When one thinks of March 17th, one’s mind probably thinks of green, shamrocks, and corn beef and cabbage. While Italy does not revel in the festivities associated with the observance of St. Patrick’s Day, the date has its own significance to the peninsula: on March 17th 1861, Italy became a unified country.
Considering the peninsula’s rich history with the Holy Roman Empire, the Renaissance, and the Roman Catholic Church, one might be surprised when learning that Italy only marked its 150th birthday this year. Though some scholars refer to the United States as a young country, its birth came in 1776, more than 90 years before Italy’s. At the same time as the Mediterranean nation’s unification, America was already 85 years and on the brink of Civil War.
Spurned by ongoing conflicts between city-states and nobility, unification for Italy was a gradual and difficult process. While such divisions subsided shortly to allow the peninsula to become unified, Italy has always been troubled by its difficulty to cultivate a national identity.
This piece was written for the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and its Junior Year Abroad Network. You can read more, by visiting here.