ROME, June 2 (Xinhua) -- The Italian government formally scaled back celebrations of the country's 75th national day, scrapping traditional military parades and public speeches. But Rome's streets were still filled with people venturing out amid newly eased coronavirus restrictions.
June 2 is one of the most important days on the Italian calendar, marking the day in 1946 when a national referendum created the first Italian Republic, removing the monarchy that had officially ruled Italy since it was unified in 1861.
One of the most recognizable traditions of the day remained unchanged for this year's celebration: a formation of nine fighter jets trailing green, white, and red smoke -- the colors of the Italian flag -- soared over the Altar of the Fatherland, the over-sized monument standing over Rome's main square, Piazza Venezia.
But other traditions including a military parade along the city's Via dei Fori Imperiali and patriotic speeches by political and military leaders were dropped for the second consecutive year, with the country fighting to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella did speak about the importance of the date the evening before, via television address and webcast. Speaking to accredited diplomatic corps in Rome just ahead of a specially arranged orchestral concert, Mattarella stressed the need for Italy and the European Union to be united during difficult times.
"The conception of a common good, more important than any idea since, has led us to be a dedicated part of the European Union, which is an essential element of its own national identity," Mattarella said.
"This terrible experience of the pandemic ... has made evident the profound interdependence of the destiny of our people and has shown that the only effective forms of coordination have proved able to defeat it."
On Wednesday, Mattarella laid a wreath at the Altar of the Fatherland at Italy's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Later in the day, Mattarella will address government officials including Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and television networks will air a patriotic 12-minute film created by Rai Cultura, part of the state broadcasting company.
The scaled-back celebrations marking the anniversary did not reduce the number of people on the streets of the capital.
"This is a holiday about the new Italy after World War II and this time it also has the feeling about a new Italy after the worst of the pandemic," said Leo Esposito, a municipal government worker enjoying ice cream with his wife and two young children. "We are all hoping things will continue getting better for us."
Annalisa Bettin, a university student out in Rome's Trastevere neighborhood with two classmates, agreed.
"We all spend most of the last year or more inside social distancing," Bettin said. "We need to get out and to take a step back toward normal. The situation is improving. Using the June 2 holiday as an excuse to get outside and do some things and relax a little makes good sense to me."