Several significant national holidays and events are marked in Italy as we pass from in April into May.
Il Giorno della Liberazione (Liberation Day), also known as La Festa de la Resistenza (Celebration of the Resistance), is typically a day of celebration, as the name infers. The 25th is the day when Italy officially observes several benchmark events that were strung out over several days. The Nazi occupation of Italy, the fall of the fascist dictatorship, and the end of the Second World War all coincided. Italian cities were liberated across the north in succession, often one day after the other, in late April 1945.
This year marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation. Many octogenarians who served in WWII were looking forward to this day. Italians are in the professional realm when it comes to throwing parties, but sadly, due to the pandemic, no one was able to have the typical parades or celebrate as usual. They were creative, though, and the commemorations involved a lot of singing—of course.
May 1, International Labor Day, is known as the Festa del Lavoro in Italy. As in other countries, Italians would typically gather to be with friends or family, attend events, or perhaps protest. None of that was possible. As Italy remains in lockdown, there are skinny rays of hope on the horizon. While the country anxiously begins the transition to “Phase 2,” a few small shops have been allowed to open. As one owner in Rome remarked, it is “not to sell so much as to show we can be open, to give hope.”
Italy is resilient. We have seen that repeatedly. While her spirit may have been severely challenged, she is truly ready to be liberated once again. War, freedom, and liberation are themes that repeat themselves throughout history.
A sage wine industry executive once told me that “America is a beacon to Italians—they look to us for the light.” Well Italy, you are now our beacon. We look to you, because your suffering began before ours. We want freedom for you as soon as it is safe. Your freedom, your safety, your opening up again, may signal ours. Stay safe, make smart decisions, keep strong.
In the US and an estimated 60+ other countries, Mother’s Day is celebrated in May, including Italy where it is called “La Festa della Mamma.” Most countries will celebrate on the same day, with a few strays earlier and some later, depending on local tradition. Visiting and celebrating with our mothers as a family (no matter how big or small) is central to Mother’s Day in both Italy and the US—although we in the US seem to make a bigger deal with the promotional aspects of the holiday. Still, the gathering part is key. This year, that may be tough for some.
I am glad my parents are not here to see this. They lived through the Great Depression, my father served in WWII and they watched the Vietnam War in disbelief from their living room. When the Iraq War broke out, my mother said, “You better hope this doesn’t last. You have not seen anything like living through a war.” She was a teenager when WWII was happening and was also the eldest of four children of a widowed Italian immigrant. I do not think she attended her senior prom. She had a lot of responsibility by the time she was 17.
If you can manage to get a gift to your mother, make it special—something that conveys how special she is to you. Here is what I would do if my mother were still alive. I would Google “female winemakers in Italy” or some combination thereof. (I did and there are a fair number of interesting returns in the search—I know a lot of these women.) If you do not know them, read their story. Find someone with whom your mother could identify, and who makes a wine she might like. Or if you would prefer to gift an American-made—or Spanish or Canadian or whatever—wine, just replace “Italian” with your country of choice in the search. If you don’t have a particular type of wine in mind, maybe pick a sparkling wine.* It conveys a sense of celebration, which everyone can use right now.
You may not be able to congregate for brunch to raise a toast, but however you choose to celebrate your mother or mother figure, be sure to be in touch. Call her or use the video chat platform of your choice to be with her. Tell her how much you appreciate her bringing you into this world, because right now she is probably worried for you. If your mother is no longer with you, do something she would have enjoyed, to honor her memory. I know what I am doing, and it involves rosato (pink) wine and pork.
* Italy makes over 170 styles of sparkling wine, from the easily found to the truly obscure. Some of the more readily available options include Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG, Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Franciacorta DOCG, Trento DOC, Prosecco DOC or Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG, any of the Lambrusco DOCs, and Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico DOCG. If you really want something unique, take this list of Italian sparkling wine styles from the IWC website to your local wine fine shop or call and ask for their help.