However, the fact that Italy stayed as a single nation since shows that Italy was in the process of being unified. This proves that in this case geographical unity is far more instantaneous than national unity.
The central figure in the origin of "Young Italy" was one Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872), who in 1821 in Genoa had witnessed the distress of the "refugees of Italy" who were in the process of fleeing into exile after their failure of their revolutionary efforts at winning reform and, moved by their example, had chosen to devote his life to the cause of Italian independence and unity. In 1827 he was initiated into Carbonari movement and was himself forced into exile in 1831 for revolutionary activity. In exile in the French seaport city of Marseilles, then something of a revolutionary hotbed, he advocated subversive activity "even when it ended in defeat" as a method of developing general "political consciousness." He also began to move away from the philosophy of the Carbonari and subsequently founded Giovine Italia (Young Italy) a movement dedicated to securing "for Italy Unity, Independence, and Liberty."
Mazzini's revolutionary vision extended beyond the limited objective of Italian national unity towards the liberation of all oppressed peoples. He hoped for a new democratic and republican Italy that would lead other subject peoples to freedom and liberty and for a new Europe, controlled by the people and not by sovereigns, that would replace the old order.
A major hindrance to Italy's decision on what to do about the war was the political instability throughout Italy in 1914. After the formation of the government of Prime Minister in March 1914, the government attempted to win the support of nationalists and moved to the political right. At the same time, the left became more repulsed by the government after the killing of three anti-militarist demonstrators in June. Many elements of the left including , and protested against this and the declared a in Italy. The protests that ensued became known as "" as leftists rioted and various acts of civil disobedience occurred in major cities and small towns such as seizing railway stations, cutting telephone wires and burning tax-registers. However, only two days later the strike was officially called off, though the civil strife continued. Militarist nationalists and anti-militarist leftists fought on the streets until the forcefully restored calm after having used thousands of men to put down the various protesting forces. Following the invasion of by Austria-Hungary in 1914, World War I broke out. Despite Italy's official alliance to Germany and membership in the , the Kingdom of Italy initially remained neutral, claiming that the Triple Alliance was only for defensive purposes.
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In the lead-up to , the Kingdom of Italy faced a number of short-term and long-term problems in determining its allies and objectives. Italy's recent success in occupying as a result of the had sparked tension with its allies, the and , because both countries had been seeking closer relations with the . In Munich, Germans reacted to Italy's aggression by singing anti-Italian songs. Italy's relations with were also in bad shape: France felt betrayed by Italy's support of Prussia in the , opening the possibility of war erupting between the two countries. Italy's relations with the had also been impaired by constant Italian demands for more recognition in the international stage following the occupation of Libya and its demands that other nations accept its spheres of influence in Eastern Africa and the Mediterranean Sea.
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Italy has awaited this since 1866 her truly national war, in order to feel unified at last, renewed by the unanimous action and identical sacrifice of all her sons. Today, while Italy still wavers before the necessity imposed by history, the name of Garibaldi, resanctified by blood, rises again to warn her that she will not be able to defeat the revolution save by fighting and winning her national war.
— Luigi Federzoni, 1915
In 1911, Giolitti's government sent forces to occupy Libya. While the success of the Libyan War improved the status of the nationalists, it did not help Giolitti's administration as a whole. The government attempted to discourage criticism by speaking about Italy's strategic achievements and inventiveness of their military in the war: Italy was the to use the for military purposes and undertook on the Ottoman forces. The war radicalized the : anti-war revolutionaries led by future-Fascist dictator called for violence to bring down the government. Giolitti returned as Prime Minister only briefly in 1920, but the era of liberalism was effectively over in Italy.
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Morale fell among Italian soldiers who lived a tedious life when not on the front lines, as they were forbidden to enter theaters or bars, even when on leave. However, when battles were about to occur alcohol was made freely available to the soldiers in order to reduce tension before the battle. In order to escape the tedium after battles, some groups of soldiers worked to create improvized whorehouses. In order to maintain morale, the Italian army had propaganda lectures of the importance of the war to Italy, especially in order to retrieve and from Austria-Hungary. Some of these lectures were carried out by popular nationalist war proponents such as . D'Annunzio himself would participate in a number of paramilitary raids on Austrian positions along the Adriatic Sea coastline during the war and temporaly lost his sight after an air raid. Prominent pro-war advocate was prevented from giving lecture by the government, most likely because of his revolutionary socialist past.