Today is the Festa della Repubblica (Republic Day) in Italy. Marked on 2 June each year, this remembers the day back in 1946 when a referendum was held and it was decided that Italy would become a republic. For those visiting Italy at this time, you’ll find many of the shops will be closed along with schools and offices. But what’s the history behind this public holiday?
The history of Italy is fascinating. Apart from a brief period of unification under Napoleon between 1796 and 1814, Italy has largely been divided, with each region under different rule. On 17 March 1861, Italy finally became a nation and most of the regions along with the kingdom of Sicily were united under the rule of King Victor Emmanuel II. The exception to this was the city of Rome which remained under Papal rule for another 10 years, finally joining the kingdom of Italy on 20 September 1870. Peace and stability had finally been brought to Italy.
And then on 2 June 1946, Italians voted in a referendum on the monarchy. More than 12 million people voted in favour of Italy becoming a republic, electing an assembly to draw up a new constitution. The results of the referendum were announced on 10 June 1946 and 8 days later, the Court of Cassation sanctioned the birth of the Italian Republic. The new constitution eventually came into force on 1 January 1948.
Male members of the Italian royal family were quickly sent into exile after the referendum due to their association with the fascist regime and were only given permission to return to Italy in 2022. Even today, Italy’s constitution forbids monarchy rule in Italy.
A public holiday was introduced in 1949. From 1977 to 1999, this public holiday was held on the first Sunday in June but in 1999, it was changed to always be the 2 June.
These days, the day is marked by the laying of a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Altare della Patria in Rome. This is followed by a large military parade which works its way along the Via dei Fori Imperiali. The Frecce Tricolori (equivalent to the UK’s Red Arrows) flies overhead trailing clouds of green white and red smoke behind them. All government ministers and the Presidents of both Houses of Parliament have a rosette of ribbons pinned to their jackets.
Celebrations continue in the afternoon with the opening of the Gardens of the Quirinale Palace to the public. Concerts are also held, with bands of the Italian army, navy and air force all performing along with police bands. The Changing of the Guard also takes place at the Quirinale Palace.
Other official ceremonies will also be held in other parts of Italy.