Italy's symbolic language reflects the country's strong sense of aesthetics and its long and complex history, many of its symbols derived from what were once symbols of the many city-states that became part of Italy. The vibrant imagery and symbolism connected to Italy reflects the vibrancy of the country itself.
The flag of Italy was originally in fact inspired by the flag of the brief-lived Cispadane Republic, one of many small republics that sprung up across Italy following Napoleon's victorious passage through the country. Most of these republics had some variant on the tricolor design, directly inspired by the tricolor of the French republic and the pro-republic sentiments attached to it. The colors come from the red and white flag of Milan and the green uniforms of the Milanese civic guard. The tricolor became a symbol of Italian unity and of the struggle for Italian independence, becoming widely used by the country. Some interpretations have the green as Italy's plains, the white as its mountains, and the red as the blood spilled in the Italian fight for independence.
Italy, interestingly, has an emblem instead of a proper heraldic crest of arms. The center of the emblem is a white star with red borders, an example of the Stella d'Italia, one of the main symbols of Italy. The use of a star in Italian symbolism dates back to the 6th century BC, emerging from the legend of Aeneas - in the legend, Aeneas is guided back to Italy by a star. On the emblem of Italy, the star is backed by a cogwheel that is meant to represent Italy's dedication to improvement through hard work and labor. The cogwheel is bordered to the left by an oak branch, representing strength and dignity, and to the right by an olive branch, showing Italy's desire to pursue peace. The branches are bound together by a red ribbon bearing the full name of the Italian republic.
Italy is personified by Italia Turrita, a woman with Mediterranean features wearing a "mural" crown of the sort that was often used in the heraldry of Italian cities. Mural crowns, looking somewhat like fortified towers, were often used to symbolize cities and the strength of them, and so the symbol became one of Italy overall. In the fascist era Italia Turrita held a bundle of the lictors (also known as fasces), a symbol of justice and fair rule, but in modern times she holds a bundle of corn ears that symbolize peace, prosperity, and the agrarian lifestyle of Italy.
Italy's symbolic language is rich, representing its heritage as a collection of city states, its struggles for unity and independence, and the sense of beauty and culture so inherent to Italian life.