We The Italians | Great Italians of the Past: Giuseppe Garibaldi

Great Italians of the Past: Giuseppe Garibaldi

Great Italians of the Past: Giuseppe Garibaldi

  • WTI Magazine #99 Jan 20, 2018
  • 98

Giuseppe Garibaldi is the Italian hero par excellence. His name is, in America and in the whole world, a symbol of freedom from the power, of popular revolt, of national unification. Giuseppe Garibaldi is one of the most loved and famous Italian historical characters. This is because all his life is, itself, a great adventure to tell and to hear. 

Actually born in Nice, July 4, 1807, when the city was already French, little Giuseppe immediately shows his love for the sea. Rejecting the wishes of his parents, who wanted for him a career as a doctor or a lawyer, when he is sixteen years old he embarks on the Constanza. From then on, long years of sailing begin for Garibaldi, during which he visits the Canary Islands, and then the Ottoman Empire. Its moral and human growth takes place in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, that is for Garibaldi a true teacher of life.

It is also this aspect - having chosen his own path by following his personal instinct, overcoming the conflicts with family members, living his greatest dreams - to make the personality of Garibaldi such a fascinating one in the whole world.

The ideals of Giuseppe Mazzini enchant Garibaldi in the early '30s of the XIX century. He enrolls at the “Giovine Italia” (Young Italy), the political insurrectional association founded by Mazzini. In 1834, convinced of an insurrection in Piedmont, Garibaldi gets down from the ship where he is embarked, the Count de Geneys. But the revolt does not goes on, due to an alert to the police. Garibaldi is accused of desertion, for abandoning the ship, and sentenced to death in absentia as an enemy of his country. 

Garibaldi decides to leave for South America, in December 1835. In Rio de Janeiro he participates with other Italians in exile to meetings the Giovine Italia. Even in America, Garibaldi is not  able to curb his adventurous instincts: he leads a revolt in favor of the State of Rio Grande do Sul against the Brazilian government. Forced to take refuge in Montevideo in 1842 with Anita, his famous companion known in Laguna 3 years before, Garibaldi continues to fight against Oribe, Uruguayan general supported by the Argentine dictator de Rosas. Recalled in Montevideo in 1846, Garibaldi comes to know that now in Italy seems inevitable the outbreak of the First War of Independence. Through these years, Giuseppe Garibaldi is known all over the earth as the "Hero of Two Worlds".

As he ears the news, the Italian patriot decides to return to Europe. Arrived in Nice in 1848 he declares his Mazzini companions he does not feel "Republican", but "Italian". In 1848 and 1849 Garibaldi is in different areas of Italy, until he reaches Piedmont and, in September, is expelled again. Back in exile, he is first in Tangier, then to New York, where he works in a candle factory for the Italian inventor Antonio Meucci, the genius who for first develop a phone. Subsequently, Garibaldi continues his sailing to Peru, China and Australia.

He returns to Europe in 1854, to meet the King Vittorio Emanuele and to fulfill the enterprise for which he is most famous: the Expedition of the Thousand. In an unstoppable vortex, Garibaldi starts from Quarto in Liguria, between May 5 and 6 1860, and lands in Marsala, Sicily, on May 11. He takes Palermo on May 27 and enters in Naples, surrounded by a fantastic welcome, on September 7. On October 26 he arrives to Teano, where meets the King Vittorio Emanuele: together they will return to Naples on November 7 to officially hand over the territories to the House of Savoy.

The Italian unification was only missing one last piece: Rome, the eternal city. In 1862 Garibaldi, on the cry of "Rome or Death", launches his offensive to conquer the capital city: but his injury in Calabria, Aspromonte, denies him the greatest satisfaction. Rome will be only conquered in 1870 by the Corps of Bersaglieri, and then become capital of Italy in 1871.

Garibaldi continues to relentlessly fight even during the Third War of Independence. On that occasion, after receiving an order from the King to abandon an occupied territory, he answers the famous “Obbedisco” (I obey) by telegram. Even that response enters in the imagination of the myth of Garibaldi, to once again emphasize his ability of putting the common good before any personal ambition.

Giuseppe Garibaldi dies at Caprera on June 2, 1882. The candle factory where

Garibaldi worked with Meucci, in Staten Island, New York, is now a museum that collects memorabilia from the Italian leader. With this initiative, and several others, America pays tribute to an extraordinary figure, symbol of the freedom both of the people and of the individual to choose their own life and live it fully until the end.