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  Italy FAQs by Steve Saviello

Thanks to Stephen J. Saviello founder & Owner of the Comunes_of_Italy Genealogy Group for sharing this helpful information for your Italian Genealogy Records Research.

Understanding Italy's Regions, Provinces and Towns.

[ using the Region of Lombardia as an example ]

LOMBARDIA is one of the 20 REGIONS in Italy.
  • Within LOMBARIA there are 11 Provinces of the 103 total Provinces in Italy.  They are: Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Lecco, Lodi, Mantova, Milano, Pavio, Sondrio, and Varese.
  • Within each PROVINCE there are many Comuni (towns). There are a total of 1546 Comuni (towns) within these 11 Provinces. For example: Bergamo has 250, Brescia has 206, etc.
  • The Region of Lombardia was constitutionally formed in 1970.
  • Of its 11 Provinces, 2 are "new" having been formed in 1992. (Official date March 6, 1992). They are Lecco and Lodi.
  • Lecco was formed from 6 Comuni (towns) that were formerly in the Province of Bergamo and 84 Comuni that were formerly in the Province of Como.
  • Lodi was formed from 61 Comuni from the Province of Milano.
In the USA, a comparative breakdown would be:
  • Regions would equal States
  • Provinces equal Counties
  • Comuni equal Towns, Villages, Municipalities, Townships

I hope I'm not oversimplifying, but you need not worry about the REGION. You will be writing to the applicable PROVINCE and the COMUNE.
By Stephen J. Saviello, 1997
Owner, Comunes of Italy Italian Mailing List

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The Regions of Italy

There are 20 regions in Italy. Each Region has a statute governing its organs, their relations and means of functioning within the Region itself, while the general electoral system remains under State law.  The statutes of the Regions with special autonomy are approved with constitutional laws, while those of the Regions with ordinary autonomy are resolved by the individual Consigli Regionali and approved with parliamentary laws.

The matters entrusted to the care of the Regions are constitutionally defined. Those for the five special Regions being contained in their respective statutes and for the rest in Article 117 of the Constitution.

While the areas of action for the Regions with special autonomy vary from case to case and are particularly wide, those for the Regions with ordinary statutes are the following:
  • Administrative organization: ordering of the offices and dependent corporation; communal districts, local police.

  • Public services: social assistance; health; craft and professional instruction; local museums and libraries; transport of regional importance; internal navigation.

  • Economic development: tourism and the hotel industry; road maintenance and construction; public works of regional importance; quarries, peat-bogs, agriculture; crafts; mineral waters and spas.

  • Environment: urban planning; protection of fauna, hunting and fishing, forests and flora; defense of the soil; measures against pollution

The Region's legislative competence are however restricted by the need of the State to maintain overall unity.  Regions with special autonomy are empowered for primary, secondary and effective legislation, while those with ordinary autonomy only for secondary and effective legislation.  The three types of legislative competence are distinguished by their limitations. Very generally it can be said that: primary competence is only subject to constitutional restrictions; secondary competence also to the fundamental principles contained in the State laws applying to the particular matter; and effective competence is limited by the specific State laws that the Region is required to apply, organize and integrate at a local level.

The Regional Organs
The regional entities have three necessary organs: Consiglio Regionale, Giunta Regionale and it's Presidente.

The Consiglio is a collective organ, elected by proportional representation of the citizens every five years. Its function is to legislate, control and plan, as well as to elect the executive organs. In essence, the Consiglio decides on everything concerning the regional political direction.

The Giunta Regionale is the collective organ, composed of Assessori and Presidente, to which is entrusted, on an agreed basis, policy initiatives, financial proposals, principal acts of planning and ordinary administrative activity.

Finally, the President directs the work of the Junta, puts into effect it's political programme and represents the Region externally.

The Regions' administrative activities are implemented by way of decisions made in the Consiglio Regionale and Giunta Regionale or through presidential decrees. In some of the latter cases signature is delegated to the relevant Assessore (councillor).  The Regions' administrative acts cannot be executed until they have been checked by the Commissione Statale di Controllo sulle Regioni (Article 124 of the Constitution), presided over by the Commissario del Governo.  This commission has general control of legitimacy and exceptionally (in specified cases) of merit; in the first case it has the power to annul and in the second to refer back to the Regions for re-examination.

The Local Entities
Alongside the Regions, the Constitution provides other administrative entities equipped with independent political direction.  These are essentially the Comuni and Province but other local entities may exist.  The administrative responsibilities of the local entities may cover a wide area and there is an increasing tendency to maintain at a local level all matters concerning the citizen that are not of national importance.  The Regions are contributing, through delegation, to this growth in local power.

The particular attributions of the Provinces are few and objectively of no great importance. Their compulsory obligations cover essentially provincial road maintenance and construction, provision of buildings and non-teaching staff for the institutes of higher education, hunting, fishing in internal waters, agricultural incentives, civil protection planning and some forms of social assistance etc.  Their voluntary undertakings are chosen by the administrators and, despite the financial constraints, are today among the most significant of provincial interventions, involving mainly the support of cultural and sporting events.

By contrast communal powers are expanding to cover almost all matters of immediate civic importance between the citizen and the public administration.  The Communes' obligatory duties concern urban planning, construction, municipal public works, preparation of industrial zones, provision of buildings and non-teaching staff for nursery and compulsory education, social assistance, health and public hygiene, right to education, communal road maintenance and construction, urban transport, control of public commerce, placards, street furniture, refuse collection, supply of water and gas, cemeteries, traffic control, urban police, communal housing, sewerage, public slaughter-houses, fairs and markets etc.  To these are then added the optional undertakings that permit, within the limits of local finance, support for activities such as the theatre, music etc. In addition, there are the tasks delegated by the Regions and the decentralized State functions (eg. register of births, marriages and deaths, civil status and military conscription).

It is clear therefore that the greater part of public functions relating to the ordering of the territory, social services and economic development is concentrated on the Communes.  Due to historical reasons, Italy is divided into more than 8,000 Communes.  These vary greatly both in character and size, going from metropolitan centres (Milan, Rome, Turin, Naples), to cities (Florence, Bologna, Palermo, Bari, Genoa), to towns (Siena, Pisa, Trieste, Pavia, Catania, Ancona), to small centres (the majority) with a few hundred inhabitants. It is therefore obvious that the system cannot function uniformly and gives rise to some irregularities. The Consigli, Assembly organs of the Commune and of the Province, are elective.

The respective executive organs of the Communes and Provinces are the Giunte Municipali and Sindaci, and the Giunte Provinciali and Presidenti. All these officers are elected for a five year period by their fellow Councillors on the basis of their proposed programmes and can be voted out of office.  While the Consigli deal mainly with administration (budgets, plans, programmes, large contracts, regulations, staffing levels and general policies), the Giunte have powers of proposal and execution and the Mayors and provincial Presidents represent the entities legally, supervise overall action and maintain unity of direction. The members of the Giunte, the Assessori, do not have individual responsibility, if not at a preliminary level, but the Mayor can delegate to them entire sections of administration, thus creating a sort of municipal department.  The Communes' function through deliberations of the collective organs and decrees by the Mayor or of the President of the Provincial Junta.  Such acts are checked by a regional organ (the Comitato Regionale di Controllo) for legitimacy and in particular cases of merit may be sent back for re-examination before becoming effective.

As has already been said, however, the real difficulty of local administration is that of reconciling the sizes of the Comunes with the extent and importance of their duties. In the absence of an organized reform of local entities, there have developed, partly voluntarily and partly for legislative requirements, moves towards forming associations among entities. Communes, and particularly the smaller ones, often form co-operative associations, Consorzi, for the common provision of services or works of public construction involving their respective territories. In other cases it is the law that requires association: as for the Comunità Montane in the hill and mountain areas defined by law; and the Associazioni di Comuni for the provision of social and health services.

By Stephen J. Saviello, 1997
Owner, Comunes of Italy Italian Mailing List

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Italy: Comunita' Montana

A Comunita' Montana is an administrative body administering comuni and their territories. It is a present viable governmental function in Italy today and many researchers will come across them.

The name "Comunita' Montana" is a clue that they are found only in mountainous areas of Italy.  For example, a Comunita' Montana could be 14 Comuni and all the surrounding land. Many Comunita' Montana are rich in history found nowhere else in Italy.  The Comunita' Montana originally were the residences of the rich and noble, were defensive military systems containing towers, fortresses, garrisons, etc.  The civil and religious monuments found in many Comunita' Montana clearly prove their roots come from the Middle Ages.  

In addition to history and culture, most of the terrain is still naturalistic beauty unspoiled by man.  Some of the Comunita' Montana are winter vacation areas (skiing), other are the opposite with quality agricultural products like wine, oil, cheese, honey, etc.  The Comunita' Montana are close knit areas because since the Middle Ages it has been like a one for all, all of one structuring.  The Comuni contained therein still retain their separate entities, so you must be careful when checking population, lands area, etc.

By Stephen J. Saviello,
Comunes of Italy Genealogy Group

Special Thanks to
Stephen J. Saviello
List-Owner: Comunes_of_Italy Genealogy Group
Editor, 1997 to 2000, Comunes_of_Italy Italian Mailing List

Steve Saviello's articles appear on "Italian Genealogy Online" with his permission.

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