A considerable number of what contemporary audiences enjoy as Italy’s heritage locations and practices—such as the ‘timeless’ panoramas of the ancient Roman Forum along Rome’s Via dei Fori Imperiali or popular attractions such as Siena’s Palio—have a decidedly interwar pedigree. The same could be claimed of Italian viti-viniculture (table and wine grape production). During its two decades in power in Italy, Mussolini’s Fascist dictatorship established protected wine-producing regions (Chianti Classico, 1932-present), inaugurated grape- and wine-themed popular festivals (The National Festival of the Grape, 1930-present), significantly expanded grape vine cultivation in Italy and in its Mediterranean colonies, and marketed the peninsula’s “typical wines” (vini tipici) to foreign consumers. Each of these campaigns and processes, my research has begun to divulge, served as significant components of the regime’s objectives of fulfilling the Risorgimento’s partially completed mission of “making” Italians and improving Italy’s socio-economic position on the imaginative map of Western Europe during the Black Decades (Ventennio nero). To date, no scholar, in either the Italian- or English-speaking academies, has investigated the multifarious cultural, political, and economic contributions made by grape vine cultivation and alcohol consumption in Fascist Italy. In response to this historiographical lacuna, Bacchus’ Blackshirt analyzes the centrality of Italy’s viti-viniculture industry within the Fascist regime’s intertwined campaigns for encouraging the development of a singular national identity in Italy and establishing a synchronized community of autarkic consumerism under the auspices of the Corporatist State. Since grape vine cultivation was such a widespread practice in Italy, it offered the dictatorship an advantageous agro-cultural platform for projecting its socio-economic program to the Italian masses. By promoting Italy’s winemaking heritages via popular campaigns and outreaches, such as the annual Grape Festival and Siena’s biannual Exhibition-Market of Typical Italian Wines, the regime aimed to stimulate consumption of Italy’s grapes and wines and, simultaneously, to impress upon the masses that Italians, regardless of their regional affiliations and geographical separations, shared these histories and practices in common. As a result of these efforts, I contend, Mussolini’s dictatorship hoped to motivate domestic consumers to recognize themselves as Italians.
KEYWORDS: Viticulture, Viniculture, Grapes, Wines, Italy, Fascism, Fascist Italy, Nationalism, Nationalization, Collective Identity, Cultural History, Social History, Environmental History, Consumption, Material Culture, Food Studies
While researching Fascist Italy's 1935 invasion and colonization of Ethiopia at the Hoover Institute Archives at Stanford University, I stumbled upon the collected papers of an extraordinary American woman by the name of Ruth Williams Ricci. Ricci — a Fascist sympathizer from New York City who served both as a volunteer nurse in the Italian Red Cross and, later, as a freelance journalist during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War — toured throughout East and North Africa, participated in or witnessed many of Fascist Italy's military and colonial campaigns and had personal contacts among the regime's highest generals and officials. Ricci wrote extensively about these experiences, producing numerous articles published in both American and Italian journals and newspapers, as well as a partial book manuscript, each of which have remained more-or-less unexplored at Stanford University since the late 1970s. Very few researchers have ventured into the collection, still less know about Ricci at all. With the wealth of these largely untapped primary materials in mind, I recently began transcribing and editing Ricci's collected papers with the ultimate goal of partnering with an academic publisher who could help me promote and distribute Ricci's story, along with her voluminous writings, to a wide scholarly and lay audience. I believe Ricci's writings would be appealing and useful to an interdisciplinary group of scholars, including those studying modern Europe, modern Africa, colonialism, post-colonialism, Women and Gender Studies, journalism, Italian Fascism, and more.
KEYWORDS: Ruth Williams Ricci, Ruth Eltse Ricci, Italy, Italian-American, Fascist Italy, Fasci all'Estero, Ethiopia, Italian East Africa, Africa Orientale Italiana, Italo-Ethiopian War, Transnationalism