Why do people speak Albanian in some places in Southern Italy? History of the Arbëreshë

The Arbëreshë (pronounced “arbresh”) are approx 100,000/200,000 people Of Albanian origin who live in various areas of thesouthern Italy and insular, in particular in various municipalities of Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise, Puglia and Sicily. Their presence in Italy dates back to Middle Agesand should not be confused with the Albanians or Kosovars who arrived in Italy following the recent migratory waves, those of the 1990s and 2000s. Their language and culture has developed over the centuries in different ways compared to that of the Albanians of Albania, creating aunique identity.

  • 1Who are the Arbëreshë and what language do they speak
  • 2Where the Arbëreshë live
  • 3Arbëreshë culture today

Who are the Arbëreshë and what language do they speak

The Arbëreshë are the descendants of the Albanian populations that in the face of the advance ofOttoman Empire in the Balkans they chose to fleeother side of the Adriatic. During 15th centuryIn fact, the Turks tried several times to subjugate Albania, but were defeated and repelled several times by the most famous Albanian military leader of all time, Prince Giorgio Castriota Scanderbeg (1405-1468).

After Scanderbeg’s death, the Ottomans managed to take over the territories of present-day Albania and a large part of the Albanians, to safeguard their cultural and religious traditions, chose to emigrate to southern Italy. While most of the Albanians who recently arrived from Albania are of Sunni Islamic faith (like the Turks), the Arbëreshë are Christians of the Byzantine rite, with an autonomous church linked to the Roman Catholic one. These groups of people, especially soldiers, religious people and nobles, once landed in Italy, chose to found their towns in some sparsely populated areas, thus allowing their language and culture to survive to the present day.

There Arbëreshë language comes from the Tosca varieties (toskë) of the Albanian language which were spoken in the southern region of the country during the Middle Ages, and today differs quite a bit from the standard Albanian language with regards to pronunciation and some words deriving from Italian and southern dialects.


Where the Arbëreshë live

Although in the past there were many countries with the Arbëreshë language and tradition, today, following emigration and cultural assimilation, the community where the language and traditions are still alive 52, between municipalities and hamlets. The Italian region with the highest number of Arbëreshë countries (35) is La Calabriafollowed by Basilicata (5), from Molise (4), from Puglia (3), from Sicily (3), from Campania (1) and fromAbruzzo (1).

The largest and most populous centers where the language is still spoken and traditions respected are Spezzano Albanese (Spixana), in the province of Cosenza, Plain of the Albanians (Hora and Arbëreshëvet), in the Metropolitan City of Palermo, Ururiin the province of Campobasso, e Casalvecchio of Puglia (Kazallveqi), in the province of Foggia.


Arbëreshë culture today

Unlike most of Italy’s minority and regional languages, which are unfortunately in recession, the arbëreshë identity is strongly recovering throughout southern Italy, with even the rediscovery of long-lost traditions. The strength of this cultural identity over the centuries has been not only the language, but also the religious traditions, so different from those of current Albania. Although the inhabitants of the Arbëreshë countries have had Italian names and surnames for generations, their identity and pride in their origins are an extremely durable ethnic and linguistic glue.


In Italy their language is protected by the state since 1999with the application of bilingual road signs and the possibility ofschool teaching in the arbëreshë municipalities. Beyond that, festivals, traditions, and customs are the crown jewel in the expression of Arbëreshë identity and pride.


Many famous Italians, of the past and today, both in the fields of politics and entertainment, boasted or boast Arbëreshë origins: Francesco Crispi (1818-1901), four times president of the council of the Kingdom of Italy; Anthony Gramsci (1891-1937), philosopher, journalist and founder of the Communist Party of Italy; in more recent times the famous Italian-American presenter Mike Good morning (1924-2009) and the footballer Antonio Candrevamidfielder of Salernitana.