughts stray to the older Italians I’ve known. Like my own father-in-law, who fought in Greece. And the fascinating stories of the many elderly we’ve known here through the years.
I think of their wives, sitting at home with their children, fearful for all their lives. Waiting for the war, with its bombs and horrors to stop. Wondering when the end would come. The end which Italy and many European nations like Holland, Denmark, and Norway now commemorate, though on different days.
Old photographs like the following grant us a glimpse of the emotional fervor surrounding that first Liberation Day in a piazza in Turin. A great day for Italy, and for much of the world. Bringing rays of light to the political climate, and hope to the world at large.
But Liberation Day isn’t only picnics.
As a public holiday, schools, banks, government offices, and most businesses are closed. And in many places political rallies featuring marching bands and the Italian flag are held. As well as air shows, like the one above, featuring the green, white, and red of the Italian flag.
And you’ll also find plenty of music concerts and food festivals too. Usually featuring the song Bella Ciao, or “Goodbye Beauty”, which was sung by the Italian resistance during the war. The “Beauty” in this song is their youth. For it laments the youth and beauty they lost doing back-breaking enforced labor in Italy’s rice fields.
And which roughly translated states, “As soon as I arise in the morning, Goodby Beauty, goodbye. I must work hard at picking the rice amidst the insects and mosquitos. While the boss with his stick yells, “Work, work!” Oh mamma mia, what a torment! Goodby Beauty, goodbye. Each day and every hour that we spend here is consuming our youth. Yet the day will come when we can all work in liberty again.”
Liberation Day is surely most appreciated by those who lived through such fearful times.
Like the partigiano (partisan) in the photo above, wearing his official partisan cap. Brave men and women who, like him, struggled against the fascist, nazi dictators of the day.
Italian Liberation Day is much more than just a picnic day. And I hope that the significance of such historical days will ever remain strong. And hopefully keep us and future generations from making the mistakes of the past.
Because all people everywhere deserve the great gift of freedom from tyranny.
IMAGES | Airplanes from Wikipedia, public domain. 1st liberation day by Giorgio Agosti from Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.5 it. | Ceremony by Ugo Franchini, Istituto piemontese per la storia della Resistenza e della società contemporanea ‘Giorgio Agosti’, from Wikipedia; CC-BY-SA 2.5 it. | AUDIO file: embedded from Wikipedia.