Italy Celebrates Unification Anniversary
- By Kevin O'Flynn
- May. 25 2011 00:00
For a country with such a long history, Italy as a nation is remarkably young. This year it commemorates the 150th anniversary of Italy's Unification, or Risorgimento, when a single state began to emerge.
The official birthday was on March 17, 150 years to the day from when Victor Emmanuel II was proclaimed King of Italy. The country had a day with vast celebrations, huge crowds in piazzas and flyovers by jets trailing the sky in the green, white and red of the national flag. Celebrations were particularly vivid in Turin, which was the first Italian capital.
''We are celebrating the best of our nation. Without unity our nation would have been swept away by history. If we are united, we will overcome all the challenges that await us," Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said at the time.
That celebration was only part of the commemoration, and June 2 — Italy's National Day marking the birth of the Italian Republic on June 2, 1946 — will see leaders from all over the world gather in Rome to mark the date.
For those who can not make it to Rome on June 2, there are a vast number of events being held over the course of the year to mark the anniversary. Esperienza Italia is a huge cultural event that will take place in Turin and the surrounding Piedmont region, dedicated to the anniversary.
An enormous program of exhibits, sports events, concerts and much more will take place in two venues: the Officine Grandi Riparazioni, a giant former train repair workshop in the center of Turin, and La Venaria Reale, a baroque complex from the 17th and 18th centuries that once belonged to the Savoy family, a few kilometers outside Turin.
Visitors to the former venue can see an exhibit that traces the lives of Italians over the last 150 years looking at what unites and divides a nation and the journey as "people became Italians."
The 150th anniversary of unification has had people talking about the divisions in Italy, too, between political forces and between regions.
"The holiday may help people to overcome their differences," said Professor Vittorio Strada of the University Ca' Foscari in Venice.
An exhibit at the Officine Grandi Riparazioni will look at the innovations that are already here and to come and how this will change Italy.
At La Venaria Reale more than 350 works of art from all over the world are on display in a look at cultural capitals — such as Florence, Genoa and Parma — in the pre-unification era. Just listing a few names — Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian — on the rota of artists on display shows the quality of the exhibit.
For those who can't make it to Rome on June 2, there are a vast number of events being held over the course of the year to mark the occasion.
In the same venue, Italian fashion will come under spotlight with a broad look at fashion since unification. The exhibit is curated by Academy Award-winning costume designer Gabriella Pescucci — she won in 1994 for her work on Martin Scorsese's film "The Age of Innocence" — and Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani.
Other exhibits include a look at Leonardo da Vinci, starting in October, that will include his famous self-portrait normally held in the Royal Library of Turin. The Galleria Grande at the Reggia di Venaria will offer monthly royal dinners that will send visitors on a culinary tour of Italy for 60 euros.
The celebrations are not only limited to cultural and diplomatic events. Some of the country's most iconic businesses have also sought to mark the event. Lamborghini, the legendary sports car manufacturer, has released its Gallardo Tricolore with the three colors of the Italian flag running over the top of the car. Pirelli released Superpole tires with an Italian flag on them, dedicated to Italian unification.
Even Italian wine has got in on the event with a bottle that claims to contain all of the wines of Italy. Robert Cipresso, a noted winemaker, created the wine by combining 20 of the most famous grape varieties from all over the country. Naturally the wine will be made in a limited edition of 150 magnums and the creators hope that President Napolitano will accept the wine as a gift to be given out on special occasions.