National flag of Italy

Anthropology: A Brief Overview of the National Symbols of Italy

The national symbols of Italy are those symbols that uniquely identify the country. The history and culture of the country are reflected in these symbols. Thus, the symbols represent the nation through emblems, personifications, metaphors and allegories which are shared by the Italian people.

Some of these symbols are officially recognised by the Italian state authorities. Others are a part of the country’s identity and culture but aren’t defined by law as such. Let’s take a look at each of these.

Official symbols

There are three main official symbols of Italy, which are as follows.

  • The flag of Italy- The national flag is green, white and red. This is required, according to Article 12 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic.
  • The national emblem of Italy- This iconic symbol identifies the Italian Republic.
  • The Il Canto degli Italiani– Composed by Goffredo Mameli and Michele Novaro, the Il Canto degli Italiani is the national anthem of Italy and is performed at all public events.

Out of these three official symbols, only the Italian flag is explicitly mentioned by the Italian Constitution. This means that the flag is under the protection of the law. Any contempt or insulting behaviour towards it is seen as a crime.

The other official symbols of the country, according to the Presidency of the Italian Republic are as follows.

  • The Presidential Standard of Italy- This is the distinctive standard which represents the Presidency of the Italian Republic.
  • The Altare della Patria- This is the national document that is dedicated to King Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy. He was the founder of the Fatherland and the first Sovereign of a united Italy. The Fatherland is where the shrine of the Italian tomb of the Unknown Soldier lies.
  • The Festa della Repubblica- The Festa della Repubblica is the national day celebrating the birth of the Italian Republic. Celebrated each year on June 2nd, the day commemorates the date of the institutional referendum of 1946.

The law prescribes Italian schools to teach the Il Canto Degli Italiani, adoption of the Italian flag and the reflection of the Risorgimento events (Also known as the Italian unification, it was the 19th century social and political movement that resulted in the different states of the Italian Peninsula being consolidated into one single state).

Other symbols

There are other emblems or symbols of Italy which are part of the country’s identity. However, these aren’t defined by law.

  • The Italia turrita- It is the national personification of Italy. It is the image of a young woman with a mural crown on her head completed by towers (‘turrita’ means with towers in Italian).
  • The cockade of Italy- It is the country’s national ornament. To obtain the cockade, a green, white and red ribbon is folded into a plissé using the technique known as plissage (‘pleating’).
  • The national colours of Italy, which are green, white and red, are collectively known as il tricolore in Italian (the tricolour). In Italian sport, the savoy azure (a shade of blue) has been adopted or used as the colour for many of the national teams. The first team to do this was the men’s football team in 1910. In Italy, the national auto racing colour is ‘racing red’ or rosso corsa. White is used in other disciplines, like cycling and winter sports.
  • The strawberry tree- This tree was chosen as the national tree of the country due to its coordination of colours with the Italian flag. The leaves are green, the flowers are white and the berries are red.
  • The Stella d’Italia- The five pointed white star is Italy’s most ancient identity symbol. It dates back to ancient Greece and has represented Italy for many centuries.  
  • The Frecce Tricolori- It is the national aerobic demonstration team of the Italian Air Force.

Vittorio Emanuele II Monument

The Vittorio Emanuele II Monument is a monument that was built to honour Victor Emmanuel II. He was the first king when Italy emerged as a single, unified nation. The site lies between the Piazza Venezia and Capitoline Hill. Currently, it is managed by the Polo Museale del Lazio, the Museo Centrale de Risorgimento Italiano and the Italian Ministry of Defence.

Vittorio Emanuele II Monument
Vittorio Emanuele II Monument. credit@ Wikipedia

Looking from an architectural point of view, the monument is conceived as a modern forum. It can also be conceived as an agora (In ancient Greece, the agora was a public open space used for assemblies and markets) on three levels. Stairways connect the levels. A portico dominates the monument, characterized by a colonnade.

King Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy carried out the elaborate process of liberation and national unity against foreign domination. His actions hold a great representative and symbolic value. Hence, the monument is artistically and architecturally focused on the Italian unification. Due to this reason, the Vittoriano is regarded as one of the national symbols of Italy.

Altare della Patria

The monument also houses the Altare Della Patria or the Altar of the Fatherland. It served first as an altar of the goddess Rome and then also as the shrine of the Italian Unknown Soldier. Due to its immense representative value, the entire Vittoriano is often mistakenly called the Altare Della Patria, although it actually comprises just a part of it.

The shrine of the Unknown Soldier serves as a war memorial. Located in the centre of Rome, it is a shrine dedicated to the countless Italian soldiers who lost their lives in the wars. It is where official ceremonies are held annually, like on the occasion of the Italian Liberation Day (April 25th), the Republic Day of Italy (June 2nd) and the National Unity and Armed Forces Day (November 4th). During the latter, the President of the country and the highest offices of the State pay their respect to the shrine of the Unknown Soldier. A laurel wreath is deposited in the memory of the Italian soldiers who died in the wars.

Cockade of Italy

The cockade of Italy, or the Coccarda Italiana Tricolore, is the national ornament of the country. The cockade can be obtained by folding a green, white and red cloth or ribbon into a plissé. The folding technique is known as plissage (pleating). The pleating is such that the green lies in the centre, the white outside the green and the red lies on the edge.

The cockade is a symbol of both revolutions and of excellence. It served as the protagonist of the revolutions and uprisings that characterize the Italian unification. The symbol was pinned on the jackets and hats of the patriots who were part of the revolution.

Cockade of Italy.
Cockadeof Italy. credit@ Wikipedia

On June 14th, 1848, the tricolour cockade replaced the azure cockade on the uniforms of some of the departments of the Royal Sardinian Army. The Sardinian Army later became the Royal Italian Army in 1861. On January 1st, 1948, when the Italian Republic was born, the cockade took its place as the national ornament. The Italian cockade first appeared on August 1st 1789, anticipating the first tricolour military banner by seven years.

One of the symbols of the Italian Air Force, the cockade tricolour, is used on all Italian state aircraft. A reproduction of the cockade is sewn onto the shirts of the sports teams which hold the Coppa Italia. One of the traditions carried forward by the most important offices of the State (excluding the President) is to pin the cockade onto their jacket during the Festa Della Repubblica military parade (June 2nd).

Emblem of Italy

The emblem of the Italian Republic was officially adopted by the newly formed Italian nation on May 5th, 1948. Sometimes called the coat of arms (in Italian, ‘stemma’), the emblem is technically similar to the so-called socialist heraldry since it was not designed to follow traditional heraldic rules.

The emblem of Italy
The emblem of Italy. Credit@ Wikipedia

The emblem consists of a five-pointed star known as the Stella d’Italia. The star has a thin red border and is superimposed on a five-spoke cogwheel. The star lies between an olive branch on the left side and an oak branch on the right. The branches are tied together with a red ribbon, upon which is the inscription, ‘REPVBBLICA ITALIANA’ (‘Italian Republic’). The emblem is broadly used by the government of Italy.

Festa della Repubblica

Italy celebrates its 75th  Festa Della Repubblica in 2021
Italy celebrates its 75th Festa Della Repubblica in 2021. Credit@ Wanted in Rome

Festa Della Repubblica is the Italian Republic Day and Italian National Day. Celebrated on June 2nd of every year, the main celebrations take place in Rome and the day is one of the national symbols of Italy.

Festa Della Repubblica is celebrated in honour of the institutional referendum held by universal suffrage in 1946. On that day, the people of Italy were summoned to the polls to vote on the form of government, following World War II and the end of fascism.

The ceremonies of the celebrations held in Rome include the President depositing a laurel wreath dedicated to the Unknown Soldier and a military parade along the Via Dei Fori Imperiali.

Flag of Italy

The national flag of Italy is sometimes referred to as the il Tricolore. It features three vertical pales of green, white and red in equal measure. The green lies at the hoist side, as required by article 12 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic. Its use and display are regulated by Italian law. Any insult or contempt of the national flag is treated as a crime. Along with the other national symbols, the law also demands schools teach students about the flag.

The national flag of Italy.
The national flag of Italy. credit@ Wikimedia

The Tricolour Day or the Flag Day celebrated in honour of the Italian flag, was officially established by law n. 671 on December 31st, 1996. It is celebrated on 7th January every year. The day commemorates the official adoption of the tricolour flag as the national flag of Italy.  

The national colours of the country first appeared on the tricolour cockade on August 21st 1789. Seven years later, the growing popularity of the flag eventually led to it becoming one of the most important symbols of Italy’s unification. On March 17th 1861, the tricolour became the national flag with the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy.

Frecce Tricolori

Aircraft of Frecce Tricolori.
Aircraft of Frecce Tricolori. credit@ The Aviationist

The Frecce Tricolori (literally translates to ‘tricolour arrows’) is the Italian Air Force’s aerobic demonstration team. It is based in the north-eastern region of Fruili Venezia, at the Rivolto Air Base, province of Udine. The Frecce Tricolori was established in 1961 when the Italian Air Force decided to create a permanent group for training collective air acrobats of its pilots.

The official establishment of the Frecce Tricolori replaced several unofficial teams that were previously sponsored by a number of commands. With ten aircraft, nine undergoing training and a soloist, they are the largest acrobatics patrol in the world.

Il Canto degli Italiani

Il Canto degli Italiani or the song of the Italians is a canto composed by Goffredo Mameli. It is set to music composed by Michele Novaro in 1847. Currently, it is the national anthem of Italy. Among the Italians themselves, it is known as the Inno di Mameli or ‘Mameli’s Hymn.’

The song was extremely popular during Italy’s unification. But after the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861, the Marcia Reale (the official hymn of the House of Savoy, composed in 1831 by order of King Charles Albert of Sardinia) was selected as the national anthem. At the time, Il Canto Degli Italiani was believed too little conservative in regards to the political situation of the time. After World War II, the country became a republic. Il Canto Degli Italiani was chosen as the national anthem.

Italia Turrita

Italia turrita.
Italia turrita. credit@ Wikipedia

The national personification of Italy, Italia turrita, is the appearance of a young woman. She has a mural crown completed by towers surrounding her head. Sometimes it is accompanied by the Stella d’Italia and by other attributes, like the cornucopia. The towers have their roots in ancient Rome. It is an allegorical representation of civic heraldry. Now, the wall crown has also come to be regarded as the symbol of Italian cities. For centuries, Italia turrita has been broadly depicted in the fields of politics, literature and art.

National colours of Italy

Italy’s national colours, green, white and red, are collectively known as il Tricolore.

Presidential Standard of Italy

Presidential Standard of Italy.
Presidential Standard of Italy. credit@ Wikipedia

One of the national symbols of Italy, the presidential standard recalls the national colours of Italy. It is the distinctive standard of the presence of Italy’s President. Hence, whenever the Head of the State leaves the Quirinal Palace (one of the three official residences of the president), he is followed by the Presidential Standard of Italy. It is displayed outside the prefectures when he visits a city, the means of transport which the president uses and within the walls where he holds official capacity.

Stella d’Italia

 Stella d'Italia.
Stella d’Italia. credit@ Google Images

The Stella d’Italia is the oldest national symbol of Italy. A five-pointed star, it has symbolized Italy for several centuries. Its origins lie in Ancient Greece when Venus was asked to identify the Italian peninsula. Looking from an allegorical point of view, the five-pointed star depicts Italy’s shining destiny. In 1947, Stella d’Italia was adopted to be part of Italy’s emblem.

Strawberry tree

It was during the 19th century that the strawberry tree started to be recognized as one of Italy’s national symbols. It was during the Italian unification. The colours resemble the national flag of Italy- green leaves, white flowers and red berries.


The national symbols of Italy are a direct nod towards the country’s heritage, history and culture. The primary role of these symbols is to unite the people by creating iconic, verbal and visual symbolism of the national people. They promote patriotism, unity and symbolizes the national community.

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