Monday, Jan. 10, 2011


As ancient as Rome may be, Italy's unification only came about in the second half of the 19th century. Regional differences persist: one particular vocal antagonist is the Lega Nord, or Northern League, a political group founded in 1991 by divisive politician Umberto Bossi. Arguing that the poorer south is a drag on the wealthier, industrialized north, Lega Nord literally and figuratively looks down on much of Italy. It champions what it calls Padania, referring to the areas around the Po River Valley. In 1996, Bossi went so far as to declare Padania an independent republic. The declaration didn't really mean anything, though there is now a Padania soccer team (not recognized by FIFA). Secession may be a bit much, but today the extremely anti-immigrant Lega Nord, which continues to advocate for greater autonomy and calls for "fiscal federalism," is strong. Bossi, an ally of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who just a few years ago flipped off the national anthem, continues to lead the party.