Modern Day History of Rome, Italy

The modern-day history of Rome begins with the unification of Italy and the crowning of Vittorio Emmanuele through to the torrid days of the rule of Mussolini when Italy was thrown into a doomed colloaboration with nazi Germany.

The Romans made fun of the monument of Vittorio Emanuele inaugurated in 1911 in Piazza Venezia by calling it the wedding cake or the dentures (‘dentiera'). The marble monster designed in 1885 by Giuseppe Sacconi and carried out by Pio Piacentini, Manfredo Manfredi and Gaetano Koch was only finished in 1927 under the Duce. This alter dedicated to the homeland served more to divide than unite the Romans and Italians, not only regarding the judgement of it's artistic value.

The enormous urban beast completely blocks the view of the Roman Forum. In front has been erected the largest horse-backed statue of the XIX century. Vittorio Emanuele and his steed (12m high weighing 50 tons). To give an idea of the colossal dimensions, during installation work, within the stomach of the horse was comfortably served a lunch for 21 important Romans.

The opposing views of the monument can be best understood by looking at Italian history of the XIX century. The expression ‘fare un quarantotto'(make 48) refers to the situation of political chaos present in Italy during the revolutions of 1848. Bourbons in the south, church state in the centre, whilst principality and grand duchy in the north.

Added to this situation, Austria occupied Venice under control of Marshal Radetzky. Therefore the boot at that time presented itself as a patched quilt. Only the royal house of Piedmont-Savoy in the north-west of the peninsula was in favour of the unification of Italy with the protection of Napolean and the French.

In 1849 Vittorio Emanuele succeeded Carlo Alberto of Savoy. Thousands of liberals, democrats and social revolutionaries flocked to Turin for this new bearer of hope. Piedmont was in the midst of economic growth endorsing the new values of 1848: freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of politics.

In Italy at that time, cultural activity stagnated completely. Apart from Giuseppe Verdi whose name was from then onwards was synonymous with the Risorgimento. The lyrics to his work on social criticism was strongly influenced by Romanticism and welcomed with enthusiasm. The chorus of the prisoners in Nabucco hit and excited the mond of the public.

 During the interval spectators drank cocktails (coppa Bellini) and toasted the master. Someone discovered that the surname of Giuseppe was the acronym for the slogan of unity. Verdi or rather Vittorio Emanuele Re D'Italia. The connection between the musician and the monarchy was born and would last.

Many other miracles made this much longed for unity a reality, such as Garibaldi's legendary march of 1000 men from Marseille to Naples which united southern Italy to Piedmont. Even the wife of the General, Anita Garibaldi, brandished a pistol and took part in the Risorgimento struggle. Whilst in Turin there was another patriot involved in the struggle. Vittorio Emanuele's prime minister Camillo Benso, Count Of Cavour was cleverly involved in international politics. In 1865, Florence succeeded Turin as the capital of Italy and one year later Venice returned under Italian control.

Finally on the 20th September 1870 even Rome ill willingly surrendered and Pio IX retreated to the Vatican. Thanks to a massive effort, the doors opened to the palace of the Quirinale , the private summer residence of the pope. The new head of the household, Vittorio Emanuele entered only on the 31st December 1870 to proclaim Rome the capital on the night of San Silvestro. For dynastic reasons he kept his name and the first King of Italy was known as King Vittorio Emanuele II.

A massive enrichment of Roman cultural life, Wednesday was the evening for grand gala dances and Thursdays were literary readings. However disenchantment began to set in when to rule the country the king caused the national debt to increase by 60% with military spending. Whilst parliament was dominated by a sense of inconclusiveness and was elected by only 2% of the population.

Right to vote rigorously based on a census, total exclusion of the illiterate both in the north and the agrarian south (almost 4/5 of Italians didn't know how to read and therefore were not represented in parliament) and no vote for women. Garibaldi and many democrats were disappointed and retired. 

Therefore with this background the statement that the monument of Vittorio Emanuele is exaggerated does have some truth. The typewriter (macchina da scrivere) is a marble symbol of the first literacy programme of modern Italy.

In 1878 compulsory free schooling for 6-9 year old was introduced. In the fateful year of 1848, saw the death of Vittorio Emanuele and the first great attack of the countryside population to the new capital. Many poor peasants looked for better living conditions near the centre of power. Even more emigrated to Usa, Argentina and Australia which represented for them the happy utopia of a bright future.

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