People who identify as Italian and people who identify as European can sometimes be confused with one another. This is likely due to the fact that those who are from Italy would also be considered European, but not all those who consider themselves to be from Europe would be called Italians. In this article, we highlight several differences between the major group known as Europeans and the sub-group of Italians that is found within.
The first prominent difference between Italians and Europeans is going to be the geographical location in which both are found. Those who call themselves Italians belong to a national group within the country of Italy and the ethnic group that shares a common Italian culture including a shared ancestry and language. However, in modern times, any citizen of the Italian Republic would be considered Italian, regardless of ethnic descent or country of origin.
A European would be someone who identifies with residing not just an individual country, such as Italy, but with the entire continent of Europe. The continent has a number of different groups that all consider themselves European. The list of countries that are located in Europe includes Albania, Poland, Greece, Vatican City, Italy, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Ukraine, Spain, Serbia, Russia, Romania, Portugal, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Switzerland, France, Georgia, Finland, Czech Republic, Armenia, Ireland, Latvia, Turkey, Sweden, Serbia, Iceland, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Slovakia, San Marino, Netherlands, Norway, Montenegro, Moldova, Macedonia, and Malta. The shared culture of European identification is derived from several things, including a heritage that is largely derived and influenced from Greco-Roman antiquity, Christianity, The Renaissance and Humanist movement, the politics of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and all of the developments of the Modern Era, including socialism.[i]
Those who identify as Italian almost always speak the national language-Italian, which is a descendent of Latin. Italian is one of the major global languages, and is considered a Romance Language, similar to French and Spanish. What is much less recognized is the degree to which there are regional variations of language spoken in the country of Italy. There are 7 major regional classifications, examples including Sardinia and Veneto. There are also 31 endangered languages in Italy as determined by UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. This includes 7 listed as vulnerable, examples being Sicilian and Venetian, as well as 19 listed as definitely endangered, including Corsican, Romani, and Lombard, and another 5 listed as severely endangered, including Griko and Gardiol.[ii]
While it seems that the Italian language offers a vast amount of variances, if you compare it to the amount offered within Europe as a whole, you will see that the number offered in Italy pales in comparison. It is quite difficult to truly understand how many languages are spoken in Europe because they span so many different varieties. Those found in Europe include numerous Indo-European languages, including Albanian, Armenian, Baltic including Lithuanian and Latvian, Celtic, Germanic, Greek, Indo-Aryan, Iranian including Kurdish and Persian, the Romance languages including Italian, French, Spanish and Latin, and Slavic. You can also find European languages that are not from the Indo-European family, including Basque, Kartvelian, North Caucasian, Uralic, Turkic, Mongolic and Semitic. These are just some of the large language groups found in Europe. If one accounts for all of the regional variations, similar to the previous list of Italian variations, you will quickly realize that the true number of languages is momentous.[iii]
Italy experiences a huge predominance of Christianity, and especially the Catholic Church, so much so that few other places in the world feature such a singularity in religious affinity. And while the number of atheists, agnostics and religious minorities is rising, it is much smaller in Italy than in other countries. Over 83 % of residents consider themselves to be Christian, followed by approximately 12% who do not affiliate with a religion, and less than 4% who are Muslim. All other religions combined account for less than 1% of the population. The strength of the Catholic Church, which claims over 1.2 members globally, is likely due to the fact that its headquarters, the Vatican is located in its own city, the State of Vatican City, that is nestled within the city of Rome in Italy. An ecclesiastic lifestyle and devout Catholicism have been a main part of the Italian lifestyle for millennia, which also contributes to its widespread predominance.
Like Italy, Europe is predominantly Christian, however, unlike Italy, it is not necessarily predominantly Roman Catholic and in fact, many other variations of Christianity are found to be practiced. Other Christian denominations in Europe include Eastern Orthodoxy which is practiced in Russia, Servia, Romania, Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Albania, Poland, Czech Republic, Turkey, Macedonia, the Ukraine, and Montenegro. Protestantism is another major Christian religion in Europe with 4 different branches. Lutheranism is common in the Netherlands, Estonia, Finland, France, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Latvia and Sweden. Anglicanism includes the Church of England, the Church of Ireland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, Church in Wales, Lusitanian Catholic Apostolic Evangelical Church, Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church and St. Margaret Anglican Episcopal Church in Hungary. The last of the Protestant branches, Calvinism, is practiced in England, Wales, Hungary, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, Netherlands, France and Switzerland. Outside of the Christian religions, there are several others that are common in Europe. These include Islam, Judaism, Druidry, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Animism, Confucianism, Creativity Movement, Eckankar, Ietsism, Raelism, Romani, Romuva, Satanism, Shinto, Spritualism, Taoism, Unitarian Universalims, Yazidism, Zoroastrianism, Rastafari, some traditional African religions, West African Vodun and Haitian Vodou. Europe also features some who practice no religion or atheism.[iv]
These are just a few of the primary ways in which Europeans and Italians differ though there are certainly many more.