November 4 in Italy: why is it celebrated?


Last Updated on October 31, 2023 by Laura Teso

November 4 in Italy is National Unity Day, also called National Unity Day and Armed Forces Day. It commemorates the end of the First World War in 1918

November 4 in Italy: the Armistice

On November 3 was signed the Armistice which sanctioned the surrender of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Italy. This allowed the annexation of the unredeemed lands to Italy. 

It was signed at Villa Giusti, Padua (my city). Among other things, Austria-Hungary was required to withdraw its troops from all occupied territory, including South Tyrol, Tarvisio, Gorizia, Trieste, Istria, western Carniola, and Dalmatia

The day after, November 4, the Armistice took effect, marking the end of the conflict. People took to the streets to cheer and celebrate. There were parades, fireworks, and bonfires. 

Villa Giusti, located along the road that leads from Padua to Abano Terme, is now a museum that commemorates the armistice and the end of World War I. Sadly I wasn’t able to collect reliable info about its opening hours. 

In a way, the Italian intervention in the First World War is sometimes considered as the fourth war of Italian independence, since it established the completion of the Risorgimento unification process. 

What is Risorgimento?

Let’s take a step back. The Risorgimento was a movement for national liberation. Its leaders were prominent figures, such as Giuseppe Mazzini, Giuseppe Garibaldi, and Camillo Benso conte di Cavour. Italians were tired of being ruled by foreign powers, and they wanted to create a free and independent nation. The Resurgence (this is the meaning of the word Risorgimento) lasted from the late 18th century to the unification of Italy in 1861

During the Risorgimento, 3 wars broke out, called Guerre d’indipendenza, Independence Wars. The three conflicts were against the Austrian Empire, and resulted in the annexation of key territories (Lombardy and the Veneto, my region) to Italy. 

The wars of independence were a crucial part of the Risorgimento, because they helped to build a sense of national unity among Italians.

However, at that point Trento and Trieste were still in the hands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That’s why some historians say that the First World War was the completion of the unification process for Italy. Because only with the Armistice of November 4, 1918 the two cities were finally annexed to Italy.

Milite Ignoto, the Unknown Soldier 

The Milite Ignoto (Unknown Soldier) is an Italian soldier who fell during the First World War. His identity remains unknown since his body was chosen among those of fallen soldiers without elements that could allow recognition. He was taken from Aquileia (Friuli Venezia Giulia) to Rome and then buried at the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) on November 4 1921. His tomb symbolically represents all the Italian soldiers fallen during the war. 

Is November 4 a public holiday?

You would think it is but no, November 4 is not a public holiday. It was until 1976. Then, in 1977, in order to increase the number of working days, it became a so-called “civil solemnity”. This means that some ceremonies are still organized, but without affecting the working hours of the population. Unfortunately. 

November 4 in Italy today

Today, on November 4 there are several official ceremonies held throughout Italy. The most important is held in Rome, where the President of Italy and other government officials lay a wreath at the Altare della Patria to honor the Unknown Soldier. There are also military parades and flyovers. In addition to the official ceremonies, in some churches holy Masses for the Fallen are celebrated. In some Italian schools, educational and cultural activities are organized to remember the history of the country and the sacrifice of the soldiers.

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