Italy anniversary celebrations highlight divide after 150 years

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Italy’s plans to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its founding as a modern state have run into trouble before they have even started, with bitter resentment over the cost and threats by one region not to take part at all.

The anniversary of the country’s unification has exposed long-running regional tensions and recalled Metternich’s dismissive observation that Italy was nothing more than “a geographical expression”.

The biggest dampener on what is meant to be a joyous festival of national pride has come from the German-speaking, autonomous province of South Tyrol, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until it was ceded to Italy at the end of the First World War.

Luis Durnwalder, the president of the mountainous province, said he wants nothing to do with the celebrations on March 17, the day in 1861 when parliament proclaimed Victor Emmanuel II the first king of Italy.

“I hold nothing against Garibaldi (one of the main architects of unification) but for us the anniversary represents something else and recalls the separation from the motherland of Austria.

“German speakers have nothing to celebrate. In 1919 we were not asked if we wanted to become part of Italy and for this reason we won’t take part in the celebrations,” he said....

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