Italy has an incredibly long history. In fact, numerous examples have been found of civilisation on the peninsula dating far back into pre-history, as far back to the time of the Copper Age (37th to 15th century BC).
However, its most famous ancestors are a little more modern and are probably the Romans (5th century BC to 5th century AD). According to legend, Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus in the heart of Etruscan Italy in 735BC. Over the next few centuries, its territory expanded to become the Roman Empire and the Romans named the Italian peninsular ‘Italia’. Over this time, the country flourished.
However, after the Roman Empire ended, the country was quickly divided into separate kingdoms and the peninsular was only reunified as recently as 1861.
The start of the Middle Ages saw the country subjected to a series of invasions, primarily from Germanic tribes such as the Ostrogoths and Lombards, particularly in the North, breaking up the country into different regions and territories. Over this period, the Papal state also came into being. However, by the 11th century the worst of the invasions was over and trade once again began to flourish. As it did, Genoa, Pisa, Amalfi and Venice all became major commercial and political powers.
By the time of the Renaissance, the contrast between the North and South of Italy was quite pronounced with the central and southern states economically poor in contrast to the riches in the North. The Renaissance began in Tuscany in the 14th century in Florence, spreading to Siena and then down to Rome. Here, the movement inspired the Papacy to rebuild their city and Rome flourished once more. The movement also spread North to Milan and Venice.
But yet again, after this golden era, there came a dark one. In 1494, France invaded north Italy, followed by invasions of Rome by Spain and Germany in 1527. By 1559 Spain controlled Milan, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia and south Tuscany. They kept control until 1713. For much of the rest of the 18th century Italy was dominated by Habsburg Austria. This period was actually one of relative peace. And the in 1796, Italy was briefly unified by Napolean as the Italian Republic and later Kingdom of Italy. But after the defeat of Napoleonic France in 1814, Italy was again divided, this time into 8 parts all under different rule. This abysmal settlement was the impetus behind the Italian unification movement.
The Risorgimento was a complex process that eventually unified all the different states into the modern Italian nation. The movement began in 1815 with a growing resentment against Austria’s domination on the peninsula. The movement was spearheaded by Mazzini and Garibaldi.
Since unification, Italy’s history has been no less tumultuous with disastrous consequences of 2 World Wars. However, it has managed to reclaim its position as a major social and cultural player in world affairs and Italian goods and services have an excellent reputation worldwide.
Discover more of Italy’s history for yourself on your next stay in a villa in Italy with Bookings For You.