Italian Unification: dates, events & protagonists of the 3 Wars of Independence

In this lesson we are going to deal with history, more precisely with the history of the Unification of Italy (Italian Independence). In fact, around the year 1815 (but actually since the Fall of the Roman Empire happened in 476 A.D.) the Italian peninsula was fragmented and divided under foreign domination. Therefore, we are going to look back over the various stages, and the protagonists, that led to the birth of the united Italy that we all know today!

The History of Italian Unification: Risorgimento (summary)

Before we begin, let’s see how Italy was divided before the Unification, around the year 1815:

  • Il Regno Lombardo-Veneto (Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom) (submitted to Hapsburg Austria)
  • Il Regno di Sardegna (Kingdom of Sardinia) (ruled by king Vittorio Emanuele I, along with Piedmont)
  • Lo Stato della Chiesa (State of the Church) (ruled by the Pope)
  • Il Regno delle Due Sicilie (Kingdom of the Two Sicilies) (ruled by the Bourbon dynasty)
  • Ducato di Modena (Duchy of Modena)
  • Granducato di Toscana (Grand Duchy of Tuscany)
  • Ducato di Lucca (Duchy of Lucca)

(And a few other small realities)

The formation of secret societies and the early uprisings 

In the 19th century, some patriots felt the need to unite the whole peninsula to create a single country, starting the historical phase known as Risorgimento (Resurgence). Among these patriots there was Giuseppe Mazzini, founder the organization “Giovine Italia”, a political association which aimed to turn Italy into a unitary democratic republic, according to the principles of freedom and independence. In order to avoid being arrested and imprisoned, the patriots decided to hang out together in societies that were scattered both in the regions ruled by the Austrian Empire and in the regions ruled by the Bourbon dynasty with the purpose of spark upbringings in the various regions, and among the most active and popular there was the Carboneria, of which the members took the tame of Carbonari.

But fulfilling their dream wouldn’t be that easy: first, three Wars of Independence had to be fought!


The First War of Independence 

–  1847: The Italian National anthem, better known as “Inno di Mameli” (by its author’s name Goffredo Mameli), was composed, becoming very popular during the Wars of Independence. (Nowadays, it’s the official Italian anthem)

– 1848: the First War of Independence broke out, since, after several anti-Hapsburg uprisings occurred in the most important cities of Lombardy-Veneto (Padova, Milan and Venice), Charles-Albert of Savoy took the lead of an alliance formed by some Italian states, declaring war on Austria with the purpose of conquering the Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom. Charles-Albert, who was initially victorious, was eventually defeated and was also forced to give his kingdom to his son, Vittorio Emanuele II.

– 1852: Camillo Benso Count of Cavour became the prime minister of the Kingdom of Sardinia and started planning new and innovative strategies to unite the peninsula. In fact, Cavour quickly came to the view that, without the support of an European power, he would never be able to defeat the Hapsburgs, thus, through a series of diplomatic maneuvers, he was able to gain the support of France ruled by Napoleon III


The Second War of Independence and the Expedition of the Thousand

– 1859: the Second War of Independence broke out: the Kingdom of Sardinia, with the aid of France, succeeded in freeing Lombardy, an event that would lead to the annexation of Tuscany, Parma, Modena and part of the Romagna ruled by the Pontifical State.

– 1860: Giuseppe Garibaldi, an Italian general, patriot and commander, who was famous both in Europe and South America for actions which made him known as the “eroe dei due mondi” (Hero of two worlds), with about a thousand men at his back, sailed from Quarto, near Genoa, and reached Marsala, in Sicily. From Sicily, fighting against the Bourbon army, the thousands of Garibaldi conquered the entire island and started to back up north, victory after victory, to Naples.

Within the same weeks, king Vittorio Emanuele II moved his army to conquer the Marches and Umbria regions, two regions that were ruled by the Pontifical State and, avoiding the Lazio region, and with his soldiers he got to Campania

-1860 (October 26): Vittorio Emanuele met Giuseppe Garibaldi in Teano, near Caserta, thus reuniting the peninsula.

– 1861 (March 17): Vittorio Emanuele II declared the birth of the Kingdom of Italy with Turin as its capital.

The Third War of Independence and the Breach of Porta Pia

– 1866: Italy was not yet fully united and freed… In fact, the Lazio region and the Veneto region were still under foreign domination, but the latter was freed by Vittorio Emanuele with the Third War of Independence

– 1870: the king’s sharpshooters arrived in Rome, where they broke through the Walls and entered the city (that event would be remembered as the Breach of Porta Pia), putting an end to the power of the Pope. In fact, the latter was granted the Pontifical Palace, the Vatican buildings and an indemnity in money.

– 1871: Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.

Good, now you know the history of the Italian Unification! Why don’t you brush up on a little geography with our video on the regions of Italy? It’s very interesting and, above all, very useful! Don’t miss it, and don’t miss the amazing items you can find on our e-shop LearnAmo Collection either!

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