Queen Elizabeth II has had a long relationship with the Bel Paese, from her first visit in 1951, when she was princess and heir to the throne, to her last state visit in 2014 as queen.
More than sixty years of relations, five trips to Italy and who knows if there are others that no one knows about.
In Italy, in 1951, she celebrated her 25th birthday, at Villa Adriana, the Roman-era residence built by Emperor Adriano in Tivoli, just outside Rome. It was a private visit, albeit with some institutional commitments, like that of her sister Margaret, who visited Italy before her in 1949 and then returned several times throughout her life.
After Rome, Elisabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, made a stop in one of the cities most loved by their British fellow citizens, Florence, the capital of a region much appreciated by the entire royal family.
Over the years, Princess Margaret, the Queen Mother who loved to spend time at the Salviati estate in Migliarino, and Prince Charles, who gave vent to his art by painting the Tuscan landscapes that have always lent themselves to being reproduced, stayed in Tuscany. Another passion that links Elisabeth II to Tuscany is that for Brunello, which was chosen, in 1969, by the then President of the Italian Republic, Giuseppe Saragat, for a dinner with the Queen at the Italian Embassy in London: it was a Brunello Riserva 1955, considered by many to be the best Italian wine of the 20th century.
Returning to visits to Italy, Elisabeth stopped in several cities: Venice, where she thanked a gondolier with a perfect “grazie”, Milan, Naples, Turin, where she met the lawyer Agnelli, and then Sardinia.
But it was during a lightning visit to Sicily that the queen decided to change plans at the last minute. It was 1992 when, a few days after the Capaci massacre, Elizabeth II broke protocol by deciding to stop and pay homage to Judge Falcone, his wife and his escort killed by the Mafia on 23 May. She was shocked and could only repeat one word “Incredible, incredible!” and then made a slight bow out of respect for the victims, a tribute from a sovereign affected by such cruelty. Elizabeth II was like that: she had no empathic outbursts from the headlines, but she had a great respect for the institution and a great composure due to her strong sense of duty.
In a meeting with Prince Giovanelli Marconi, speaking of his grandfather, the famous Guglielmo Marconi, the Queen smilingly stated how ‘beautiful was this bond that Great Britain has always had with Italy for creativity’. In a few words, she made clear the esteem she has always had for our country.
We will miss the beautiful hats and colourful outfits that occasionally came to make us dream and plunge us into a fairy tale.