The sociologist Giuseppe De Rita has argued that their past has endowed Italians, like many Greeks, with something rather more than just self-confidence: an innate belief in their superiority.
“I’ve never thought Italians were racist in the classical sense of the term,” he once told an interviewer. “They are, on the other hand, convinced of being superior because of a superego linked to the history they have behind them. At all events, they feel themselves to be more intelligent, brighter and better.”
I can imagine there are many Italians who would scoff at some of that. If you live in some benighted village in the wilds of Basilicata, or in a public housing project in one of the industrial wastelands of the Po Valley, I don’t suppose you think of yourself as heir to the traditions of Augustus and Leonardo.
But the sense of pride that De Rita described can certainly be detected among the Tuscans, the Venetians, the Romans and many others. What he said about Italians believing themselves to be smarter— more sveglio (“ awake” or “aware”), more in gamba (“ bright”)— than others is unquestionably true.
Hooper, John. The Italians (pp. 28-29). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.