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‘Italian National Day’ event at Northeastern celebrates the 78th anniversary of democracy in Italy

Northeastern distinguished professor Alessandro Vespignani, a native of Rome, spoke at the celebration of the Italian National Day held jointly by the university and the Consulate General of Italy in Boston.

People in Italian regalia throwing flags up in the air outside of the EXP building.
Flag waivers from the city of Florence perform as part of an ‘Italian National Day’ celebration on Northeastern University’s Boston campus. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

The Italian National Day celebration at Northeastern University on Friday started out with a flourish — a dozen, in fact. 

The Festa della Repubblica or “Republic Day” event opened with a thundering performance from members of Bandierai degli Uffizi, the official drum and flag corps of the city of Florence. 

Dressed in Renaissance-era military colors, the group of six flag waivers twirled and tossed the giant white and red banners with Florentine crests, maneuvering them around their bodies and vaulting them up past the middle floors of the EXP research complex while a trio of drummers kept time. 

The event on the Boston campus marked the 78th anniversary of representative democracy in Italy with an evening showcasing highlights of the nation’s food, culture and global research contributions.

More than 200 guests, including Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun, gathered for a program held by Northeastern and the Consulate General of Italy in Boston.

In addition to celebrating Italy’s historic national vote to become a republic after World War II, the evening honored the contributions Italian immigrants in Boston have made to science, business and creative arts.

“This is a celebration of the friendship between our two countries,” Arnaldo Minuti, the consul general of Italy in Boston, said in his speech. “Democracy and freedom are our shared values.”

In the United States, he said, Festa Della Repubblica “brings to mind the bravery and sacrifice of the American people who helped restore our nation.”

After Minuti’s speech, distinguished university professor and renowned network scientist Alessandro Vespignani, a native of Rome, spoke on behalf of the Northeastern community about Italy’s role in the university’s growth into a truly global research institution.

“We want to reinvent higher education,” he said. “We have campuses across the U.S., London and Canada, and we can establish more connections to bridge Italian researchers with the Boston and Northeastern community. We want to have a university open to the world, and to be seen as of the world. This is the best chance that we have.”

Observed annually on June 2, Festa della Repubblica celebrates the 1946 voter referendum that brought democracy to Italy and marked the fall of fascism after World War II. The flagship celebration takes place in Rome, and Italians across the globe hold events and parades marking the milestone in early June.

The Italian Republic Day at Northeastern was held in the framework of the celebrations of Boston Capital of Italian Creativity in the World, a title bestowed by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the Consulate General of Italy in Boston, which is presenting a yearlong series of events culminating in the Festival of Italian Creativity next November, highlighting and celebrating  Italian artists, researchers and entrepreneurs in the Boston community. 

Christian Di Sanzo, a member of Italy’s Parliament who went to university and started his career in Boston, spoke of the parallels between the New England city — a hotbed of higher education and tech innovation — and 15th-century Italy, the cradle of the Renaissance.

“We’re all united in a deep sense of belonging to Italy and a desire to contribute to its future,” he said. “I could not think of a better city than Boston to represent Italian creativity abroad.”

After honoring two Italian-born scientists, biotech founder Matteo Lai and MIT professor Silvio Micali, the program concluded with a presentation on food and culture in the Italian city of Parma, named in 2015 UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy. Chef Mario Marini, a Parma-born chef and ALMA (the International School of Cuisine of Parma) who planned the evening’s dinner menu, ended his remarks by rolling out a table-sized wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano cutting into it for the hungry crowd.

“This dinner is a special one,” he said.