Five Days of Milan

The Five Days of Milan (Italian: Cinque giornate di Milano [ˈtʃiŋkwe dʒorˈnaːte di miˈlaːno]) was a major event in the Revolutionary Year of 1848 and the start of the First Italian War of Independence. On 18 March, a rebellion arose in the city of Milan, and in five days of street fighting drove Marshal Radetzky and his Austrian soldiers from the city.

Five Days of Milan
Part of the First Italian War of Independence

Episode from the Five Days, by Baldassare Verazzi (1819–1886)
Date18–22 March 1848
Result Milanese victory[1]
Radetzky retreats from Milan[2]
Milanese rebels[1] Austrian Empire[3]
Commanders and leaders
Carlo Cattaneo
Count Luigi Torelli
Augusto Anfossi 
Luciano Manara
Joseph Radetzky von Radetz
Ludwig von Wohlgemuth
Eduard Clam-Gallas
Count Ferencz Gyulai
1,700 barricades[11]
Milanese armament:
600–650 Firearms[11][12]
Stones, Bottles, Clubs,
Pikes and Swords[12]
Casualties and losses
409–424 killed[4][7]
(including 43 women and Children)
600+ wounded[7]
181 killed[14]
(including 5 officers)
235 wounded[7]
(including 4 officers)
150–180 captured[14]
Provisional Government of Milan

Governo provvisorio di Milano (in Italian)
Common languagesItalian, Lombard
Historical eraRevolutions of 1848
9 June 1815
 Insurrection against Habsburg rule
18 March 1848
 Radetzky withdraws to Quadrilatero
22 March 1848
24 June 1859
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia
Kingdom of Sardinia


In 1848, the Milanese launched an anti-Austrian campaign as early as 1 January.[15] On New Year's Day the Milanese started to boycott gambling and tobacco products, which were government monopolies that brought in over 5 million lire a year.[11] The boycott culminated in a bloody street battle on 3 January, when Austrian soldiers, in batches of three, were being insulted and pelted with stones by an angry crowd.[3][4] The soldiers then gathered together in groups of a dozen and charged the crowd with swords and bayonets, killing five and wounding another 59. Radetzky confined his troops to barracks for five days.[3] The protests were over, but two months later, when news reached Milan of the uprising in Vienna and the fall of Metternich, the Milanese took to the streets again, on 18 March.[11]


Almost simultaneous with the popular uprisings of 1848 in the Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia, on 18 March of that year, the city of Milan also rose. This was the first evidence of how effective popular initiative, guided by those in the Risorgimento, was able to influence Charles Albert of Sardinia.

The Austrian garrison at Milan was well equipped and commanded by an experienced general, Joseph Radetzky von Radetz, who despite being over 80 years old, was energetic and rigid. Radetzky had no intention of yielding to the uprising.

However, the whole city fought throughout the streets, raising barricades, firing from windows and roofs, and urging the rural population to join them. The populace was backed by the archbishop and at least 100 priests joined in the fighting against the Austrians. A bust of Pope Pius IX was even hoisted onto the barricades.[16] A provisional government of Milan was formed and presided over by the podestà, Gabrio Casati and a council of war under Carlo Cattaneo. The Martinitt (orphanage children) worked as message runners to all parts of the town.

Radetzky saw the difficulty of resisting under siege in the city centre, but while afraid of being attacked by the Piedmontese army and peasants from the countryside, he preferred to withdraw after losing control of the Porta Tosa (now Porta Vittoria) to the rebels. On the evening of 22 March, the Austrians withdrew towards the "Quadrilatero" (the fortified zone made up of the four cities of Verona, Legnago, Mantua and Peschiera del Garda), taking with them several hostages arrested at the start of the uprising. Meanwhile, the rest of Lombard and Venetic territory was free.

In memory of these days, the official newspaper of the temporary government was called simply Il 22 marzo (22 March), which began publication on 26 March at the Palazzo Marino under the direction of Carlo Tenca.[17] A monument to the uprising by the sculptor Giuseppe Grandi was built at what is now Porta Vittoria.

See also


  1. Grenville, John Ashley Soames (2000). Europe reshaped, 1848–1878. Oxford.
  2. Stillman, William James (1898). The union of Italy, 1815–1895. Cambridge.
  3. Berkeley, George F.-H. (1940). Italy in the Making January 1st 1848 to November 16th 1848. Cambridge.
  4. Ginsborg, Paul (1979). Daniele Manin and the Venetian revolution of 1848–49. Bristol.
  5. Maurice, Charles Edmund (1887). The revolutionary movement of 1848–9 in Italy, Austria Hungary, and Germany. New York.
  6. American Bibliographical Center (1991). Historical abstracts: Volume 42, Issues 3–4. Santa Barbara.
  7. Rüstow, Wilhelm (1862). Der italienische Krieg von 1848 und 1849. Zürich.
  8. Whyte, Arthur James Beresford (1975). The political life and letters of Cavour, 1848–1861. Santa Barbara.
  9. Svoboda, Johann (1870). Die Zöglinge der Wiener-Neustädter Militär-Akademie. Wien.
  10. de Marguerittes, Julie (1859). Italy and the War of 1859. Philadelphia.
  11. Chapman, Tim (2008). The risorgimento: Italy 1815–71. Penrith.
  12. Stearns, Peter N. (1974). 1848: the revolutionary tide in Europe. New York.
  13. Whittam, John (1977). Politics of the Italian Army, 1861–1918. London.
  14. Wilhelm Meyer-Ott, Wilhelm Rüstow (1850). Die Kriegerischen Ereignisse in Italien in den Jahren 1848 und 1849. Zürich.
  15. Gooch, John (1986). The unification of Italy. London.
  16. M. Clark, The Italian Risorgimento, Routledge 2013 p. 53
  17. Luseroni, Giovanni (2016). Giuseppe Mazzini e i Democratici nel Quarantotto Lombardo. Gangemi Editore spa. p. 130.


In Italian

  • (in Italian) Piero Pieri, Storia militare del Risorgimento – volume 1 & 2, Einaudi, Torino, 1962
  • (in Italian) Carlo Cattaneo, Dell'insurrezione di Milano nel 1848 e della successiva guerra, e-text Liber liber/Progetto Manuzio
  • (in Italian) Antonio Scurati, Una storia romantica, romanzo Bompiani, 2007
  • (in Italian) Elena Fontanella, a cura di, Giovani ribelli del '48. Memorie del Risorgimento lombardo , Firenze, Fratelli Alinari, 2011. ISBN 978-88-95849-14-0. Testi di Aldo A. Mola, Giancarlo Lacchin, Roberto Lauro, Maurizio Griffo, Agostino Giovagnoli, Cecilia Dau Novelli, Romano Bracalini, Carlo Cattaneo, Gianni Oliva, Emanuele Bettini, Matteo Sanfilippo, Giuseppe Poletta, Franco Della Peruta, Fulvio Peirone, Gabriella Bonacchi, Anna Maria Isastia, Elena Fontanella, Andrea Vento, Vittorio Nichilo, Giorgio Cosmacini, Roberto Guerri, Lucia Romaniello, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Gian Paolo Caprettini, Gian Mario Benzing, Roberto Cassanelli.
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