Italians in France

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Italian French
Italo Francese
Italy France
Napoleon crop.jpgCatherine-de-medici.jpgMazarin-mignard.jpg
Alexandre Henri Gabriel de Cassini.jpgLéon Gambetta by Lége, Paris.jpgZOLA 1902B.jpg
Yves Montand Cannes.jpgJean-Paul Belmondo 2001.jpgALESI Jean-24x30-1999b.jpg
Total population
up to 5,000,000
~9% of France's population going back three generations
Regions with significant populations
 France, especially Southeastern France.
French, Italian, Italian dialects.
Roman Catholicism

Italian migration into what is today France has been going on, in different migrating cycles, for centuries, beginning in prehistoric times right to the modern age.[1][2] In addition, Corsica passed from the Republic of Genoa to France in 1770, and the area around Nice and Savoy from the Kingdom of Sardinia to France in 1860. According to Robin Cohen, "about 5 million French nationals are of Italian origin if their parentage is retraced over three generations."[1]

History of Italians in France[edit]

Middle Ages and Renaissance[edit]

There has always been large migration, since ancient times, between what is today Italy and what is today France. This is especially true of the regions of northwestern Italy and southern France. As Italian wealth and influence grew during the Middle Ages, many Florentine, Genoese, Neapolitan, Piedmontese and Venetian traders, bankers and artisans settled, usually through family branches, throughout France, and posts and Italian colonies sprang up as far north as Paris and Flanders.

This Italian trade network continued through the Renaissance, as previous generations became assimilated. Italian artists, writers and architects were called upon by the French monarchy and aristocrats.

Since the 16th century, Florence as a state and Florentines as a business community, has long enjoyed a very close relationship with France.[3] In 1533, at the age of fourteen, Catherine de' Medici married Henry, second son of King Francis I and Queen Claude of France. Under the gallicised version of her name, Catherine de Médicis, she was Queen consort of France as the wife of King Henry II of France from 1547 to 1559. She became regent on behalf of her ten-year-old son King Charles IX and was granted sweeping powers. After Charles died in 1574, Catherine played a key role in the reign of her third son, Henry III.

Cardinal Mazarin, born in the Kingdom of Naples was a cardinal, diplomat and politician, who served as the chief minister of France from 1642 until his death in 1661. Mazarin succeeded his mentor, Cardinal Richelieu, and extended France's political ambitions not only within Italy but towards England as well.

Modern Period[edit]

It should be noted that Napoleon Bonaparte, French emperor and general, was ethnically Italian of Corsican origin, whose family was of Genoese and Tuscan ancestry.[4]

Initially, Italian immigration to modern France (late 18th to the early 20th century) came predominantly from northern Italy (Piedmont, Veneto), then from central Italy (Marche, Umbria), mostly to the bordering southeastern region of Provence.[1] It wasn't until after World War II that large numbers of immigrants from southern Italy immigrated to France, usually settling in industrialised areas of France, such as Lorraine, Paris and Lyon.[1]

Autochthonous populations[edit]

See also: Italians

In both the County of Nice, parts of Savoy, "Italian" can refer to autochthonous speakers of Italian dialects (Ligurian and Piedmontese languages), natives in the region since before annexation to France, and also to descendants of Italians that migrated to the areas when they were part of Italian states. The number of inhabitants with Italian ancestry is generally undeterminable, and the use of French language is now ubiquitous. In addition, Corsica was a part of the Republic of Genoa until 1770 and until recently, most Corsicans spoke the Corsican language, considered by most linguists to be a dialect of Italian, related to Tuscan.

Notable Italian French People[edit]

Édith Piaf, world famous French singer

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Cohen, Robin (1995). The Cambridge Survey of World Migration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 143. ISBN 9780521444057. 
  2. ^ (French) Histoire de l'Italie à Paris. Retrieved on 2011-07-04.
  3. ^ Project MUSE – Renaissance Quarterly – Savonarola in Francia: Circolazione di un'eredità politico-religiosa nell'Europa del Cinquecento (review). Retrieved on 2011-07-04.
  4. ^ |title=Napoleon I (emperor of France) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia | |date= |accessdate=2010-09-02