Similarities and Differences Between Catalan, Italian Referendums

The biggest difference: former separatists in northern Italy no longer call for independence.

Venice Italy
Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy (Unsplash/Canmandawe)

The northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto hold referendums on Sunday about increased autonomy from Rome.

Taking place less than a month after two millions Catalans voted to break away from Spain, the parallels are hard to miss. But there are important differences as well.


  • Like Catalonia, Lombardy and Veneto contribute disproportionately to the national economy.
  • All three regions complain they are paying more into the central government than they get out.
  • Catalans and northern Italians tend to think of themselves as austere and hard-working compared to laid-back Spaniards and southerners.
  • The movements span the political spectrum. In Catalonia, center-right nationalists have made common cause with anticapitalists. In Lombardy and Veneto, both the right-wing Northern League and the left-wing Five Star Movement campaign for a “yes” vote.


  • The Northern League is no longer calling for Po Valley independence. Roberto Maroni, the president of Lombardy, admits to Reuters that he is purely interested in improving his bargaining position: “It’s obvious that the more negotiating power I have, the more money I can manage to bring home.”
  • Lombardy would consider it a victory if it managed to pick up a few more responsibilities and around €1-2 billion in additional funds. For many Catalans, independence is the only acceptable outcome.
  • Rome is taking a relaxed attitudes to the plebiscites. The ruling Democratic Party is neutral. In Spain, the ruling People’s Party has taken a hard line.