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

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

Dressed in Renaissance-era military colors, the group of six flag bearers 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 General Consulate of Italy in Boston.

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

“This is a celebration of the friendship between our two countries,” said Boston Italian General Consulate Arnaldo Minuti, who emceed the event. “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 introduction, 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 festivals and parades marking the milestone in early June.

The Northeastern Republic Day event was part of the Boston Italian consulate’s “Festival of Italian Creativity,” a yearlong series of events highlighting and celebrating Italian artists, researchers and entrepreneurs in the Boston community.

Christian de 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. Chef Mari Marini, a Parma-born chef who planned the evening’s dinner menu, ended his remarks by rolling out a table-sized wheel of parmesan cheese, cutting into it for the hungry crowd. “This dinner is a special one,” he said.