Parade of the Italian Alpine Troops ~ Romancing Italy

May 9, 2010

Parade of the Italian Alpine Troops

The mountain militia or "Gli Alpini" are celebrating today in a parade through Bergamo streets, a celebration that is likely to last all day. It's not the best weather for an outdoor celebration but from coverage on TV, it hasn't stopped the crowds from jamming the "sidewalks". 

I am fascinated with war stories, both for the men on the front lines and also the stories of the women left behind. So I wanted to know more about these people sporting their strange hats adorned with a feather. 

(The "Capello Alpino" or Alpine hat is decorated with a black raven feather, which gave the soldiers the nickname of "Le Penne Nere" or the Black Feathers.) 

Way, way back, when Italy extended its borders and needed to defend them, someone was clever enough to recruit the mountain men to form brigades to protect the area. It made sense, as these men already were intimately acquainted with the mountainous terrain and well versed to survive the harsh climate. 

The brigades fought mainly in the mountainous regions of the north, around where I live, across the head of Italy, through towards Aquila, which became unfortunately well-known for it's devastating earthquake a year ago. In WW2, forces were sent out of the country to Africa and to Russia to fight. Today, there is a brigade stationed in Afghanistan. 

Back to the coverage of the parade though. You know how you feel an allegiance to the country you are living in?...well, if you like living where you are. In the States, I read so many accounts of the Allies against the Axis, that I identify with the Allied side of things. Watching the parade, I can feel my mind grating against the whole idea of the Italians celebrating their victories. Because in my head, they were never on the winning side. Allies landed in Sicily and fought Italians and paved a bloody story up Italy's boot. Of course I conveniently forget they have been around since 1872.

And then I realize that Italians as individuals need to be proud of their accomplishments. They too were fighting for their country...they did what they were ordered to do. I know too that this doesn't mean they were in agreement with their leader at the time. Almost everyone who has talked about WW2 with me hate what their country stood for and Mussolini. 

But forgetting all that, this parade today is about celebrating pride in a military specialty, in continuing a tradition that is slowly being faded out, about remembering national as well as personal triumphs and about working together as a team. It's important.



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