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Why does Italy celebrate Liberation Day on 25 April?

Italy marks 79th anniversary of Liberation in 2024

Italy celebrates Liberation Day, known in Italian as Festa della Liberazione, with a national public holiday each year on 25 April.

In addition to the closure of schools, public offices and most shops, the day is marked with parades across the country, organised by ANPI, Italy's partisan association which preserves the memory of the Resistance movement against Fascism.

The occasion is held in commemoration of the end of the Fascist regime and of the Nazi occupation during world war two, as well as the victory of Italy's Resistance movement of partisans who opposed the regime.

Formed in 1943, the partigiani comprised a network of anti-Fascist activists, from diverse backgrounds including workers, farmers, students and intellectuals, across Italy.

Resistance

Together they united in armed resistance against the Nazi occupation and the Fascist regime, making their struggle both a war of liberation and a civil war.

The annual event marks the day in 1945 when a nationwide radio broadcast calling for a popular uprising and general strike against the Nazi occupation and Fascist regime was announced by the National Liberation Committee of Upper Italy (CLNAI), a political umbrella organisation representing the Italian Resistance movement.

This announcement - made by partisan and future president of Italy Sandro Pertini - resulted in the capture and death of Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, who was shot three days later.

Liberation

The first uprising and liberation took place in Bologna on 21 April 1945, followed two days later by Genoa, then Milan on 25 April, and Turin and Venice on 28 April.

All of northern Italy was liberated by 1 May, with the advance of the Allied forces, leading the occupying German forces to surrender officially on 2 May.

The Festa della Liberazione represents a significant turning point in Italy's history, paving the way for the referendum of 2 June 1946 when Italians voted in favour of a republic and against the monarchy which had been discredited during the war and whose members went into exile.

Divisions

Designated a national holiday in 1946, the Festa della Liberazione remains a divisive day in Italy, coming under attack each year from politicians on the right who refuse to celebrate the event.

Scurati controversy

This year's event takes place against the backdrop of a political controversy after the state broadcaster RAI stopped a well-known Italian writer from delivering an anti-fascist monologue on television a few days before the Festa della Liberazione.

Antonio Scurati accused RAI of censorship after his monologue was dropped abruptly from the Saturday night talkshow Chesarà for "editorial reasons".

The writer claimed that the move highlighted the alleged attempts by premier Giorgia Meloni's right-wing government to exert its influence over the state broadcaster which has seen several veteran presenters leave over the last year including Fabio Fazio, Bianca Berlinguer and Amadeus.

In his speech Scurati criticised the "ruling post-Fascist party" for wanting to "re-write history" rather than "repudiate its neo-fascist past".

RAI director Paolo Corsini rejected any talk of censorship, as did Meloni who responded to the controversy by posting Scurati's text on her Facebook page, stating that the broadcaster had "simply refused to pay 1800 euro (the monthly salary of many employees) for a minute of monologue".

Meloni added that the Italian people "can freely judge" the contents of the text which was later read live on air by Chesarà presenter Serena Bortone in an act of solidarity with Scurati.

Altare della Patria

Meloni will attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Altare della Patria in Rome, on Thursday at 09.00, alongside Italy's president Sergio Mattarella and senate speaker Ignazio La Russa.

Last year La Russa caused a political storm after he criticised the 1944 partisan attack in Rome that led to the Fosse Ardeatine massacre in which the Nazis murdered 335 anti-Fascist prisoners, Jews and civilians.

La Russa, a founding member of Meloni's right-wing Fratelli d'Italia party, described the attack on Via Rasella as "anything but noble," claiming that the 33 members of the SS Bozen Police Regiment killed by the partisans "were a musical band made up of semi-pensioners, not SS Nazis."

La Russa subsequently apologised for his words which ANPI president Gianfranco Pagliarulo said were "simply unworthy of the high office he holds and represent yet another very serious rift aimed at absolving Fascism and delegitimising the Resistance." 

Meloni brushed off La Russa's outburst as "an error of institutional grammar" before telling reporters that it "wasn't up to her" to ask ministers to commemorate the Festa della Liberazione.

Last year on 25 April Russa flew to Prague where he laid a wreath at the monument to Jan Palach, the Czech student who died after setting himself on fire in Wencelas Square in 1968 in protest against the Soviet occupation of his country.

La Russa's decision to spend the Festa della Liberazione in Prague was sharply criticised by ANPI president Pagliarulo who said that the holder of Italy's second-highest office had "364 other days of the year" to make the trip.

Bella Ciao

The annual event on 25 April is marked with the laying of wreaths at monuments and tombstones honouring the women and men who fought in the Resistance, and the singing of Bella Ciao, the anthem of the anti-Fascist resistance.

Bella Ciao was originally a 19th-century Italian protest folk song, lamenting the harsh working conditions of the mondina workers in the paddy fields of northern Italy.

The song's lyrics were modified in the 1940s to tell the story of a young man who bids farewell to his love ("goodbye beautiful") to join the Italian partisans.

Festa della Liberazione in Rome

This year Rome is celebrating the Italian Resistance with a three-day festival, backed by the city's centre-left mayor Roberto Gualtieri, from 23-25 April.

The 2024 programme includes around 80 free events "to remember and share the values of the Italian Resistance in the places of the city where the partisans fought 80 years ago".

Since becoming mayor in late 2022, Gualtieri has marked the Festa della Liberazione by visiting the Historic Museum of the Liberation of Rome, a former SS prison which documents the persecution of Jews and Resistance figures tortured there during the Nazi occupation of Rome from 1943-1944.

Free museums on 25 April

State museums and archaeological sites in Rome and across Italy will be open for free on 25 April, for the second year in a row, culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano confirmed.

25 April Ponte

As the Festa della Liberazione falls on a Thursday in 2024, many Italians will enjoy a "ponte" (bridge) by taking Friday 26 April off work to make a long weekend.

Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
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