I was working this morning on a walk around Martina France for a friend. As I drew it I again saw a Piazza XX Septembre. Now I will stick my neck out and say that there is a Piazza XX Settembre in every town in Italy and we are not talking about little squares these are all like the one here in Martina , the main squares of the town, the centre of the place and where everyone gathers. So as you sit in the piazza do you, like me, wonder why 20th September ? Well it is clearly an important date. Now my history book at school always gave the date of Italian Unification as 1860 and it wasn’t on the XX settembre. However it isn’t really true. Italy unified but without Rome and Venetia which included Venice which is a little like saying the unification of the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1701 didn’t include London and Birmingham ( trivia: more canals than Venice). Italy need them back but Rome was controlled by the Pope with a French army stationed there by Emperor Napoleon III and Venetia was part of the Austrian Empire. However Prussia had a new team manager a fellow called Otto von Bismark and he challenged Austria to a knockout game. The Austrians in turn asked Italy to sit the game out and in return they would give them Venetia back. The Italians had a think about this. The Austrians will put their first team out against Prussia and we will end up playing the youth team they mused and declined the offer. Oh dear. The Italian team marched up to the river that dived them from Austria sporting their new united Italy strip.
The Italian team manager decide to stay a few hundred miles away from the front ( these games can be quite dangerous you understand) and the army decided rather than send scouts over they would all go over and check out the Austrian cooking and Frauleins . They were surprised to find the Austrian team waiting for them and lost the game. 1-0 to Austria. The Italians went to the dugout and sent in the Navy. What could the Austrians know about naval warfare. Oh dear. Up the Adriatic went the Italian navy and a week later what was left of the Navy limped back. Austria 2 Italy 0. The Prussians however played a blinder and ran circles around the Austrians and the game was over almost before it began. Prussia then snubbed Italy by giving Venetia to France not to them. The Italians left the peace table mumbling about the bloody Prussians ( a bit like today really). But Napoleon to really rub their noses in it gave it to Italy as a present. So that left Rome.
Prussia asked France to play in the final of The European Cup in 1870 and at a place called Sedan took them to the cleaners. Emperor Napoleon was taken prisoner and the French army in Rome left to go and defend Paris. What was left of the Italian army marched to the walls of Rome and stopped. The Pope sent an emissary out and said listen guys so we all save face could you fire some shots and then we will fire some shots. I can then surrender Rome and so it panned out. A small hole was blown in the wall by the Italian army, the Swiss guard fired a few shots and then hoisted the white flag. On the 20th of September Rome was taken. So now you know. The Pope retreat into the Vatican and has been there ever since. He sang this as he went I understand.
So Italy was finally unified and the following year Otto von Bismark unified all the germanic states with Prussia to form Germany. Two new nations were formed in the space of two years. Austria became merely a vassal of the new Germany and France lost Alsace and Lorraine. The seeds were sown for two world wars in the following century.