Piedmont-Sardinia fought Austria in 1848 in an attempt to unify the northern Italian states. During the war, the southern Italian republics made no reaction and even contributed troops to aid Piedmont in its fight against Austria. As a result, Italian discord made it difficult to accomplish the union.
After the defeat of Piedmont-Sardinia, the remaining provinces of Northern Italy decided to create a federal state called "Kingdom of Italy". The kingdom was composed by four regions: Piedmont-Sardinia, Central Italy, Liguria, and Lombardy-Venetia. Its capital was Rome. However, the new state failed because none of the regions were willing to give up their power and authority. Also, King Victor Emmanuel II refused to accept the federal state because he wanted to keep Italy divided into several small states so that they can more easily be controlled by him.
In 1861, Piedmont-Sardinia defeated Austria again and this time also Liguria, giving birth to the second federal state. But still there was no agreement on how the powers between the regions should be divided up so the new state could operate efficiently with just one government. As a result, the king dissolved the parliament and announced that there would be no more federal states until further notice. This time, all of Italy accepted the dissolution of the federal state without any resistance.
After striking an alliance with Napoleon III's France, Piedmont-Sardinia provoked Austria to declare war in 1859, thus launching the conflict that served to unify the northern Italian states against their common enemy: the Austrian Army. After several victories, including the battle of Magenta, where the combined forces of Piedmont and Sardinia defeated the Habsburgs, negotiations led to the Peace of Villafranca, which ended the war and left both Piedmont and Sardinia as independent countries.
Although they were now separate nations, there was still much cooperation between Piedmont and Sardinia, so they decided to join together into a single state. The new nation was called "Italy", and it became a kingdom after King Vittorio Emanuele II of Piedmont and Queen Margherita of Sardinia married on May 25, 1861. The two countries shared a monarch, but they remained independent governments with their own armies. However, when Italy went to war with Austria in 1866, Piedmont again joined with Sardinia to form a single army.
In 1870, another war broke out between Italy and Austria over Venetia, a region with many important ports that had been annexed by Austria. This time, however, the Italians were no match for the Habsburgs and lost the war. Venice fell to Austria.
Piedmont desired Austrian independence and the expansion of its authority through the annexation of Lombardy and Venetia. However, the Italian failures of 1848–9 convinced Cavour that without foreign assistance, Italy would be unable to attain independence or unity. Therefore, he negotiated with the Austrians to create a strong state that could stand on its own two feet.
Cavour's plan called for the creation of an autonomous kingdom of Piedmont within the new state, with Turin as its capital. The king of Piedmont-Sardinia would be its monarch, but in practice this role was to be played by ministers appointed by him. Finally, there would be one parliament for all of Italy, to be based in Rome.
The process was not easy. It took many years of negotiations, and it was not until after Cavour's death in 1861 that it finally came together. A series of treaties were signed between Piedmont and France, Russia, and Austria. These agreements defined the borders of the new state and also provided for the political integration of Italy. On 17 March 1859, Victor Emmanuel II, King of Sardinia, was invited to become the first monarch of the new nation of Italy. He accepted, and on 5 June 1861, he was crowned "King of Italy" in the town of Milan. The event is still considered by many to be the official birth of the country.
What factors hampered Italian unity? People identified with diverse local regions as a result of frequent conflict and foreign rule, preventing nationalism from emerging. Austria still controlled northern Italy, and if someone protested, they just sent additional troops. Cavour, what efforts did you take to foster Italian unity? He persuaded the king of Sardinia to allow formation of a single state out of their territories. This is known as la pensée cavourisée (Cavour's thought).
People also doubted whether Italy could be united because it was such a large country with many differences between its regions. There were also other factors that prevented unity: religion was one issue that caused strife between cities in northern Italy when the papacy changed hands. The election of a new pope would cause political chaos as different countries tried to influence which candidate might get support.
At the end of the 18th century, Napoleon came into possession of Northern Italy. He wanted to make it a grand duchy like his own territory in France, but this idea was not accepted by either the people or the governments of Piedmont-Sardinia or Tuscany. So instead, he decided to incorporate them both into one big state called Napoleonic Italy. The pope also refused to accept the annexation, so Napoleon ordered him deported from Rome to Montevideo on the coast of Uruguay. This is known as la senda de il Papa (the Pope's path).