The public holiday saw joyful celebrations in cities such as Rome and Turin, but also further signs of how fractured the country still seems at times. Politicians in the wealthy north questioned whether workers and students should have been given the day off, while some in the south said they were tired of being regarded as second-class citizens.
Berlusconi’s government declared a one-off national holiday to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the day Victor Emanuel II became the first king of a united Italy following centuries of rivalry among city-states and foreign occupation along the peninsula…
State TV and the Italian news agency ANSA said Berlusconi was greeted with catcalls on the Janiculum Hill, where monuments and a museum honour efforts by Giuseppe Garibaldi and other Italian heroes top forge a united nation.
Berlusconi is due to stand trial in the coming weeks for allegedly paying an underage Moroccan teenager for sex and for using his position to try to cover up his relationship with her – charges he has consistently denied.
His three-year-old government suffered the defection of a major ally last year, and his most important coalition partner is now the Northern League, which once advocated the north’s secession from Rome. Several Northern League politicians criticised the declaration of a public holiday and others said they would keep town halls in the region open in defiance.
The 150th anniversary doesn’t mean a lot to my Italian grandma’s family. Their village in the Tirol was still under the heel of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Her family was forced to adopt Germanic family names. They weren’t able to become officially Italian again until the end of World War I.
By then, she was already in the United States, working as a housemaid and dating a young toolmaker from Mantua.