Italy's former royal family officially ended its 57-year exile Saturday, arriving in the southern Italian city of Naples for a weekend visit. But the reception was mixed.
More than half a century after Italy banished the Savoys for supporting fascism, members of the former royal family returned to Naples. Vittorio Emanuele, son of the former king of Italy, had sailed out of the Bay of Naples to go into exile with his family at the age of nine.
Following his arrival Saturday with his wife Marina Doria and their son, Emanuele Filiberto, Vittorio Emanuele declared that exile is a terrible feeling, adding that only someone who has experienced it can understand what it means.
He also said this was the most beautiful day in his life, and that he felt that just a moment had passed since he left the city as a child.
The arrival of the former royals did not only draw those loyal to Italian nobility, but also angry protesters. Around 100 royalists waving the flag of the kingdom of Italy, which bears the Savoy coat of arms, greeted the former royals at the airport.
But hundreds of demonstrators turned out in front of the city's cathedral, forcing them to cancel their participation at a mass celebrated by the archbishop of Naples, due to security reasons.
The city made no special plans for the arrival of the former royals. And before their arrival, the city's mayor, Rosa Russo Iervolino, ruled out accompanying them on a tour, although she did meet with them.
The family planned to visit family tombs and attend gala dinners during their visit, which ends Monday when they return to Geneva where they now live.
The Italian monarchy was abolished in a referendum in 1946. Since then, male members of the Savoy family had been banned from entering Italy.
But that ban was overturned last year, after the former royals renounced all claims to the throne.