When Donald Trump began his visit to the Middle East and Europe, he posted a map of the countries included in the trip – Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Belgium – on his Facebook page, along with a note: “Very exciting trip ahead -- going to show the world that America is back!”
Whether the U.S. president has shown the world that America is back is still open for debate. What he has clearly shown is that the White House thinks Corsica, the French island in the Mediterranean Sea, belongs to Italy.
Italians are loving the idea.
Best known as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte (and supermodel Laetitia Casta), Corsica has steadily been been a French territory since 1769. However, the map Trump uploaded to Facebook shows the island as belonging to Italy.
Italians were quick to point out the mistake. “Trump doesn’t know what Italy’s borders look like,” wrote Adnkronos, a prominent news agency based in Rome.
Some were very pleased: “Thank you, Trump, for giving us Corsica back,” tweeted blogger Elvira Puleiro.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” wrote journalist Leonardo Bianchi. “Maybe Trump wants to give us Corsica just to piss off [French President Emmanuel] Macron, or maybe he wants to make Italy great again like he did with America.”
The truth is, Italians have always had a special affinity for the French island. It’s a popular vacation destination and home to an ethnic minority, the Corsicans, whose language resembles Italian more than it does French.
And finally, Corsica used to belong to Italy – well, almost. For centuries, the island was ruled by the Republic of Genoa, one of the many city-states that existed in the Italian peninsula before the modern Italian state was born in 1861. In 1729 Genoa lost Corsica to a local independence movement, but the island was conquered by France some decades later.
For France, the status of Corsica has remained a hot-button issue until recently. Corsicans have their own nationalist groups and some want independence from France. From the 1970s to the early 2000s, the National Liberation Front of Corsica, a militant separatist movement, staged a series of terrorist attacks. They disarmed in 2014.
But in Italy, Corsica is a non-issue, at least politically. Italians love to joke that the island really “belongs” to them, there’s no Italian movement to get Corsica back. No hard feelings, but the French can have it. Unless, of course, Trump wants to bring it over as a present.
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