Garibaldi Unites Sicily with Savoy

[Location map to be added here]The vision of a united Italy haunted many kings and princes through the centuries that followed the breakup of the Roman Empire. Though nothing had come of all their dreams, the vision still lingered in the minds of Italians in the mid-19th century. The brief republican uprisings in 1848 brought new life to the idea as cities across the Italian peninsula found themselves cooperating with each other in their popular struggles.

Paradoxically, the uprisings also raised the popular image of the Kingdom of Savoy, which proved itself to be a staunch and remarkably faithful ally in the ultimately unsuccessful struggle to eject Austria from its occupation of northern Italy. In 1859 Savoy, in an alliance with France, renewed the conflict and ousted Austria from the Piedmont [Turin] area of northern Italy. Popular uprisings against Austria's puppet rulers in the Tuscany and Romagna regions followed quickly, and those areas petitioned to become part of the expanded Savoy kingdom.

In the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, comprising Sicily and the southern portion of the Italian peninsula, the death of King Ferdinand in May 1859 brought his son Francis II to the throne. King Francis II failed to perceive the dire implications that the changes in the north held for his own kingdom--or failed to respond adequately if he did perceive them.

Giuseppe GaribaldiOn May 11 the Savoy military hero Giuseppe Garibaldi landed on the west coast of Sicily with a force of just 1,000 men. With some help from Sicilian revolutionaries, Garibaldi's force rolled quickly across the island, pausing only for major victories at Calatafimi and Milazzo. In early August he launched his forces across the Straits of Messina and marched rapidly to Naples, which fell on September 7--ending the Kingdom of Two Sicilies.

Thus, the Savoy kingdom was extended to encompass all of the Italian peninsula except the area around Rome, which was ruled by the Pope, and the Veneto, which remained in Austrian hands. By 1866 those areas too had been consolidated, and the modern Kingdom of Italy had been created with its capital in Rome.


2000 C. I. Gable