Italian is one of the Romance languages which originated from Latin. There was a long period of evolution in which many dialects and many regional schools of literature emerged before the Tuscan dialect began to predominate over the other dialects and to become the origin of modern Italian. Italian was not the result of a territorial conquest, nor was it imposed because of being used by a royal court. It was the literary work of three great writers, Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) and Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), who lived in Tuscany in the fourteenth century that was spontaneously taken as a model throughout the entire country.
This consequently ‘tuscanised’ texts that were previously written in various dialects. This literary affirmation of the Italian language conditioned its entire later history. The process of ‘tuscanisation’ ended in the sixteenth century, when various theorists defended their beliefs and discussed whether the Florentine dialect should be granted a privileged position, or whether other Tuscan dialects should be take into account. It seems to be a question for academics and grammarians, but at the time it was a topical subject producing passionate disputes, friendships and enmities.
Before the twentieth century, Italian was a written rather than a spoken language. It was the language of cultured people, rather than the language of the illiterate, who used to speak their own dialect. Television contributed greatly to the spread of standard Italian in Italy. At the beginning of the fifties only a small number of Italians were speaking Italian. 60% of them, speaking only their own dialect, could not speak and understand Italian. This was due to the insufficient level of education; until 1962 only primary school education was compulsory. The advent of television reinforced the effect of radio, cinema and records, and introduced a new element in the development of the Italian language.
If you want to learn more about the Italian language have a look at the following websites:
Italy has produced some of the world's best art, architecture, music and literature, and has enchanting natural scenery. But it has another great wealth: its colourful Italian people.
Italians, from the Alps to Sicily, love espresso coffee, want their pasta al dente, and passionately support their football team.
They are described as gregarious, charming, generous and hospitable. They like to smile and they love to talk - preferably over a meal.
They are good-humoured and lively, and they talk with their hands. They have a taste for what is useful, and at the same time, for what is beautiful.
Fashion, lyrical music, art and design are Italian talents which receive international recognition and appreciation.
The stereotypical Italian is undisciplined, imprecise, unpunctual and inconsistent, an uncomplimentary characterisation which the real Italian working abroad has to combat.
And what about their physical appearance? Italians are supposed to be short, dark-haired, dark-eyed and dark-complexioned. But there are tall, blond Sicilians who look like Scandinavians (after all the Normans ruled Sicily in the 12th century!) and there are short, chubby, black-haired and dark-eyed Florentines and Mantuans (whose genes can go back to the Etruscans).
Italy is made up by many different regions and provinces - each one with its own distinctive dialect, culture, history and people.
Various sites cover Italian culture in general