From “Geographical Expression” to European Power

Italy is “only a geographical expression,” said Count Metternich, Europe’s leading statesman in 1814. What he meant was that Italy, unlike France or England, was not a nation. It was simply a group of principalities occupying a space known as the Italian peninsula.

This was true until Italy became a single undivided nation in 1870. Some of the separate states on the peninsula and its neighboring islands of Sicily and Sardinia were comparatively sizable. The largest was the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies whose capital was Naples. Others took in hardly more than a city and a little surrounding territory.

They had differing laws, traditions, and constitutional systems. Some were monarchies and some republics. In the middle of the peninsula the Papal States, governed by the popes in Rome, added still another political and cultural pattern to the Italian kaleidoscope. It was only when Rome was captured in 1870 and made the capital of the nation that the final unity of Italy was achieved.

This achievement is the great feather in the cap of the royal family of Savoy, whose present head, Victor Emmanuel III, sat on the throne during the years of fascism.