The many meanings behind the colors of the Italian flag

By Andrew J. Concatelli - ReminderNews Assistant Editor
Enfield - posted Mon., Aug. 1, 2011
There are many interpretations of the colors in the Italian flag. - Contributed Photo

The Italian flag – often referred to as “il Tricolore” in Italian – features three equally-sized vertical bands of green, white and red. The flag’s current form has been in use since 1946, and it was formally adopted by the country in 1948.

The tricolor flag first appeared in Italy around 1797, after Napoleon's victorious army crossed Italy. Some say its style was inspired by a flag brought to Italy by the emperor, and therefore modeled after the French flag. Over the years, different versions of the flag have featured symbols like an eagle, a shield, or various coats of arms. All were removed by 1946, when the plain “Tricolore” became the official flag of the Italian Republic.

The meaning behind the flag’s green, white and red colors is still debated to this day, with many accounts attributing a different significance to the choice of colors.

One common interpretation is that the green represents the country's plains and hills, the white represents the snow-capped Alps, and the red represents blood spilt in the Wars of Italian Independence.

An even more literal view, focusing on natural resources, envisions the green to stand for the country’s brilliant grass, the white for milk, and the red for tomatoes.

A more religious interpretation focuses on three theological virtues, saying that the green represents hope, the white represents faith, and the red represents charity.

According to heraldic traditions - which relate to the study and art of creating, granting and blazoning coats of arms - there is a lot of symbolism associated with colors. These traditions say that white symbolizes peace and honesty, red stands for bravery, strength and valor, and green is the color of hope, joy and love.

The most likely source of meaning behind the Italian flag’s colors, however, is simply the merging of local and regional governments that eventually came together to form the larger republic.

The first tricolor flag was likely chosen to incorporate the flags and uniforms already in use in various parts of the country. It is believed that the red and white colors of the flag of Milan were combined with the green color of a regional military uniform.

Simply put, the three colors represent the various city-states and kingdoms that make up what we now know as the country of Italy.



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