I assumed that it was being replaced by the passato prossimo without the avere/essere, but this doesn't appear to be the case. I'm very confused on this point.
I've been told that the passato remoto is going extinct and is now rarely used in northern Italy. What do people use instead?
2Relevant questions, which perhaps make this duplicate-ish: italian.stackexchange.com/questions/2383/… and italian.stackexchange.com/questions/2255/…– DaGMar 7, 2016 at 12:18
Welcome to Italian.SE, @HenryS!– Charo ♦Mar 7, 2016 at 14:41
1Passato remoto is being replaced by "regular" passato prossimo (Fermi ricevette il premio Nobel nel 1938 -> Fermi ha ricevuto il premio Nobel nel 1938). Passato prossimo without avere/essere (more correctly named participio passato) is never used as the verb of a main clause (Fermi *ricevuto il premio Nobel nel 1938 is wrong), but only for some subordinate ones (Ricevuto il premio Nobel nel 1938, Fermi continuò le sue ricerche sull'atomo).– Federico PoloniMar 9, 2016 at 7:37
I wouldn't say that the passato remoto is going extinct, but it is certainly true that in northern Italy it is rarely used. Actually in northern Italy we tend to always use the passato prossimo, even if the past event has no relation with the present, and we should use the passato remoto instead. This use in general doesn't pose great problems of communication, but it isn't strictly correct. Those who speak correct italian use both the passato prossimo and the passato remoto, today as in the past.
For instance, it is correct to say "Fermi ricevette nel 1938 il Premio Nobel per la fisica" and "Fermi ha ricevuto nel 1938 il Premio che oggi riceverai anche tu", but it is not correct to say "Fermi ha ricevuto nel 1938 il Premio Nobel per la fisica".
Anyways, the last phrase is perfectly understandable, and no one will correct you if you use it in an informal context.
2I would add that this is probably consequence of the lack of any tense similar to the passato remoto in regional languages like Venetian. I personally use the passato remoto only in writing, of if I'm telling a story, while for day-to-day oral communication I tend to prefer the passato prossimo– Denis Nardin ♦Mar 7, 2016 at 14:01