Posted by: debrakolkka | March 17, 2011

Italy is 150 years old

Carnevale float about Italian unity

Today, March 17, is a holiday to celebrate the fact that Italy is 150 years old. I wonder if many people realise that Italy has only been a unified country for such a short time. Before that it was a collection of Kindgoms and Papal States constantly feuding with each other.

Resentments still linger. Florence hates Siena, Pisa hates Lucca and so on. There is a saying in Lucca “Better a death in the family than a Pisan at the door” and I am sure Pisa has something just as charming.   We often see graffitti scrawled on centuries old buildings – “Pisa merde” or in Pisa, “Lucca merde”. Despite this, Italy is now a united country, even if not all Italians are happy about it.

In most towns you will find a Via Mazzini,  Garibaldi, Cavour or Vittorio Emanuel II. These were the men involved with the unification of Italy – Risorgimento. It was a chain of political and military events that produced a united Italian peninsula under the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

Giuseppe Mazzini was an idealist who wanted a republican form of government. During the first half of the 19th century he was the heart and soul of  group of secret societies called the Carbonari (coal burners). He formed “Young Italy” to help spread ideas for unification.

Things began to move along when Count Camillo di Cavour became prime minister of Piedmont (Kingdom of Sardinia) in 1852. With political cunning and great bargaining he set about uniting Italy. He encouraged people to participate in government, but he did not share the view of Mazzini and Garibaldi for a republic. He wanted unity under the leadership of King Victor Emanuel II. With the help of Napoleon III of France he encouraged war between Piedmont and Austria, which controlled chunks of Italy. France would help Piedmont in exchange for Nice and Savoy. Piedmont received Lombardy from Austria as a result of the war, greatly increasing its size and influence.

Garibaldi performed his part in the south. If Cavour was the soul of unification, then Garibaldi was the hero. His Red Shirts were a great success. They occupied Sicily and then headed for the mainland. With the help of strategic manoeuvring by Cavour, encouraging riots and uprisings, 2 thirds of the Papal states joined Piedmont, leaving Rome and Veneto.  Garibaldi famously gave up command of his army and shook hands with Vittorio Emanuel II, signifying the formation of the Kindgom of Italy in 1861 with Vittorio as the first king.   Veneto was annexed in 1866 and Rome joined in October 1870 and became the capital in 1871.

This is obviously a very sketchy overview of the events that led to unification, but I’m sure if you are interested you will look for more information.

There is a plaque on the front of the Comune building in Bagni di Lucca commemorating the voting process in Tuscany in 1860.


the plaque on the front of the Comune building

It says (roughly) that on 15th March 1860 the people of Tuscany voted.  366,571 people voted for a Constitutional Monarchy, 14,925 voted against and 4,929 said nothing.

Flags have been appearing all over the place, so it seems people are happy to celebrate the occasion. I felt the need to join in and bought some flags for my balcony.


my balcony

If you look carefully you will see a small Australian flag there as well. My neighbour Dome has a bigger flag than I do.


Dome's flag is bigger than mine

Here are a few of the flags and decorations I have spotted around the village. It has been raining and everything looks a bit drab, but we can’t do anything about the weather.


outside Patrizia's fruit shop

the door to L'Osteria della Piazzetta

outside the hairdresser

my favourite

I love this one. I know it looks a bit like washing on the line, but it is the thought that counts.


on the front of the theatre

This one is the same as mine, but the right way up. If you look carefully you can see the price tag on Garibaldi’s head.


the Red Cross building

at Bar Italia

Here is the best one of all.


the huge flag at Ponte Maddelena

the ducks seem most impressed

Happy 150th Anniversary Italy! …… It is now 11.30 am and an old soldier, wearing a feathered hat has just driven his car through the village with loud speakers strapped to the top, blaring old Italian music for us to enjoy – I love it!!!

I took some more photos when the sun came out.

the flag is flying in the wind

from the top

and again

the wind changed

it was a very big flag

I love this bridge


  1. I am going to send you a bigger flag! But this all looks great. Good to see the Italians patriotic and flying their flag! Any reason for a celebration is good!

  2. I would have given you my flag so you could outdo neighbors but gave it to McBrides.

    • I hope they are making good use of it.

  3. I’m useless at recognising flags, I’ve got that flagcounter thing on the bottom of my blog and I still haven’t got any better! One flag at a time – I think I’ve got the Italian one sussed now 😉 Lovely series of photos, I like the washing line one and the bridge one best!

    • I love the washing line strung across the street in the village, it is my favourite. It is a pity it is raining so heavily here. There are supposed to be fireworks on the river tonight, but it may not happen. I’ll be there if it does.

  4. Great! It looks like national pride that is of a really genuine sort – unfortunately the same kind of spirit doesn’t seem to be associated with the Australian flag. In some places, yes, but not all around.

    And the one under the bridge! Wouldn’t want to be driving a boat through there in the dark, haha.

    • Not everybody here is happy about a united Italy. The north wants to ditch the south and there have been protests today, but it is nice to see the flags flying and the old soldier has driven back through the village. I wish I knew the song he was playing – it was very stirring. I tried to get a photo, but he was too quick.

  5. Brilliant Debra. I wish I was there to hear the old guy driving through the village with the loud speakers blaring music., that’s really getting into the spirit huh. I had no idea of the history of Italy, so thanks for sharing that. I see the little Aussie flag on your balcony 🙂

    • I really love the every day stuff here in the village. I am so lucky to be here.

  6. Great to see all the splashes of colour around the village. Yes, Deb, you sure are lucky to be in the thick of the 150 year celebrations. So, it’s great to feel part of them through your historical accounts and pictures. Your comments re the price tag on Garibaldi’s head and the tiny Australian flag are funny. Would the Count be the one with the fancy moustache and goatee?

    • I’m not sure who the others are, I only know Garibaldi because of the red shirt. I’ll have to brush up on my Italian history. It is a pity is is raining, because the village looks very festive and would look even better if the sun was shining.

  7. I loved seeing the red green and white in all of the pics. The Italians are certainly a passionate bunch!

  8. Ah, great insight to Italy as always.

    I wonder if THIS is the reason why every part of Italy is sooooo epically different.

    • This is exactly why each region is different and each town within the region is different. Most towns and cities had walls around them to keep people out and each one had its own style and way of doing things.

  9. Debra this information is fantastic, I look forward each day to your news.
    Only new to your blog but love it.
    love the ducks looking at the flag !!!!

    • Thank you. I thought the ducks would fly off when I turned up, but they hung around long enough for a photo.

  10. A great blog and thanks for the photos, made my day. We stayed in Lucca (leased a farm house) in 2001 and absolutely loved it. My mother’s ancestors came from Lucca, Florence, Pisa and Pistoia, so as you can imagine I am an Italiaholic!

    • Thank you for visiting. I am a bit of an Italiaholic as well, I guess that’s why we bought a house here.

  11. Debra you know the best thing about this blog is that you are so obviously passionate about a country that holds a very dear spot in my heart. Thank you for the snippets that transport me.

    • I do love it here, with all its funny ways.

  12. my fav is the balloons, cute!

    hey I am impressed by the pots which make a line below the windows in pic 5166, that’s simply unique for me… and the pansy show that spring has come! unfortunately the sky was so cloudy…

    • It is a pity it was such a dreary day for the celebrations.

  13. […] here to see the bridge in winter, or here for more fabulous spring photos and here to see a huge flag hanging from the […]

  14. […] love the top floor of this apartment in the anfiteatro. The Italian flag was out to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the unification in Italy. looking out from the wall around […]

  15. […] here for more on the flags flying for the 150th […]

  16. […] here to see the festival at Ponte a Serraglio and here for the flags flying in the […]

  17. Such a Wonderful and beautiful blog, proud of having and italian last name (Pedemonte).
    Thanks for sharing all this Beauty, Aquileana 🙂

    • You should be proud of your Italian name. I am proud of my Finnish one.

  18. Very informative – very nicely illustrated

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