The photo above was taken on May 7, 2010 by my husband following the President of Italy's visit to Genoa on May 5th to commemorate Garibaldi's march of the redshirts. Garibaldi's statue in front of the Genoa Opera house is about 5 minutes from where we live. We really like the red cape on the statue. It makes for a great screen saver.
Giuseppe Garibaldi has been dubbed the "Hero of the Two Worlds" in tribute to his military expeditions in both South America and Europe. He is considered an Italian national hero as he led the insurrection that led to the freedom of Italian lands from the French and Austrians and led to the formation of modern Italy.
At the beginning of April 1860, uprisings in Messina and Palermo in the independent and peaceful Kingdom of the Two Sicilies provided Garibaldi with an opportunity. He gathered about a thousand volunteers (practically all northern Italians, and called i Mille (the Thousand), or, as popularly known, the Redshirts) in two ships named Piemonte and Lombardo, left from Genoa on May 5 in the evening and landed at Marsala, on the westernmost point of Sicily, on May 11.
Swelling the ranks of his army with scattered bands of local rebels, Garibaldi led 800 of his volunteers to victory over a 1500-strong enemy force on the hill of Calatafimi on May 15. He used the counter-intuitive tactic of an uphill bayonet charge; he had seen that the hill on which the enemy had taken position was terraced, and the terraces gave shelter to his advancing men. Although small by comparison with the coming clashes at Palermo, Milazzo and Volturno, this battle was decisive in terms of establishing Garibaldi's power in the island; an apocryphal but realistic story had him say to his lieutenant Nino Bixio, Qui si fa l'Italia o si muore, that is, Here we either make Italy, or we die. In reality, the Neapolitan forces were ill guided, and most of its higher officers had been bought out. The next day, he declared himself dictator of Sicily in the name of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy. He advanced then to Palermo, the capital of the island, and launched a siege on May 27. He had the support of many of the inhabitants, who rose up against the garrison, but before the city could be taken, reinforcements arrived and bombarded the city nearly to ruins. At this time, a British admiral intervened and facilitated an armistice, by which the Neapolitan royal troops and warships surrendered the city and departed.
Garibaldi had won a single victory. He gained worldwide renown and the adulation of Italians. Faith in his prowess was so strong that doubt, confusion, and dismay seized, even the Neapolitan court. Six weeks later, he marched against Messina in the east of the island. There was a ferocious and difficult battle at Milazzo, but Garibaldi won through. By the end of July, only the citadel resisted.
Having finished the conquest of Sicily, he crossed the Strait of Messina, with the help of the British Navy, and marched northward. Garibaldi's progress was met with more celebration than resistance, and on September 7 he entered the capital city of Naples, by train. Despite taking Naples, however, he had not to this point defeated the Neapolitan army. Garibaldi's volunteer army of 24,000 was not able to defeat conclusively the reorganized Neapolitan army (about 25,000 men) on September 30 at the Battle of Volturno. This was the largest battle he ever fought, but its outcome was effectively decided by the arrival of the Piedmontese Army. Following this, Garibaldi's plans to march on to Rome were jeopardized by the Piedmontese, technically his ally but unwilling to risk war with France, whose army protected the Pope. (The Piedmontese themselves had conquered most of the Pope's territories in their march south to meet Garibaldi, but they had deliberately avoided Rome, his capital.) Garibaldi chose to hand over all his territorial gains in the south to the Piedmontese and withdrew to Caprera and temporary retirement. Some modern historians consider the handover of his gains to the Piedmontese as a political defeat, but he seemed willing to see Italian unity brought about under the Piedmontese crown. The meeting at Teano between Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel II is the most important event in modern Italian history, but is so shrouded in controversy that even the exact site where it took place is in doubt.