Italy’s Croats have for centuries lived in the Molise region. They settled there in the 15th and the 16th century after fleeing from Turkish threat. Unfortunately, their number is decreasing ever year. Today, Molise Croats live only in three localities where they make up the majority of the population. In 2001, according to data from the Central Institute of Statistics (ISTAT), in the Molise province Campobasso, there were 2,081 Croats, i.e. in Kruč (Acquaviva) 800; in Mundimitar (Montemitro) 468; and Filice (San Felice) 813. Italy’s Croats make up the smallest recognized linguistic minority.
Another larger group, so far not recognized as a linguistic minority, lives in the northeastern part of Italy, in the province of Friuli-Venice. It is estimated that there are about 60,000 people of Croatian origin, of whom about 30,000 live in Trieste. In the area stretching from Trieste to Venice, there are additional 20,000 people and 10,000 others are scattered in smaller towns in the region.
Relations between Croatia and Italy are good and friendly and in the recent years they have been on a steady rise. The issue of the minority status, be it the Italian minority in Croatia, or the Croat minority in Italy, is an important element in the overall bilateral relations between the two countries.
The Italian Constitution does not use the concept “national minority.” Instead, it guarantees the rights of linguistic minorities only. In order to better protect the Croatian minority in Italy and the Italian minority in Croatia, the Agreement was signed on November 5, 1996 between the Republic of Croatia and the Italian Republic regarding the protection of their minorities respectively. Based on this agreement (Article 8), Italy explicitly recognizes the Croatian minority in the Molise region. The Agreement enables the Croatian minority free expression of its cultural identity and heritage, the use of the Croat mother tongue in private and public life, and the establishment and maintaining of cultural institutions and associations. As a result of this bilateral agreement the Molise Croats are for the first time recognized as a minority.
On October 16, 2008, the Agreement was signed in Zagreb between the Government of the Republic of Croats and the Government of the Italian Republic regarding the cooperation in the field of culture and education, providing thus a framework for a two-year program in solving certain bilateral issues that are related to the status of their minorities.
There is no organized political party of Croats in Italy, nor a representative of the Croatian minority in the Italian Parliament.
Associations, publishing and media
In the region of Molise there is the Federation of Molise Croatian cultural associations covering: the association "Luigi Zara", the foundation "Agostina Piccoli" (www.mundimitar.it), the association "Naš život", and the association "Naš grad." The umbrella association of all Croats in Italy is the Association of Croatian Communities in Italy, which was founded in 2001. It consists of: the Croatian-Italian Association in Rome (www.associazioneitalocroata.org), the Croatian community based in Milan, the Croatian community in Trieste, the Croatian community in Veneto, the Croatian-Italian association in Udine, and the association "Luigi Zara." In Milan, there also operates the Club of Croatia’s Friends.
A very special role is played by the Croatian ecclesiastical institution "the Pontifical Croatian College of St. Jerome" and the Croatian Chamber of pilgrims (Domus Croata) "Dr. Ivan Merz ", which are both based in Rome. The foundation "Agostina Piccoli" and the association "Naš život" publish a bilingual journal "Riča živa“ (Parola viva), whereas the Association of Croatian communities in Italy publishes the bilingual magazine "Insieme" (Zajedno).
In Italy, there are no radio or television programs that broadcast in the Croatian language.