From Lira to Euro. Italy’s History in Coins

An expedition through Italy with coins: this is how you will learn about the story of the modern Italian state from the Risorgimento to Berlusconi’s government. Photo: Openpics on Pixabay; coin images: MoneyMuseum.
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Bella Italia is calling! We tell the story of the nation state of Italy by means of coins. This series takes you through Italy’s eventful transformation from a geographical concept with dozens of currencies to a Euro country.


Part 1: The Risorgimento

In the middle of the 19th century, Italy was made up of numerous small states that had their own currencies. However, the Count of Cavour came along and united the country by means of diplomatic skill and passion. [ more ]

Part 2: The Italian Unification

In 1860, Italy was gripped by national fever: Giuseppe Garibaldi “liberated” the south and Victor Emmanuel II became king of all Italy – well, almost. The first thing the new kingdom got was a uniform currency with really nice coins. [ more ]

Part 3: The Battle for Rome

The new state of Italy is growing together, however, the “heart” of the country – Rome – is controlled by the Pope. When France withdraws its protective hand from the Holy See, the patriots are already in the starting blocks to storm the Eternal City. [ more ]

Part 4: Italy as a Colonial Newcomer

After the unification, Italy had a lot of problems. And the politicians loved to distract from them. A reliable means: showing strength and winning colonies. The Italians plunged into the power adventures in Africa – and got a bloody nose. [ more ]

Part 5: South Italy and the Mafia

When the big landowners in South Italy started to spend an increasing amount of time away from their estates, a phenomenon emerged that still plagues Italy today: the mafia. Since the unification of Italy, organized crime has exerted massive influence on politics. [ more ]

Part 6: The Invention of Fascism

After the First World War, Italy suffered from frustrated nationalism and inflation. The left-wing journalist Benito Mussolini made use of this environment. He switched sides and, within a few years, seized power by force and ended up at the top of a fascist dictatorship. [ more ]

Part 7: The Church and Fascism

In 1929, the Vatican and Italy signed the Lateran Treaty. This international agreement was the ultimate accolade for Mussolini. The Duce dreamed of an Italian empire in Africa and around the Mediterranean Sea. However, this dream turned into a nightmare. [ more ]

Part 8: The Mezzogiorno

After the Second World War, Italy experienced an economic boom – mainly thinks to the workers from South Italy who slaved away in the north for little money. To this day, the country has not overcome the gap between the rich north and the poor south. [ more ]

Part 9: Forza Italia

Italy’s governments tend to survive for rather short amounts of time. The political system had been surprisingly solid – until it collapsed completely due to a corruption scandal. A man who was to guide Italy into the eurozone made use of this situation in 1994: Silvio Berlusconi. [ more ]