Italian Boy Scouts

Figure 1.--King Victor Emanuelle II was a strong supporter of Italian Scouting. His own son was a Scout who wears the original green uniform.

Italian Scouts like many European Scouts organized soon after the movement was founded in Britain. We notice Scouts organizing in 1912. Until that time we do not know of any Italian youth organizations. The movement developed similarly to other European countries. Poverty, especially in the south, was a limiting factor. After the Fascisrs seized power, they banned Scouring for two decades. Italian children were required to join the Fascist Balilla. Scouting was quickly revived after the fall of Fascism, even before the end of the War. Unlike most other countries, the boys involved would have had no memory of Scouting. Italy like many European countries does not have a single unified scout federation. As a result there is no single scout uniform, as each scout association has there own destinctive uniform. HBU has compiled some basic information on the different Italian Scout associations and the various uniforms that they wore.


Italian Scouts like many European Scouts organized soon after the movement was founded in Britain. We notice Scouts organizing in 1912. Until that time we do not know of any Italian youth organizations. The movement developed similarly to other European countries. Poverty, especially in the south, was a limiting factor. The development of the movement was impaired by the long period of Fascist rule from the 1920s through the early 1940s. Scouting was quickly reorganized as Italy was freed from Fascist rule.


Youth groups were organized in several European countries before Scouting. HBU has no information on any such Italian groups at this time. As far as we know, there was no Italian youth groups before Scouting was founded.

Foundations (1912)

The first activities of the Boy Scouts in Italy took place in Rome in 1912, under the sponsorship of the Lazio Track & Field Society. This original effort led to the formation of the Boy Scouts of Italy/Giovani Esploratori Italiani (GEI), which was officially founded in Rome on June 30, 1913 by Carlo Colombo. The GEI soon spread to all parts of the Italy. In the beginning it embodied all Italian Boy Scouts, including those who had previously joined a Scout-like organization adherents to the REI. It had been inspired by Baden Powell's English organization and in 1910 had brought the first Scout uniform to Italy. Several scouting group for girls were created in 1914. These groups were the predecesors of the Italian National Union of Girl Guides (UNGEI). The Italian Government officially recognized the GEI on May 5, 1915. With the exceptiion of the Fascist era, the Italian Goverment has strongly supported the Scout Movement.

Catholic Scouting (1916)

The Catholic Church, as in many other European countries, decided to form its own independent Scout association that they could control rather than participate in the existing more secular Scout movement. The ASCI was founded in 1916, a few years after Scouting began in Italy. The ASCI was also banned by the Fascists, although a year later than other Italian Scouts. This was normal totalitarian strategy of taking action against one group at a time to limit potential opposition. The NAZIs persued similar strategies after they seized power.

Figure 2.--Itlalian Scouts have varying uniforms. Some associations do not require uniforms. Other Scouts still commonly wear their uniforms. Some Rover Scouts wore khaki shirts in the 1970s. HBU is nmot sure what association wore khaki shirts in the 1990s.

Governmental role

The Chief patron of the GEI was the head of state--formerly the King of Italy. Other patrons included deputies of the Ministry of Education, the Office of Foreign Affairs, the Home Office and the WarOffice (now the Ministry of Defense). The Government in 1916 acknowledged the GEI for its educational role on behalf of the nation's youth and became officially a national institution. From the earliest years, the members of Italy's Scouting and Guide organizations rendered distinguished service in times of local or national calamity, and received many citations for valor.

The Fascists

Benito Musolini and his Fascist movement seized control of Italy in 1922?. They set about to reorganize Italian society. One aspect of this was to establish control over schools and youth groups. Scouting was not supressed until 1927-28, several years after the Fascist take over. HBU at this time is unsure about te competition between Scouting and the Fascist youth group--the Balial. We are not sure id Scouting was supressed because the Balaial had trouble competing or was simply a part of Fascist policy of supressing all independent organizations.

Fascist ban Scouting (1927-44/45)

Musolini's Fascist Government ordered the Scout and Guide units in 1927 to close. The Fascist regime substituted its own youth program, the National Balilla Organization as part of an overall national effort to control all organizations and institutions which influenced children. Similar steps were taken in other totalitarian countries such as Germany an Russia. Even so, the spirit of Scouting was not completely extinguished. An Italuan reader wrirtes, "After the Fascist regime banned the boys scouts (1927), some groups continued the activities underground, especially in northern Italy." In many villages and cities, groups were secretly formed, whose members wished to remain faithful to Baden Powell's original movement. This time in Italian Scouting history became known as the "Silent Jungle". The Boy Scouts group "Milano 2" of the Catholic ASCI Assiciation continued to pursue Scouting surepticiously. There were other groups from Milan and Monza, a little town near Milan. They could not call themselves Scouts and took the name of "Aquile randagie" (Stray Eagles). The leaders were Andrea Ghetti and Giulio Cesare Uccellini. After the Allied invasion (September 1943), some boy scouts leaders reportedly participated in the Resistance. v Both Ghetti and Uccellini became partisans in Catholic Resistance groups after Italy surrendered to the Allies and the Germans seized control. The Stray Eagles participated to the reconstitution of ASCI after the War (1945).

Scouting reorganized (1944)

The Italian Scouting movement was reactivated in 1944, after southern Italy had been liberated by the Allies. This was not possible in the north where Mussolini set up a Fascist republic supported by tge Germans. The country was finally liberated when the Germans surrendered (May 1945). By 1945 this time, Scouting organization and activities were taking place throughout Italy. We note Scouts organizing at schools. A good example is the Fidenza Catholic school in 1946. The various local units were brought together once more into the national movement of which the GEI and UNGEI, another group which had been founded before the World War II. At the end of 1960, an innovative trial took place in Italian Scouting. This led to a new democratic Statute, ratified by the President of the Republic on May 26, 1976. On that date the GEI and UNGEI merged into a single organization, forming the National Scout/Guide Corps of Italy (CNGEI).


Individual Itlalian Scout associations operate under the Federation of Italian Scouting (FIS), a kind of national coordinatinf council. The FIS gathers under the spirit of the Scout Law and Promise all the associations adopting the Scout educational method in Italy. The FIS also belonngs to the World Organization of the Scout Movement WOSM and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and the Organization Internationale Scout/Guide des Associations Laique/Pluralistes (UILP).

Figure 3.--Both boys and girls participate in Italian cubs. This group wears destinctive red caps and blue shirts and shorts and skirts. I'm not sure what association this is.


Italy currently has two main Scout associations. As in many European countries, Scouting is separated along religious grounds. The FIS is a kind of national Scout coordination council, not an actual assdociation itsdelf.


AGESCI is the Catholic Scout association. Italy is a largely Catholic country and most Italians are at least nomanally Catholic. The AGESCI is a coed group formed in 1974 from the union of the all-boy ASCI and the girl AGI. The ASCI was founded in 1916, but banned from 1928-44 during the Fasit era. The AGI was of more recent origins, founded in 1943. The photo is of an AGESCI scout group. The AGESCI is the largest scout association in Italy. The membership in 2000 was about 180,000 youths and adult workers.


The CNGEI is the secular Italian Scout association. The CNGEI is also coed. It was formed in 1976 by the union of the all-boy CNGEI and girl UNGEI. The CNGEI was founded in 1912, the first important Italian Scout associatiion. CNGEI was banned by the Fascists in 1927. (Notice how the Fascists banned the secular Scouts first.) Like other totalitarian governments, Musolini's Fascist Party wanted to control all aspects of education and youth work. Instead of Scouting, Itlalian boys were virtually required to join the Bailail. The CNGEI was reorganized in 1944 after much of Italy had been freed from the Fascists.

The CNGEI has operated under four fundamental principles:
1. COEDUCATION: Training boys and girls together in a true spirit of equality);
2. ASSOCIATION DEMOCRACY: Practicing the democracy in a context of fellowship and mutual respect);
3. SPIRITUAL INDEPENDENCE: Stressing freedom of choice in matters of religion and political an cultural ideology);
4. ADULT INVOLVEMENT: Helping youth become active and responsible citizens of the community).


HBU with the elp of an Italian Scouter has compiled some information on Italian Scout uniforms. We still ave few images from the early era of Scouting before the movement was banned by te Fascists, but we now have a basic undersyanding of post World War II Italian Scout uniforms.

Figure 4.--This Cub group wears a green and tan uniform. I'm not sure what association this is.


I have seen a variety of Italian cub uniforms. Some cubs wear a uniform that looks similar to the British cub uniform with green caps and yellow trim. Other cubs wear red caps with blue shorts. Some Cubs wear yellow shirts. These different uniforms represent uniform changes over time as well as different Scout associations. HBC does not yet have details on the different association uniforms and changes over time.


I do not yet have fulln details on Italian Scout uniforms. The initial Italian Scout uniform was green. HBU has, however, noted a variety of different uniforms over time. There are also differences among associations. I have seen both light blue and khaki shirts. Blue shorts and kneesocks seem popular. Some Scouts in the late 1980s and early 70s wore ligt blue berets, grey shirts and darker colored grey short pants. Some Scouts in the Many Scouts in the 1990s appear to have worn only a partial uniform or in some cases no official uniform at all.


The older group of Italian Scouts are Rovers. Both major Italian Scout associations had Rover units. HBU has noted one group of Rovers who in 1968 wore berets, grey shirts, and cord shorts. Rovers like other Scouts once had destinctive uniforms, but the current policy is to have similar uniforms for the younger and older boys--even in some cases adult Scouter uniforms.


Adult Scoutetrs have worn destinctive uniforms. Both major Scout associations had Scouter uniforms for adult Scout leaders. HBU does not have compele information on Scouter uniforms, but some were similar to or identical to Rover uniforms.


Italian Scouts have worn the same destinctive uniform garments popular among European Scouts. Headgear has included the Englisg-style peaked cap for Cubs and the Smokey-Bear hat and berets for Scouts. In Italy the Smokey-Bear or lemon squeezer hat is called a "boer" hat. I'm not sure why, petrhaps because it was worn in the Bohr War and adopted by English Scouts. The original uniforms were military-looking green outfits which were worn ubtil Scouting was banned by the Fascists in 1927-28. After Scouting was again possible in 1943-44, a variety of garments appeared. Both khaki and light blue shirts were worn. Dark blue cord shorts worn with matching kneesocks. All Cubs and Scouts wore kneckerchiefs.


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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 1:19 AM 12/7/2010