The flag of Italy was officially adopted on June 19, 1946. The flag is a rectangular shape consisting of three vertical stripes in green, white, and red. In Italy, the flag is called Il Tricolore, referring to the tricolor design of the flag.
The exact meaning of Il Tricolore‘s colors is not certain. The first Italian tricolore flag was adopted on January 7, 1797 during the Cispadane Republic. Between 1797 and 1803, the flag’s colors remained the same, but the design of the flag underwent several design changes as the Italian rule changed hands rapidly. During the Cispadane Republic, the stripes were horizontal and the flag included the Italian coat of arms. During the Cisalpine Republic of 1798, the stripes shifted to vertical orientation and the coat of arms was removed. At the turn of the century during Napoleon’s rule of the Italian Republic, the flag featured a red background and a green square within a white lozenge.
In the nineteenth century, during the Italian resurgence, or Risorgimento, the Italian tricolore remained a symbol of the Italian people. During this period, between 1848 and 1861, many coats of arms were incorporated into the Italian flag, including the Savoyan coat of arms (from the Kingdom of Sardinia), the Habsburg Lorraine coat of arms (from the Grand Duchy of Tuscany), and the Bourbon coat of arms (from the Kingdom of Two Sicilies). Although the flag underwent at least seven variations during this thirteen-year period, on April 15, 1861, the Italian flag that incorporated the Sardinian coat of arms was declared the Kingdom of Italy’s official flag and was used until 1946. During World War II, however, the Italian Social Republic flew a Nazi-era flag, featuring the Italian tricolore with a silver eagle, for military and propaganda use.
In 1946, Italy became a republican nation and officially adopted the plain tricolore. Today, although the colors have deep historical roots, some attribute them to the country’s green plains, the beautiful snow-white Alps, and the blood of those who fought for Italy’s independence. Another more religious interpretation attributes the green to hope, the white to charity, and the red to faith.