Italy, which was described by Metternich, the Austrian Chancellor, as a mere ‘geographical expression* in 1815 possessed a tradition of political unity which ran into distant past. This tradition in Italy was as old as the Roman Empire. Even after the disintegration of the Roman Empire the feeling of community persisted among the people for many centuries before it was replaced by the growth of local patriotism in Italian cities, and several small states made their appearance.
During the period between fifteenth to nineteenth centuries France and Austria fought with each other to gain sway over the Italian kingdoms. In 1796 Napoleon established a Republic in Lombardy and Venetia. After he became Emperor of France he united the various kingdoms and created the Republic of Italy. Thus Napoleon unconsciously laid the foundation for the national unification of Italy and greatly contributed to the growth of Italian nationalism.
At the Congress of Vienna (1814-15), which was held after the fall of Napoleon, the Austrian Chancellor Metternich managed to acquire Lombardy and Venetia. He also succeeded in installing relatives of the Austrian Emperor on the thrones of Parma, Modena and Thuscany. As a result of this arrangement Austria acquired direct control over Northern Italy and indirect control over central Italy.
However, the Papal States continued to be under the rule of Pope, while Sardinia-Piedmont maintained their independent status. It was ultimately under the leadership of Sardinia that Italy achieved unification.