Garibaldi Plaza, in our beautiful Washington Square Park, hosts many events: concerts, dance performances...even yoga classes. Since our hotel is just a few steps away from Garibaldi's statue in the park and we walk by it every single day, we history nerds began to wonder...just who exactly was Garibaldi?
You can easily find the square by searching out the bronze statue of this Italian patriot and general. The sculpture was erected in 1888 at a westerly-facing spot in the park before it was moved to its current post in 2010.
But back to our original question? Who was he and why do we honor him with a statue?
Guiseppe Garibaldi was the commander of the insurrection forces in Italy's struggle for unification. In 1834, he fought in the first republican uprising for independence in Genoa. After the movement was crushed, Garibaldi fled to South America, where he remained in exile from 1836 to 1848.
Garibaldi returned to Italy in 1849 to support the fledgling Roman Republic. After the movement was crushed by French forces, Garibaldi fled here to New York...hence, the statue! He worked as a candlemaker and plotted his next military campaign, which, in 1860, was finally successful, so he is considered an Italian hero and dubbed "The Sword of Italian Unification"! Giovanni Turini, a volunteer member of Garibaldi's regiment during the war between Italy and Austria, designed the monument. Subsequently, the statue was donated to the park by New York's wonderful Italian-American community.
Fun fact: NYU students started a crazy ritual in the 1960s. Each year new students in the School of Finance tossed a penny at the base of the Garibaldi monument for good luck at the start of the school year. We're not sure if that tradition still exists today, but we sure hope so.
Image via Eden, Janine and Jim/Flickr