The Zeitgeist and cultural identity

"Zeitgeist" (from German) is a word that was coined at the height of the Romantic period to describe the dominant intellectual, cultural, ethical and political climate in a certain historical period.

Un concetto che va oltre la moda o il gusto corrente, che comunque ne fanno parte: è la moda intellettuale, il complesso di tensioni ideali che animano e determinano ogni forma di espressione, definendo l’essenza di un’epoca, la sua identità.

E “identificazione” è il processo attraverso cui i singoli individui elaborano ed esprimono la propria appartenenza alla collettività̀ di cui sentono di far parte.
Come possiamo descrivere l’attuale periodo storico?

Il mondo di oggi è quello della globalizzazione, tutto è connesso in un ecosistema che muta continuamente e velocemente, anche grazie alla rapidità di diffusione e circolazione di idee e informazioni.

The environmental crisis has accentuated the extreme uncertainty/contingency of the future and seems to be full of forces that are beyond the control of people.

We are in the age of the ecological transition, both desired and forced. If we had to summarise the spirit of this age in a key word, we could speak about movement. And movement was the leitmotif of the 2022 edition of the Festival della Mente, the first European festival dedicated to creativity and the birth of ideas.

The Festival della Mente, promoted by the Carispezia Foundation and the Municipality of Sarzana, takes place every year in Sarzana at the beginning of September. The festival enjoys the patronage of the Ministry of Culture and Liguria's regional administration. Three days during which Italian and international speakers offer events, lectures, shows, workshops and opportunities for cultural enrichment, investigating the changes, energies and hopes in today's society, and communicating in a language accessible to the broad, intergenerational audience, which is the true soul of the festival.

The 19th edition took place between the 2nd and 4th September 2022, under the direction of Benedetta Marietti. Like every year, Italian and international scientists, philosophers, writers, historians, and artists arrived in the Ligurian town, engaging the public in a multidisciplinary reflection on current cultural issues.

The theme of movement projects us towards the future, towards a new scenario, the prospect of a rediscovered balance. And it is also a very topical issue that forces us to reflect on the difficult situations the world is experiencing, on the new restrictions that international conflicts are imposing on many populations. 

The value of the festival is that it offers a reflection on the times we are living in, breaking down problems and opportunities: illuminating reflections on the most important issues of the modern world to help us understand and address the challenges awaiting us in the future with more awareness.




Not a boring, complex discussion, but a collection of enjoyable, celebratory moments that are able to activate the mind and transmit positive, creative energy. The festival is also a meeting point of multiple generations, as the days of cultural events involve many events, including workshops, courses and creative games dedicated to children and young people.

Over 26 thousand attendees and 51 events, alongside which are the initiatives of parallelaMente, the parallel festival coordinated by Virginia Galli, Francesca Giovanelli and Elisa Palagi, which showcases artists and cultural associations from the area.

Around 200 volunteers also made up the team over the three days of the event, mostly teenagers from the fourth and fifth years of high school, along with many university students.
It is impossible to imagine the Festival della Mente without its volunteers: our cultural link to the future; young people who, with their curiosity and inexhaustible desire to get involved, are the lifeblood of the event, making it a moment of celebration permeated with contagious enthusiasm. Every year, the volunteers fill a wide range of roles with energy and dedication: from supporting the events, both for adults and for children and young people, to welcoming the speakers; from the "Foto/Instagram" team to the team that supports the work of the press office, to those helping with the events at parallelaMente.

Over the years, the Festival has also built up a faithful community made up of around 120 thousand fans on the event's social media channels.

“The most dangerous thing to do is stay still”:

the phrase from William S. Burroughs that inspired the choice of the concept of movement as the theme of the 19th edition of the Festival della Mente. And Benedetta Marietti, Director of the Festival della Mente, explains it this way:

"Against stagnation, which often creates a visceral fear of any sort of positive change. The word movement, associated with our festival, aimed to reaffirm the dynamism and richness of cultural stimuli, and the vital tapestry of humanities and sciences that come together to form a single, indivisible understanding.
Through the interpretation of the concept of movement, this year the festival explored the most urgent issues of the modern world and the great challenges that the future holds: as well as the issue of refugees, addressed in the opening lecture from Filippo Grandi, the UNHCR High Commissioner, we spoke about the environment, health, war, the internet, teenagers - all with the conviction that to find solutions to problems, it is first of all necessary to be aware of them.
My hope is that the beauty of literature, science, art and history, described and conveyed with skill and passion through the words of our speakers, in a celebratory atmosphere, will have helped all of us - individually and through the creation of virtuous communities - to set in motion new energy and hope that will serve to change society and build a different world."

Ideas are what drive the world, and the Festival della Mente knows this well. And the hugely dynamic collection of ideas, the system of values and beliefs, traditions, rituals, customs or behaviours of a community historically defines the cultural identity of populations.


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