Italy Unification Day - 150 years young on Thursday!

Apparently there's a celebration this week. Same day as St. Patrick's day. A major European country turns 150. Pretty young for a country wouldn't you say, Europeanly speaking? Well, Italy as a concept and as a country is pretty young. This Thursday, it's time to celebrate the founding of Italy 150 years ago as geographically, if not necessarily culturally, one country.

Vittorio Emanuele II (from Wikipedia)

Italy was only united as a single political entity in 1861 after the overthrow of the Kingdom of Naples by a nationalist movement led by the revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi and backed by the rival Kingdom of Piedmont. In 1861 the king of Piedmont, Vittorio Emanuele II was made the king of Italy and the Kingdom of Italy was born.  One of the main men behind the unification, or Il Risorgimento as it is known (literally 'the resurrection'), was Count Camillo di Cavour, who just happened to come from Turin, the country's first capital. You may have noticed how pretty much every Italian town has a via cavour or a Victor Emmanuel II piazza, this is why. If you want to learn more about the history of the unification of Italy, then check out this Wikipedia entry.

"We have made Italy. Now we have to make Italians

                                                         - Massimo d'Azeglio

The 150 anniversary comes at an interesting time for Italy. It's not for me to comment on whether Italy is a divided country or not, as I simply don't know enough about the different regions and ins and outs of Italian politics (frankly, who does?), but there are plenty of articles in the English-speaking press about this, such as in Reuters and The Telegraph (UK), if you want to make up your own mind.

Even if 2011 is not the city of Rome’s 150th unification anniversary (it will be in 2020) many of the activites to honour the memory of Italy’s unification will take place in the country’s current capital. A full list can be found here (in Italian).

Finally, despite the best efforts of the Northern League, certain MPs (mainly from the north again) and the Education Minister, Mariastella Gelmini, March 17th will be a national holiday, so expect public transport to be running a Sunday service. A number of museums related to il Risorgimento will be free on Thursday as well, but instead of repeating the list here, I'll just add a link to Revealed Rome's post, which covers the museums and the main events in Rome. 

The quote above from the 19th Century MP Massimo d'Azeglio stills holds some truth today. Many Italians feel closer to their campanile than to their country. Maybe Italy does need a day to celebrate the whole, rather than the sum of it's parts.

So, if you're in Italy, get out there and join the celebrations!


  1. We are celebrating of course!

    Viva l’Italia! Long Live Italy

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