Letta attends funeral for coach crash victims

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta will join bereaved relatives at a mass funeral on Tuesday for the 38 people killed in Italy when a coach plunged off a viaduct near Naples. He also announced a national day of mourning for Tuesday.

Letta attends funeral for coach crash victims
Prime Minister Enrico Letta will on Tuesday attend a mass funeral for the 38 people who died in a coach crash on Sunday. Photo: AFP

Prosecutors have launched an investigation into possible manslaughter over Sunday's accident, the worst such crash in western Europe in the last decade.

Hundreds of relatives had to spend agonising hours viewing bodies and identifying victims on Monday before the victims were carried off in flower-covered coffins.

The bereaved families are expected to attend Tuesday's funeral in a vast sports hall near the town of Pozzuoli.

The coach, carrying 48 people including children, rammed several cars after failing to break on a bend, smashing through a crash barrier and off the viaduct to plunge 30 metres (98 feet) down.

By late Monday evening, the dead had been laid out in state in the concrete and glass sports hall, ready for Tuesday's mass, which begins at 0730 GMT.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who announced a national day of mourning for Tuesday, said he would attend the funeral with the lower house of parliament speaker Laura Boldrini, according to Pozzuoli mayor Vincenzo Figliolia.

On Monday, hearses lined up at a school near the crash site which had been turned into a temporary morgue.

Sobbing relatives clutched at the coffins as they were taken away or collapsed into the arms of Red Cross workers.

Earlier, officials had called out the names of each family from a list and the relatives put white masks over their mouths to enter the makeshift morgue.

"They told me to look at all the bodies until I found my brother," said one man who gave just the name Ciro.

"It was like a mountain had fallen on my head," he said of the search for his 40-year-old sibling.

The group on the coach was returning from a pilgrimage to Pietrelcina in the Campania region, the birthplace of Padre Pio, an Italian priest canonised in 2002 and worshipped in the country's south.

Ten passengers were injured in the accident, along with another nine people in cars hit by the coach before it crashed off the highway.

While rescuers were quick to remove the shattered coach from the wooded area off the highway, passenger belongings streaked with blood – including shoes, books and a torn teddy bear – still lay strewn on the ground.

The crash happened in an area known as an accident black spot. The manslaughter probe will look into the possible role of the driver as well as the state of the coach and the crash barrier on the highway.

The coach crash was the deadliest in western Europe in the last decade and the worst in Europe since an October 2010 accident in Ukraine when 45 people died.

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IN MAPS: A brief introduction to Italy’s many local ‘dialects’

Are the Italians around you speaking a completely different language? Why are local dialects often so far removed from modern Italian? Here's what you need to know.

IN MAPS: A brief introduction to Italy's many local 'dialects'
A man wearing a t-shirt reading ''100% Venetian''. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

It's the problem italian language learners have faced for as long as anyone can remember. You've diligently studied your Italian grammar, and carefully practiced your phrases ahead of your first visit to Italy, only to realise upon arrival that the Italians around you seem to be speaking a different language entirely.

READ ALSO: Ten of the most common Italian language mistakes you should avoid

Italy's dialects are far more than just heavily-accented Italian. They seem like totally different languages because, in fact, that's exactly what they are.

It's not quite correct to call them “dialects”, which are actually variants on a standard language. These are different languages which evolved separately from Latin – or, in some cases, other languages.

And even when they switch to Italian, speakers of these dialects or languages often speak with a heavy accent, much to the dismay of anyone still getting to grips with with basic Italian. Even in a big city like Florence or Rome, Italian spoken in a thick local accent can be hard to decipher – even for native Italian speakers from other areas.

As the map below shows, every region and often province has its own local language. Some have more than one, and each town may also have a variation.

Many of these are part of language “families” and some are more closely related to Italian, or to Latin, than others.

The map below classifies them further and also shows how languages in different regions are connected.

Map: Antonio Ciccolella/Wikimedia Commons

This might look complicated, but anyone who lives in a small italian town will no doubt still be thinking that a more detailed map is needed, as there are actually many more, smaller variations within these categories.

Do people in Italy really still speak all of these dialects?

The language we call Standard Italian derives from 13th-century Florentine. Until then, there had been no written rules, and the languages of what is now Italy had mainly evolved by being spoken.

When Italy was unified in 1861, only 2.5 percent of the population could actually speak the Italian language. All spoke their regional languages. Now, that figure is in the high 90s, though around five percent still speak only or predominantly in their regional language.

While you might imagine that these dialects or languages are mainly used by older people and are slowly dying out, that's not usually the case. 
While they'll also speak standard Italian, you'll find young Italians proudly speaking their local lingo everywhere from central Naples to the valleys of South Tyrol.
Some are far more widely used than others. In fact the most widely spoken is Neapolitan, with over five million speakers today.
The least widely-used is Croato. This dialect is used by an ethnic minority from a region corresponding to present-day Croatia and is spoken in the southern region of Molise. Today it only around 1,000 speakers.
In the southernmost parts of Italy, such as Salento and Calabria, Griko dialects are thought to derive from ancient Greek.
Meanwhile, Sardinian is classified as an “endangered” language by Unesco,  Like Italian, Sardinian has roots in Latin – in fact, some linguists argue that, of all the modern Romance languages, Sardinian is the closest to Latin – but it also displays much older influences. Today, particularly younger people on the island speak a mix of both languages, a sort of “Sarditalian”.
For more details, here are our guides to getting started with some of Italy's regional languages: