If the first Italian President did it, so can I?

Jan 25, 2021
Italian citizenship for those with roots in Trentino and Alto Adige

This article is written by Marco Mazzeschi and contributed to our publication on Medium.com.

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Alcide De Gasperi, the first President of Italy

Alcide De Gasperi was — only for 15 days (from 13 to 28 June 1946) — the first President of the newly established Italian Republic. He took the office ad interim, in his capacity as acting Prime Minister until the Constituent Assembly elected Enrico de Nicola.

De Gasperi was an Austrian citizen until the age of 39 and acquired Italian citizenship only in 1920. In fact, he was born on April 3, 1881 in Pieve Tesino, near Trento, which was a territory belonging to Austria-Hungary and that was annexed to Italy only after the end of WWI.

De Gasperi was also elected to the Austrian parliament (1911) as a representative of the Italian speaking community living in Trentino. When the annexation of the Trentino was effected (1919), De Gasperi was elected deputy to the Italian parliament in 1921. He was nominated Ministry in the first government after the liberation of Rome in June 1944 and Prime Minister on December 10, 1944.

The end of WWI and the Treaty of of Saint Germain

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The “Big Four”: (left to right) David Lloyd George (Britain), Vittorio Orlando (Italy), Georges Clemenceau (France) and Woodrow Wilson (United States)

The Treaty of Saint Germain was signed by Austria and twenty-seven Allied and associated countries. It officially ended World War I and entered into force on July 16, 1920. The Treaty was ratified in Italy on September 26, 1920.

The Treaty implemented US President Woodrow Wilson’s vision for the post-war world. In addition to specific territorial settlements, Wilson’s so-called Fourteen Points emphasized the need for national self-determination for Europe’s different ethnic populations.

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US President Woodrow Wilson — Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

As to Italy’s claims and expectations after the war, Wilson foresaw

A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.”

The territories annexed to Italy after WWI

In accordance with the terms of the Treaty, but less that its pre-war expectations, Italy gained Trentino, south Tirol, Gorizia, Trieste and partly Croatian-speaking Istria.

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What happened to persons living in the territories annexed to Italy?

The Treaty set forth specific provisions about the rules for granting citizenship to the persons living in the territories formerly rules by Austria and annexed to Italy. In particular:

Art. 70 of the Treaty provided for that

“every person possessing rights of citizenship (pertinenza) in territory which formed part of the territories of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy should obtain ipso facto to the exclusion of Austrian nationality the nationality of the State exercising sovereignty over such territory.”

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Pursuant to art. 71

notwithstanding the provisions of art. 70, Italian nationality shall not, in the case of territory transferred to Italy, be acquired ipso facto: (1) by persons possessing rights of citizenship in such territory who were not born there; (2) by persons who acquired their rights of citizenship in such territory after May 24, 1915 (i.e. the date when Italy entered the war) or who acquired them only by reason of their official position.”

This is how Mr. De Gasperi obtained Italian citizenship and automatically lost his Austrian nationality.

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What happens if you have ancestors born in Trentino or Alto Adige before July 16, 1920?

Those who have ancestors born in Trentino and Alto Adige are entitled to apply for Italian citizenship ON CONDITION THAT they can prove that their ancestors:

  • lived in these territories until July 16, 1920 and
  • they did not emigrate before this date.

The “Italian citizenship eligibility issue” linked to the “16 July 1920” requirement is the following: the ancestor who emigrated before 16 July 1920 expatriated as an Austro-Hungarian citizen and not as an Italian citizen, meaning he or she could not pass Italian citizenship on to their children.

How can you find information about your ancestors?

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Photo by Pinkasem Muisri on Unsplash

The regional government of Trentino has created a useful online database, www.natitrentino.mondotrentino.net , with the data of all individuals born in the territory from the year 1815 to 1923. The database contains the names of more than 1,300,000 persons (20,951 family names).

It is also very useful and interesting the website of the Research Center on the history of the emigration from Trentino, with biographies and stories of many emigrants.

Do you think you may qualify for Italian citizenship?Mazzeschi SRL, an Italian firm specialized in immigration and citizenship, can help you in this journey together with My Italian Family, an American agency specialized in assisting Italian citizenship applicants in the U.S.

Credit for De Gasperi’s illustration(first picture): ERNEST HAMLIN BAKER, cover of TIME magazine of April 19 1948


The information provided on this article (i) does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; (ii) are for general informational purposes only and may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information (iii) this website may contain links to other third-party websites. Such links are only for the convenience of the reader; (iv) readers should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter.

Marco Mazzeschi

Attorney at law. One of the leading corporate immigration lawyers in Italy. Admitted to the Milan Bar Association (1988) and to the Taipei Bar Association (2016), a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and an accredited partner of Invest in Tuscany. Schedule a consultation call

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