Davide Papotti speaks on the geography of Italy


Dr. Papotti speaking in Lindsay Auditorium [Photo by Shea Geary]

Dr. Davide Papotti, speaker at the Univeristy of Denver, was introduced by Roberta Walsh an Italian teacher at the university. The lecture on May 10, 2016 at the Lindsay Auditorium began with a reception at 5:30 p.m. and Papottti started his lecture titled, The Geography of Italy: negotiating historical heritage and current political challenges at 6:45 p.m.

The reception was filled with Italian foods ranging from spaghetti and meatballs to cannoli. The cuisine perfectly accompanied the lecture topic and majority of audience members. The audience was made up of a majority of students, many a part of Italian courses at the university. About one-third of the audience was elderly Italian’s who looked to be the most enthusiastic in the room. Lindsay Auditorium was nearly full with only a few seats left empty in the back rows.


Reception before the lecture [photo by Shea Geary]

The lecture began with Papotti thanking the many people who made his visit to the University possible, including jokes about how some students may have to hear his lecture multiple times. The audience reacted with laughter to that and his many other ice-breaking jokes. In his early slides Papotti introduced his topic of the relationship between Italian culture and geography with a quote from Massimo D’Azeglio, “We have made Italy; now we must make Italians.” This quote was a great introduction to what he proceeded to cover in the lecture.

The creation of the regions in Italy went through many different shapes and sizes before making it to where they are today, and even today they may still need to go through even more changes, according to Dr. Papotti.

The lecture was accompanied by a slideshow of images, most often maps. Second year Italian student Kelsey Dickinson commented on the lecture saying, “It was interesting but there were a lot of maps and it felt like he talked about the same thing for most of the presentation.”

This opinion looked to be widespread and according to Papotti was shared by his previous students as well. An anecdote was given, “in a course evaluation from a student he wrote: nice course, but too many maps,” said Papotti who seemed to be far from offended or swayed by the response. The speaker has taken note of how necessary maps are to the success of the information he is sharing.

The maps present a clear theme, the issue of municipalities in Italy. The municipalities insufficiently represent the true demographics of the country, separating cultures and failing to unify the country. In Piedmont, Italy there are 1,202 municipalities, which has created a fragmented identity with the largest municipality being blatantly visible on a map.

Papotti presented many different interpretive models of Italy in order to show how the country does not have a single theme of separation. When looked at through lenses including density of population and employment by agriculture, uneven separation of regions was obvious. These same models of representation through interpretive models was also applicable to Europe as a whole.

If the country’s identity were compared by region, “it would be an interesting subject for an entire course,” said Papotti, expressing the depth of the topic and his passion for it.

The country of Italy has had a struggle for cultural identity throughout regions that was attempted to be solved with political changes such as proposing limiting the number of regions to 15. Concluding the presentation Papotti stated that much of the regional issue is attributed to irreconcilable differences. On the topic of unification of identity in Italy, “on a less serious note the Italian soccer team played a role, the only time Italians use the flag,” said Papotti.

To conclude his presentation Papotti put forth his own questions as food for thought during the Q and A, including, “what does it mean to be Italian,” and “what are the things that can be recognized as truly Italian?”


One thought on “Davide Papotti speaks on the geography of Italy

  1. Having written on this lecture as well, in addition to having seen that a few other students from our class attended the presentation, it seems that most of us would agree that his powerpoint was too heavy on the maps. A few of us had quoted Papotti’s comment on the course evaluation where he described there being “too many maps”. While it was certainly interesting subject matter, I think that more charts and graphs, or any other visuals for that matter, would have helped spice things up.


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