UNITED STATES OF ITALY?
SAVOYS and BOURBONS
Article 1 of the Italian Constitution states: “Italy is a democratic republic founded on work.”
Article 5 instead states that “The Republic is one and indivisible and recognizes and promotes local autonomies.”
Last year we Italians have celebrated the 150th anniversary of Italy unity. But saying the verb “to celebrate” is a big word in this case…..
The republic (from the Latin res publica, or “public thing”) is a form of government in which sovereignty belongs to the people that exercise in the manner and within the limits set by law. The first republics formed in Italy were the Maritime Republics in 1800, a forerunner of local autonomy called federalism. They were Italian port cities (such as Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa and Venice), from the Middle Ages, that thanks to their maritime activities enjoyed a political autonomy and an economic prosperity.
All are accustomed to consider Italy one country, a nation, but if this is true from a geographical point of view, practically it is not at a political, economic, social and cultural level. These differences, along with distrust and rivalry, are unfortunately deeply rooted.
We are very far from the U.S. federalism and it even sounds a contradiction that Italy has been one of the advocates of a united Europe.
What was the dream of many intellectuals and politicians since 1800, and that has led to numerous conflicts and wars, for having a united and independent Italy, today it is not. One wonders if the Expedition of the Thousand of Garibaldi in 1860 has been a good or a bad thing, considering that some of the North considers the South as a cause of all the ills of Italy.
There are still many “legacies” that we Italians, like it or pain, carry with us from the time of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (ruled by the Spanish Bourbons) and of the Kingdom of Sardinia (ruled by the French Savoy). Probably not many people know that, as historians point out, at the time of the unity, southern Italy was not the most disadvantaged area, but the Levant, while the south was the first to benefit of the Savoy ameliorative policies, through free trade and improving infrastructure. The first census of 1871 shows that regions such as Lazio, Campania and Sicily, about industry, handicrafts and agriculture, were not less than Piedmont, Lombardy and Liguria, while almost all of the regions’ east along the Adriatic, except Friuli, were much less developed and productive. In the mid-nineteenth century, the public debt of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was about four times lower than that of the Kingdom of Sardinia. Someone else forgets that it took three wars of independence to liberate Italy from foreigners and that in any case, Savoy and Bourbon were related to each other.
What made unification more difficult was also the local identity and language, given that the Italian language was not known by all as it was not yet the national language and, as Alessandro Manzoni said, at that time it was a dead language. To the north was mainly the Piedmontese dialect and French, while Neapolitan, Roman, Sicilian and Spanish in the south. We had to wait the formation of a national identity (which probably is still missing today), the public administration and the compulsory education in 1877, to ensure that “Italian” became the national language. But despite this, still some dialects represent the everyday language for many people.
On the ideological level, at the end of the nineteenth century there were many nostalgic, northern and southern, which already propagandized and advocated the return of the Savoy in the north and of Bourbons in the south.
“Having made Italy must make Italians“, as the writer Ferdinando Martini wrote, remains a dilemma never exceeded. After 150 years from the unification many Italian people wonder who “Italians” are and why they have to be together. Even within the same region there are disagreements and rivalries between various provinces, with some cities that hate another, just imagine between different regions and far between. Indeed, there is one Italy geographically but there is no Italian, there is not a national identity as it exists in other countries such as Germany, France or the USA. I wonder if a foreign country invaded the south of Italy, how many Northern people would fight willingly and, vice versa, how may southern people would went to fight to rid the north at the cost of the life.
In light of these realizations, the doubt put in the title of this post is tangible and real, unfortunately.