- Estimated Gypsy population: 100,000. In 1422 the first company of Gypsies came from the north into Italy, to the town of Bologna, in the shape of Duke Andrew of Little Egypt with a party some 100 strong. They had a letter of safe conduct from King Sigis-mund of Hungary and said they were on their way to Rome to see the pope. The local priests in Bologna threatened to excommunicate anyone who had their fortune told by the Gypsies. There is no record of them being received by the pope at that time.We later find a series of edicts from different parts of Italy that, on the one hand, enable us to follow the travels of the Gypsies but, on the other, reveal the antipathy toward these nomadic groups. The first edict was in 1493 in Milan, where the duke ordered all the Gypsies in the area to leave under the threat of execution. Similar decrees followed in Modena (1524), the Papal States (1535), Venice (1540), Tuscany (1547), and Naples (1555). These decrees did not succeed in banishing the Gypsies from Italy, however. We find them depicted by Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio, among others. In Lombardy and Piedmont, Gypsies nomadized with their crafts without attracting the same attention of lawmakers as had the companies led by the dukes.Following a different route, across the sea from the Balkans, Gypsies came to central and southern Italy-Abruzzi and Calabria-in the period 1448-1532, along with Greeks and Albanian immigrants, fleeing from the advancing Turks. They settled here and traveled only in limited areas, up to and including Rome. Later, Sinti Gypsies came from Germany into northern Italy, and toward the end of the 19th century, Vlah Gypsies arrived from Romania. Some Yugoslav Gypsies nomadized in Italy between the two world wars (19181939).Under the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, Gypsies were harassed and imprisoned. Even before World War II, many were arrested and expelled from the mainland to Sicily and smaller islands. Then from September 1940, internment camps were set up and the first official instructions for the incarceration of Italian Gypsies were issued. From 1942 Agnone in the south was a camp solely for Gypsies. When Italy signed an armistice with Great Britain and the Allies in September 1943, the Germans took over the north of the country and began to send Gypsies to the concentration camps in Poland.The years after 1945 witnessed a great influx of Romanies from Yugoslavia. Most of these live in shantytowns on the outskirts of the cities. There have been a number of anti-Gypsy actions by right-wingers. In March 1995 a bomb was thrown at two children who were begging by the roadside near Pisa. Local authorities have evicted nomadic families from sites in Florence, Milan, Turin, and Verona. The right-wing National Alliance has organized demonstrations against Gypsy camps in Rome and elsewhere. The Northern League in Verona has distributed a pamphlet alleging that "Gypsies are parasites." In Genoa in June 1996 two demonstrations against Romany immigrants were held. Heavy-handed police action against new immigrants has been alleged, and at least one death in police custody has occurred, that of Zoran Ahmetovic in 1996.On the other hand, the voluntary Opera Nomadi organization has worked to get education to the children of nomadic families and those in the shantytowns, while the Centro Studi Zingari published for many years the informative journal Lacio Drom. Vittorio Pasquale Mayer and Zlato Levak are among the Romanies who contributed to the journal. One of the foremost cultural activists is San-tino Spinelli.
Historical dictionary of the Gypsies . Donald Kenrick.