The Italian flag is well known; three vertical bands of green, white and red that echo the red, white and blue of their neighbours France. It’s no surprise that this should be the case. the adoption of the colours and this design followed the conquests of Napoleon.
There are different views as to what the colours represent; one version is that the green is for the plains of Italy, the white for the Alpine mountain tops and the red for the blood spilt in the fight for an independent and united Italy. Another states that hope, faith and charity represented. Perhaps it’s just my atheism but I don’t see the logic behind that. My personal favourite is that these are the colours of an insalata Caprese (and if you don’t rate that dish very highly you clearly haven’t eaten it in Campania on a sunny lunchtime). Here the green is for the basil leaves, the white for the mozzarella and the red for ripe pomodori. Now that makes perfect sense.
Spend any time in the vicinity of Genoa’s Piazza de Ferrari and you might, as I did, come up with another possibility (and not one that includes red sports cars with a prancing horse). Just a short walk from the square with its great fountain is Strada Nuova (more properly the Via Garibaldi). For most visitors the three palazzi that comprise one of the city’s great art museums are the mansions of note, but as I strolled along here I took time to consider several of the others. I wasn’t surprised to find that they now housed financial institutions. Piazza de Ferrari is of course dominated by the great curving facade of the Stock Exchange building. So here we have green or at least greenbacks.
Directly opposite is the side of the Palazzo Ducale, the Doge’s Palace. This face of the building would be fairly plain were it not for the architectural designs painted onto it, but the main entrance on Piazza Giacomo Matteotti is far more impressive… and gives us our white.
Allow me to digress for a moment. You may have noticed that I’ve been numbering my Genoese posts (that will stop after this one) and today we’ve reached G8. The Palazzo Ducale was the venue for a meeting of that group in 2001 which was accompanied by huge anti-capitalist protests. The protestors had been infiltrated by a few extremists (I’ve written about the complexities of Italian politics before in my Bologna posts) but there was another group far more problematic on the day. The police.
Whether you take your narrative from fictional accounts like Massimo Carlotto’s Master of Knots, or journalistic versions like The Dark Heart of Italy by Tobias Jones (thanks again Giuliana for that recommendation) there is no doubt that this was a day of extreme brutality, culminating in a raid on a school where both journalists and protesters were staying the night. 93 arrests were made. Pictures the following day showed teeth strewn across the floors and bloodstains on the school walls at head height. These were followed by reports of threats of rape with batons, as well as evidence of broken bones and head injuries. Though not part of the Diaz school raid, one protester suffered a worse fate. A twenty year old threw a fire extinguisher at an armoured car. The Carabiniere within responded by pointing his gun through a window and shooting him dead.
The red stripe speaks for itself.