Salerno, the city that was the capital of Italy for 5 months

by Federico Quagliuolo

"Salerno Capital" is a common expression that recalls one of the most troubled periods in the history of Italy: for a short time the Italian government moved to Salerno, making it the de facto capital of Italy (although, formally, it has always remained Rome). It was 11 February 1944 and all the representatives of the Italian government and the Savoy monarchy moved to the city, becoming heads of the "Kingdom of Southern Italy", which traced the territories of the ancient Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, waiting to free the rest of the country.

Sbarco Americani Salerno
The landing of the Americans in Salerno

A base to reconquer Italy

Salerno was handed over by the Allies to Vittorio Emanuele III and Badoglio to form the first Italian government capable of organizing anti-fascist resistance and rebuilding Italy after the fall of Fascism: in 1944 Rome was still occupied by the Germans and the best strategic base was precisely the Campania.
The king settled in the beautiful Ravello, in Palazzo Episcopio, where he created a real court: even today some grandparents remember the changing of the guards and the city, to say the least, armored to protect the penultimate Italian monarch.
The government headed by General Pietro Badoglio, on the other hand, was in the Palazzo Comunale and the city boasted a minister: Giovanni Cuomo for Education. From 8 September 1943 another Salerno, Raffaele Guariglia, was also foreign minister, but Badoglio also became the holder of his office at the time of his settlement in Salerno. At that time the new "University of Salerno”Which, despite its centuries-old history, had been closed for sixty years after the unification of Italy.

Salerno Capitale Governo
The government met in Salerno, for the first time after the fall of Fascism

The battle narrowly escaped

Let's go back a few months. It was the evening of September 8, 1943, a few days before the death of Salvo d'Acquisto, when the people of Salerno saw in the distance an entire fleet of Americans and English ready to attack the Campania coast. Panic spread throughout the city, everyone feared that a battle would destroy what had survived the bombing.
The clash now seemed inevitable, the Americans had already created a diversion to distract the German soldiers and the population of Salerno now seemed destined to witness a fierce battle. Just a few moments before the assault on Salerno, like a bolt from the blue, the voices of Badoglio and Eisenhower came via radio announcing the end of hostilities with the Allies: the peace treaty had been signed a few days earlier in great secret and , shortly before the start of hostilities, the conflict was averted. In the meantime, a provisional government was established in Brindisi.

In a short time the Americans liberated all of Southern Italy and, with a decree, the American command gave the territories under management to a new Italian government, capable of coordinating the operations to regain the rest of Italy.

Palmiro Togliatti

The "Turn of Salerno"

While the King lived in the paradise of Amalfi Coast, chaos reigned all around. In every corner of Northern Italy there was still fighting and, to decide the fate of the country, all the anti-fascist parties gathered in Salerno in search of a solution to rebuild the future of Italy. And not only that: many Italian intellectuals also arrived in the city, from Enrico De Nicola, future Head of State, to Carlo Sforza, one of the founding fathers of Europe, without forgetting Benedetto Croce, constituent father.

Everyone had a solution and no way out could be found, between those who wanted the end of the Monarchy and those who proposed other ideas. Meanwhile, Vittorio Emanuele did not want to leave his office for any reason.

It was precisely at that moment that Palmiro Togliatti, head of the Communist Party, also returned from the Soviet Union, who surprised everyone: instead of taking advantage of the chaos and attempting a revolution, he also convinced the Italian communists and socialists to join the fight against fascism together with the others. political movements, to create a democratic government. A twist that displaced and made everyone agree.

Salerno, la città che fu capitale d'Italia per 5 mesi
A meeting in Salerno, in the center is Benedetto Croce

The end of Salerno Capital: the Republic is born

Then arrived on August 15, 1944: Rome was declared "safe" and the government returned to what, for the entire Salerno period, had still formally remained the capital.
However, the spirit of collaboration for a better future remained from the Salerno experience. For the first time all the political movements had met with the sole intention of rebuilding Italy: communists with republicans; Christian Democrats with Socialists. A union of intentions that led, a few years later, to lay the foundations of the Constitution and of our Republic.

-Federico Quagliuolo


In Salerno there is also the "Salerno Capital Museum”Which traces this story. It is located at Via Generale Clark 5 and is accessible by reservation only.

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1 Comment

Andrea Alfano 9 August 2020 - 17:10

the King stay at Villa Guariglia in Raito di Vietri sul Mare - Salerno. property of the ambassador Raffaele Guariglia who donated it to the province of Salerno, as evidenced by a plaque placed on an external wall of the villa. Anecdotes are told of the King who went down to Vietri sul mare in disguise to talk to the fishermen.The main nucleus of the Vietrese Ceramics Museum is set up in one of the most important monuments of Raito: in the garden of Villa Guariglia, inside the Belvedere Tower . Villa Guariglia takes its name from the noble owner Raffaele Guariglia who donated it to the Provincial Administration of Salerno to make it a Study Center. During the Second World War it was the residence of Vittorio Emanuele III of Savoy


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