The revolutionary explosion that shook Europe in 1848 was extraordinary for size and intensity, caused a chain reaction characterized by disruptive simultaneity, in so different countries. It is produced, in short time, a process that will prove to be unique then, while continuing to stimulate the revolutionary imagination of later generations. In Europe the Restoration was imperfect, and soon undermined in its very foundations, were fortunate enough to intertwine with each other, heated by the economic crisis, the political issue stirred by Liberals and the Democrats, the national issues triggered the claims for autonomy and for independence and, at last, the social question. The latter was part of the previous two, inevitably contributing to accentuate and slip them into goals at the beginning contingencies.
The whole international process began in January 1848 in Palermo and ended in August 1849 in Venice. In Italy, in fact, the political question, which consisted in the application of constitutional guarantees to the kings and the pope, ended up triggering the national question and the favor, for the first time, the popular mobilization in support of the so-called "Risorgimento". The granting of the constitution in Naples, Turin, Florence and even Rome, was not in fact enough. The "five days" of Milan, after the expulsion of the Austrians from Venice, led to the first war of independence between the Kingdom of Sardinia and Austria. Once lost this war, the Italian patriots were forced to move on separate fronts (in Sicily, Tuscany, Rome, Venice, Piedmont against Radetzky) without ever being able to unify their efforts. In 1849, Charles Albert was decisively defeated at Novara, the French beat the Roman Republic (formed after the flight of the Pope to Gaeta), while the Austrians took Venice by starvation. Meanwhile, in the kingdom of Sardinia, the statute granted in 1848 by Carlo Alberto had not been repealed. On this basis, the small dynastic state could begin a process of modernization that had its main stages in free trade and industrialist politics favored by the Count of Cavour, who, with the political alliance with Rattazzi, also valorized the autonomous function of Parliament than the crown. A difficult dialectic between Democrats and Republicans inspired Mazzini moderate liberals, conscious strategy of Cavour, was meanwhile tracing the path that would lead to unification and towards the Italian national state. In 1857 the failure of the attempted insurrection in the South conducted by Pisacane showed that it was the era of surprise attacks. The National Society of Manin and La Farina was then able to become the crucible in which they could co-exist, or at least meet the different programs.
The Piedmont on the other hand did not have the military strength to move alone against Austria. It was necessary to take advantage of Napoleon III appetites, which is exactly what happened in 1858 with the Plombiéres agreements that sanctioned the Franco-Savoy alliance which was the based for the so-called Second Italian War of Independence. Once defeated the Austrians, the French emperor retired earlier than expected by the conflict, leaving the Piedmontese, in exchange for Nice and Savoy, only the Lombardy. In the meantime, however, even the Emilia Romagna and Tuscany were raised and soon joined the new state with the plebiscite. So far the diplomatic and popular initiative were identified. It was necessary now that the royal conquest could count on decisive, and diplomatically unorthodox help of the Democrats Patriots. In May of 1860 the landing in Sicily of Garibaldi gave start to the collapse of the Bourbon kingdom and the conquest of southern Italy. Even Umbria and the Marches were annexed, and in 1861 Victor Emmanuel II was proclaimed King of Italy. The revival of the partisan movement was then blocked in 1862 in Aspromonte. The conclusion of the national movement came back to be the exclusive task of foreign policy. Napoleon III, in fact, always watched the integrity of the state of the Church, now reduced to the only Lazio region. The first occasion was provided by the Italian participation in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. The kingdom of Italy, even if defeated on the battlefield, could get the Veneto from Austria. A second opportunity was offered by the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. After the defeat of Sedan, France was no longer able to protect the temporal power of the Pope and Rome, which was occupied by Italian troops, was thus able to become the capital of the kingdom. The march toward Italian unification was thus brought to a sort of completion - even if Trento e Trieste remained missing - mainly thanks to the simultaneous running of Prussia toward German unification.
Once built the unitary state, the Italian society, between North and South, between takeoff and imbalance, between liberalism and protectionism, acquired, in the first decades of life, the structural aspect in production, cultural and administrative that will mark it in the beginning of the next century. The the social and economic unification, for the successors of Cavour, was a very difficult goal to achieve: the centralized state was faced with the problems posed by banditry, by the opening and widening of the Southern question, by the stubborn resistance of the many elements of the pre-unification ancient Italian states, and finally the anti-liberal opposition of the Catholic Church.