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Italia, Repubblica Italiana, Republic of Italy

Last modified: 2003-07-05 by dov gutterman
Keywords: italy | italia | europe | european union | world war ii |
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by Antonio Martins , 23 April 1999
Flag adopted 19 June 1946, coat of arms adopted 5 May 1948.

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Colors of the Flag - Overview

There is not an undoubted answer regarding the meaning of the colors of the italian flag . However the most valid hipothesis is the one made by V. Fiorini, the colors came from the colors of the uniforms of the Civic militia of Milan. These were green and white (so people called them "remolazzitt" (small radish)) and some red parts were added on 19 August 1796 when the Militia become the National Guard.
In October of the same year the Lombard Legion was constituted, and it adopted an uniform of the same colors and in orders issued the day 9 October (art. IX), it was stated that "each Cohort will have its National tricolored Lombard standard, differentiated by number, and ornate with the emblems of Liberty". Napoleon himself described the colors : "... the national colors to adopt are the green, the white and the red" (On the message to the Direttorio of 11 October 1796 for the constitution of the Lombard Legion) These standards had the colors vertically displayed with the green at the hoist and they were the very first model of the Tricolore, but only as a military flag.
The first true national flag that used the colors horizontally displayed is the Cispadana Republic flag. This flag was adopted on 7 January 1797 and had the red at the top, the white in the middle, charged with the coat of arms, and the green at the bottom.
On 17 July 1797 the Cispadana and the Transpadana republics were united as the Cisalpine republic which, on 11 May 1798, officially adopted the Tricolore which is today italian flag (the flag was already in use at least since January 1798).
We can so say that the model of the italian flag came from the french Tricolore, while its colors came from the uniforms, like those of many german States.
In 1802 the Cisalpine republic was transformed into the Italian republic and on 20 August a new flag was adopted. The new design was of the kind of the napoleonic military flags: on a red field a white lozenge over which a green rectangle. On March 1805 the republic changed to kingdom
and a golden napoleonic eagle was added on the green field of the flag.
The Tricolore, charged with the Savoia shield in the center, became in 1848 the national flag of the Kingdom of Sardinia and, in 1861 of the Kingdom of Italy. The State flag and the war ensign included the Savoia crown over the shield. Finally, on 19 June 1946, the plain Tricolore became the flag of the Italian republic. With decree of 9 November 1947, In order to avoid confusion with the mexican flag at sea, two different coat of arms were added to the civil and war ensigns.
Mario Fabretto , 3 October 1997

I found in a Napoleonian Web page the following explanations by Pr. F. Frasca (Universita La Sapienza, Roma):
"Albert Pingaud, in his book 'Bonaparte president de la Republique Italienne', proposed three hypotheses for the choice of the green colour:
- Bonaparte himself advised or imposed the green colour as the Corsican colour. Later, he used green for his House.
- Green was, before the Revolution, the base of the uniforms of the City militia in Milano.
- Green was considered as the Italian colour. This appears in an official note, dated 1805, written for the creation of the Order of the Iron Crown.
- Green might represent the idea that the vegetation growth is more profuse in Italy than in the Northern countries." (my own translation from French text).
Ivan Sache, 21 July 1997

I don't think that there is any official prescription for the colors of the flag. The French Naval flagbook [pay00] include their approximation that is usually reliable enough: green Pantone 340c, red Pantone 485c.
Zeljko Heimer, 15 June 2001

Translated from the Italian Constitution:
"Article 12 - The flag of the Republic is the tricolor Italian: green, white and red, a tri band vertically in equal dimension."
Zach Harden, 27 Febuary 2002

Recently the Italian Govern has codified the colours of our flag (circular of the sottosegretario Gianni Letta of 18 Sept. 2002 and circular of the segretario generale Antonio CatricalÓ of 17 Jan. 2003).
The official Pantone codes are:
green 18-5642TC
white 11-4201TC
red 18-1660TC
These colours have been determined by a commission of the Poligrafico dello Stato that has made a average of the colours of the flags of the Quirinale (the palace of the President of the Republic), of the Senato (Senate), of the Camera dei Deputati (House of Deputies), of the Presidenza del Consiglio (Presidence of the Council = Govern) and of the Ministry of Defence. I don't know if they are specialist codes. I've only copied those codes published on the Corriere della Sera (the most important Italian newspaper) when it reported the news about the colours. In the text they say that those codes are "pantoni".  The same news are reported in Spanish (but the source is probably the Corriere) at <>.
Guido Abate, 15 and 17 March 2003

After it hit me yesterday that TC mightstand for Textile Colour I contacted a friend of mine who is master of science on the textile technology facuty of the university of Zagreb, and she provided some directions regarding the colours used by Italian flag standard.
It goes about PANTONE Textile Color Selector, now obvoiusly system designed for textile dying. The first two digits refer to luminance (if I translate the terms properly), the next two digits (00 though 64) are for hue and last two are for saturation. The colour scheme is avaliable from Pantone as palettes of example colour shades (comercially, and not at all cheap) [so that Faculty afordes to have only 4 sheets].
Anyway, according to my friend, this is an excellent standard for textile colours, but rather subjective. There exists a more objective one for the same purpose, named CIELab.
Zeljko Heimer, 26 March 2003

According to this piece: "The Government codifies the color shades for the first time: bright meadow green, milk white and tomato red." These are not meant to be "new" colors but rather to strictly codify those traditionally percieved as correct.
Anto'nio Martins, 26 March 2003

According to "Televideo" slight different italian flag has been displayed in the previous days in front of Montecitorio: green and red were darker then ordinary ones and withe was replaced by a yellowish. Intini (member of Parlament SDI) asked the goverment to refer about this unconventional flag.
From <>:
"Italian opposition in flap over flag - Italian opposition leaders have accused Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of tinkering with the national flag, after subtle changes in its colour were introduced.
One accused him of a "chromatic coup d'etat".
The row began when observers spotted that a new Italian flag flying outside Mr Berlusconi's Rome office was subtly different from its predecessors.
The green, they claim, is deeper, the red has taken on ruby hues, and the white has turned to ivory. Last September the Italian Government set up a team to work out exactly what shades of the three colours should be used on Italian flags.
Mr Berlusconi's office, it is thought, may be the first to demonstrate the results.
But his political opponents are furious.
"It's a veritable chromatic coup d'etat," said Green Party president Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio. The party is so angry it wants a national referendum to allow the public to choose the right shades.
Passers-by did not share the sense of outrage. "I don't mind - it looks like my flag," said one man. "It's not ugly even if the red is a little darker."
Mr Berlusconi's office accuses his opponents of using the issue to attack the prime minister. The left was carrying out an unjustified attack when it should be more concerned with national interests, said Mr Berlusconi's spokesman."
From <>:
"Italians in revolt at new flag (Thu Apr 24, 9:36 AM ET) - ROME (Reuters) - Few people took notice when the Italian government decided to define last year the exact colours of the "tricolore" -- the green, red and white national flag.
But the "makeover" has sparked a revolt in the last couple of days since Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's office started flying the new banner, with a slightly deeper green, a new ruby red and an ivory white.
"It's a veritable chromatic coup d'etat," said Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, president of the Green Party, which has called for a national referendum to decide on the "true colours" of the flag whose history dates back to the 1700s.
Opposition leaders say the new version with its "designer colours" is an attack on the traditional flag with its more brassy hues.
But most Italians wandering by the prime minister's offices in the centre of Rome shrugged off the facelift. "It's not ugly even if the red is a little darker," one man said. "I don't mind, it looks like my flag."
Albert S Kirsch
, Marco Lambruschi, Jan Zrzavy and Dipesh Navsaria, 28 April 2003

Concering these reports and the one reported by Zach Harden from <>, the Italian flag will remain the same: they said the darker shade was a "technical error" by the flag manufacturer, who misinterpreted the Pantone colour coding decided by the Government. The "chromatic coup d'Útat" caused a lot of quarrels some days ago:
(ANSA) - Roma, 29 APR (translated by me) - There could be a parliamentary motion to stop the quarrel abut the colours of the Italian flag. Some members of parliament belonging both to the Olive-Tree (L'Ulivo) and to the House of the Liberties (CdL) coalizations will ask the goverment to re-examine urgently the chromatic codes established in the circular letter which actually changed the national banner.
The  government replied that it was a "technical error": the Pantone codes do not correspond to the darker shades of the flags recently shown and so they should be considered erreneous. See <>.
So, the colours of the Italian Flag will return the usual ones.
Paolo Montanelli, 5 May 2003

Official Use of the Flag, Ensign and Jack

The flag is for national, government and military use in land and for government use at sea.
For private use at sea there is an ensign similar to the national flag, but carrying a shield on the white strip with the four symbols of the so-called "Sea Republics" (Repubbliche Marinare) of Italian tradition: first quarter Venice (St. Mark's winged lion holding a book), second Genoa (a red-on-white cross), third Amalfi (Maltese white cross on dark blue) and fourth quarter Pisa (peculiar-shaped white cross on red).
Navy carries the same flag, but the lion holds a sword instead of a book and the whole shield is crowned. These flags are official since 9th November 1947.
Alessio Bragadini

Until the end of WW II, the Italian flag always had the Savoy coat of arms in the center (without the crown: Merchant, with the crown: naval ensign) {so there was no confusion at sea}. After the war, the plain tricolor was adopted as the national flag, but in order to avoid confusion with the Mexican merchant flag, the new Italian coat of arms was placed in the center of the Italian merchant flag (again with no crown.)
Nick Artimovich, 16 March 1998

Article 12 - The flag of the Republic is the italian tricolor: green, white and red, in three vertical bands, equal in dimension(s).
Zach Harden and Manuel Giorgini, 28 Febuary 2002

There is apparently nothing in Decree No. 1305 of 9 November 1947 (confirming a Decree of the Provisional Government of 18 June 1946) which precludes the Italian tricolour from being hung vertically. However, Italy does not have a gonfalon.
Mello Luchtenberg and Christopher Southworth, 21 Febuary 2003

Popular Use of the Flag

In Italy the national flag is rarely used too, but not for "sacreness" of it. We Italian are not much patriotic, consequently we do not use the flag or its colors in everyday's life. The only occasions you can see the green-white-red flag appended outside the not-official buildings are the victories of Italian soccer team !
Giuseppe Bottasini

Illegal Use of the Flag

ROME (Reuters) - Italian firebrand Umberto Bossi, the leader of the anti-foreigner, anti-European Northern League party, has been handed a 16-month suspended sentence for referring to the Italian flag as toilet paper.
A judge in the northern province of Como convicted the 59-year-old politician of contempt on Tuesday and sentenced him to 16 months in prison but also suspended the term, meaning Bossi will not have to go to jail.
Bossi's lawyer Matteo Brigandi confirmed the sentence to Reuters on Wednesday and said Bossi would appeal.
At a rally in 1997, Bossi told a woman who was waving the national green, white and red "tricolore" to "put the flag in the toilet," and went on to say: "I've ordered a truckload of tricolore toilet paper to put in the toilet. There's a magistrate who says I can't have it. Come off it!"
Bossi, who once wanted to create a separate nation in the north of Italy and call it Padania, is a partner in Italy's incoming
center-right government. Now an advocate of devolution, he is on the cards to be made a deputy leader in incoming prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's government and at least two other Northern League members could also be made ministers.
Lewis A. Nowitz, 25 May 2001

Umberto Bossi, leader of the Italian political party Lega Nord was sentenced by a court of law for implying that the Italian flag could be used when going to the toilet. The parliament has however revoked this (obviously because of Bossi's parliamentary imunity). Thus, Italian members of parliament can desecrate the country's flag, but ordinary Italians may not.
Source: Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet on 22 December 2001.
Elias Granqvist, 23 December 2001

(AGI) - Rome, Italy Jan 15 - "The public defamation of a flag as a simple, minor offence? I don't think so..." says Mirko Tremaglia in regards to the possibility of reclassifying this crime as proposed by the Nordio commission to reform the Penal Code. He calls for its withdrawal.
The Minister for Italians throughout the world said, "I reject the proposal because the flag is the symbol of the Country. Its defamation or destruction, precisely because it is the symbol of the Country that represents our history, our soldiers, our lives, cannot be considered a minor offence and must be punished as established in the Penal Code." According to this member of the National Alliance (AN) party, "giving in to this is not compatible with the sentiments, the ideals and the values with which, in particular, Italians throughout the world are united." Tremaglia says that he wishes to also strongly reject the attempt to remove the crime of defamation of the Nation of Italy and of the decisions made by the Head of State. Tremaglia added, "How can this occur at the time when Italian politics are being celebrated and the President of the Republic cites the Tricolor flag as an instructional tool to educate new generations, and at a time in which reforms are being called for in order to reaffirm the prestige and representation of the Head of State."
Phil Nelson, 16 January 2003

Coat of Arms

by Luca Secomandi, 25 September 2000

Italy's current arms date back to 1948 and would be better known as an emblem, considering the poor heraldic pattern. The main feature is a white, red bordered star. This comes from the previous kingdom's arms, even if it was upside down there, i.e. with a tip pointing downwards. That meant, and means, Italy as a united state. It was known, during the kingdom, as the "big star of Italy". Now it is superimposed on a gear, this last standing for work, the Italian constitution stating that Italy is a country based on [common] work. Supportes are an olive branch, symbol of peace, and an oak branch, symbol of strength. The red ribbon reports the official name of the state in white capital characters. Simple, but effective. A few years ago there was a national campaign to change the emblem and set up a more proper coat of arms: the projects were so poor that eventually the decision was to go on with the current symbol...
Pier Paolo Lugli, 4 December 1997

In the arms of Italy , olive stands for the south part of the countries, while an oak branch stands for the north part .
Antonio Martins, 24 June 2000

Here you can find some proposals of the first Republican Italian CoA/emblem with the project which was eventually chosen: <>.
On the latest series of Italian banknotes (before the arrival of the Euro), a roundel with the symbols of the "Quattro repubbliche marinare" ("Four Sea Republics") was shown, perhaps as an "unofficial Italian Coat of Arms". You can see it at <>. The "unofficial CoA" is the roundel between the serial number and the lettering "BANCA D'ITALIA".
Paolo Montanelli, 23 June 2003