Italian lira

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Lira italiana (Italian)
Italian lira banknotes.JPG Italia 1000 lire.JPG
Lira banknotes ranging from ₤2,000 to ₤500,000 ₤1000 coin (1997)
ISO 4217 code ITL
Central bank Banca d'Italia
User(s) None, previously:  Albania (Albania under Italy 1941–1943)
 San Marino
  Vatican City
but not Campione d'Italia
Inflation 2.3% (2001)
 Since 13 March 1979, 25 November 1996
 Withdrawn 17 September 1992
 Fixed rate since 31 December 1998
 Replaced by €, non cash 1 January 1999
 Replaced by €, cash 1 January 2002
= ₤1,936.27
 1/100 centesimo
Subunits were abolished after WWII
Symbol ₤ or L
Plural lire
centesimo centesimi
 Freq. used ₤50, ₤100, ₤200, ₤500, ₤1000
 Rarely used ₤1, ₤2, ₤5, ₤10, ₤20
Banknotes ₤1,000, ₤2,000, ₤5,000, ₤10,000, ₤50,000, ₤100,000, ₤500,000
Printer Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato
Mint Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato
This infobox shows the latest status before this currency was rendered obsolete.

The lira (Italian: [ˈliːra]; plural lire [ˈliːre]) was the currency of Italy between 1861 and 2002 and of the Albanian Kingdom between 1941 and 1943. Between 1999 and 2002, the Italian lira was officially a national subunit of the euro. However, cash payments could be made in lire only, as euro coins or notes were not yet available. The lira was also the currency of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy between 1807 and 1814.

The term originates from the value of a pound weight (Latin: libra) of high purity silver and as such is a direct cognate of the British pound sterling; in some countries, such as Cyprus and Malta, the words lira and pound were used as equivalents, before the euro was adopted in 2008 in the two countries. "L", sometimes in a double-crossed script form ("₤"), was the symbol most often used. Until the Second World War, it was subdivided into 100 centesimi (singular: centesimo), which translates to "hundredths".

The lira was established at 4.5 grams of silver or 290.322 milligrams of gold. This was a direct continuation of the Sardinian lira. Other currencies replaced by the Italian lira included the Lombardy-Venetia pound, the Two Sicilies piastra, the Tuscan fiorino, the Papal States scudo and the Parman lira. In 1865, Italy formed part of the Latin Monetary Union in which the lira was set as equal to, among others, the French, Belgian and Swiss francs: in fact, in various Gallo-Italic dialects in north-western Italy, the lira was outright called "franc".[1] This practice has obviously ended with the introduction of the euro in 2002.

World War I broke the Latin Monetary Union and resulted in prices rising severalfold in Italy. Inflation was curbed somewhat by Mussolini, who, on August 18, 1926, declared that the exchange rate between lira and pound would be £1 = 90 lire—the so-called Quota 90, although the free exchange rate had been closer to 140–150 lire per pound, causing a temporary deflation and widespread problems in the real economy. In 1927, the lira was pegged to the U.S. dollar at a rate of 1 dollar = 19 lire. This rate lasted until 1934, with a separate "tourist" rate of US$1 = 24.89 lire being established in 1936. In 1939, the "official" rate was 19.8 lire.

After the Allied invasion of Italy, an exchange rate was set at US$1 = 120 lire (1 British pound = 480 lire) in June 1943, reduced to 100 lire the following month. In German occupied areas, the exchange rate was set at 1 Reichsmark = 10 lire. After the war, the value of the lira fluctuated, before Italy set a peg of US$1 = 575 lire within the Bretton Woods System in November 1947. Following the devaluation of the pound, Italy devalued to US$1 = 625 lire on 21 September 1949. This rate was maintained until the end of the Bretton Woods System in the early 1970s. Several episodes of high inflation followed until the lira was replaced by the euro.

The lira was the official unit of currency in Italy until January 1, 1999, when it was replaced by the euro (euro coins and notes were not introduced until 2002). Old lira denominated currency ceased to be legal tender on February 28, 2002. The conversion rate is 1,936.27 lire to the euro.[2]

All lira banknotes in use immediately before the introduction of the euro, as all post-World War II coins, were exchanged by the Bank of Italy up to 6 December 2011. Originally Italy's central bank pledged to redeem Italian coins and banknotes until 29 February 2012, but this was brought forward to 6 December 2011.

Italy's Constitutional Court has now declared the law that shortening the exchange period of Italian Lira unlawful. Currently, Analyzes were launched by Banca d'Italia with the Ministry of Economy and Finance to define the procedures for the conversion of Italian Lira into Euro. Announcement regarding the detail information will be published shortly [3]


1 Italian lira 1863
Vittorio Emanuele II Coat of arms of the House of Savoy

Although Italian price displays and calculations became unwieldy because of the large number of zeros, efforts at redenomination were unsuccessful for political reasons until the introduction of the euro which had the effect of lopping off excessive zeros.


Napoleonic Coins

The Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy issued coins between 1807 and 1813 in denominations of 1 and 3 centesimi and 1 soldo in copper, 10 centesimi in 20% silver alloy, 5, 10 and 15 soldi, 1, 2 and 5 lire in 90% silver and 20 and 40 lire in 90% gold. All except the 10 centesimi bore a portrait of Napoleon, with the denominations below 1 lira also showing a radiate crown and the higher denominations, a shield representing the various constituent territories of the Kingdom.

Kingdom of Italy, 1861–1946

1864 100 Lira depicting Victor Emmanuel II of Italy.

In 1861, coins were minted in Florence, Milan, Naples, and Turin in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10 and 50 centesimi, 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 lire, with the lowest four in copper, the highest two in gold and the remainder in silver. In 1863, silver coins below 5 lire were debased from 90% to 83.5% and silver 20 centesimi coins were introduced. Minting switched to Rome in the 1870s.

Apart from the introduction in 1894 of cupro-nickel (later nickel) 20 centesimi coins and of nickel 25 centesimi pieces in 1902, the coinage remained essentially unaltered until the First World War.

In 1919, with a purchase power of the lira reduced to 1/5 of that of 1914, the production of all earlier coin types except for the nickel 20 centesimi halted, and smaller, copper 5 and 10 centesimi and nickel 50 centesimi coins were introduced, followed by nickel 1 and 2 lire pieces in 1922 and 1923, respectively. In 1926, silver 5 and 10 lire coins were introduced, equal in size and composition to the earlier 1 and 2 lire coins. Silver 20 lire coins were added in 1927.

In 1936, the last substantial issue of silver coins was made, whilst, in 1939, moves to reduce the cost of the coinage led to copper being replaced by aluminium bronze and nickel by stainless steel. All issuance of coinage came to a halt in 1943.

In 1943 was issued the AM-Lira, in circulation in Italy after the landing in Sicily on the night between 9 and 10 July 1943. After 1946, AM-Lira ceased to be the currency of employment and were used along with normal notes, until June 3, 1950.

1947–1954: in the Free Territory of Trieste was used Triestine lira (zone B).

Republic, 1946-2002

200 Italian lire Montessori
FAO's celebration Maria Montessori

In 1946 coin production was resumed, although only in 1948, with the purchasing power of the lira reduced to 2% of that of 1939, did numbers minted exceed 1 million. To begin with, four denominations were issued in aluminium, 1, 2, 5 and 10 lire: these coins were in circulation together with the AM-lire and some of the old, devalued coins of the Italian Kingdom. In 1951, the government decided to replace all the circulating coins and bills with new smaller-sized 1, 2, 5 and 10 aluminium lire (although the 2 lire was not minted in 1951 or 1952) and in 1954–1955, Acmonital (stainless-steel) 50 and 100 lire coins were introduced, followed by aluminium-bronze 20 lire in 1957 and silver 500 lire in 1958. Increases in the silver bullion price led to the 500 lire coins being produced only in small numbers for collectors after 1967. The 500 lire (and later the 1000 lire) also appeared in a number of commemorative coin issues, such as the centennial of Italian unification in 1961. Between 1967 and 1982, were emitted two types of "paper money" with 500 lire value. These were not issued by "Banca d'Italia", but directly by the government bearing the title "Repubblica Italiana".

In 1977, aluminium-bronze 200 lire coins were introduced, followed in 1982 by the bimetallic 500 lire. This was the first bi-metallic coin to be produced for circulation, minted using a system patented by IPZS. It was also the first to feature the value in braille.[4]

Production of the 1 and 2 lire coins for circulation ceased in 1959; their mintage was restarted from 1982 to 2001 for collectors' coin sets. Production of the 5 lire was highly reduced in the late 1970s and ceased for circulation in 1998. Similarly, in 1991 the production for the 10 and 20 lire coins was limited. The sizes of the 50 and 100 lire coins were reduced in 1990 but were then increased somewhat in 1993. A bimetallic 1,000 lire coin was introduced in 1997 and stopped in 1998.

Coins still being minted for circulation at the time of the changeover to euro (in 2000 and 2001 only lire for collectors coins sets were minted) were:[5]

  • 10 lire (only for collectors)
  • 20 lire (only for collectors)
  • 50 lire (2.58 cent)
  • 100 lire (5.16 cent)
  • 200 lire (10.33 cent)
  • 500 lire (25.82 cent)
  • 1,000 lire (51.65 cent)


In 1882, the government began issuing small value paper money bearing the title "Biglietto di Stato". To begin with, there were 5 and 10 lire notes, to which 25 lire notes were occasionally added from 1895. The government also issued notes titled "Buono di Cassa" between 1893 and 1922 in denominations of 1 and 2 lire. Production of Biglietti di Stato ceased in 1925 but resumed in 1935 with notes for 1, 2, 5 and 10 lire being introduced by 1939.

The Bank of Italy began producing paper money in 1896. To begin with, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 lire notes were issued. In 1918–1919, 25 lire notes were also issued but no other denominations were introduced until after the Second World War.

In 1943, the invading Allies introduced notes in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 lire. These were followed in 1944 by a series of Biglietti di Stato for 1, 2, 5 and 10 lire, which circulated until replaced by coins in the late 1940s. In 1945, the Bank of Italy introduced 5,000 and 10,000 lire notes.

In 1951, the government again issued notes, this time simply bearing the title "Repubblica Italiana". Denominations were of 50 and 100 lire (replacing the Bank of Italy notes) and they circulated until coins of these denominations were introduced in the mid-1950s. In 1966, 500 lire notes were introduced (again replacing Bank of Italy notes) which were produced until replaced in 1982 by a coin.

50,000 and 100,000 lire notes were introduced by the Bank of Italy in 1967, followed by 2,000 lire in 1973, 20,000 lire in 1975 and 500,000 lire in 1997.

D In the mid-1970s, when coinage was in short supply, Italian banks printed "miniassegni" in 50- and 100-lire amounts. Technically bearer checks, they were printed in the form of banknotes and were generally accepted as substitute legal currency.

Notes in circulation when the euro was introduced were:

Banknotes of the Italian lira (1990–1997 issues)
Image Value Equivalent in Euro (€) Main Color Obverse Reverse Watermark
Lire 1000 (Maria Montessori).jpg 1000 lire €0.516 Red-violet Maria Montessori Montessori education Maria Montessori
Lire 2000 (Guglielmo Marconi).JPG 2000 lire €1.03 Dark brown Guglielmo Marconi Marconi's yacht "Elettra"; Radio towers at Marconi's station Glace Bay in Nova Scotia; telegraph Guglielmo Marconi
Lire 5000 (Vincenzo Bellini).JPG 5000 lire €2.58 Olive-green and blue Vincenzo Bellini; interior of "Teatro Massimo - Bellini" (Catania) Scene from Bellini's opera "Norma"; Allegory of "Lyrics" Vincenzo Bellini
Lire 10000 (Alessandro Volta).JPG 10,000 lire €5.16 Dark blue Alessandro Volta; Electrophor ("Volta Column", galvanic battery) Museum "Tempio Voltiano" in Como Alessandro Volta
Lire 50000 (Bernini).JPG 50,000 lire €25.82 Red-violet or Violet and dull green Gian Lorenzo Bernini Equestrian statue (by Bernini), interior of St. Peter's Basilica (Vatican City) Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Lire 100000 (Caravaggio).JPG 100,000 lire €51.65 Dark brown, reddish brown and pale green Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi), couple from Caravaggio's painting "The Fortune Teller") Fruit basket and castle in the background Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi)
Lire 500000 (Raffaello Sanzio).JPG 500,000 lire €258.23 Deep purple, dark blue and bright green Raffaello; Triumph of Galatea The School of Athens Raphael


Banknotes circulating in 1951
Banknotes circulating in 1973
Banknotes circulating in 1982
Banknotes circulating in 2000

Currencies formerly related to the Italian lira

Vatican City

The Vatican lira (plural lire) was the official unit of the Vatican City State. It was at par with the Italian lira under the terms on the concordat with Italy. Italian lira notes and coins were legal tender in the Vatican City State, and vice versa. Specific Vatican coins were minted in Rome, and were legal tender also in Italy and San Marino.

The Vatican City state switched to the euro like Italy and San Marino. As with old Vatican lira coins, the Vatican City has its own set of euro coins.

San Marino

The Sammarinese lira (plural lire) was the official unit of San Marino. Like the Vatican lira, the Sammarinese lira was at par with the Italian lira.

Italian lira notes and coins were legal tender in San Marino (and vice versa). Specific Sammarinese coins were minted in Rome, and were legal tender in Italy, as well as the Vatican City.

San Marino switched to the euro like Italy and the Vatican City State. As with old Sammarinese lira coins, the country has its own set of euro coins.


Miniassegno were a special kind of money called notgeld that circulated in Italy in the late seventies in place of change as in that period small denomination lira were scarce and that until then had been replaced by candy, stamps, coin-operated telephone, and in some cities also public transport tickets. The first miniassegni made their appearance in December 1975 and were subsequently issued by many banks; had the nominal value of 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300 and 350 lira.


In 2006, the Lega Nord launched a campaign to reintroduce the lira as a parallel currency.[7] In 2014, Beppe Grillo, the Five Star Movement leader spearheaded a referendum bid, to restore the lira.[8]

See also


  1. An Emilian poem.
  2. ECB: Determination of the euro conversion rates
  3. Banca d'Italia Constitutional Court Ruling on Lira-Euro Conversion
  4. Krause, Chester L., and Clifford Mishler (1991). Standard Catalog of World Coins: 1801–1991 (18th ed.). Krause Publications. ISBN 0873411501. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Short Guide to Italian Republican Coins Second issue (1951- 2002)
  6. This note was emitted briefly in 1975, with a limited reprinting in 1985, so there were few of them in circulation

External links

Preceded by
Sardinian lira
Lombardy-Venetia pound
Parman lira
Tuscan florin
Roman scudo
Two Sicilies ducat
Italian currency
Succeeded by