To understand the events of the name of Italy in the Middle Ages, and above all to explain the numerous contradictions and obscurities found in the sources, a necessary distinction must be made between a broad, unitary meaning of the word, established with the empire and traditional since from the time of Diocletian ( vicariatus Italiae , dioecesis Italiciana), and a more limited meaning, of denomination referring to an autonomous political-administrative body. If the conscience of the ideal unity of Italy is never completely extinguished, and numerous passages of medieval writers are proof of it, the fate of the second meaning is different, which undergoes various events according to the succession of political events, leading to and often the disappearance of the name in the various regions, so that one can also, albeit with little ownership, speak of different medieval Italies.
Particularly tormented are the vicissitudes of the name in the VI-XII centuries. The Goths had not succeeded in replacing the sacred name Italy with that of Gothia , but under the Lombard domination, after a certain period, in which the two names of Italy and Longobardia were used indifferently (still in 806 an official Carolingian document says ” Italiam… quae et Langobardia dicitur ”) the term Langobardia ended up prevailing, but always referring to the region subjected to the new rulers.
With the post-Carolingic era the ancient denomination of regnum Italiae , already established with Odoacer and identifying itself almost with the Italician dioecesis , rises to generally circumscribe the limits of Lombard Italy from the Po valley to Friuli and non-coastal Istria up to Heritage of St. Peter. Even for a long time the name of Italy was maintained in the south of the peninsula, subjected to the Byzantines, although due to the subsequent decreases of their dominion, it ended up more than anything else by designating the territories that remained “in Italy”, and at the same time they came affirming the other regional names (at the end of the 10th century we find a catapano “of Italy” sometimes also called “of Italy and Calabria”).
Similarly, in other regions we find the expression “d’Italia” with the meaning of “in Italy”: typical is the case of the Marca of Italy or in Italy for which a Bonifacio Marquis Aleramico (Monferrato) is called “Marquis of Italy” and a Boniface of Tuscany, and Otto I creates the “Marca d’Italia” for Alberto Azzo d’Este (one of the descendants is called “dux Italiae”) and in 1093 Umberto II of Savoy is count of Moriana and “brand Italiae “. The story of the titles of Ruggiero II of Sicily is interesting. As Roberto il Guiscardo in 1082 was entitled “invittissimo duke of Italy, Calabria and Sicily”, and Ruggiero himself “count of Calabria and Sicily and of the whole Italian region”, then, having become king in 1130, he was called “King of Italy”. The title referred without duhbio to the Byzantine territories of southern Italy. With the century XI the denomination is assuming more precise limits, albeit always limited. In a diploma of Henry II, in favor of the monastery of S. Sofia in Benevento, there is mention of the possessions “tam infra Italicum regnum quam eciam in Apuliae partibus” (1022): the peninsula was therefore considered divided into two parts: the Italic kingdom and Apulia, a generic term for southern Italy, roughly south of the Garigliano-Pescara line. In 1208 the patriarch of Aquileia was appointed by Otto IV as legate “tocius Italiae”, that is, “tam in Lombardia quam per universam Tusciam necnon in ducatu Spoleti et Marchia Anconitana et Romandiola”.
During the thirteenth century the geographical subdivision of Italy is becoming more and more precise and at the same time the concept of the geographical unity of Italy is spreading, until it reaches the solemn affirmation of Dante, who, in addition to delimiting the boundaries of the nation with absolute geographical precision, recognizes the linguistic, historical and cultural unity of its inhabitants, that is the national unity of Italy. Since then the concept of Italy has remained unchanged.
With the eighteenth century it acquires greater importance in the face of the traditional, cultural meaning, what was already called political-administrative above. According to countryvv, the sense of particular Italian needs and problems becomes more vivid in Italians, the clearer the detachment, the differentiation from needs and problems of less lively national interest. Literary consciousness is on the way to becoming a more determinedly political consciousness. With the advent of the Revolution, writers and newspapers invoke “the Italian republic one and indivisible” (1796) or the reunion in “one nation of the different peoples of Italy” (1797). With 1802, in fact, the Cisalpine Republic assumes the auspicious name of Italian, and of Italy or Italian or Italic will be three years after the new kingdom, extended to so much of the peninsula. Despite the uncertainty caused by recent disappointments and by the diversity of aspirations and programs, the political meaning of the name of Italy is no longer lost. Federalists and unitarians now think of a concrete “Italy” that is well differentiated from foreign lands. And the name of “Ausonia” that the Carbonari put forward in their project of a republic is nothing but an ephemeral, literary invention; because immediately the name goes back to being that of Italy , which in 1932 the statute of the Young Italy will place the circle of the Alps and the three seas. And the kingdom of Italy , imposed by the new reality matured in a century and a half of attempts and struggles and already alive in the consciences of the Italians, was officially born on March 17, 1861, when Rome and Venice and other regions are still under different dominion.