Corfiot Italians - Origins

Origins

The origins of the Corfiot Italian community can be found in the expansion of the Italian States toward the Balkans during and after the Crusades. In the 12th century, the Kingdom of Naples sent some Italian families to Corfu to rule the island. From the Fourth Crusade of 1204 onwards, the Republic of Venice sent many Italian families to Corfu. These families brought the Italian language of the Middle Ages to the island.

When Venice ruled Corfu and the Ionian islands, which lasted during the Renaissance and until the late 18th century, most of the Corfiote upper classes spoke Italian (or Venetian in many cases) and converted to Roman Catholicism, but the mass of people remained Greek ethnically, linguistically, and religiously before and after the Ottoman sieges of the 16th century.

Corfiot Italians were mainly concentrated in the city of Corfu, which was called "Città di Corfù" by the Venetians. More than half of the population of Corfu city in the 18th century was Venetian-speaking.

The re-emergence of Greek nationalism, after the Napoleonic era, contributed to the disappearance of the Corfiot Italians. Corfu was ultimately incorporated into Greece in 1864. The Greek government abolished all Italian schools in the Ionian islands in 1870, and as a consequence, by the 1940s there were only four hundred Corfiote Italians left.

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