150th anniversary begins

The inauguration of official celebrations for Italy’s 150 years as a unified nation took place today in the city of Reggio Emilia. President Giorgio Napolitano began proceedings with an inaugural speech and opening of two exhibitions dedicated to the Italian tricolore flag, which was “invented” in Reggio Emilia and used for the first time on 7th January 1797.

On February 18, 1861, the deputies of the first Italian Parliament were assembled in Turin. On March 17, 1861, the Parliament proclaimed Victor Emmanuel King of Italy.

But even after 150 years, like most issues dealing with Italian unity, the anniversary celebrations are not without controversy and polemic both in political and public circles. The strong Lega Nord, which has gathered a great deal of momentum and support on the back of anti-South sentiments and a drive for federalism, and even division in extreme cases. Napolitano had strong words for any anti-unification sentiments however, stating that it was important to find time for the celebrations which are important even for those seeking federalismo.

Public opinion remains largely indifferent to the anniversary, which is considered an institutional occasion rather than a partriotic celebration. It is commonly said that the only thing that can really unite Italy is the national football team, although only when it wins.

Even the national anthem, commonly known as Fratelli d’Italia, composed in 1847 by Goffredo Mameli, is considered anachronistic in its statements, many preferring Giuseppe Verdi’s Va Pensiero instead.

link: Reggio Emilia 150

Italian national anthem history (wikipedia)

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