Our nation remains exceptional

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SORRENTO, Italy — “We were there first. London was our colony. We were there before the Anglo-Saxons, before William the Conqueror and the Normans.”

This outburst of pride in the Roman Empire of 2,000 years ago came from an Italian with whom we had struck up a conversation during lunch on the breathtakingly beautiful Bay of Naples below the majestic cliff where picturesque Sorrento sits.

A three-week vacation in Italy focused on the glories of Michelangelo, the wonders of the Renaissance in Florence, the ruins of the ancient Forum in Rome and the fascinating remains of a city killed by a volcano at Pompeii doesn’t yield much insight into the attitudes of modern Italy.

Yet I couldn’t help but be struck, while traveling the Boot from Venice to Sorrento, how often you saw the Italian flag flying on the streets and from commercial buildings, individual homes and balcony after balcony on mid-rise and hi-rise.

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