The flags are out for the 17th March

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Some serious work is going on in the background this week in Barga to  prepare the city for the celebrations on the 17th March for the 150th  Anniversary of the unification of Italy. Maybe we ought to remember  that  Italy is full of history, but Italy as a country is quite young –  unification of most of the various city-states only happened in 1861,   after a series of wars to gain independence from foreign rule, and it   would take another decade before the Italy as we know it today really   took shape. Still, 1861 is the year recognized as the beginning of an   independent and unified Italy, when the first Italian Parliament was   assembled and the first King of Italy was declared.

Some of the flags being put up around the city are tiny but others are huge, so huge that they dominate the city, like the one hanging from the tower of the Duomo. Others are interesting for another reason – their age. In Barga Vecchia this week one of the residents produced from his archives a flag from the Kingdom of Sardinia dating back to 1848.

The traditional flag of Savoy depicted a white cross on a red field.  But a problem arose: if the Duchy owned the small harbour of Nice only, the union with Sicily and then Sardinia gave to the Kingdom a quite big fleet, which had the same flag of Malta.  To disambiguate the ships of the two different States, the House of  Savoy added a blue border to its flag, and then it reduced the cross in a  single quarter.

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The flag had following minor changes until 1848, when a revolution  happened: to follow the liberal revolutions which were exploding in all  Europe, King Charles Albert adopted the Napoleonic Italian tricolour, surmounted by the Savoyard  shield, as national flag. This flag became the flag of Italy until 1946.

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