Italian flag facts that even Italians ignore


Last Updated on November 7, 2023 by Laura Teso

The Italian flag, la bandiera italiana [bahn -DYEH -rah ee -tah -LYAH -nah], is also known as the Tricolore [tree -koh -LOH -reh], i.e. tricolour (green, white and red).

The shades of colour are precisely:

green whitered

Fern Green RGB(0-146-70), Hex (#009246)
Bright White RGB(241-242-241, Hex (#F1F2F1)
Flame Scarlet RGB(206-43-55), Hex (#CE2B37)

I dare say we Italians are not that affectionate towards our flag. You hardly see flags on the windowsills or porches. In my area you see more often Veneto flags. Sadly, I can only confirm the rumour that many Italians feel Italian only when there’s soccer involved. We normally feel a deepest bond towards our region and our town, I think. I alwas say: “I feel Veneta rather than Italian, and Padovana rather than Veneta”. That has nothing to do with politics for me, it is just a sentimental bond, a sense of belonging.

Anyway, during the World Cup there are discussions and debates concerning the right timing to display the Italian flag. Someone displays it immediately, someone waits after the quarter-finals per scaramanzia [pehr skah-rah-mahn-TSEE-ah], to avoid bad luck. My friend Martino can not help but hang the so-called bandierone [bahn -dyeh -ROH -neh], big flag, during each match of the Italian national soccer team, while we watch it on TV. During the game, if things go well, no problem.

But if something goes wrong people start complaining. So he tries to move it, cause he doesn’t want to put it away. He says: “This isn’t working, maybe I try to hang it on the window. No, wait. Do you think it would be better under the TV? Or maybe there!” and he goes up and down the room as a lost soul clutching the bandierone, while the others always yell at him: “Mettilo via, porta sfiga!” (put it away, it’s the jinx!) and he usually replies: “Non si può, non si può! Siete voi che non avete fiducia nel potere del bandierone!” (Cannot be done, cannot be done! It is you who do not trust the power of the bandierone!) 😀

Italian Flag Origin Hypothesis

  1. The Bologna students. In 1784 two students of Bologna attempted an uprising against the pontifical rule in their city. They chose as a symbol of their rebellion the cockade of the French Revolution, substituting green for blue (as a symbol of hope) . However, some scholars think that this can not be acknowledged as the first use of the Italian colours. They think that the intentions of the two students were only related to their area and the colours were chosen cause they were also the colours of Bologna, plus the green. Furthermore, according to someone, the colour green was added only by mistake.
  2. The French “lesson”. Another theory says that until the arrival of the French in Milan (1796) there are no proofs of the existence of the Tricolore. In October 1796 Napoleon informed the Executive Board of the birth of the Lombard Legion. They had to choose a representative flag, in order to be recognized in the battlefield. Therefore, the flag was chosen on the model of the French flag. On the document it is reported that the national colours adopted are green, white and red (probably derived from the Milan’s city militia). For the Italians it had still no “national” significance.
Frecce Tricolori by Airwolfhound
Frecce Tricolori by Airwolfhound

Other key data

  • On January 7, 1797, Giuseppe Compagnoni, considered the “Father of the Tricolore”, proposed, while in Reggio Emilia, to make that flag universal. That’s why the Italian flag is celebrated each year on January 7th with the Festa del Tricolore in the city of Reggio Emilia.
  • February 12, 1797 the flag was waved and showed to the public for the first time in Modena.
  • At that time the colours were disposed horizontally. Only in May 1798 it was finally specified that “the flag consists of three bands parallel to the pole: green, white and red“. It wasn’t yet the “Italian flag” as we know it though, just the flag of the Cisalpina Republic (an area covering approximately Lombardy and Emilia Romagna).
  • After the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, the Tricolore was abolished. However, it remained in the memory of the people. Therefore it was raised several times in different occasions, especially during the 1848 revolution against the Austrian rule.
  • The Kingdom of Italy is proclaimed only in 1861. The tricolore flag is adopted but it presents in addition the emblem of the Savoy Royal house (a red shield with a white cross, rimmed with blue).
  • The Italian Republic was born only after the II World War (June 2nd, 1946). It was then that the final form of the Italian flag was stated: three vertical bands of equal size with the colours green, white and red.

Writers and historians found deep meaning in the three colours. Some of them connected the colours to the Christian symbolism of the three Cardinal virtues: hope– green, faith-white and charity-red. The most poetic interpretation (usually taught to children in primary schools) is by poet Giosuè Carducci. He delivered this speech on January 7 1897 in Reggio Emilia to celebrate the 1st centenary of the Tricolore:

The colors of our spring and our land, from Cenisio to Etna; the snows of the Alps, the April of the valleys, the flames of volcanoes. And immediately those colors spoke to generous and kind souls, with the inspirations and effects of the virtues on which the homeland resides. White, a serene faith in the ideas that make the soul divine in the constancy of the wise. Green, the perpetual flowering of hope towards good results in the youth of poets. Red, the passion and the blood of martyrs and heroes, and immediately the people sang to their flag that she was the most beautiful of all, that they always wanted her and, with her, the freedom.”

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