The End of Italian Monarchy

Italian Sand-Cast Pewter Sandglass (LEO Design)


On this day in 1946, the people of Italy voted to abolish their monarchy (54% to 46%) and the Republic of Italy was born.  From this point, by law, no male heir to the crown (or queen consort) was allowed to set foot on Italian soil.  Within 11 days, King Umberto II left Italy peacefully, never to return.  He lived most of his final 37 years in Cascais, along the "Portuguese Riviera."

This last Italian monarch, Umberto Nicola Tommaso Giovanni Maria di Savoia, had only been king for about five weeks.  His father, Vittorio Emanuele III (who had ruled since 1900), stepped-down and let his son succeed him.  The former king, Vittorio Emanuele III, was exiled to Egypt and died in Alexandria the following year.

The House of Savoy had ruled the country since Italian Unification in 1861.  But the Twentieth Century was turbulent.  Most destructive was the rise of Italian Fascism under Benito Mussolini, who took control of the country on Halloween of 1922.  Fascist Italy chose to ally itself with other authoritarians (as they always do) including Hitler and Nazi Germany. This was a terrible alliance for Italy and its legacy.  Italy always will be remembered for choosing the wrong side in World War II.  Although Mussolini's authoritarianism spawned numerous anti-fascist resistance movements, they operated in the shadows, as Mussolini had dissolved all political parties other than the National Fascist Party.

After years of political turmoil, the monarchy had been weakened and the Italian majority voted for democratic self-rule.  To this day, 2 June is commemorated as Festa della Republica.  

Italy's last king, Umberto II, died in 1983 in Geneva, Switzerland, and is buried in Hautecombe Abbey, the Benedictine monastery in Savoie, France—the historic burial site of members of the House of Savoy.

The Italian sandglass, shown above, is made of sand-cast pewter.  Like many things Italian, form and beauty trump precision and function.  The sandglass marks anywhere from three to five minutes, apparently depending upon how it feels.  If you'd like to learn more about this handsome piece (and don't require precision of timing), click on the photo above.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248