Why does Italy celebrate Liberation Day on April 25th?

Why does Italy celebrate Liberation Day on April 25th?
"For the freedom of the people, now and forever": A member of the Italian partisan association stands by flag with the icona of the revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi. Photo: AFP
It's a public holiday in Italy, but what exactly are we celebrating? Here's a quick look at the history.

Italy celebrates Liberation Day on April 25th, known in Italian as Il Giorno della Liberazione (Liberation Day), or La Festa della Resistenza (Celebration of the Resistance)

The date has been a public holiday in Italy since 1946. and it marks the end of the Italian Civil War and the end of the Nazi occupation.

Why today?

Not all of Italy was liberated on April 25th, 1945. So here’s the short version of what happened.

The first uprising took place in Bologna, which was liberated on April 23rd, followed by Genoa on the 23rd.

The 25th came to be such a notable date because it was the day that the industrial northern cities of Milan and Turin were liberated. 

American forces arrived on May 1st, and the occupying German forces officially surrendered the next day.

What was the resistance movement?

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).

READ ALSO:

The CLNAI first called for an uprising on April 19th.

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 the Corriere della Sera newspaper, which had been connected to the fascist regime, was printed. The partisans used that factory to print news of the victory.

This history continues to heavily influence Italian politics and society today.

Foreigners learning about Italian politics are often surprised by the relatively large number of people, including young people, who strongly identify with either communist or fascist politics in Italy.

A demonstrator wears a t-shirt procaliming “partisans forever” on Liberation Day 2015. Photo: AFP

What happened after the Liberation?

After April 25th, all fascist leaders were sentenced to death.

Benito Mussolini was shot three days later, after he tried to flee 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 major 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.

READ ALSO: On the trail of the Italian Resistance in Milan

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 does Italy mark the day?

Apart from having the day off, this is a day when Italians make their political views clear.

Politicians give speeches each year to emphasize the importance of remembering the resistance movement, and pay tribute at Rome’s Altare della Patria, the national monument to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy.

There are usually numerous official ceremonies across the country, including visits to the tombs of partisan soldiers – although this didn’t happen in 2020 due to the pandemic lockdown.

President Sergio Mattarella usually makes an annual visit to the Ardeatine Caves mausoleum, where 335 Romans were killed by Nazis in 1944.

Most years, Italian cities hold marches and parades, and political rallies would usually take place in Rome and Milan.

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.

Under italy’s ongoing coronavirus restrictions, people will no doubt be marking the occasion from their balconies instead

Many shops and services including restaurants, post offices and public transport are usually closed on this date, 8although this year, most of these will be closed already)

Most years, it’s a good day to visit a museum. 

A version of this article was originally published in 2016.


Member comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Unfortunately, there are a large number of pro-Fascist Italians still on the loose. And they vote. What is to be done?

  4. The partisans did not begin fighting until after September 8, 1943. Before that, there were groups of anti-Fascists such as Giustizia e Libertà based in Turin who opposed the Fascist regime, but only after the Nazis steamrolled into north Italy did they and other interests begin the fight.

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