Food Travel > Pocket Guide > CELEBRATING THE IRISH ITALIAN LOVE AFFAIR ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY Date posted: March 17, 2012



I’m an Irishman who lives and works in Italy and this year I will be celebrating St. Patrick’s on the streets of Milan, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be missing home. The Italian’s love the Irish and I’ll be celebrating with them.

You have to wonder why the Irish and the Italians love each other so much. Look at New York a city that was more or less built by the immigrant Italians and Irish. These two communities lived side by side and over time merged. The mixed marriages between Italian and Irish in New York are a sign of the affinity these two peoples have for each other and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York is a symbol of two communities united.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York

If you look at what they have in common, there’s plenty, religion, sense of family, a history of colonisation, emigration, persecution, national pride and artistic and expressive nature. But that’s where it sort of stops. Italians are known as one of the best looking peoples in the world, I can’t say the Irish are known for their physical attributes. Everyone knows the Italians as the best dressers in the world, Italians pay an inordinate amount of attention to how they look, and when they look good they know it. The Irish on the other hand put an inordinate amount of work into not thinking about how they look. An Irishman has to very carefully consider what he wears and his look is a study in nonchalance.

It was the immigrant Irish and Italian communities that built New York and America

The Italian believes ‘La Bella Vita’ is his birthright. The Italian deserves to be happy and his life should be rewarding and easy. The Irishman is only happy when he is miserable, he needs something to rail against. This is characterised by the weather of our two countries. Italy has a glorious summer and the Italian delights in stripping off and getting out in the sun. The Irish summer is wet, windy, cold and dull. But this gives us something to complain about, endless hours of conversation and drives us indoors, into the pubs where we huddle around turf fires telling stories and singing the night away.

Irish weather turns us to the drink

The Italians are emotional people, whatever they feel they say it. Hot tempers and passion are part of their everyday communication. The Irish will avoid all forms of confrontation, suppressing their emotions until they explode after having one too many. The Italian way of life is a healthy one, the food and attitude to it is key to their longevity (one of the longest living peoples in the world), their attitude to alcohol is one of moderation, the Irish, on the other hand, have a love affair with excess. We are probably the best partiers in the world, we love company, meeting new people, signing, dancing, drinking and general raucous behaviour.

St. Patrick’s Day here in Italy is a big event, and I will raise a glass with my Italian friends, every Irish pub is full to the brim and there is a genuinely warm feeling of love between the Italians and the Irish community here. What brings us together? It’s not so much what we have in common, it’s more what makes us different. In some way we compliment each other perfectly. What we miss in ourselves we see in the other and isn’t that what all great relationships are built on?

by Hugo Mc Cafferty

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