Queen Elizabeth II and her five visits to Italy

The Queen first visited Italy as Princess Elizabeth in 1951.

Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Thursday at the age of 96, visited Italy on five occasions, four of which were state visits during her 70-year reign.

Her first visit to Italy was in April 1951, as Princess Elizabeth, four years after she married Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

The royal couple flew from Malta to Rome where the future queen had lunch at the Quirinale with Italy’s then president Luigi Einaudi. She also had a private conversation with Pope John XXIII at the Vatican.

She visited the Colosseum, attended a horse race on the Appian Way and had a 25th birthday party at Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli before travelling on to Florence.

The following February, on the death of her father King George VI, Princess Elizabeth became queen. The next time she visited Italy, in May 1961, it was a state visit as Queen Elizabeth II.

She was welcomed by Italy’s then head of state Giovanni Gronchi and the royal visit started off in Sardinia, Sicily and Naples. In Rome she was guest of honour at a state banquet attended by 3,000 members of Italian high society.

Then Rome mayor Luigi Petroselli welcomed her to the Campidoglio where she visited the Capitoline Museums and laid a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier – accompanied by then defence minister Giulio Andreotti.

She also visited the Rome War Cemetery in Testaccio, last resting place of Commonwealth troops killed in Italy, as well as taking in the Piazza di Siena horse show and enjoying Verdi’s Falstaff at Rome’s opera house.

The Queen met Pope John XXIII at the Vatican before travelling on to Florence and Turin – where she attended the Expo ’61 and met Fiat head Gianni Agnelli – and Venice where she took a trip in a gondola.

It was two decades before the Queen returned to Italy, in October 1981, when she was welcomed by President Sandro Pertini and had an audience with Pope John Paul II.

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Two decades later still, in 2000, she returned to Italy on a state visit. The Queen was welcomed by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi at the Quirinale and she met the Polish pontiff once again, during the Vatican’s Jubilee Year.

The Queen’s final visit to Italy was in April 2014 when she met President Giorgio Napolitano and the newly-installed Pope Francis who presented her with a lapis lazuli and silver orb as a gift for her great-grandson, Prince George.

Queen Elizabeth reciprocated by gifting the pontiff a hamper of food, including a bottle of whiskey, produced on her Scottish estate at Balmoral where – eight years later – she died peacefully on Thursday afternoon.

Photo Rai News – Carlo Riccardi