The political-territorial structure established for the Italy at the Congress of Vienna (1814-15), while sanctioning the return to the pre-revolutionary situation with the restoration of the legitimate sovereigns to the throne, it marked the emergence of Austria as a hegemonic power in the peninsula. The sovereigns’ willingness to react, aimed at neutralizing what the French Revolution and the Napoleonic period introduced into public administration and civil society, fails to fully recreate the situation of the ancien régime: important aspects of civil and administrative institutions brought by the French are preserved almost everywhere. The impossibility for the oppositions to freely express their dissent and to associate has the effect of spreading secret societies. The largest of those operating in Italy
According to ELAINEQHO, the liberal and radical secret societies provide the first great evidence in the uprisings that broke out in 1820-21, to the spread of news about the success of the military pronouncement that in Spain brought back the Constitution of 1812 into force. The uprisings begin in Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The success of the insurrection alarmed Austria, which convened a congress between the great powers in Troppau, Silesia (October-December 1820) to obtain consent for military intervention in Italy and Spain in order to crush the insurrection.. At the subsequent congress of Ljubljana (January 1821) Ferdinand I, king of the Two Sicilies, denied support for the constitutional regime and asked for Austrian intervention, which soon ensured the restoration of absolutism. The events of Spain and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies exacerbate all of Italy the confrontation between revolutionaries and conservatives: secret societies intensify conspiratorial activity, which reaches its maximum intensity in Lombardy and Piedmont. The Piedmontese conspirators believe they can count on the support of the Prince of Carignano, Carlo Alberto di Savoia, but these, after an initial adhesion to the insurrectional plan, backtracks. On March 12, the insurrection gains Turin. Vittorio Emanuele I abdicates by appointing Carlo Alberto as regent, who swears loyalty to the Spanish Constitution with the new government, but Carlo Felice (1821-31), brother and legitimate heir of Vittorio Emanuele, disavows the work of Carlo Alberto inducing him to abandon the liberal front. The provisional government invites the Piedmontese soldiers to war against Austria, but the improvised constitutionalist army that clashed in Novara (7-8 April) with the realists, who were rescued by the Austrians, was defeated. In the Lombardy-Veneto region, the Austrian authorities intensify police surveillance and repression to avoid the repetition of subversive movements. The Spielberg fortress in Moravia, where many patriots were imprisoned, becomes the symbol of the struggle for independence from Austria.
The outcome is not very dissimilar to the uprisings of the 1820s, those that broke out in 1830-31 under the pressure of the European liberal revolutions, in particular the French one. The party most directly concerned this time is the Italy central: the insurrection breaks out in Bologna, and from here it gains the Marche, the Duchy of Modena and Reggio, Parma, a large part of Romagna. We arrive at the constitution of a provisional government of the United Provinces based in Bologna which acts in concert with the provisional governments established in the duchies. But these, having failed the hope of French support, are unable to resist the Austrian troops, sent by Metternich in March 1831 to restore the status quo.
With the crisis of the Carbonari, now discredited, the forces pushing for renewal are divided into two main currents: the one headed by G. Mazzini (1831, foundation of Giovine Italia), with a program based on popular initiative, and the moderate one, which focuses on the initiative of the ruling classes and the reforming action of governments. A series of serious failures by the Mazzinians, unable to mobilize the masses (1844, failure of the Bandiera brothers’ expedition to Calabria), together with the needs of economic-social development and the liberal wind blowing from France and Great Britain, contribute to the revival of moderate reformism that began to assert itself from the mid-1830s. On the economic ground, the moderates adopt a free-trading ideology, functional to the creation of a unified national market. On the political ground, moderate public opinion finds its first and effective synthesis in the works of V. Gioberti and C. Balbo, who identify respectively in the papacy and in the Piedmontese initiative the two levers with which to set in motion the national renewal. Convinced supporters of a federalist, republican and democratic project, which however remains a strong minority, are thinkers like C. Cattaneo and G. Ferrari, whose reflection starts from the traditional polycentrism of Italian history.