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Arbėreshė are Albanian people living in southern Italy. These people settled in Italy during the 15th and 16th centuries after the great Albanian hero Gjergj Kastriot Skanderbeg died. The Arbėreshė were able to keep most of their identity so they can clearly be identified as Albanians. However, unlike the majority of Albanians elsewhere, most of whom converted to Islam, the Arbėreshė are Catholics, and perhaps unsurprisingly, their language has been influenced more by Italian than has other Albanian dialects. Their own term for their scattered "nation" is Arbėria.

The emigrations from Albania to Italy and Sicily have continued since the 15th century, and there are now significant communities of Albanians from Kosovo in the Arbėresh settlements, most notably Piana degli Albanesi in Sicily.



The Arbėresh villages have two names, an Italian one and a native Albanian name by which villagers know the place. The arbėresh villages are divided into small "islands" in the areas of the south of Italy:

  • Puglia: province of Foggia, villages of Casalvecchio di Puglia: Kazallveqi, village of San Marzano: Shėn Marcani.
  • The Abruzzi: province of Pescara, village of Villa Badessa: Badhesa.
  • Molise: province of Campobasso, villages of Compomarino: Kėmarini, Montecilfone: Munxhfuni, Portocannone: Portkanuni, Ururi: Ruri.
  • Campania: province of Avellino, Ginestra di Schiavoni.
  • Basilicata: province of Potenza, villages of Barile: Barilli, Maschito: Mashqiti, S. Costantino Albanese: Shėn Kostandini, San Paolo Albanese: Shėn Pali, Ginestra: Xhinestra, Ripacandida.
  • Calabria: province of Catanzaro, villages of Caraffa: Garafa, Carfizzi: Karfici, Pallagorio: Puhėriu, San Nicola dell' Viola: Shėn Kolli, Vena di Maida Fortified, Arietta, Marcedusa, Andali, Zagarise, Amato, Zangarona, Gizzeria; province of Cosenza, villages of Cervicati: Ēervikati, Civita: Ēifti, Eianina: Ejanina, Falconara albanese: Fullkunara, Farneta: Farneta, Firmo Closed, Acquaformosa: Firmoza, Frascineto: Frasnita, Cavallerizzo: Kajverici, Castroregio: Kastėrnexhi, Macchia Albanese: Maqi, Marri: Allimarri, San Giorgio Albanese: Mbuzati, Montegrassano: Mungrasana, Santa Caterina Albanese: Picilia, Plataci: Pllatani, Cerzeto: Qana, Spezzano Albanese: Spixana, San Benedetto Ullano: Shėn Benedhiti, San Giacomo di Cerzeto: Shėn Japku, San Demetrio Corone: Shėn Mitri, San Martino di Finita: Shėn Murtiri, San Sofia d' Epiro: Shėn Sofia, San Basile: Shėn Vasili, San Cosmo Albanese Strighari, Lungro: Ungra, Vaccarizzo Albanese: Vakarici, San Lorenzo D. Vallo, Rota Greca, San Marco Argentano.
  • Sicily: province of Palermo, villages of Piana degli albanesi: Hora e Arbėreshėvet, Contessa Entellina: Kundisa, Mezzoiuso: Munxifsi, Palazzo Adriano:Sicily: province of Palermo, villages of Piana degli albanesi: Hora e Arbėreshėvet, Contessa Entellina: Kundisa, Mezzoiuso: Munxifsi, Palazzo Adriano: Toretta turreta, Pallaci, Santa Cristina Froze: Sėndahstina; province of Catane, villages of San Michele di Ganzaria, Bronte, Biancavilla; province of Agrigente, villages of Sant' Angelo Muxaro,Toretta turreta, Santa Cristina Gelį: Sėndahstina; province of Catania, villages of San Michele di Ganzaria, Bronte, Biancavilla; province of Agrigente, villages of Sant' Angelo Muxaro.


There is no official political, administrative or cultural structure which represents the Arbėresh community. The language is not legally recognized, nor is it used in administration (only the commune of Hora e Arbėreshėvet in Sicily recognizes recognises the Arbėresh language) and schools (besides some nursery schools, out of the standard course). There are associations that try to protect the culture, particularly in the Province of Consenze. The Arbėresh language is used in some private radios and publications. The fundamental laws of the areas of Molise, Basilicate and Calabria make reference to the Arbėresh language and culture, but the Arbėresh people still feel that their culture is threatened. Nevertheless, the increase in training in the use of the written language has given some hope for continuity of this culture. It is important to note that the Arbėresh dialect is not a regional "dialect" of Italian, it is a dialect of Albanian (shqip).


Prior to the Ottoman invasion of Albania, the Albanians were all called Arbėreshe. After some 300,000 people left and settled in Italy, these Italian-born Albanians continued to use the term Arbėresh whilst those in Albania called themselves Shqiptarėve (compare the Albanian word Shqip, present in the local name for the country and the language).

The Arbėresh, originally distributed in Epirus and in the Pindus mountains, were located in what was then Greece. They are descended from the proto-Albanian population dispersed throughout the western Balkans (see Arvanites). Between the 11th and 14th Centuries, the Arbėresh tribes moved in small groups towards the South of Greece (Thessaly, Corinth, Peloponnesus, Attica) where they founded colonies. Their military skill made them favourite mercenaries of the Serbs, Franks, Catalans, Italians and Byzantines.

The invasion of Greece by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th Century forced many Arbėresh to emigrate to the Venetian Islands and the south of Italy. Indeed, in 1448, King Alphonse V of Aragon, known as Magnanime (1396-1458), King of Naples, wanting to repress a rebellion of Italian lords, called on his ally, Gjergj Kastrioti de Kruja, known as "Skanderbeg", head of the Albanian Alliance. Several clans of Arbėresh and Albanians were deployed to subdue the rebellion. Alphonse of Aragon rewarded them by giving them land in the province of Catanzaro.

In 1450, another force of Arbėresh intervened in Sicily and was established close to Palermo. Thus, the Arbėresh contributed to the creation of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

At the time of the War of succession of Naples, Ferdinand of Aragon again called on Arbėresh forces against the Franco-Italian armies, and Skanderbeg disembarked in 1461 in Brindisi. After having achieved success, the Arbėresh accepted land in Pouilles, while Skanderbeg returned to organize Albanian resistance to the Turks, who had invaded Albania between 1468 and 1492. Part of the Arbėresh population emigrated to southern Italy, where the Kingdom of Naples granted other villages to them (Pouilles, Molise, Calabria and Sicily).

The last wave of emigration, between 1500 and 1534, relates to Arbėresh from central Greece. Employed as mercenaries by Venice, they had to evacuate the colonies of the Peloponnese with the assistance of the troops of Charles Quint, as the Turks had invaded that region. Charles Quint established these troops in Italy of the South to reinforce defense again the threat of Turkish invasion. Established in insular villages (which enabled them to maintain their culture until the 20th Century), Arbėresh were, traditionally, soldiers for the Kingdom of Naples and the Republic of Venice, from the Wars of Religion to the Napoleonic invasion.

The wave of migration from southern Italy to the Americas in 1900-10 depopulated approximately half of the Arbėresh villages, and subjected the population to the risk of cultural disappearance, despite the beginning of a cultural and artistic revival in the 19th Century.

The main streets of many Arbėresh villages are named Via Giorgio Castriota after Skanderbeg.

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