La festa della repubblica italiana
The Feast of the Italian Republic
Years ago I awoke on a sunny day in Rome to the sound of bands (bande) playing and troops marching (truppe in marcia) through the city. When I turned on the television, I saw a crowd of people (una folla di persone) massed along the streets, flags (bandiere) fluttering in the sky and scores of uniformed soldiers (soldati in uniforme).
Rushing to the concierge, I asked what was going on. “Signora, è il due di giugno!” he exclaimed. “La festa della Repubblica d’Italia!” (the Feast of the Italian Republic). When I looked baffled, he compared it to the most American of celebrations: “il vostro Quattro Luglio” (your Fourth of July).
By comparison, America’s Independence Day, which commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence (dichiarazione d’indipendenza) in 1776, seems an old holiday. Italy’s “Republic Day” dates back just to 1946. After the end of World War II (la fine della seconda guerra mondiale) and the fall of fascism (la caduta del fascismo), the Italian people were called to the ballot boxes (chiamati alle urne) to choose which type of government (quale forma di governo) they wanted: monarchy (monarchia) or republic (repubblica).
On June 2 and 3, 1946, they voted to end the monarchy that had ruled Italy for 85 years. King Umberto II of the royal house of Savoy was deposed and exiled. A new nation—la Repubblica d’Italia—was born.
In 1948 the first military parade (parata militare) honoring the young republic marched along the historic Via dei Fori Imperiali (Street of the Imperial Forums). When Italy entered NATO in 1950, there were ten simultaneous parades across the country.
Each year the parade begins with rousing renditions of the national anthem, Il canto degli italiani—better known as Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) from its opening line--and "La Fedelissima" (The Most Faithful), the official march of the Carabinieri Central Band.
Members of the Italian Armed Forces, Red Cross (Croce Rossa), Polizia di Stato, firefighting brigades (Vigili del Fuoco) and other units stride through the streets. The unique Bersaglieri, marksmen famed for their speed, jog briskly in formation.
There is a ceremonial deposizione di una corona d'alloro al Milite Ignoto (laying of a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier) at l'Altare della Patria a Massa (better known as the Vittoriano). Chiefs of other countries (capi di stato) and members of the diplomatic corps pay their respects at the Quirinale, home of the Presidente d’Italia.
The day’s dramatic highlight is a flyover by the Frecce Tricolori. Nine Italian Air Force planes, officially known as the Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale (National Acrobatic Patrol), fly over the Vittoriano in tight formation, trailing green, white and red smoke (fumo verde, bianco e rosso)—the colors of Italy's flag (la bandiera italiana).
Words and Expressions
Amor patrio –- patriotism
Madrepatria –- mother country
Le cerimonie ufficiali –- the official ceremonies
Issare la bandiera –- hoist the flag
Fuochi artificiali –- fireworks
Dianne Hales is the author of MONA LISA: A Life Discovered and LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.
Click below for a stirring recap of Rome's celebration of il due di giugno: