Albanians in Italy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Albanians in Italy
Total population
441,027[1] - 800,000[2] (2019) (First figure does not include Italian Arbëreshë or Kosovan nationals)
Regions with significant populations
Related ethnic groups
Greek Albanians and Turkish Albanians

The Albanians in Italy (Italian: Albanesi in Italia; Albanian: Shqiptarët në Itali) refers to the Albanian migrants in Italy and their descendants. They mostly trace their origins to Albania, Greece and since recently to a lesser extent to Kosovo[a], North Macedonia and other Albanian-speaking territories in the Balkan Peninsula. As of 2019, there were 441,027 Albanian citizens living in Italy, one of the largest Albanian immigrant population in any country as well as the second largest immigrant group within Italy.[1] They are adherents of different religions and are Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Sunnis and Bektashis as well as various forms of Irreligion. Between 2008 and 2020 more than 250,000 Albanians acquired Italian citizenship.[4]

The Albanians in Italy may include among others a long established Arbëreshë population in Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily and across Southern Italy as well as Albanians to have migrated to Italy from any territory with an Albanian population in the Balkans and any person originally from the Republic of Albania.

There is an Albanian community in southern Italy, known as Arbëreshë, who had settled in the country starting with the 15th and the 16th century and later, displaced by the changes brought about by the persecution of Greeks towards Ethnic Albanians of Epirus and later expansion of the Ottoman Empire. Some managed to escape and were offered refuge from the repression by the Kingdom of Naples and Kingdom of Sicily (both under Aragonese rule), where the Arbëreshë were given their own villages and protected.[5] The Arbëreshë were estimated as numbering at a quarter million in the year 1976.[6]


Medieval period[edit]

The Italian Peninsula across the Adriatic Sea has attracted the Albanian people in the Balkan Peninsula for more than half a millennium often due to the immediate proximity which was also seen as the primary gateway to Western Europe. The medieval ancestors of the Arbëreshë people were the first Albanian people to migrate to Italy historically as mercenaries in the services for the kingdoms of the Neapolitans, Sicilians and Venetians.[7][8]

During the 14th and 16th centuries AD, groups of Albanians started to settle in the Italian Peninsula. Their migration stemmed from severe political and social oppression and persecution of Greeks after the death of Scanderbeg and later following the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans. Most of these medieval Albanian migrants were descended from Tosk Albanian settlers from Epirus which originally was an Albanian inhabited territory based on linguistic and genetic evidence.

Modern period[edit]

As a consequence after the collapse of communism in Albania in 1990, Italy had been the main migration target for the Albanian people leaving their country. This exodus was fueled mainly by social and economic instability, a looming fear of civil war and lack of confidence in the democratization process of Albania.

Around 3 weeks after the overturning of the regime, in March 1991, approximately 25,700 Albanians crossed the Strait of Otranto into Italy.[9] Subsequently, in August 1991, another 20,000 migrants arrived in Bari Harbour aboard the Vlora.[10] The Italian government classified such Albanians as “illegal economic migrants” and started repatriating them after a period of detention in special camps in Southern Italy. Albanian attempts to immigrate by sea caused the Italian government to deploy a considerable number of Italian soldiers along the coast of Puglia - directly facing Albania.[9]

Italy had been a symbol of the West for many Albanians during the communist period, because of its geographic proximity. Additionally, Albania past status as an Italian colony might have fueled immigration efforts into Italy specifically.[9] There is also a linguistic connection similar to what attracts Romanians to Italy, as the Albanian language, although not itself Romance, has a large amount of vocabulary of Romance origin like English or Maltese. Italy reacted to this migration pressure by introducing the "Martelli" law, stipulating that any immigrant who could prove that he or she had come into the country before the end of 1989 be granted a two-year residency permit.

The perception of Albanian immigrants by Italian citizens in the period was overwhelmingly negative. Italian media in the 1990s played a large part in devaluing and inferiorizing the Albanian immigrants.[9] A quantitative analysis of the frequency of words occurring in news articles within the early 1990s revealed that articles mentioning Albanians were positively correlated with the occurrence of words conveying negative sentiment. Therefore, articles mentioning Albanians were more likely to have news about organized crime and other activities with an illicit connotation.[11] There were also instances where newspapers propagated misinformation: such as linking the cholera outbursts in Bari with the inflow of refugees from Albania.[9]

From March 1997 following the outbreak of the Albanian Civil War, Italy instituted a strict patrol of the Adriatic in an attempt to curb Albanian immigration. As a result, many Albanian immigrants in Italy do not have a legal status. Out of an estimated 150,000 Albanian immigrants in Italy in 1998, only some 82,000 were registered with authorities. In total there are 800,000 Albanians in Italy.[2] Italy also took efforts to alleviate the plight of Albanians in Albania. As a response to the Albanian political and refugee crisis in April 1997, in association with the United Nations, Italy led Operation Alba. This was a military-humanitarian mission involving 6000 Italian personnel. It was undertaken in order to deliver aid to the Albanian people.[9]

The Italian Government has housed significant numbers of Albanians from Kosovo in the Arbëresh settlements, most notably in Piana degli Albanesi in Sicily.



The regions of Italy with notable Arbëreshë concentration.

The regions with the most significant concentration of the modern Albanian population are Emilia-Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Tuscany, Piedmont and Veneto predominantly in the northeastern, northwestern and central region of Italy. The least number are to be found in Aosta Valley, Basilicata, Molise and Sardinia. Though in contrast, the medieval Albanian population is geographically distributed in Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily mostly in southern region of Italy.[12]

The Albanian population of Italy, only the Albanians with Albanian nationality, has noted a steady increase in the recent years especially during the fall of communism in the 1990s and the beginnings of the 21st century.[13][14][4] It has doubled between 2003 and 2009 from 216,582 to 441,396 constituting a total increase of 103,8%.[15] During the period between from 2014 to 2018, the population decreased by approximately 11% from 482,627 to 440 465.[15]

This decrease can be explained by noting that between 2008 and 2020 more than 250,000 Albanians acquired Italian citizenship;[4] thus, now they are counted as Italians and not as Albanians on Italian statistics .

The distribution of Albanians (foreigners only) in Italy as of 2019:[1]

Region Albania Albanian nationals Kosovo Kosovan nationals
 Aosta Valley 735 5
 Abruzzo 11,830 1,612
 Apulia 22,733 185
 Basilicata 1,956 13
 Calabria 2,940 62
 Campania 7,064 136
 Emilia-Romagna 57,969 2,470
 Friuli-Venezia Giulia 9,588 3,519
 Lazio 24,454 1,827
 Liguria 21,866 393
 Lombardy 92,332 8,400
 Marche 15,863 917
 Molise 807 173
 Piedmont 40,919 622
 Sardinia 682 37
 Sicily 9,062 79
 Toscana 62,066 5,608
 Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol 11,310 3,273
 Umbria 13,093 644
 Veneto 33,758 10,533
 Italy 441,027 40,508


The Albanian people and so the Albanian people of Italy traditionally adhere to different religious faiths and beliefs. They are traditionally both Christians and Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox, Bektashis and Sunnis but also to a lesser extent Evangelists, Protestants, Jews or non-religious, perhaps constituting the most religiously diverse people of Europe.[16]

In the years 2011 and 2012 the ISTAT made a survey regarding the religious affiliation among the immigrants in Italy, the religion of the Albanian people in Italy were as follows:[3]

  • Muslims: 41.5%
  • Christians: 38.7%
  • Non religious. 17.8%
  • Other religions: 1.7%

Notable people[edit]

Selected people:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The political status of Kosovo is disputed. Having unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, Kosovo is formally recognised as an independent state by 101 UN member states (with another 13 states recognising it at some point but then withdrawing their recognition) and 92 states not recognizing it, while Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own territory.


  1. ^ a b c "Resident foreigners on 1st January - Citizenship". Istituto Nazionale Di Statistica.
  2. ^ a b "Albania: Looking Beyond Borders". 2004-08-01. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  3. ^ a b c d "Appartenenza e pratica religiosa tra i cittadini stranieri". (in Italian). 2014-10-30. Retrieved 2017-10-22.
  4. ^ a b c "Istat".
  6. ^ Albanian, Arbëreshë - A language of Italy - Ethnic population: 260,000 (Stephens 1976).
  7. ^ Giornale enciclopedico di Napoli (in Italian). Orsiniana. 1807. p. 152.
  8. ^ "Gli arbëreshë e la Basilicata". (in Italian). 18 March 2013.
  9. ^ a b c d e f R.D., Grillo; Jeff., Pratt (January 2002). The politics of recognizing difference : multiculturalism Italian-style. Ashgate, Ashgate. ISBN 9780754618911. OCLC 799289730.
  10. ^ Campani, Giovanna. "Albanian Refugees in Italy". Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  11. ^ Stoppiello, S. (1999), “Nomi e immagini dell' ‘altro’. Un’analisi multidimensionale della stampa”, Studie emigrazione, 36 (135), pp. 417-442.
  12. ^ Minni, C. Dino; Ciampolini, Anna Foschi (1990). Writers in transition: the proceedings of the First National Conference of Italian-Canadian Writers. Guernica Editions. pp. 63–4. ISBN 978-0-920717-26-4. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  13. ^ Clarissa De Waal (2005-06-24). Albania: Portrait of a Country in Transition. I.B.Tauris, 2005. pp. 5–7. ISBN 9780857710239.
  14. ^ Giovama Campani. "Albanian Refugees in Italy" (PDF). pp. 1–4.
  15. ^ a b "Resident foreigners on 1st January - Citizenship 2003–2019". Istituto Nazionale Di Statistica.
  16. ^ Bogdani, Mirela; Loughlin, John (2007). Albania and the European Union: The Tumultuous Journey Towards Integration and Accession. I.B.Tauris. p. 34. ISBN 978-1-84511-308-7. Retrieved 16 April 2017.