ITALIANS AND ALBANIANS An Historical Partnership
For over 500 years, Albanians have played a vital role in the history of Southern Italy. In 1443, King Alphonse of Naples enlisted the support of the Albanian army to help him defeat a rebellious uprising in Naples involving the French, who had designs on his kingdom. As a reward, Alphonse declared the Albanian general who led the successful offensive, Demetrios Reres, governor of Calabria, and he granted land to the Albanians in the mountainous region called Catanzaro.
In 1461, the Kingdom of Naples once again needed Albanian military assistance. This time, the legendary Albanian leader George Castrioti (aka Skenderbeg) led his troops, 4000 in number, across the Adriatic Sea to Italian territory to end yet another French-supported insurrection. Skenderbeg's skilled Albanian horsemen and soldiers won the "Battle of Apulia" and effectively saved the Kingdom of Naples. In return, they were rewarded with land near Ariano Irpino in today's province of Avellino, including an old Greek farming and trading town called Greci.
The success of Skenderbeg and his powerful Albanian army eventually came to an end, when Skenderbeg died of pneumonia in 1468 after fighting against the Ottoman Turks for twenty-seven years. His soldiers, now left behind in Greci, never returned to Albania, which, like much of the Balkans, eventually succumbed to the Ottoman Turkish invaders. For 450 years, Albania and its people would suffer from Turkish occupation, unlike the Italian peninsula and Western Europe. The Kingdom of Naples, out of gratitude to Skenderbeg and his soldiers, would remain a permanent refuge for Albanians.
Beginning in 1488, Albanians fled to the Italian peninsula in search of freedom from Turkish domination and forced conversion to Islam. During this and subsequent periods of concentrated Albanian immigration, many Albanian villages were formed in Calabria, Basilicata, Brindisi, and Sicily. The new immigrants often took up work as mercenaries hired by the "Italian" armies until the Republic of Italy was formed in 1861. Over the centuries, many prominent Albanian-Italians, such as Francesco Crispi, who joined Garibaldi in the creation of Italy and became premier in 1887, have contributed to the development of Italian life and culture.
Many Albanian-speaking villages still exist in Southern Italy, and more than 800,000 Albanians in Italy speak the Albanian language in its original form infused with some Italian words. The result is called "ArbĂŤresh," which can be heard spoken in homes in the fifty-one Albanian-Italian villages, such as Greci, Civita, Barile, and many towns and villages around Cosenza.
Modern Italy continued the historical partnership between Italians and Albanians. Most notably, in 1991, when communism fell in Albania, and in 1998-1999, when Serbia conducted a genocidal war in Kosova, Italy once again opened its doors to thousands of Albanian refugees. Many of these refugees later returned home to Albania and Kosova, but those who did not have made their contributions to the ethnic Albanian presence in Italy that has been and will continue to be a vital part of the Italian nation for centuries.
This insert has been made possible with the support of the Albanian American Civic League and Foundation
Published on Jun 8, 2016
An Insert of 32 pages presenting Italians and Albanians in Italy, with information of village of Greci: The Oldest Albanian Village in Ital...