On February 15, the United States pays tribute to George Washington, the first President of the United States and the commanding general of the Continental armies that secured independence from England. February is also an important month in Italian history. It marks the 160th anniversary of Italian unification and independence.
The “Risorgimento,” the “Resurgence” of an independent, unified Italy, came to fruition during February 1861. Italian political and social movements during the 19th century yielded the consolidation of the different states contained within the Italian peninsula into a single independent state: The Kingdom of Italy.
Prior to unification, the Italian peninsula consisted of “independent” states, each with its own political goals and ambitions. Additionally, foreign powers – such as France, Austria-Hungry, and Spain – exercised political control over several Italian states. The Pope also exercised sovereign, autocratic authority over the central part of Italy – the Papal States – which included Rome.
On February 18, 1861, Victor Emmanuel II, “de facto” King of Italy, managed to overcome political obstacles and assembled the very first Italian Parliament in Turin. Subsequently, on March 17, 1861, parliament officially proclaimed Victor Emmanuel King of Italy, and on March 27, 1861, Rome was declared “Capital of Italy” – even though “The Eternal City” was not yet part of the new Kingdom.
Suffice it to say, much like the American revolution, Italian unification and independence came at a huge, costly price. It was a long, arduous affair that began in the 1820’s and, to many, formally concluded in 1871, when Rome was officially designated the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.
Since the birth of the Italian Republic in 1946, Italy has remained a trusted ally, friend, and partner to – and with – the United States. It is our hope that the enduring – and endearing – relationship between Italy and the United States remains vibrant and continues to flourish in the future.
Albert J. Cupo and John Di Genio
Dante Alighieri Society, Jersey City