Take a short time to discover the turbulent history of this ancient town, from its Roman origins to the Italian unification period, from World War II to present day!
The origin of the name is certain: Forum Livii
. Yet the identity of its founder is much less obvious. Historians are of discordant opinions: some of them believe that the first settlement of the ancient Roman Forum was built up around the early 2nd century B.C.
(probably in the year c. 188 B.C.), while other make the town even younger of about 150 years, dating its foundation to Julius Caesar’s times. The paternity of Marcus Livius Salinator – the Roman Consul who defeated Hasdrubal, Hannibal’s brother, on the Metaurus (207 B.C.) – is undoubtedly to be refused. We could also attribute the foundation of the city to the very son of Marcus, Caius (equally named Livius Salinator), 20 years later. But all this is only conjecture as we have no reliable evidence about these facts.
What is certain is the fact that the conditions of the whole Romagna deeply changed when the Via Emilia
was built at the time when, after the Romans’ conquest of the remaining Gallic villages, Livius’ Forum (Forum Livii) was founded
. During the following half millennium, Forlì
was probably a market for the distribution and sale of local agricultural produce. Enclosed between two rivers, the Rabbi
and the Montone
, the city grew up like on an "island", with the only problem of surviving the river floods. Only at around the year 1050, the local water system was put under control and the course of both rivers was deviated far away from the city inhabited centre.
From 1300 to 1700
After the Roman age and until the early 1200, the Middle-Age town was dragged by the historical and tragic events of the whole Romagna
, a land repeatedly attacked by usurpers and in a constantly subjugated condition, under the successive threats of the Goths, the Byzantines, the Lombards, and the Franks. According to past and modern chroniclers and historians, the only important fact for this period was that during the tenth century, maybe since 889, Forlì
managed in rising for a certain period as an independent republic City-State
and was capable of responding to the claims of temporal dominance by part of the Roman Papacy. At the time, the city adopted a constant and open strategy of alliance to the Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire
. Under the Emperor’s command, Forlì
repeatedly militated against the Pope and became a well-known Ghibelline ally (a reputation which continued across the centuries).
During the 13th century, Forlì
was no longer an unknown city for the rest of the world and gained an almost primary position in the history of the territory, in a period characterized by furious civil and religious struggles. In 1241, during continuous battles against the neighbouring Guelph towns, the people of Forlì
offered its loyal support to Emperor Frederick II for the capture of its rival town, Faenza
, and, as a sign of gratitude, they received the faculty of adorning their coat of arms with the Swabian or German Eagle, together with other privileges. Meanwhile, in less than 20 years, the fortune of the Swabian royal family came to an end and the most diligent and loyal lieutenant of the German Emperor in Italy, Guido da Montefeltro
, was forced to take refuge in Forlì. The city was the only remaining stronghold of the Ghibelline political power
Here he was asked to take the office of "Captain of the People" and, in this capacity, he repeatedly led its troops (including many outlaws, exiles and bandits) on to the victory.
The Pope had a heavy letdown at the beginning, but, in the following years, after replacing his defeated captain, Giovanni d'Appia
, with Guido di Monforte
, he obtained from the Senate of Forlì the surrender at the discretion of the city army, menacing to take reprisals against the exhausted population. Feeling betrayed, Guido da Montefeltro
was then forced to leave the city with his followers.
After the departure and abandonment of the Duke of Montefeltro
, the history of Forlì
continued at the mercy of fate, until the Ordelaffi family took the political control of the city
for almost two centuries. Among the most illustrious members of this noble family (whose origins are still uncertain: German or Venetian), we should mention Scarpetta III
, who gave shelter to the poet Dante
when he took refuge in Forlì
for a short period of time (1303), and Francesco
the Great, who fought against Egidio Albornoz
, the Cardinal sent by the Pope at the command of a strong army to subject Romagna
in a further attempt. Ordelaffi
military commander was soon defeated (4 July 1359), but the ancient chronicles have handed down to posterity his military value and that of his fearless bride (Marzia degli Ubaldini
), who was at the command of the army, defending the city of Cesena
But among the others, the most famous family leader was Pino III
, who firmly held the Seigniory of Forlì
from 1466 to 1480. Under good or bad fortune, Pino III was a man of his times: splendour and meanness, cruelty and magnanimity distinguished its governance. Pino died when he was just 40 years old (with the suspicion of poisoning) and the situation of Forlì soon decayed. Within a few months, the rule of the city passed into the hands of other Ordelaffi family leaders in a spiral of power and was finally claimed by Pope Sixtus IV for one of his relatives, who had no other qualities but his kinship with the Pope - Gerolamo Riario
was then married to Caterina Sforza
, whose name is associated to the last important historical events for the city of Forlì
was certainly a fascinating lady. She married three men: Girolamo Riario
, Jacopo Feo
(married in secrecy), Giovanni De' Medici
; she was mother of ten children. Caterina was the undisputed Lady of Forlì
, worthy of succeeding Pino Ordelaffi
. Yet her reign had a short life too, as it was brutally overwhelmed by the hegemonic plans of Cesare Borgia
, who suffocated the city as much as many other feudal dominions and minor cities of the Papal States (January 1500).
After the sudden fall of Borgia
’s rule and the short-lived return of the Ordelaffi
(1503-1504), Forlì was definitively incorporated to the Papal State under the decision of Pope Julius II
(Giuliano della Rovere
), and its political autonomy ended forever. Three centuries of silence then followed. Even though at this stage the history of Forlì
turned into a chronicle of minor events, we should not forget a genius such as the scientist Gian Battista Morgagni
(1682-1771), the long painting activity of Carlo Cignani
and his school (first half of the Eighteenth century), the restoration and the building of numerous palaces and churches by architect Giuseppe Merenda
(1687-1767), who was renown even beyond the city borders.
The "sound sleep" of Forlì
inhabitants was cut off by the French Revolution
, which at the time had already thrown whole Europe into confusion with its extraordinary wave of novelty. The Jacobin troops arrived in Forlì on June of 1796
, while Napoleon made his triumphal entry to the city on 4th of February, 1797.
The civic and political order introduced by the French Emperor, the recruitment of local officials and soldiers into his troops laid the foundations for the following political turmoil of the years 1820-1830, contributing to the risings of 1821 (the secret revolutionary movement of the Carbonari
was particularly followed in Forlì
), 1831 and 1848.
The participation into the struggle for the Unification of Italy
") was extremely high in Forlì
, whose inhabitants were proud to answer the roll calls of their military hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi
. Among the others, there was Achille Cantoni
, a young hero fallen in the battle of Mentana
In those years, Forlì
could boast a great number of illustrious men in the political life and not only. Among many others, we have only to mention: Piero Maroncelli
, mate of Silvio Pellico
during the imprisonment years; Aurelio Saffi
, Triumvir of the Roman Republic of 1849 and then deputy at the Senate of the Kingdom of Italy; and, finally, Antonio Fratti
, follower of Garibaldi
, deputy, and then fallen in Domokos in 1897 in the War for the Greek Independence.
In the Post-Unification period, within a social context where economy was mainly based on agriculture and on a servitude-alike sharecropping production system, the participation of Forlì
inhabitants into the agrarian struggles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries
was not less intense and heartfelt than the previous rebellions. The issue of the agrarian reform and the struggle against farm labourers unemployment were indeed at the basis of the rise in Italy of the great political parties, the Republican and the Socialist Parties, as well as of the modern Catholic social movement. These organizations then gave rise to the first mutual aid organizations, trade unions and labour organizations.
With the sending of hundreds of voluntary recruits, the contribution of Forlì to World War I was considerable
: to the honour of all these men, the awarding of the gold medal entitled to "Fulcieri Paolucci De' Calboli
" as a sign of this massive participation.
The Fascist period and WWII
During the 1920s, the active role in Forlì
of Benito Mussolini was of great relevance for the local politics
, before he rose to power as a Dictator. Italy lived under the yoke of Mussolini
’s dictatorship for over twenty years, until the situation degenerated into the destructive blast of World War II
. In Forlì, the war left a heap of rubble and casualties, including the destroying of some of the most significant monuments and artistic treasures of the city: among the other, the Civic Clock Tower, the Municipal Theatre, and the Church of San Biagio
with the frescos by Melozzo degli Ambrogi
. In the post-war period, peace and democratic power prevailed in the city, together with a sudden economic recovery.
The City's coat of arms
The coat of arms for the city of Forlì
has changed into the current form after a repeated superimposition of icons and symbols. Medieval chroniclers have told its historical origin, though in a not-systematic manner. At the beginning of its history, it included a vermilion-coloured Shield
. According to an ancient tradition dating back to Numa Pompilius, these insignia were assigned by the ancient Romans to all the cities which they founded (see Giovanni Villani
. Book I, Chapt. XL). In the vermilion-coloured field, a white Cross
was later introduced to celebrate the brave and gallant action of Forlì
soldiers into the First Crusade (1096-1099). A second entirely-white Shield
, crossed by the word "LIBERTAS"
, testifies the period when Forlì was autonomously ruled as a Republic city-state (the first time was in 889, the last in 1405).
Yet both Shields (the White and the Vermilion) became less important when Emperor Frederick II wanted to reward Forlì diligence in the capture of Faenza
(1241). He granted to the Ghibelline city (together with privilege of having a local mint) the right of adorning their coat of arms with the Swabian Eagle in a golden field
; with its claws, the bird of prey holds the two historical exploits of the past because they must not be forgotten. The whole coat of arms is mounted over by a crown
representing turreted walls, better known as "the City Crown".