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  • The Italian Flag

    The Italian flag is a rectangular drape, vertically divided into three equal sections: green, white and red (the green side is attached to the mast). The width of the drape is equal to two-thirds of its length.

    The tricolor was first adopted in 1796 by the Lombard patriots and became the symbol of freedom and unity. It was sanctioned as National Flag by the Italian Republic in 1802, by the Italic Kingdom in 1804 and by the first King of the Savoia dynasty, Carlo Alberto in March 1848. Since the first time it was adopted, it has remained the symbol of independence from foreign rulers for all Italians, who fought several wars during the period known as the "Risorgimento" until they succeeded in securing freedom and unity.

    During the Savoia dynasty the flag had in the center of the white section the emblem of the Savoias: a white cross on red background surrounded by a blue border and surmounted by a crown. Since Italy became a Republic in 1945 the flag has had no emblem. The emblem only appears on the flags of the Navy and the Merchant Navy.

    The flag of the Navy has the heraldic emblem of the Navy in the center of the white section: it is a shield divided into four sections, each one representing the crests of the four historical maritime Republics: Venice, Pisa, Genoa and Amalfi. The emblem is surmounted by a turreted and rostrate crown.

    The flag of the Merchant Navy has the same emblem, but no crown. The crest of the Republic of Venice in the Navy flag shows the Lion of St. Mark with a book. The same crest in the Merchant Navy flag shows the Lion of St. Mark with a sword.

    First adopted by Napoleon for the French-controlled Italian kingdom in 1796.

    Historically considered first to adopt the Italian flag was the region of Reggio Emilia in 1979.

    The symbolic interpretation of the flag's colors represents the three cardinal virtues:


    These colors are explained in Dante's Divine Comedy, refer to Purgatorio, XXIX, 122-127, and were utilized in the Florentine Medici emblem showing a ring with an encased diamond and displaying three feathers and their respective colors, refer to James Hall's Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art, p. 120.

    Courtesy of the Embassy of Italy. Reprinted with permission.

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