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Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 17th – 150 Unita’ d’ Italia - 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy 1861 - 2011



We have a Bank holiday here in Italy today as March 17th has been declared a national holiday in honour of the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy 1861 –2011.

Our local supermarket gave all their customers this small poster of explanation which I have used for the photographs.  It was only formally agreed a few weeks ago that today would be declared a national holiday as some of Italy's politicians are not in favour, not a surprise!  As there are celebrations taking place all over Italy during this 150th year, not just today, I thought it would be a good idea to find out a little bit more.

The poster from the supermarket was a good place to start for a brief history and there is also a lot of information on Wikipedia to which I have included some links. The article on the Italian Unification for one, the rest the Wikipedia pages for the various individuals.

From the poster I learnt that there were five gentleman that were all partially responsible for leading their fellow countrymen towards the unification of Italy in 1861. They were Giuseppe Mazzini, Camillo Benso Conte Di Cavour, Godfredo Mameli, Giuseppe Garibaldi and Vittorio Emanuele.

Giuseppe Mazzini.jpg     

Giuseppe Mazzini                        Camillo Benso Conte Di Cavour        Godfredo Mameli


                       Giuseppe Garibaldi                         Vittorio Emanuele.


Firstly in 1831 Giuseppe Mazzini  went to Marseille where he became a popular figure amongst other Italian exiles and organised a new political society called La giovine Italia, Young Italy a secret society that was formed to promote Italian unification of the several states ad kingdoms of the peninsular into a single republic. The motto of the group was ‘God and the People’   

In 1847 Camillo Benso Conte Di Cavour or Cavour as he was more normally known founded Il Risorgimento the political newspaper. He was also the founder of the original  Italian Liberal Party . He was the first Prime minister of the new Italy but he died after only three months in office in June 1861.

Two years later in 1849 Godfredo Mameli died just two months before his twenty second birthday, at the age of twenty he wrote the lyrics to the current Italian national anthem, which I have included at the end of this post.

Then in 1860 Giuseppe Garibaldi led a military campaign often referred to as Expedition of the Thousand when his volunteer army defeated the two kingdoms of Sicily, annexing them to the kingdom of Sardinia. This was seen as an important step towards the eventual unification of Italy.

Finally in 1861 on March 17th Vittorio Emanuele already the reigning King of Sardinia since March 1949, assumed the title of King of Italy therefore becoming the first King of a united Italy. He remained King until his death in 1878 and the Italians gave him the title of Father of the Fatherland – Padre della Patria.

If you have ever visited Italy you will probably have noticed these names before as in their honour every town seems to have a Via Mazzini, Piazza Cavour, Corso Garibaldi and a Via Vittorio Emanuele or similar.

It is also interesting to note that at the time of unification only 2.5% of the total population spoke Italian in reality the dialect that was from central Italy that went on to become the Italian language spoken today. The rest of the country spoke a multitude of dialects, it was not until the 1920’s that the fascist government introduced a school curriculum that taught Italian language and history in the schools.

The celebrations started last night in Roma with a Notte Bianca except this time it was a ‘Notte Bianca, Rossa e Verde’ with shops and museums staying open, with tricolour fireworks to be released around 7am as the Italian flag was raised in cities all over the country in salute to the nation.

Italian National Anthem  (the full original version)

Italian lyrics from the Poster                                                                                

             Fratelli d'Italia,                              
             L'Italia s'è desta,                                                                                                         
             Dell'elmo di Scipio
             S'è cinta la testa.
             Dov'è la Vittoria?
             Le porga la chioma,
             Ché schiava di Roma
             Iddio la creò.
             Stringiamci a coorte,
             siam pronti alla morte.
             L'Italia chiamò.
             Noi siamo da secoli
             Calpesti, derisi,
             Perché non siam popolo,
             Perché siam divisi.
             Raccolgaci un'unica
             Banderia, una speme
             Di fonderci insieme
             Gia l’ora suono


Uniamoci, amiamoci,
l'unione e l'amore
Rivelano ai Popoli
Le vie del Signore.
Giuriamo far libero
il suolo natio:
Uniti, per Dio,
Chi vincer ci può?
Dall'Alpi a Sicilia
Dovunque è Legnano,
Ogn'uom di Ferruccio
Ha il core, ha la mano,
I bimbi d'Italia
Si chiaman Balilla,
Il suon d'ogni squilla
I Vespri suonò.
Son giunchi che piegano
Le spade vendute:
Già l'Aquila d'Austria
Le penne ha perdute.
Il sangue d'Italia,
Il sangue Polacco,
Bevé, col cosacco,
Ma il cor le bruciò.


               English translation from Wikipedia

                           Brothers of Italy,
                           Italy has awoken,
                           with Scipio's helmet
                           binding her head.
                           Where is Victory?
                           Let her bow down,
                           For God has made her Rome’s slave.


Let us join in a cohort,
We are ready to die.
We are ready to die,
Italy has called.
Let us join in a cohort,
We are ready to die.
We are ready to die,
Italy has called!
We were for centuries
Downtrodden and derided,
because we are not one people,
because we are divided.
Let one flag, one hope
gather us all.
The hour has struck
for us to join together.
Let us unite and love one another,
Union and love
Show the people
The way of the Lord.
Let us swear to free
Our native soil;
United under God,
Who can defeat us?
From the Alps to Sicily,
Legnano is everywhere;
Every man has the heart
and hand of Ferruccio
The children of Italy
Are all called Balilla;
Every trumpet blast
sounds the Vespers.
Mercenary swords,
they're feeble reeds.
The Austrian eagle
Has already lost its plumes.
The blood of Italy
and the Polish blood
It drank, along with the Cossack,
But it burned its heart.

FRATELLI D'ITALIA - National Anthem of Italy (complete)


I have just watched on television the Official Opening Ceremony of events at the Complesso di Vittoriano, Piazza di Venezia, Roma, including a tri-colour flypast, followed by another ceremony at The Pantheon in honour of the first King of Italy. There will be other ceremonies and speeches throughout the day and all Museums, Ministries and Public Institutions will be open to the public. Festivities will close for the day with firework displays in the piazzas of Rome this evening. 



Today then let all of us who love Italy join in the celebration.

Viva l’Italia!  Long Live Italy


  1. Viva l’Italia! Interesting post. Enjoy the celebrations. Take care Diane

  2. Enjoy the long weekend. Summer is coming :D

  3. Great post! Enjoy the festivities!

  4. Interesting post, really informative, thanks. Sometimes it seems we care more about it than the Italians!

  5. I didn't realize that the Italian language was spoken by so few people at unification! Are the dialects still spoken? Are there groups that want to separate from Italy? Very interesting post!

  6. I always learn so much from you. Have a great week.

  7. I will certainly join in the celebration, because I adore Italy and all things Italian as you know. Oh to be in one of the piazzas in Rome to watch the fireworks display! As always, a very interesting post for all of us. We are being educated!!!

  8. Wonderful post!! Congratulations from a distant daughter of Italy. Enjoy your celebrations. Tonight we have been invited for an Irish dinner at friends to celebrate St. Patrick's day but my heart calls out for pasta and pizza!!

  9. Interesting post. I hope there are celebrations and fireworks in our Lazio village tonight, actually there are sure to be they wisely celebrate everything.

  10. We have also to say that in Italy, at present, several people is not in agreement with this celebration. Northern regions are sick of giving their money to the bad politicians in Rome, and to southern regions that are never going to solve their ancient, heavy problems. The federalism seems next to come.

  11. I am so glad you have a holiday! That is delightful! :) Any reason they decide to have one is good enough reason for me : ) Have a special day! Love, Becky from Communal Global

    PS We are always so glad you join us on Tuesdays. You are the best!

  12. What a great post Linda. There were certainly lots of proud Italians here in Tuscania yesterday who hung flags out of their windows.

  13. Honestly I don't have still understood all the fuss about this "sudden" bank holiday, maybe for keeping people's attention focused on something else rather than on our Prime Minister's troubles?!
    Each time you surprise me with a lot of information Linda!

  14. EG Wow @ Thanks for your visit and comment. Italian was not made an official language until much later than unification and yes dialects are still very much spoken especially amongst the older generations. When we speak with our neighbours there are often words we have to get her daughter in law to translate into Italian! In answer to your second question yes there are, Italian politics is very complicated.

  15. Patricia@ Thanks, I hope you enjoyed your St Patrick's Celebrations.

    Welscakes@ Grazie anche te. x

  16. Jenny@ Thankyou I am glad you found it interesting.

    Dona@ I did mention the fact briefly in the post but I did not want to get involved in the politics of the situation. :(

    Lola Letters@ Thankyou for calling by and commenting, it is lovely to have you here.

    Cathy@ Thanks, it was lovely to see all the flags flying.

  17. Thank you, LindyLouMac. There must be separatist groups all over the world as we have some too, which boggles my mind. :)

  18. There were many flags hung from windows here in Trieste, but, I don't think we had as many events.

  19. You always do a great job, spreading Italian culture and history. Anyway I have to quote Dona, that one is reality today in Italy.

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  21. So interesting! I think it's important to have a holiday and a day to celebrate events such as this. I give means people identify more with their country. I hope you enjoy the festivities.

  22. Such an interesting post - I learned some new things today!

  23. What a FUN blog! I LOVE history and learning about other countries as well! Thank you for your nice comments on my blog. I'll look forward to visiting your life in Italy! :) I'd LOVE to travel and see places, but probably won't do any of that, unless it's after the children are all grown. What an adventure you must live! :)

  24. Enjoyed the history and hope you had a nice celebration day! Have a good weekend!

  25. Wow! Great historical post - how lucky you are to be there to celebrate!

  26. That's fantastic post, Lindylou. I never knew Italy was unified so recently, relatively speaking. My step-grandfather was Italian, so you'd have thought I should know that!!


  27. Viva l’Italia! Thank you for sharing. I was totally unfamiliar with this history.

  28. Somebirds@ I have read that there will be events going on all year, I guess it depends how the region we live in feels about the event.

    Jade@ We did thanks, but it seems some Italians had mixed feeling about the event.

    Jennifer@ Thanks for calling by and commenting, glad you found it interesting.

    Farmer's Wyfe@ Welcome and thanks for your lovely comments. It is an adventure which I appreciate.

    Podso@ Thankyou for calling by and letting me know you enjoyed the post.

  29. I enjoyed reading this and got much out of the history lesson! I was in Italia for the 17th. When I made my booking to fly to Napoli I was unaware of the holiday so it came as a delight to celebrate it there. I enjoyed the displays in shop windows. Whether it was dresses, sweets, shoes or jewellery, everyone made such an effort with the three colours from the Italian flag.

  30. Dolly, Welcome to News From Italy and thankyou for taking the time to comment. I am delighted that you found this post interesting.


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