Italian Flag

The Italian flag is a rectangular drape, vertically divided into three equal sections: green, white and red. The three colors of the flag represent, symbolically, the three cardinal virtues.

The Green, White and Red Tre-Colore Flag first flew at Modena in 1797 as the banner of the Cisalpine Republic. (Located between Parma and Bologna, Modena is in the Province of Emilia-Romagna. It is the home of the Ferrari and Maserati auto works).

The new entity began with a brilliant festival in Milano. Its constitution was modeled after that of the French. At that time much of Italy was controlled by the Hapsburgs of Austria – directly and through inter-marriage of the royal families: Milan, Tuscany, portions of Genoa and Piedmont. The Spanish bourbons held Naples and Sicily. The papacy exercised temporal power over the extensive area of central Italy. These were the conditions in 1804 when a Cisalpine deputation went to Paris to solicit Napoleon I to accept the crown of the Kingdom of Italia.

In early 1805, when Napoleon I grouped the Northern Italian provinces into one kingdom, he also adopted the Tri-Color Flag. Arriving in Milano accompanied by Pope Pius VII, on May 26, 1805, Napoleon received the crown of Charlemagne in the Milan Cathedral. Condensing fifteen states into three, Napoleon leveled the barriers of local rivalries and brought a good administration – an approach to political unity.

Napoleon’s success was short-lived. The Conference at Vienna in 1815 again divided Italy into nine separate states with individual governments. The Austrians still controlled their same territories.

Not until the famous patriot, Giuseppe Mazzini, successfully stimulated and organized the uprisings of early 1848 was Italy to throw off the yoke of other nations.

The Tri-Color was again proclaimed the national flag in late 1848 when King Carlo Alberto, of Piedmont and Sardinia, led the Nationalist force in his effort to free Italy of outside domination and formed a constitutional monarchy. King Alberto, of the House of Savoia, added the arms of his royal house to the flag. His shield displayed a black eagle. The whole was surrounded by the collar of the Order of the Most Sacred Annunziata, the third highest in rank of all European Orders.

Following his landing in Sicily in 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi progressively freed most of the country and turned over control to King Vittorio Emmanuele I, the son of King Carlo Alberto.

In 1870 when the Prussians invaded France, Napoleon III found it necessary to withdraw his troops from Rome. With Italy totally liberated, Giuseppe Garibaldi carried the Flag as embellished by the late King Alberto.

Following the death of his father, King Vittorio Emmanuele II, from his capital in Florence, added a crown above the Arms and Shield on the Flag. Seizing on the opportunity of Napoleon’s departure in July 1871, King Vittorio Emmanuele II entered the Eternal City to the tumultuous cheers of the people. In 1872, Rome was made the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.

The Arms and Crown were removed from the Flag when Italy became a Republic in June 1946, returning the Flag’s design to the simple Tri-Color of Green, White and Red.