Day of National Unity reminds of Italian Armed Forces’ efforts for world peace: Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo

Islamabad: Italy’s ambassador to Pakistan Stefano Pontecorvo on Monday said that November 4 reminds of the generous efforts of Italian Armed Forces engaged in numerous peacekeeping operations around the world.

“Today, 4 November, Italy celebrates the Day of National Unity and of the Armed Forces. It commemorates the end of and the victory in the I World War, and reminds us all of the generous efforts of our Armed Forces engaged in numerous peacekeeping operations around the world,” he said.

The envoy said National Unity Day – or the Giornata dell’Unità Nazionale e delle Forze Armate (‘Day of National Unity and the Armed Forces’), commemorates the end of World War I for Italy.

The day is celebrated on November 4th, the day an armistice ended the fighting between Italian forces and the battered Austro-Hungarian Army in 1918.

The Armistice of Villa Giusti, named for the estate in Veneto where it was signed the day before, ended hostilities in north-east Italy and paved the way for Italian soldiers to occupy border regions in the Dolomites and on the Adriatic (current day Alto Adige/South Tyrol and Friuli-Venezia Giulia) that had previously belonged to Austria-Hungary’s empire.

Italy declared the anniversary a holiday in 1919, dedicating it to its troops and the new territories for which they had fought. The incorporation of these areas, home to many ethnic Italians and Italian speakers, was seen by nationalists as completing the unification of Italy – hence the celebration of ‘national unity’.

The occasion has been celebrated for 100 years since, making it one of Italy’s oldest national holidays and one of the few to be observed before, during and after the Fascist era. While protesters of the 1960s and ’70s objected to what they saw as the glorification of militarism and nationalism, the holiday survived, though celebrations became progressively smaller.

In 1977 National Unity Day – which comes hot on the heels of the All Saints’ Day holiday on November 1st – went from a public holiday to being marked on the first Sunday of November, thus abolishing the day off.

These days celebrations take place on November 4th itself. The main event is a military display at the Altare della Patria in Rome’s Piazza Venezia, attended by the Italian president and minister of defence.

The head of state lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or Milite Ignoto, who was buried at the monument on November 4, 1921.

This year President Sergio Mattarella paid tribute to the Italian military’s role in international peacekeeping, thanking them for working to uphold “Italy’s support for the protection of human rights and to prevent and combat terrorism.”

There is also a fly-past by the air force’s Frecce Tricolori aerial display team and a changing of the guards outside the president’s palace.

Ceremonies are also held at war memorials and cemeteries around Italy. Military sites are sometimes opened exceptionally to the public, while members of the armed forces perform exercises or concerts in town squares.