Happy National Day, Italy

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Written by Jan Larsen

CEO at BUZZ.travel powered by World Travel Nation

Published: Jun 1, 2020

Festa della Repubblica

On June 2th, 1946 the Italians voted to get rid of the King and to declare La Republica.

This ended the short history of the House of Savoy as Kings of Italy – only 85 years.

Tourism in Italy

For many of us, bella Italia is one of the absolute favorite destinations; about 60 million foreign visitors come every year. That places Italy as number 5 on the list of the most visited countries; if we compare the number of inhabitants to the visitors, Italy is, perhaps with the exception of a few smaller countries, number three.

Many come for the old Etruscan and Roman sites, others for the light in Tuscany, some for the skiing in the Dolomites, the operas in Milano, Verona, or Taormina, the atmosphere in San  Gimignano or Siena, or just to drink an Aperol Spritz in Florence or Trastevere while studying l’eleganza delle donne italiane.

Italy is narrow roads, crazy drivers, crowded and expensive beaches – and a barkeeper in the port of Pozzallo, Sicily, who tries to charge you 18 € for a sandwich which should not have cost more than 2.5. But he does it such a charming way you cannot really get too upset.

We all hope, we soon can come and visit our favorite again!

The House of Savoy and a United Italy

What is the story of the last Italian King?

After the Roman Empire fell to the Barbarians in 476; Italy over the years fell into smaller city-states and kingdoms. During periods the Overlords were German-speaking Emperors (Holy Roman Emperor, until 1648); the Spanish Habsburgs, until 1701; France, until 1814; and then Austria. Several states and often foreign overlords!

Around 1830 – 70 ideas of national states/identities grew in Europe. Germany consolidated; as did Italy. By 1860 Italy had after a few surges consolidated into 5 states; The Kingdom of Two Sicilies (the largest state; covering Sicily and most of Southern / Middle Italy), Venezia (Austrian rule), the Papal State, San Marino, and the House of Piedmont – Sardinia (Savoy).

Then Garibaldi gets involved. Garibaldi was from Nice (today France), which at that time was part of Piedmont; but now under French rule. With a small group of volunteers (“I mille” – the thousands) he lands in Sicily, fights, and gains control of the island. He then takes control of Southern / Middle Italy. In 1860 he meets King Victor Emmanuel of Savoy; greets him with the words “My King”; and retires.

In 1861 Victor Emmanuel II is declared the first king of a united Italy. Venezia is added after the Prussian / Austrian War of 1866. And the Papal State is added in 1870. The King is assassinated in 1900 and junior, Victor Emmanuel III, takes over.

In 1922 Mussolini and his Black Shirts marched on Rome. A crisis evolved, and the King appointed Mussolini to head the government. First mistake. Around 1924 Il Duce assumes dictatorial power; the Kings accepts without any protest. Second mistake.

Il Duce starts the Second Italian – Ethiopian war in 1935; Italian tanks against Ethiopian spears. The Italian military campaign is less than impressive, but the war is won after 1.5 years. Victor is crowned Emperor of Abyssinia. Third mistake.

The King is against an Italian involvement in WW II; but as Il Duce sees how fast the German tanks advances into France; he gets an attack of FOMO and jumps on Greece. The King cannot stop that. Fourth mistake. The Italian involvement in the war is a disaster. Germany needs to help out in Greece; and the Italian Army in Stalingrad demonstrates that Italian soldiers are not made for dogfighting at minus 35 C. The population blames not only Mussolini but the King too. Now the soil is getting hot!

As the Allied forces land on Sicily, the King wants to surrender; but cannot do that against the will of Mussolini. Fifth – if not a mistake – then at least a weakness.

After the war, Victor, in an attempt to save the monarchy, steps down in favor of his son. That was too late; and the Italians in a referendum asks the House of Savoy to leave the country and never come back.

The reign of the Savoy began in 1003, the house took over the Italian Crown in 1860 – and it was all over in 1946.

The story, by the way, resembles a bit the story of the German Hohenzollern.