The Italian Almanac

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Barak Obama

Celebration

United States President Barack Obama is among the heads of state who will be invited to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italian unification in June, Cabinet Secretary Gianni Letta said. The heads of state of the 27 European Union countries will also be invited to one of the leading events in this year's anniversary celebrations on June 2, Italy's Republic Day national holiday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the heads of other nations with deeply rooted Italian communities will be asked to come too, including Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. This means Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff will not be snubbed despite diplomatic tensions between the countries over her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's refusal to extradite former Italian terrorist Cesare Battisti.

Letta said the leaders will be invited to the military parade held every year on Italian Republic Day on the street running next to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum in the capital. He also hinted that another big day for the anniversary celebrations, March 17, the day celebrating Italy's tricolor flag, will be a national holiday, this year only.

The committee for the anniversary celebrations said Italian President Giorgio Napolitano will go the Pantheon on that day to pay homage to Italy's first king, Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the driving forces of the 'Risorgimento' unification movement. His tomb lies in the ancient Roman monument that is now a church along with that of his successor Umberto I and Umberto's queen, Margherita. The Savoy family were banished from Italy after it became a republic in 1946 following World War II before being allowed back in 2002.

Italy is also feting its 150th year with a plethora of initiatives, restoring memorials, building new national museums for key historic figures in unification Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi, and staging exhibits and conventions in Italy and abroad..