The Italian flag :
colors, facts and pictures

Italian flag colors

The flag of Italy is full of symbolism.

Find out what the Italian flag looks like, what it means, and what facts on Italy it tells us about.

The Italian flag : colors

Three colored or tri-color (in Italian, 'Il Tricolore'), its three vertical stripes are equally sized and its colors are green, white and red.

The green stripe is always placed nearest to the flagpole.

Italian flag colors

Don't mix up the flag of Italy with the flags of ...

Ireland, which is longer and green, white and orange; Mexico, which is also longer, uses darker shades of red and green and has a coat of arms on the white stripe; or the Côte d'Ivoire, which has the colors reversed and is orange, white and green.

Facts on Italy : the history of the Italian flag

The colors were first adopted by the military in 1796 but didn't fly as a civilian flag until 1797 when, with its arms and crown in the centre, it was adopted by the Cispadana Republic.

When Italy became a Republic in June 1946 it returned to the simple "Tricolore" with no coat of arms, and was adopted in its present form as the national flag.

Meaning of the Italian flag colors

As ever, there is some controversy about the colors of the flag of Italy. 

The military origins have encouraged some to think that they are based on the colors of Milan (red and white) and the Milanese civic guard (green).

Italian flag pictures

But that's a bit mundane for the people of Italy. They prefer a more romantic explanation.

The most popular - which has become one of the accepted facts on Italy - is that the colors represent Italy itself : the white for the snowy Alps and other mountain regions; the green for the plains and the hills; and the red for blood spilt in the Italian wars of Independence.

There's also a religious interpretation of these colors whereby green represents hope, white, faith and red, charity.

Which is right? Whichever you choose!

The Italian flag colors : controversy

One thing is for certain : the Italian people take their flag's colors very seriously. When President Silvio Berlusconi recently tried to introduce a subtle change of color shade he was accused of attempting a "chromatic coup d'état". The people were not amused.

Politicians and people alike are furious.  So outraged, in fact, that the country is now considering a national referendum to allow the public to choose the right shades.

Italian flag pictures

The Italian flag : when's it used?

Italian flag colors feature in everything from footballs to ice cream, pizza and salads. It's most in evidence at football matches, it flies from public buildings alongside that of the European Union, it's used as a design feature for clothing, celebrations at the Colosseum in Rome - and flamboyant aerobatic displays, as this video shows.

It's one of the well-known facts on Italy that the establishment take very seriously any perceived threat to their flag. A little too seriously, some may think. 

In 2001 Umberto Bossi, leader of the Northern League party, was given a suspended prison sentence for referring to the Italian flag as "toilet paper" and suggesting at a rally that its best use was to be shoved down the toilet.

Only in Italy!

Did you know that some famous Italian food dishes are made around the colors of the Italian flag? Try your hand at making a delicious Pizza Margarita and find out how.

Want your very own Italian flag? Why not buy a Christmas flag ornament to hang from your tree this year?

Have a look at this page full of more fun and interesting facts  about this amazing country.

Italian flag - colors, facts and pictures
to our home page about Italian culture

Talk to us! Comments

Have your say about what you just read - leave a comment, question or story in the box below.
Go to the home page of Explore Italian Culture