They settled in Southern Italy in the 15th to 18th centuries AD in several waves of migrations, following the death of the Albanian national hero George Kastrioti Skanderbeg and the gradual conquest of Albania and throughout the Byzantine Empire by the Ottoman Turks. The Arbëreshë have their own distinct culture and have been able to preserve the original Albanian identity. Their culture is determined by the main features that are found in language, religion, traditions, customs, art and gastronomy, still jealously preserved, with the awareness of belonging to a specific ethnic group. Over the centuries, the Arbëreshë have managed to maintain and develop their identities, thanks to their stubbornness and cultural value exercised mainly by the two religious communities of the Eastern Rite Greek-Byzantine, based in Calabria, the "Collegio Corsini" (1732) and then "Corsini-Sant'Adriano" in 1794 and Sicily in the "Seminario Greco-Albanese of Palermo" (1735) then transferred to Piana degli Albanesi in 1945. Today, most of the fifty Arbëreshë communities still preserve the Byzantines belonging to the Italo-Albanian Church of Eastern Rite. They belong to two Eparchies: to Lungro for Albanians in southern Italy, and that of Piana degli Albanesi for the Albanians of Sicily. The Byzantine Eparchy is the most important for the maintenance of the characteristics religious, ethnic, linguistic, and traditional identity of the Arbëreshë community .
The Arbëreshë speak Arbërisht, an old variant of Albanian spoken in southern Albania. The Arbëresh language is of particular interest to students of the modern Albanian language as it represents the sounds, grammar, and vocabulary of pre-Ottoman Albania. In Italy the Arbëreshë language is protected by the law n. 482 concerning the protection of ethnic minorities and linguistic history.
They are scattered throughout southern Italy and Sicily, and constitute one of the largest ethno-linguistic minorities in Italy. To define their "nation", Arbëresh speakers use the term Arbëria.
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