What is Italy's Liberation Day all about?

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Members of the Presidential Guard at the Vittorio Emanuele monument during last year's celebrations. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
12:24 CEST+02:00
If you work in an Italian office, you’re probably reading this from the comfort of your home, as today is a public holiday. But why?

The Giorno della Liberazione, also called Festa della Resistenza, is held on April 25th each year and has been a public holiday in Italy since 1946. It celebrates the end of the Italian Civil War and the end of the Nazi Occupation of Italy during World War II.

Why today?

This is a good question, since not all of Italy was liberated on April 25th, 1945.

Italy's partisan resistance movement had been going since the start of the war. It was made up of many different groups, including a wide range of political groups (the Italian Communist Party, the Italian Socialist Party, the Christian Democrats , the Labour Democratic Party and the Italian Liberal Party), which together made up the National Liberation Committee of Upper Italy (CLNAI). A large number of women were involved, around 35,000, and the CLNAI had the backing of Italy's Royal government and the Allied forces.

The t-shirt reads 'Always partisans'. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

The CLNAI first called for an uprising on April 19th, and Bologna, considered a communist stronghold, was liberated on April 21st, followed by Genoa on the 23rd.

April 25th was such a significant date because it was the date of Milan and Turin's liberation. The two largest Northern cities, Milan was the home of the CLNAI, while Turin was significant as a large city of industry. The 25th was also the date when the CLNAI announced their seizure of political power as well as that of the factories.

In the morning, a general strike was announced by partisan Sandro Pertini, who went on to become President of the Republic. Factories were occupied, including the one where Corriere della Sera, which had been connected to the fascist regime, was printed - it was used to print news of the victory.

What happened after the Liberation?

All fascist leaders were sentenced to death, and Benito Mussolini was shot three days later after he had tried to escape north to Switzerland. The Americans arrived in the city on May 1st and German forces eventually officially surrendered on May 2nd.

The Liberation was a key turning point in Italy's history as it led to a referendum on June 2nd, which resulted in the end of the monarchy and the creation of the Italian Republic. The Constitution of Italy was drawn up in 1947.

April 25th was designated  a national holiday in 1949 by Alcide De Gasperi, the last Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Italy.

How do Italians mark the day?

Renzi makes the Italian Prime Minister’s annual visit to the Ardeatine Caves mausoleum, where 335 Romans were killed by Nazis in 1944, and there are numerous official ceremonies across the country, including visits to the tombs of partisan soldiers. Politicians give speeches; this year, Italy's President Sergio Mattarella told Italians "it is still a time of resistance".

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Most Italian cities hold marches and parades, and political rallies will take place in Rome and Milan in the afternoon. You’ll hear the song ‘Bella Ciao’ at most of these events. This was the anthem of the Italian resistance movement and today reminds listeners of the sacrifices made by those fighters.

Many shops and services including restaurants, post offices and public transport are likely to be closed or operating on a limited service - so do your research before going out today.

On the other hand, it’s a good day to visit a museum. Many cultural sites are open today (Monday is usually the day when museums close) - see a full list of the special opening hours here.

You can also look for Via XXV aprile (25th April Street) - you'll find one in most Italian towns and cities, named in honour of the resistance.

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