Italian Language Blog

A Controversial Question Posted by on Sep 30, 2010 in Culture

I recently received a comment from a reader, called Natalia De Luca on the subject of Gli Alpini, about which I recently wrote a series of articles. The comment comes in the form of a question:

"Why are woman [sic.] and non registered military people allowed to join an alpini regiment, some are even of another race? I disagree with this vehemently. They have even been given a sacred hat to wear. None of these people were ever in the military and are a discrase [sic.] to that group. Can they be outed [sic.]?"

Here is my reply:

Salve Natalia De Luca,

I’m not sure that I completely understand your question. Let’s put aside for a moment the matter of "woman" (I believe you meant to write ‘women’), and concentrate on the second half of that sentence. It simply doesn’t make sense to ask "why are non registered military people allowed to join an alpini regiment?". Everyone, until they join a military regiment such as the Alpini, is a civilian, or non registered military person. Perhaps you are confusing the Alpini regiment with ‘Il Coro Degli Alpini’ which, as I wrote in my blog, is a choir, consisting mostly of ex-Alpini, that sings Alpini songs.

I don’t really want to enter into a debate about the racial and sexist related nature of your comment, however offensive I may find it. However, as I have never been in the military, and have, therefore, no first hand experience in these matters, I thought it would be interesting to phone my friend Giuseppe, who was an officer in the Alpini, in order to ask his opinion about your comment. His initial reaction was one of shock that such a question should be asked (especially by a woman!).

Here is a summary of his reply:

Mamma mia, che domanda! Per quanto riguarda il Coro degli Alpini, l’importante è essere un simpatizzante degli Alpini e avere la passione per il canto. Le donne per ora non fanno parte dei Cori degli Alpini perché tradizionalmente sono solo voci maschili, ma è probabile che un giorno questa regola cambierà dal momento che ora le donne sono entrate nel corpo degli Alpini.
Wow, what a question! Regarding the Alpini choir, the most important requirement is to be a sympathizer of the Alpini, and to have a passion for singing. Women, for now, aren’t included in the Alpini choirs because traditionally they are composed of male voices only, but probably one day this rule will change since women are now part of the Military Alpine Corps.
Per quanto riguarda il fatto che le donne fanno parte del corpo degli Alpini, questo è un fatto che riflette i cambiamenti nella nostra società moderna e il raggiungimento della parità dei diritti. Per poter entrare negli Alpini bisogna avere certi requisiti e passare delle selezioni precise, che sono uguali sia per gli uomini che per le donne.
As regards the fact that women make up part of the Alpine Corps, well this is a fact that reflects the  changes in our modern society, and the realization of equal opportunities. To be able to enter the Alpini it is necessary to have certain qualities, and to pass rigorous selection tests, which are the same for both men and women.
Non ho presente persone di altre razze negli Alpini, ma comunque non si può fare un discorso razzista. Se uno è cittadino italiano può entrare negli Alpini, non importa di quale origine etnica sia, l’importante è che abbia i requisiti giusti.
I can’t recall people of other races in the Alpini but nevertheless, racism doesn’t enter into it. If someone is an Italian citizen they can enter the Alpini, it doesn’t matter what their ethnic origin is, the important thing is to have the right qualities.

Allora Natalia, ora tocca a te!

Cordiali saluti da Serena

What are your opinions dear readers? I’d be very interested to hear them, so please leave a comment.

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  1. Edoardo:

    Natalia argumente is very confused about whatr she is against or in favor of… Nevertheless, yours and Giuseppe answers sound sensible.

  2. Vince Mooney:

    Salve Serena:

    I have a different view of Natalia’s question. I think she is objecting to the claiming of an unearned honor or what we in America call ‘stolen valor’. To wit: her mention of the right to wear the hat with the feather which is an earned honor. It’s as if she thinks membership to the choir should be restricted to only members of the Alpini military unit. This would make sense if there were such a restriction.

    I think you are right that Natalia is confusing belonging to the choir with belonging to the Alpini military unit.

    BTW: I think I saw some of those Alpini soldiers with their feather hats while at Aviano AB and I believe they also had some kind of short cape that make them look very dashing. I’m not sure if the regular Italian soldiers that I worked with liked them very much. I think they got the girls!

    Also Giuseppe’s Italian was very easy for me to read. I enjoyed his comments.


  3. Delfina Acuto:

    I agree with Vince’s interpretation of Natalia’s question. Also, I don’t think she meant to be disrespectful to women and other races. She’s talking about traditions and earned honors.

    • serena:

      @Delfina Acuto Salve Delfina, well firstly, it is ‘an interpretation’ because it’s difficult to understand, as Jeannet points out in her comment, where Natalia is getting her information from. Certainly not from my blogs. I think perhaps, that Giuseppe, being an ex-Alpini officer, and a member of an Alpini choir, is a pretty good authority on the subject, and he has expressed himself very clearly.
      It simply doesn’t make sense to ask why are “non registered military people allowed to join an Alpini regiment”, because, as I pointed out in my post, anyone, prior to joining the military, would be a “non registered military person”. It’s a bit like asking “why are non-swimmers allowed to join a swimming class”
      If Natalia is confusing the Alpini choir with a military regiment (which it is not) then where is she getting her info about “women” and people of “another race” from? Finally, why would it be a disgrace to allow women, or people of another race (whatever that means!) to join the Italian military or an Apini choir?

      Saluti da Serena

  4. Bill Rohwer:

    Brava Serena e Bravo Giuseppe!

    Inoltre Serena, per favore spiegami una cosa. Giuseppe ha scritto, “Non ho presente . .” invece “Non posso ricordare.” Non conosco affatto quest’uso dell’espressione ‘presente.’ È comune?

    Bill Rohwer

    • Serena:

      @Bill Rohwer Salve Bill!
      “Non ho presente” è un’espressione idiomatica molto comune che può essere tradotta con “I don’t recall”.
      Saluti da Serena

  5. Joan:

    Earlier this month, my husband and I visited Il Museo dei Alpini in Bassano del Grappa. Unfortunately, my Italian wasn’t good enough to understand all the explanatory placards, so we left with the following questions:
    1) In the Second World War, did the Alpini fight on the side of the German and Italian Fascists?

    2) What, if any, was their relationship to the Partisans during the Second World War (and who were the Partisans fighting?)

    Thank you.

    • Serena:

      @Joan Salve Joan! Until 1943 Italy had a Fascist government lead by Mussolini, which was allied with Nazi Germany. Therefore when Italy entered WWII in 1940, the Alpini, like the rest of the Italian Army, fought for the Axes forces against the Allies. When Italy signed the armistice on the 8th of September 1943, the arm forces were thrown in to chaos. Thereafter some elements of the armed forces, including the Alpini, decided to remain faithful to Mussolini, others changed side and fought with the Allies against the Nazis. Many soldiers decided to join the Partisans.

      Saluti da Serena

  6. Jeannet:

    Salve Serena,

    The reply of Giuseppe was a clear statement.
    What is the source where the ‘knowledge’ came
    from by putting forward the


  7. Marylyn:

    Keep this going please, great job! Tony Gonzalez jersey

  8. Marco:

    Leaving aside the racism and sexism debate (there’s not much to say about that, and some nuances might have been lost in trasnslation, literally), here in Italy there’s the Associazione Nazionale Alpini – a civil association of ex Alpini who are usually involved (at least here) in meeting once a week, drinking some wine, organizing cultural, educational, charity or public service initiatives. They always help the national volounteer corps whern there’s a large emergency such as an earthquake and, among all associations of ex-soldiers, they are the most active and the most proud. Their annual meeting (adunata) is always a big event culminating in a several-hours-long parade and the national news always talk about it.
    So, Alpini are not only the military corps or the choirs (which sometimes are part of the ANA), and this associaton also accepts “friends of the Alpini” – which includes supporters and families, including many women or immigrants who root for the Alpini even if they did not serve under the Italian army. Usually, these “friends” are not allowed to wear the Alpini hat (I think the “stolen honor” affair had its way there), but they can be said to be part of the Alpini (as in, the national Alpini association) as well.

    • Geoff:

      @Marco Ciao Marco, e grazie per il tuo commento.
      Wow, I’d forgotten about this old blog from 2010, and I’d certainly forgotten about the offensive comment that sparked it off!
      These days, to be honest, a comment like that would end up in the trash bin. The vast majority of the comments that we get are respectful and intelligent, but every now and then we do receive comments from troglodytes, such as that one on gli aplini.
      Notice that the original commenter never replied? That is almost invariably the case, and apart from the fact that we don’t want negativity, sexism or racism amongst our comments, we’ve realised that it’s a sheer waste of our time to respond to them when we could be doing something more constructive for our readers.

      Un saluto da Geoff 🙂

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