There are five visits by Elizabeth II to Italy, which have consolidated the bond of the British queen with the Bel Paese. The last one in 2014: 24 hours between the Quirinale and the Vatican, but an unparalleled opportunity, because the then absolute novelty of the renewal of the mandate for the President of the Italian Republic provided the opportunity for the sovereign to meet Giorgio Napolitano again as a ‘counterpart’ , with whom there was notoriously a great harmony, nourished by admiration and mutual respect.
However, it is not so well known that on her first trip to Italy Elisabetta was still a princess. She was 1951, she had married Filippo since 1947, and the couple came to Italy on holiday in the spring, in the second half of April. They flew from Malta to Rome, to welcome them there was a guard of honor from the carabinieri. During that stay there was also a lunch with the then president Luigi Einaudi at the Quirinale and a conversation with Pope John XXIII: 20 minutes with the pontiff in his private study, because the princess was not on an official visit. And then for the young royal couple there was no lack of a dip in Rome that overlooked the ‘Dolce Vita’ but where the era of the paparazzi had not yet exploded: the Colosseum, the horse race on the Appia Antica, even a birthday party for the 25th anniversary of the princess at Villa Adriana in Tivoli. Before moving to Florence.
A few months later everything changed: the death of her beloved father, King George VI, the coronation and the travels of Elizabeth were no longer for pleasure but state visits for the next 70 years. So she returned to Italy as queen for the first time in May 1961: the President of the Republic was Giovanni Gronchi and the country had already changed a lot, with the hopes of the immediate post-war period becoming overwhelming enthusiasm for the economic boom. On that occasion the visit was more articulated: Sardinia, Sicily, Naples and then Rome, where Anna Magnani was among the crowd of 20 thousand people to welcome the queen. Then the banquet offered in her honor, with three thousand guests and the chronicles of the times very attentive to every detail: the silk and tulle dress, the embroideries, the tiara with emeralds and diamonds worn by the young queen. Then Florence and Venice. That ‘thank you’ in Italian to the gondolier and to Turin the visit to Expo ‘Italia 61’ and the meeting with Gianni Agnelli, the lawyer who is the symbol of the Italian ‘miracle’. Another twenty years passed and the Queen of England returned to visit Italy in 1980 to find a country that has changed once again, perhaps radically.
The occasion was a state visit to the Vatican, the first of a British sovereign. He was welcomed by a Polish pope: John Paul II. The President of the Republic was the socialist Sandro Pertini, while the Margaret Thatcher era had just begun in Downing Street and on both sides of the Channel the enthusiasm of the 1960s had definitively given way to the hedonism of the 1980s. Then the new century had to arrive before the tenant of Buckingham Palace returned to Italy. It so happened that his flight landed in Ciampino at the same time as a charter full of fans of the London football team Arsenal, who came to Rome to watch a Champions League match with Lazio. A game of fate that saw her for a moment if not really a testimonial certainly witness to a passion that perhaps most of all unites the United Kingdom and Italy: that for football.
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