Happy Birthday Italy!

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TItaly’s 150th anniversary since it became a country united under one flag. It is interesting to notice that in the country not everyone agrees with this celebration, especially those who would like to see the northern part of Italy gain its independence from the rest of the country. However, the national pride feelings prevail, and street celebrations have taken place in major cities throughout Italy since last night.

Such a young country and such a long history. We consider normal to think of Italy, the “boot” of Europe, as a single country. Although the Italic people already shared the same roots and language to some extents, there were immense differences that characterized each region. Regional dialects, sometimes more than one in the same region, were the common spoken language, and a relatively small percent shared Italian as a mean of communication. This was compounded by the strong political fragmentation of the country. The south belonged to the Bourbons with the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Tuscany to the Habsburg-Lorraine with Grand Duchy Leopold II, the north was shared between the Austrian-Hungarian Empire that had the Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia (Veneto and Part of Lombardy), and France that had the Kingdom of Sardinia including the island of Sardinia, great part of Piedmont and Liguria. The center, including Marche, Umbria and Lazio, were under the Vatican stronghold. A few other duchies, that of Parma, Modena and Lucca, belonged to the French and were treated as barter value in exchange for Borbonic military help in the peninsula.
Italy was therefore an inexistent concept in the mind of Italic people. They were used to changing rulers with every coming war or political treaty, always under a foreign power, and always vexed and exploited. It is easy to imagine how fragmentation, extreme poverty and deep ignorance were the most powerful weapons in the hands of foreign rulers.

What was the role of Tuscany during the period prior the unification of Italy? As already said, Tuscany belonged to the Habsburg-Lorraine. Since 1737 Tuscany had been a Grand Duchy under this family, and so it remained until 1860 with the latest grand-duchy Ferdinand IV, although it had practically been a free state since Leopold II had voluntarily and pacifically departed in 1859 from Florence among the salutations of the people. During the Napoleonic invasion of Italy Tuscany had momentarily passed under French dominion from 1799 to 1814 becoming the Kingdom of Etruria.
It must be said that Tuscany owes a considerable part of its contemporary fame to its grand duchies. Their illuminated views in terms of religion, politics, economy, liberalism, and state administration made of Tuscany ahead of all western states at the time. Death penalty and torture was abolished, first in the whole world, in 1786, and other penal reforms were brought forward. Many principles surpassed those of the ongoing French Revolution. Censorship was practically inexistent, which gave Tuscany the status of a peaceful oasis for all the great literary minds of the time, that in Tuscany found a safe land to continue their important works. This may also be the reason why above all, the language spoken in Tuscany was recognized as the official Italian language. After all it was here that Dante Alighieri wrote his Italian Vulgar masterpiece, The Divine Comedy.

As a consequence, right after unification the Tuscan people strongly supported federalization, not recognizing themselves under the new government that imposed laws and duties that on many aspects represented a step back for Tuscany. However, these feelings soon vanished. From Turin, the capital of Italy was moved to Florence in 1865, prior to the definitive institution of Rome as capital in 1870.

Happy Birthday Italy!