10 Ways to Experience Italian Culture around Washington, DC
1. Visit the Library of Congress European Reading Room
Image from http://www.loc.gov/rr/european/eurorr.html
The Library of Congress’s Italian collections include rare books, music, movies, prints, and photographs, as well as anarchisms, or publications for US Italian-language communities. Be sure to check the European Reading Room site for information regarding hours, visits and accessing materials. The European Reading Room also offers competitive internship positions for US citizens with interest in library research and work and reading proficiency in European languages.
2. Explore the Italian Embassy and Its Cultural Events
Though many know embassies only through their diplomatic purposes, the Italian embassy in Washington, DC serves as a cultural meeting point, hosting social events and shows open to the public. Past events have included exhibits of famous costumes worn in classic Italian films, movie nights, traditional Italian acrobat shows, and performances by classical and opera groups. Be sure to check their website regularly for events hosted by the embassy. The Embassy also works with Faresia, the Ministero degli Affari Esterie della Cooperazione Internazionale, to sponsor ItalyinUS.org, which runs a constantly-updated list of Italian cultural events around the US.
3. Discover Italian-American Culinary Traditions
Image from http://alitteri.com/DELI.html
Visit an Italian deli to explore ingredients and learn recipes that you can’t get elsewhere outside of Italy. Start with the District’s A. Litteri, and move on to Arlington’s Italian Store, or Baltimore’s Little Italy’s Di Pasquale’s and Trinacria.
4. Visit Arlington National Cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater
The Memorial Amphitheater is modeled on a traditional Roman amphitheater, and incorporates Romaneque Revival and Italian Renaissance architecture into its design. Walk through the Italianate gardens immediately to the east of the Amphitheater before continuing on through the Cemetery as a whole.
Note: Be sure to review the Cemetery’s Visitor Rules before your visit.
5. See Italian World War II Airplanes at the National Air and Space Museum
One of two remaining Macchi C.202 Folgore fighters in the world can be seen at the Air and Space Museum’s World War II Aviation exhibit. The Folgore was one of the most frequently-flown planes flown by the Regia Aeronautica during World War II.
6. Catch an Italian Film at the AFI Silver Theater
The AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, MD, runs an annual European Union Film Showcase, featuring films from around Europe, partially sponsored by Farnesina, the Italian government’s Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.
7. Try Fresh-Made Italian Sweets and Breads
Start at Catania Bakery, a traditional Italian bakery that has been operating in Washington, DC since 1932: make sure to stop by between 7:00 AM and 1:00 PM on Saturdays to get a rare opportunity to tour a traditional Italian bakery’s kitchen and sample fresh-baked treats with the owner.
8. See Italian Art at the National Gallery
The National Gallery exhibits include world-class Italian art from various time periods: wander the Galleries, or find special exhibitions focused on Italian art or film. Be sure to contact the museum to find out about free docent-led tours offered regularly in Italian, or pick up the permanent collection audio tour in Italian at the front desk.
Union Station’s architecture is inspired by the Baths of Caracalla and Diocletian and the triumphal Arch of Rome. During building, Italian construction workers were brought in to ensure that the design was as authentic as possible.
10. Tune in to Georgetown University Radio’s L’Ora Italiana
Georgetown University’s Italian department sponsors a weekly radio show on WGTB, featuring tradiational and contemporary Italian music and cultural discussions every Monday at 2:00 pm. Listen live by streaming at http://georgetownradio.com/, or check out their back archives on the radio website.