17 March 1861: 156 years ago the unity of Italy

(To Matteo Acciaccarelli)

It was the 17 March of the 1861 when, during the session at Palazzo Carignano, the new Parliament named "Italian" for the first time, promulgated the law n. 4761 of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which read: King Vittorio Emanuele II assumes the title of King of Italy for himself and his successors. Thus was born, at least legally, the Kingdom of Italy, founded on an identity common to all the liberals who had fought bitterly during the Risorgimento: the Italian nation. A State that had its foundations in the constitutional order of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which already from the 1848 had endowed itself with its own Constitution, or the Albertine Statute granted by King Carlo Alberto, which also became the legal basis of the newborn Kingdom of Italy, but not only. Yes, because the ruling dynasty wanted to give an even more marked imprint of the importance of the previous kingdom, so much so that Vittorio Emanuele did not become Vittorio Emanuele I, as one would have thought, but he kept the previous numbering, as well as the legislature that one had open the 18 February 1861, or the eighth.

A decision very strong and full of meanings that taken by the king and the moderate liberals of Cavour, who did not take kindly to the fact that the unification of the Peninsula, not yet completed in todo, had been given a decisive contribution also by Garibaldi's voluntarism , mostly of a democratic mindset. Garibaldini who had become protagonists, with their ascent of the Peninsula starting from Sicily, of the final collapse of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the only real antagonist, on the Italian scene, to the unification of the whole of Italy. Its collapse due to many causes, including the aforementioned Expedition of the Thousand, "forced" Vittorio Emanuele II to cross the pontifical territories of the Marche and Umbria so as to be able to stop the return of Garibaldi, which pointed dangerously, diplomatically speaking, about Rome. The famous Teano meeting of 26 October 1860 ended the Garibaldi expedition and allowed the Kingdom of Sardinia to annex the territories that were of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

And the Austrian Empire? In 1860, the year of Garibaldi's expedition to the Bourbon lands, the "hated" Empire was momentarily defeated following the Second War of Independence, which took place the previous year, won by the Sardinian-French troops and ended with the Armistice of Villafranca . The Austrian surrender to France of Napoleon III, much criticized in Italy, so much so that led to the resignation of Cavour, gave the Second French Empire the Lombard territories, excluding Mantua and Peschiera, which were transferred to the Kingdom of Sardinia, thanks to the agreements previously signed with Napoleon III at Plombières. Central Italy, however, went into turmoil, there were many popular uprisings against the various reigning dynasties, these led to the request of annexation to the Kingdom of Sardinia, increasingly unique lighthouse for all Italian liberals. The two-year 1859-1861 is key to the birth of the unified kingdom, first the victorious war against Austria, then the plebiscites for the annexation of 11 and 12 March 1860 which sanction the unification of Emilia and Tuscany with the Kingdom of 'Italy and, to conclude, in the spring of 1860 the aforementioned expedition of the Thousand.

The birth of the Kingdom of Italy, however, did not put an end to two very important questions for the future of the Kingdom, namely: how to complete unification with the annexation of Veneto and Rome? How to build a common sentiment of "Italian Nation" that was widespread throughout the people and not only in the urban bourgeoisie? The first question was solved with a new war in the 1866, that is the Third War of Independence, which allowed - thanks to the victories of the Prussian allies, despite the two very heavy defeats of Custoza, on the ground, and of Lissa, by sea - to annex to the Kingdom of Italy the Veneto and Venice. For Rome we must wait for another war instead, this time not fought in the Peninsula but in France, in the 1870, and which did not see the Royal Army involved: the defeat of Napoleon III against Prussia allowed the Kingdom of Italy to enter the by now defenseless Rome and thus put an end to the Papal State. Italy was united, only Trentino and Friuli were missing, but it was still necessary to "make Italians". Spreading the romantic ideal of Nation, in territories that saw in the newborn Kingdom of Italy an enemy against which to fight, was a difficult task. With time, with education and in small part with the Great War, which in an Italocentric vision can also be considered as the Fourth War of Independence, this need was met. Unfortunately, however, the Italians are increasingly forgetting how much Italian blood has been shed to build the unitary state that, despite its ups and downs, from 156 years is still here.