Venice citizens rally to demand independence from Rome
TWO centuries after Napoleonic forces snuffed out their 1,000-year republic, Venetians are once again aspiring to become an independent state.
Inspired by the nationalist aspirations of Scotland and Catalonia, pro-independence campaigners will hold a mass rally in the heart of the lagoon city today, calling for an urgent referendum to be held on the issue.
Indipendenza Veneta, a newly-founded pro-independence movement, says it expects several thousand people to turn up for the rally.
They will be ferried across the Grand Canal in gondolas to deliver a "declaration of independence" to the headquarters of the Veneto regional government.
It may sound fanciful, and it will be fiercely resisted by Rome, but activists want to carve out a new country in north-eastern Italy which would comprise Venice, the surrounding region of Veneto and parts of Lombardy, Trentino and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
The Repubblica Veneta, as it would be known, would be home to about five million people.
Recent surveys show widespread support for independence among Venetians, who speak a distinct dialect and feel geographically and culturally distant from Rome. A poll conducted by 'Corriere della Sera' in September found that 80pc were in favour of independence.
A more recent poll by 'Il Gazzettino' found a slightly lower but still overwhelming level of support with 70pc.
The political movement was formed in May and shortly afterwards presented a petition with 20,000 signatures to Luca Zaia, the governor of the Veneto region.
"We have gained a lot of momentum from what is happening in Scotland and Catalonia and things are moving fast," Lodovico Pizzati, the head of the movement, said yesterday.
"And we are building on a very strong base -- calls for independence for the Veneto region go back to the 1970s. It may sound crazy but I think Veneto will become independent before Scotland or Catalonia." (© Daily Telegraph, London)