A grand military parade through central Rome was the highlight of country-wide celebrations marking Republic Day on Sunday.
Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi and Premier Silvio Berlusconi, along with leaders of all the political parties, were on hand as thousands of soldiers marched along the historic via dei Fori Imperiali for the annual event.
Ciampi opened the celebrations in Rome with a wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Rome's Piazza Venezia.
As the president was paying his respects to the unknown soldier, three jets flew overhead leaving plumes of red, white and green smoke in honor of Italy's flag in the sky.
Ciampi then boarded an open-air car and saluted the thousands of soldiers and policemen waiting to march before taking his place in the presidential box in the special stands set up on the wide Via Fori Imperiali connecting Piazza Venezia with the Colosseum.
The boulevard was lined with flag-waving crowds who turned out in the bright sunshine to watch the spectacle.
The parade, with a six-kilometre procession of military forces and equipment, was the centerpiece of Republic Day celebrations that have been given a higher profile in recent years by Ciampi in a bid to boost Italy's sense of nationhood.
Italian Air force jets also flew overhead for a series of fly- overs involving about 50 different aircraft.
The Italian republic came into being on June 2, 1946, when a national referendum decided to switch from the previous monarchy and become a republic.