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Italian French
Italo-francesi ( Italian)
Italo-français ( French)
Napoleon Bonaparte, the most notable Italian French personality [1]
Total population
c. 5,500,000 (by ancestry, about 8% of the total French population) [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]
c. 464,438 (by birth) [7] [8] [9]
Regions with significant populations
Paris, Lyon, Lille, Strasbourg, Lorraine, Southeastern France ( Provence, Savoy, Corsica and Nice have autochthonous Italian populations), Southwestern France
French and French dialects · Italian and Italian dialects
Roman Catholicism, Judaism
Related ethnic groups
Italians, Italian Belgians, Italian Britons, Italian Finns, Italian Germans, Italian Romanians, Italian Spaniards, Italian Swedes, Italian Swiss, Corfiot Italians, Genoese in Gibraltar, Italians of Crimea, Italians of Odesa, Italian Canadians

Italian French ( Italian: italo-francesi; French: italo-français) are French-born citizens who are fully or partially of Italian descent, whose ancestors were Italians who emigrated to France during the Italian diaspora, or Italian-born people in France.

Italian migration into what is today France has been going on, in different migrating cycles, for centuries, beginning in prehistoric times right to the modern age. [10] [11] In addition, Corsica passed from the Republic of Genoa to France in 1768, and the county of Nice and Savoy from the Kingdom of Sardinia to France in 1860.

About 5.5 million French nationals are of Italian origin, corresponding to about 8% of the total population. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] According to data for 2021, the number of Italian citizens residing in France was 444,113. [12]

History of Italians in France

Middle Ages and Renaissance

Catherine de' Medici

There has always been migration, since ancient times, between what is today Italy and France. This is especially true of the regions of northwestern Italy and southeastern France. As Italian wealth and influence grew during the Middle Ages, many Florentine, Genoese and Venetian traders, bankers and artisans settled, usually through family branches, throughout France. Regions of significant Italian diaspora sprang up as far north as Paris and Flanders. However it was not much as a percentage of the French global population.

This Italian migration developed more through the Renaissance, as previous generations became assimilated. Italian artists, writers and architects were called upon by the French monarchy and aristocrats, leading to a significant interchange of culture, but it was not a massive immigration of popular classes. The 17th and 18th centuries were the era of the Italian dancers, musicians, commedia dell'arte troupes and actors of the theatre Hôtel de Bourgogne.

Joseph-Louis Lagrange

Since the 16th century, Florence and its citizens have long enjoyed a very close relationship with France. [13] In 1533, at the age of 14, Catherine de' Medici married Henry, the second son of King Francis I and Queen Claude of France. Under the gallicised version of her name, Catherine de Médici, became Queen consort of France when Henry ascended to the throne in 1547. Later on, after Henry died, she became regent on behalf of her 10-year-old son King Charles IX and was granted sweeping powers. After Charles died in 1574, Catherine played a key role in the reign of her third son, Henry III.

Other notable examples of Italians that played a major role in the history of France include Cardinal Mazarin, born in Pescina was a cardinal, diplomat and politician, who served as the chief minister of France from 1642 until his death in 1661. Mazarin succeeded his mentor, Cardinal Richelieu, and extended France's political ambitions not only within Italy but towards England as well.

Henri de Tonti

Enrico Tonti, born near Gaeta, Italy (c. 1649–1704) was a soldier, explorer, and fur trader in the service of France. He was the son of Lorenzo de Tonti, a financier and former governor of Gaeta. Enrico was second in command of the La Salle expedition on his descent of the Mississippi River. Tonti's letters and journals are valuable source materials on these explorations.

Enrico's brother, Pierre Alphonse de Tonti, or Alphonse de Tonty, Baron de Paludy (c. 1659–1727) was an officer who served under the French explorer Cadillac and helped establish the first European settlement at Detroit, Michigan, Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit on the Detroit River in 1701. Several months later, both Cadillac and Tonty brought their wives to the fort, making them the first European women to travel into the interior of North America. He was the son of Lorenzo de Tonti who was a financier and former governor of Gaeta. Lorenzo de Tonti was the inventor of the form of life insurance known as the tontine. Henri de Tonti, involved in LaSalle's exploration of the Mississippi River and the establishment of the first settlement in Arkansas, was his older son.

Modern period

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte, French emperor and general, was ethnically Italian of Corsican origin, whose family was of Genoese and Tuscan ancestry. [14] Italian popular immigration to France only began in the late 18th century, really developed from the end of the 19th century until World War I, and became quite massive after this war. France needed workforce to compensate for the war losses and its very low birthrate. It was in the second half of the 19th century that Italian immigration to France assumed the connotations of a mass phenomenon. A census of the residents of the foreign community carried out in 1851 by the French authorities revealed that out of about 380,000 foreign residents, 63,000 were Italians ( Piedmontese in primis). The number of Italians residing in France grew rapidly throughout the 19th century reaching the number of 165,000 in 1876 and 240,000 in 1881. It was from this date that Italian immigration to France began to decrease. The main causes were the economic recession that characterized the French economy in this period and the poor diplomatic relations between the two countries, due to the Tunisian question. The diplomatic crisis was further fueled by Italy's entry into the Triple Alliance in 1882.

Henri Cassini

At the end of the 19th century it was quite common for Italian immigrants to send their children back to Italy until they were 12, before taking them back to France. [15] To satisfy the requirements of the civil status, which then required choosing names from the French calendar, they called their children, for example, Albert and Marie, but, in the family context, everyone called them Alberto and Maria. [15] At the beginning of the 20th century, the Italian community became the first resident foreign community in the country, with almost 500,000 people in 1911. The eastern suburbs of Paris, for example, were distinguished by a very high concentration of Italians in Clichy, Levallois-Perret, Puteaux and Suresnes. [16] Until the eve of World War I, the cause of Italian immigration to France was essentially economic. In France, there was a shortage of manpower, especially in agriculture and industry (factories and mines) and construction. French demands for Italian labor grew at the end of World War I.

Émile Zola

With the advent of fascism in Italy, emigration of political origin was added to economic emigration. During the 1920s there were many Italian politicians from various backgrounds who were forced to take refuge in France, including Eugenio Chiesa, Filippo Turati, Gaetano Salvemini, Carlo Rosselli, Nello Rosselli, Giuseppe Saragat, Pietro Nenni, Sandro Pertini and many others. But paradoxically there were also, albeit few, supporters of the fascist regime, such as the writer Pitigrilli, OVRA agent in Turin and Paris. In 1938, the French section of the National Fascist Party had only 3,000 members, [17] represented by Nicola Bonservizi, assassinated in 1924 by an Italian anarchist in exile. The fascist regime intended to preserve the "Italian character" of the immigrants, wanting to prevent the assimilation of their compatriots by France. Thus he worked to promote patriotic exaltation by creating more than 200 sections of the National Association of Italian Veterans in French cities, placing the Italian associations under the control of the consulates, bringing together the peasants within cooperatives that depended on the Italian banks. On the contrary, the anti-fascists encouraged immigrants to integrate into French society by participating in social and political struggles alongside trade union organizations. [15]

Édith Piaf

In 1931, the Italian community in France numbered over 800,000 residents, but the flow was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. At the end of the latter, migrations from Italy resumed, but they were much less important than those recorded at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Starting from the 1940s, there was a decline in the number of Italian residents, due to mass naturalizations and the increase in the number of repatriations. In fact, the naturalizations carried out from 1927 to 1940 pursuant to the law of 10 August 1927 on citizenship concerned, for more than half of them, people born in Italy, or almost 260,000 people. [18] Of these, almost 4,500 people were deprived of their French citizenship following the law of 22 July 1940, which accounted for almost a third of the disqualifications pronounced under this law promulgated by the Vichy regime. [18]


In 1946, after the end of World War II, the number of Italians decreased to 450,000, then rose to 570,000 in 1968, before falling again to 460,000 in 1975 and 350,000 in 1981. In the following decades, the phenomenon of Italian immigration to France decreased considerably and changed its aspect. If immigration at the beginning of the 20th century consisted mainly of peasants, miners and workers, from the years of the Italian economic miracle more qualified workers began to flow. [19] Furthermore, many Italians who already lived in the country rose socially, exercising free professions, entrepreneurs and traders, or restaurateurs.

Initially, Italian immigration to modern France (late 18th to the early 20th century) came predominantly from northern Italy ( Piedmont, Veneto), then from central Italy ( Marche, Umbria), mostly to the bordering southeastern region of Provence. [10] It was not until after World War II that large numbers of immigrants from southern Italy immigrated to France, usually settling in industrialised areas of France, such as Lorraine, Paris and Lyon. [10]


Regional origin and distribution on French territory

Amedeo Modigliani

As regards to the regional origin of Italian immigrants and their descendants in France, it is necessary to make a division by periods. From the end of the 19th century until the eve of World War II, the Italian regions that provided the largest number of migrants were those of the North, first of all Piedmont, followed in order by Tuscany, Lombardy, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Emilia-Romagna. In the case of Piedmont it was above all seasonal immigration due to geographical proximity.

The areas of greatest concentration of Italian immigration to France were the departments of Normandy, Alsace, Rhône, Loire, Isère, Moselle, Île-de-France (mainly in Paris and Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-d'Oise and Val-de-Marne), Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Bouches-du-Rhône, Savoie and Haute-Savoie, Lot-et-Garonne, Var, Alpes-Maritimes and Corsica. In these last two regions the Italian immigration was favored not only by the geographical proximity, but also by the ethnic and linguistic affinity with their own inhabitants, Corsica was also influenced in its history by Sardinia, Tuscany and Liguria, and Italian was the official language of Corsica until 1853. The main cities with a large Italian immigrant community were Strasbourg, Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Nice and Grenoble, cities that still host the largest Italian-French communities today (40,000 Sicilians in Grenoble in 2007 [20]). The Lorient region also experienced considerable Italian immigration during the interwar period; at the time, "Italian houses" were built in large numbers. [21]


About 5.5 million French nationals are of Italian origin, corresponding to about 8% of the total population. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] According to data for 2021, the number of Italian citizens residing in France was 444,113. [12]

Number of Italians in France (1851-2001) [22]
Year 1851 1876 1901 1911 1921 1931 1936 1946 1954
Population 63,307 165,313 330,465 419,234 451,000 808,038 720,926 450,764 589,524
Year 1960 1968 1975 1982 1985 1990 1998 1999 2001
Population 688,474 571,694 462,940 333,740 293,000 252,759 212,023 201,670 198,344

Prejudice and discrimination against Italians in France

Massacre of Italians at Aigues-Mortes

Italians living in France have never reported themselves as particularly perpetrators of criminal or even criminal acts, except since the 1950s, when Italian mafia-type criminal organizations began to establish themselves in the country ( Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Grenoble [the Italo-Grenoblois], Paris). [23]

On the other hand, Italian immigrant workers were at times the object of violent hostility on the part of the local populations for reasons of labor competition. Most notable was the massacre of Italians at Aigues-Mortes in Provence which took place between 16 and 20 August 1893, where a mob of angry French workers violently assaulted Italian workers they believed were taking jobs in the salt works because their wages were so much lower. Officially the deaths of nine Italians were recorded but, according to other sources, such as the British newspaper The Times, 50 Italians were killed. [24] There are precedents, then on 17 June 1881 in Marseille, where 15,000 Frenchmen attempted to attack an Italian club. Four days of clashes followed with the harsh reaction of the Italians, which ended with three dead, 21 wounded and 200 arrests, [25] and another in 1882, when four Italian workers in the Beaucaire blast furnaces were massacred by the local population. [26]

There were many derogatory terms with which the French indicated the Italians, the best known being macaroni, i.e. spaghetti eater, and rital. Today almost all the descendants of the ancient Italian immigrations are assimilated and episodes of anti-Italianism are rare.



Arriving in France, the Italian immigrants mainly spoke the Italian language. However the majority were bilingual, speaking a regional dialect mainly in the family; at the end of the 19th century/beginning of the 20th century, the linguistic unification of Italy was not fully achieved, and therefore it was not uncommon for some immigrants to speak only their regional dialect without being able to speak Italian. In general, Italian immigrants were able to learn French without major difficulties, given the linguistic proximity of the two so-called Latin languages. At the time of the great Italian migratory waves, France had a rather rigid assimilation policy, which forced most of the immigrants and their descendants to abandon their mother tongue in favor of French.

Italian French cuisine

Socca of Nice

Italian cuisine has had a strong influence above all on the cuisine of the French southeastern regions, where the presence and relations with the Italians are very ancient. Provence, the County of Nice, the city of Sète or the Alps have some recipes for this phenomenon. It was Liguria that influenced the most due to its geographical proximity, but southern Italy also brought its share of flavors. Some Italian-French dishes are (in brackets the original names in Italian of the recipes):

  • Ravioles du Royans, du Trieves, (ravioli), which would come from Piedmont [27]
  • Soupe au pistou (minestrone alla genovese)
  • Cade de Toulon/ Socca de Nice (farinata)
  • Panisse (panissa)
  • Pissaladière (piscialandrea / focaccia genovese con le cipolle)
  • Salade niçoise (condiglione)
  • Barbagiuan de Menton et Monaco (barbagiuai)
  • Tourte aux blettes (torta pasqualina ligure)
  • Tielle (tiella di Gaeta)
  • Macaronade (ragù alla napoletana)
  • Brageoles (braciole ou involtini)
  • Brandade (brandacujun)

Autochthonous Italian populations in France

A map of the County of Nice showing the area of the Italian kingdom of Sardinia annexed in 1860 to France (light brown). The area in red had already become part of France before 1860.

Provence, Savoy, Corsica and Nice have autochthonous Italian populations. The Italian language is spoken by a minority in France, especially in the southeastern part of the country. [28] [29]

Italian was the official language in Savoy and in Nice until 1860, when they were both annexed by France under the Treaty of Turin, a development that triggered the " Niçard exodus", or the emigration of a quarter of the Niçard Italians to Italy, [30] and the Niçard Vespers. Giuseppe Garibaldi complained about the referendum that allowed France to annex Savoy and Nice, and a group of his followers (among the Italian Savoyards) took refuge in Italy in the following years.

Corsica passed from the Republic of Genoa to France in 1769 after the Treaty of Versailles. Italian was the official language of Corsica until 1859. [31] Giuseppe Garibaldi called for the inclusion of the " Corsican Italians" within Italy when Rome was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy, but King Victor Emmanuel II did not agree. Italian is generally understood in Corsica by the population resident therein who speak Corsican, which is an Italo-Romance idiom similar to Tuscan. [32]

Francization occurred in Nice and Corsica cases, and caused a near-disappearance of the Italian language as many of the Italian speakers in these areas migrated to Italy. [33] [34]

Notable Italian French people

The list is organized chronologically, listing Italians in France by birth date periods.

First half of the 19th century

Second half of the 19th century













See also


  1. ^ "Napoleon I (emperor of France) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2 September 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Documento "Italiens" del CIRCE dell'Università Sorbona - Parigi 3
  3. ^ a b c "Italiani nel Mondo: diaspora italiana in cifre" [Italians in the World: Italian diaspora in figures] (PDF) (in Italian). Migranti Torino. 30 April 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2008. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "Rapporto Italiano Nel Mondo 2019 : Diaspora italiana in cifre" (PDF). Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  5. ^ a b c "Italiani Nel Mondo : Diaspora italiana in cifre" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2008. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Cohen, Robin (1995). Cambridge Survey. Cambridge University Press. p.  143. ISBN  978-0-521-44405-7. Retrieved 11 May 2009. 5 million italians in france.
  7. ^ "Rapporto Italiani nel Mondo 2023" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 December 2023. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  8. ^ "Rapporto Italiani nel Mondo 2016". Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  9. ^ Polchi, Vladimiro (December 2010). "Gli italiani continuano a emigrare un milione in fuga negli ultimi 4 anni". Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  10. ^ a b c Cohen, Robin (1995). The Cambridge Survey of World Migration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p.  143. ISBN  978-0-521-44405-7.
  11. ^ (in French) Histoire de l'Italie à Paris. Retrieved on 2011-07-04.
  12. ^ a b "Rapporto Italiano Nel Mondo 2021 : Diaspora italiana in cifre" (PDF). Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  13. ^ Eisenbichler, Konrad (2007). "Savonarola in Francia: Circolazione di un'eredità politico-religiosa nell'Europa del Cinquecento (review)". Renaissance Quarterly. 60 (4): 1346–1347. doi: 10.1353/ren.2007.0344. S2CID  161124825. ProQuest  224928.
  14. ^ "Napoleon I (emperor of France) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2 September 2010.
  15. ^ a b c Bréville, Benoît (1 February 2018). "Intégration, la grande obsession" (in French). Le Monde diplomatique.
  16. ^ Fourcaut, Annie (1992). Banlieue rouge, 1920-1960 (in French). Autrement. pp. 111–112.
  17. ^ G. Perona (1994), Exilés et migrations. Italiens et Espagnols en France, 1938-1946, p. 95 (in French).
  18. ^ a b Laguerre, Bernard (1988). "Les dénaturalisés de Vichy (1940-1944)" [The denaturalized of Vichy (1940–1944)]. Vingtième Siècle. Revue d'histoire (in French). 20 (1): 3–15. doi: 10.3406/xxs.1988.2792. JSTOR  3768673.
  19. ^ P. Milza, Voyage en Ritalie, Paris, Plon, 1993 ISBN  2-228-88826-5, pp.161-217 (in French)
  20. ^ « Chicago sur Isère » Archived 2009-04-15 at the Wayback Machine, Libération, 9 November 2007 (In French)
  21. ^ Bertrand Frélaut (2002). "Les Italiens dans le Morbihan de 1879 à 1939: un cas de « petite immigration »". Annales de Bretagne et des Pays de l'Ouest (in French). 109 (4): 99–112.
  22. ^ "Géographie humaine (France) - Étrangers en France". Quid. Archived from the original on 5 May 2008. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  23. ^ « Parigi diventa colonia di Cosa Nostra », Archived 2015-05-19 at the Wayback Machine Corriere della Sera 29 January 1993 (In Italian).
  24. ^ Dizionario di Storia, Il Saggiatore, Milan, 1993 (In Italian).
  25. ^ Gli Italiani all'estero: altri passaggi, Jean-Charles Vegliante, 1996, pp. 50-51. (In Italian)
  26. ^ Gli Italiani all'estero: altri passaggi, Jean-Charles Vegliante, 1996, p. 48 (In Italian)
  27. ^ "Raviole" (in French). Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon. 30 August 2007.
  28. ^ "Society". Monaco-IQ Business Intelligence. Lydia Porter. 2007–2013. Archived from the original on 15 August 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  29. ^ "France". Ethnologue. SIL International. 2013. Archived from the original on 29 January 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  30. ^ ""Un nizzardo su quattro prese la via dell'esilio" in seguito all'unità d'Italia, dice lo scrittore Casalino Pierluigi" (in Italian). 28 August 2017. Retrieved 14 May 2021.
  31. ^ Abalain, Hervé, (2007) Le français et les langues historiques de la France, Éditions Jean-Paul Gisserot, p.113
  32. ^ "Sardinian language, Encyclopedia Britannica".
  33. ^ "Mediterraneo e lingua italiana" (in Italian). Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  34. ^ "Dal Piemonte alla Francia: la perdita dell'identità nizzarda e savoiarda". 16 June 2018. Retrieved 14 May 2021.