“The May King” & 5 fun facts about Italy’s Republic Day aka Festa Della Republica
June 2nd is an official public holiday in Italy: Republic Day aka the Festa della Repubblica. As the name suggests, it celebrates the referendum on 1946 which resulted in the founding of the Italian Republic
Here are 5 facts about this special day to help you in your next quiz night.
1- Ending 85 Years of Monarchy
The House of Savoy, Italy’s ruling family, saw their 85-year monarchy come to an end as a result of the referendum. The tabulated votes resulted in 12,717,923 votes ‘for’ (54 percent) and 10,719,284 votes ‘against’ (45 percent).
Following the vote, the entire Savoy family was exiled from the country, and their return to Italy required them to relinquish their claim to the throne. Today, Italy’s constitution forbids another monarchy from being established.
2- Italy’s final king only ruled for one month
The final king, Umberto, earned the nickname ‘Re di Maggio’ or ‘the May King’ – referring to his time on the throne even though it’s not exactly correct: He had in fact ruled the country since the collapse of Mussolini’s fascist regime in 1944. It was not until 2 years later that he would be crowned King officially: He actually ruled from May 9th to June 12th.
His father, King Victor Emmanuel III had hoped that transferring his powers to his only heir would help the monarchy’s image which had been tarnished by the alliance with Mussolini.
Let’s just say that this PR move didn’t quite work. Legend has it that his alternative sexual tendencies didn’t help him much.
3- Italy’s constitution forbids another monarchy
Following the vote, the entire Savoy family was exiled from the country, and their return to Italy required them to relinquish their claim to the throne. Today, Italy’s constitution forbids another monarchy from being established. Moreover, in 2002, the House of Savoy family formally renounced their claim to the throne as one of the conditions for their return from exile, which had been overturned by Berlusconi’s party.
The rest of the family moved back to Italy whereas “the May King” refused, dying in Geneva in 1983.
4- Republic Day was NOT always celebrated on the same day.
Even though Italy’s vote for independence occurred on June 2, 1946, the holiday has been celebrated on several different dates throughout history.
In March of 1977, the holiday’s date was changed for the first time. Government officials believed public holidays were causing a negative impact on society, so they declared that Festa della Repubblica would be celebrated on the first Sunday in June.
The first Sunday of June had a long history as Italy’s national holiday; before Italy became a Republic, this holiday was known as the Feast of the Albertine Statute – the constitution of 1848, which was seen as the foundation of the Kingdom of Italy.
In 2002, Government officials changed the day of celebrate back to June 2.
5- There’s a lot going on to celebrate
Due to the situation with COVID19 this 2020, the celebrations might be a little tame compared to the usual but there will be some fun:
Rome usually hosts a huge huge military parade (cancelled this year) through the historic centre whereas in Catania, the lungomare (aka beachfront) is made into a walking street. As a matter of fact, I’m headed there just after i publish this article.
Bonus Fact: First Time Italian Women Were Allowed to Vote
According to my wife, her grandmother and “Italy in the Modern World: Society, Culture and Identity” By Linda Reeder, the June 2nd election marked the first time in the Modern history of Italy that women were allowed to vote in national issue. It’s a pretty darn big one if you ask me that tends to get forgotten.
But perhaps the most cherished part is the flyover by Frecce Tricolori, Italy’s Air Force: Each year, they take to the skies and fly over the Vittoriano monument, leaving an image of Italy’s flag in the sky with a trail of green, white and red smoke.
I’m gonna be celebrating with a granita soon, how about you?