The study of voluntary societies in the Italian urban context has produced many articles and books in the last few years. This can be considered the outcome and natural development of research into the emergence of the bourgeoisie and of the role it played in the process of Italy’s unification and nationalization, which engaged many scholars in the 1980s and 1990s.2 Nowadays, historians can rely on a large range of research regarding some of the main Italian cities – Milan, Turin, Florence, Naples3 – some provincial towns – Trieste, Piacenza, Forlì, Bologna, Catania4

1 I am grateful for the helpful comments of Geoffrey Crossick, Jonathan Morris and Paola Subacchi who read a first draft of this essay.