Federico Chabod’s empathy with and fascination for German culture since the 1920s defined his personality as an outstanding historian. His commitment to German classical historicism, in particular, is part of a complex process of interactions between Italy and Germany on many different levels. This article examines significant aspects of the mutual understanding and misunderstanding between Italy and Germany in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The author suggests that the "theory of historical reception" promotes the analysis of how historical identities emerge. The formation of national states and the experiments with totalitarian regimes in both countries are discussed in this article. The ambiguities inherent in the relations between Italy and Germany became visible in the lives of the Italian Primo Levi and Giuseppe Renzetti. This essay ends with remarks on the shifts in the relations between Italy and Germany after the reunification in 1990 and on the volatile meaning of national identities in the age of globalization.
Keywords: Italian history; German history; reception theory; national identity; Federico Chabod.