mamma mia!

“The End of Italy”

“Why should we be surprised Italy is falling apart? With dozens of languages and a hastily made union, it was barely a real country to begin with….

“It took four centuries for the seven kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England to finally become one in the 10th, yet nearly all the territories of the seven states that made up 19th-century Italy were molded together in less than two years, between the summer of 1859 and the spring of 1861. The pope was stripped of most of his dominions, the Bourbon dynasty was exiled from Naples, the dukes of central Italy lost their thrones, and the kings of Piedmont became monarchs of Italy. At the time, the speed of Italian unification was regarded as a kind of miracle, a magnificent example of a patriotic people uniting and rising up to eject foreign oppressors and home-bred tyrants.

“However, the patriotic movement that achieved Italian unification was numerically small — consisting largely of young middle-class men from the north — and would have had no chance of success without foreign help. A French army expelled the Austrians from Lombardy in 1859; a Prussian victory enabled the new Italian state to acquire Venice in 1866.

“In the rest of Italy, the Risorgimento (or Resurgence) wars were not so much struggles of unity and liberation as a succession of civil wars. Giuseppe Garibaldi, who had made his name as a soldier in South America, fought heroically with his red-shirted volunteers in Sicily and Naples in 1860, but their campaigns were in essence a conquest by northern Italians of southern Italians, followed by the imposition of northern laws on the southern state known as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Yet the southern city of Naples did not feel liberated — only 80 citizens of Italy’s largest city volunteered to fight for Garibaldi — and its people soon became embittered that the city had exchanged its role as the 600-year-old capital of an independent kingdom for the status of a provincial center. Today, its status remains reduced, and southern GDP is barely half what it is in the regions of the north….

“When you ask citizens of, for example, Pisa how they identify themselves, they are likely to answer first as Pisans, then as Tuscans, and only after as Italians or Europeans. As many Italians cheerfully admit, their sense of belonging to the same nation becomes apparent only during the World Cup, when the Azzurri, the members of the national soccer team, are playing well….”

(note: comments do not require an email. pizza pizza.)


  1. Not really disagreeing here, but by his argument Germany should also dismember itself, non? Also if Italy is to dismember, Venice would like to have Istria back, thank you.


  2. Great potted history in the best sense of the word. I never knew this stuff. When my wife and daughter and I were in Rome for the first time 7-or-8 years ago, however, I do remember a street vendor who corrected my daughter for referring to her as an Italian. I’m not Italian, she said, I’m Roma! Rome, btw, is the real thing. Forget Florence and Venice.


  3. @luke – “I do remember a street vendor who corrected my daughter for referring to her as an Italian. I’m not Italian, she said, I’m Roma!”

    THAT’S so italian! (~_^)


  4. A gypsy? No, I don’t think so. She spoke broken English, and, best I can remember, it sounded like “Roma.” Anyway she made it clear she was from Rome, not some other part of Italy. Maybe Roma means different things in different languages?


  5. It should be “Romana” (female form of Romano= Roman in Engl.)not “Roma”(which is the city itself).
    Btw, I’m “Siciliano” from father’s and “Saarlaender”(“Saarland”= a small Region/Bundesland in Germany) from mother’s side. ;)
    Nice blog here, btw.


  6. IHTG Thanks, and point taken. She must therefore have said “Romano” instead of “Roma” to indicate she considered herself “Roman,” not “Italian.” I only remember her intent.


  7. It would be like Susan Sontag saying she considered herself a New Yorker but not an American. Fortunately there are not too many Susan Sontags around.


  8. Luke Lea I don’t know what part of the country you are from but there are tens of millions of “Americans” who are “[ethnic identity here], not American”… enjoy your balkanized proposition nation


  9. So basically north and south were unified in Italy around the same time they were (re)unified in the United States, with about the same consequences.

    “Broadly”. :)

    I bet Italy would have worked just fine as a loose confederation. Tons of local and regional control, a central government doing nothing but defense and foreign policy. Of course, that could have gone the way the US went too, with universal suffrage, direct elections to national offices, judges appointed nationally unwilling to use their power of judicial review to block usurpations of local/regional power, etc.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s