The green, white and red Tricolor flag is a world-famous symbol of Italy, one of the great Mediterranean nations that is loved by everyone who visits it. Seen at soccer grounds, hanging outside restaurants and flying from government buildings in Italy, there are few flags that are more recognizable than the green, white and red Tricolor.
But despite the near ubiquity of the Tricolor flag, both inside and outside of Italy, there’s an interesting story behind this elegant flag and numerous things that very few people are aware of. For instance, although a version of the Tricolor flag has been in use in Italy since the late 18th Century, the contemporary Tricolor was only adopted in 1946, after the founding of the modern Italian Republic.
What Was Italy’s First Flag?
Italy is a relatively new country that was only unified in 1861 following several major revolutions and decades of serious political turmoil. Prior to its unification, Italy was made up of numerous kingdoms, republics and autonomous states.
Before unification, a process that started in 1815 and was completed in 1861, the territory that makes up modern-day Italy included Lombardy, Piedmont-Savoy, the Republics of Genoa, Venice, Modena, Parma and Tuscany. It also included the Kingdom of two Sicilies and the Papal States. Each state had its own customs, traditions and in some cases, languages, as well as its own flag.
When Italy was unified in 1861 it was known as the Kingdom of Italy. The first flag of the Kingdom of Italy had a green, white and red vertical tricolor background, just like the nation’s flag today. However, because Italy was formed as a monarchy, under the rule of the House of Savoy, the flag also had a crown at the top of the central white stripe, symbolizing the monarchy, and a white cross on a red shield in the center, representing the House of Savoy.
What Is The Story Behind Italy’s Flag?
The current green, white and red, vertical Tricolor flag can be traced right back to 1798 when it was first used as an unofficial symbol of Italy. Although the nation was not officially unified, the Tricolor flag was widely used in the area.
When Napoleon conquered most of Italy, he used the green, white and red colors in a geometric design, similar to his own Napoleonic flag’s design. In the center of this new flag, a golden eagle symbolized his power over the lands as the Emperor of the Kingdom of Italy, as it was then.
However, after Napoleon’s fall from power in 1814, Italy’s process of unification began in an unofficial capacity and the green, white and red Tricolor flag became generally accepted as a symbol of the geographic area that makes up modern Italy. The colors were redesigned into three vertical bars of green, white and red, and the Napoleonic eagle was removed.
In 1848, the Italian Tricolor flag was used by the Italian military forces when they fought against the Austrian armies. Following this, the green, white and red Tricolor flag was adopted by the Kingdom of Sardinia and later, in 1861, it was adopted as the symbol for the newly formed nation, the Kingdom of Italy.
Where Do The Colors On The Italian Flag Come From?
The green, white and red Tricolor flag was first created under Napoleon’s rule and was inspired by the French Tricolor flag, which is blue, white and red. The three colors used on Italy’s flag originated from the Civic Militia in the Transpadane Republic, an unofficial government that was based in Milan between 1796 and 1797, when it became the Cispadane Republic in Modena, under the rule of Napoleon.
From this time onwards, in 1797, the flag of Italy, in all its various forms, remained almost the same until the present day. Over the next few hundred years, the Italian flag only changed to symbolize the different rulers and systems of government, although the green, white and red color scheme remained a constant.
What Do The Colors On The Italian Flag Mean?
The Italian flag has long been a source of pride and national unity in Italy but the precise meaning of the three colors is not known for sure. There are, however, several different theories as to what the colors might mean.
Some historians believe that the colors have a religious meaning and represent three Christian virtues; green represents hope, white represents faith and red represents charity. Others argue that the colors are more revolutionary and idealistic in nature; green represents freedom, white represents faith and red represents love.
Another popular theory in Italy is that green stands for the fertile Italian countryside, white for the snowy mountains of the North and the red for the blood that has been spilled by the people to unify the great nation.
Is The Italian Flag Older Than The Mexican Flag?
The Italian and the Mexican flag look extremely similar, with both sharing a common color scheme of green, white and red. However, the Mexican flag is older than the Italian flag and was first adopted in 1810 during Mexico’s war of Independence against Spain.
Italy’s Modern Flag.
In 1946, after World War II had ended in Europe, Italy changed from a monarchy to a republic. With the abolition of the monarchy, the crown and Savoy coat of arms was removed from the flag, leaving only the simple and elegant green, white and red vertical bands of the Tricolor flag we know today.
Following the founding of the Italian Republic on 13th June 1946, King Umberto II, son of Victor Emmanuel III, fled the country to live in exile. After the king had fled, the Tricolor flag with the crown and Savoy coat of arms was lowered from the Quirinal Palace and was never raised again. This brought an official end to the Kingdom of Italy and saw the birth of the Republic in its place.
After a final decision by the Italian Constituent Assembly, the new Tricolor flag, without the crown and Savoy coat of arms, was decreed to be the official symbol of the Republic of Italy.
This decision was formalized in Article 12 of the Italian Constitution in 1947, which reads, ‘The flag of the Republic is the Italian Tricolor: green, white and red, in three vertical bands of equal dimensions…’
By a strange twist of fate, just a few days before the Constitution of the new Italian Republic was officially signed into law, the green, white and red Tricolor turned 150 years old, having first been used in 1797. When Article 12 of the Constitution was approved by the Constituent Assembly, the members spontaneously got to their feet and applauded as a sign of respect for the new flag.
How Should The Italian Flag Be Used?
In Italy, it’s a criminal offense to misuse the Tricolor flag. Italians are fiercely proud of their history and national identity and therefore consider the defilement of an important national symbol, such as the flag, to be a very serious matter. Any acts of destruction or vandalism of the Italian flag can lead to the perpetrator being fined up to 5000 Euros or, in extreme cases, being imprisoned.
The Italian flag should only be used to positively represent the country, in all its manifestations. So, whether the flag is hanging outside of an embassy building or being waved at an international soccer match, these are considered to be the right way to use the flag. Equally, many Italian restaurants and other businesses hang an Italian flag outside their business as a sign that they are loyal to their heritage and traditions.
Italian flags are also flown on national holidays, public ceremonies and even at smaller family celebrations. Essentially, any respectful use of the Italian flag is completely acceptable both within Italy and around the world!
Most Popular Regional Flags Of Italy.
The following are some of the most popular regional flags of Italy: Sicily – First adopted in 2000. Veneto – First adopted in 1975. Tuscany – First adopted in 1995. Sardinia – First adopted in 1950. Lazio – First adopted (unofficially) in 1995.
Italy’s Flag – A Proud Symbol Of National Identity.
Every country has an intricate history that is woven into the fabric of its culture, society and the daily life of its people. Italians are fiercely proud people who love and respect their country and its complex past. The Italian Tricolor flag is the ultimate symbol of national identity and although it looks simple, with three bands of color, it has a much richer history than most people would ever expect.