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What is Italy's Liberation Day all about?

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What is Italy's Liberation Day all about?
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've probably got the day off on April 25th, as it's a public holiday across the country. But why?

The Giorno della Liberazione (Liberation Day), also called Festa della Resistenza (Celebration of the Resistance), 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. So here's the short version of what happened.

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 parties (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.

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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 Milan and Turin were liberated. Milan was the home of the CLNAI, while Turin was significant as a large city of industry. 

On the morning of the 25th, 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. Partisans used that factory to print news of the victory.

What happened after the Liberation?

After April 25th, 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?

President Sergio Mattarella will make the 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 each year to emphasize the importance of remembering the resistance movement.

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. It became known as 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.

On the other hand, it’s a good day to visit a museum. Many cultural sites remain open - see a full list of the special opening hours here.

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

This article was originally published in 2016.

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Normanno - 24 Apr 2019 20:32
I'm from New York City but Rome is my favorite city. I'm sorry that you omitted the invasion in Anzio and the cemetery between Anzio and Nettuno dedicated to the soldiers who lost their lives from the African campaign and the Anzio campaign. Although the Anzio landing was almost a complete disaster, they still made it to Rome and the liberation there.
Elizabeth - 25 Apr 2019 14:44
Yes, the end of World War II but the celebration is about the end of 20 years of dictatorship under the Fascist regime, and the end of the suffering brought about by World War II . The end of 20 years of Italy suffering under a Fascist dictatorship that had prevented the Italians from having free elections.
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