Savoy emerged as a major regional power expanding to Piedmont and Sardinia. In this century, the ideas of the Enlightenment influenced the Italian rulers, paving the way to reforms which started an economic recovery in northern Italy and Tuscany.
During the Napoleonic Wars, the northern and central parts of the country were invaded and later partly annexed to the Empire and partly reorganized as a new Kingdom of Italy—essentially a client state of the French Empire — while the southern half of the peninsula was administered by Joachim Murat, Napoleon's brother-in-law, who was crowned as King of Naples. The 1814 Congress of Vienna restored the situation of the late 18th century, but the ideals of the French Revolution could not be eradicated.
Italian unification and Liberal Italy
The creation of the Kingdom of Italy was the result of efforts by Italian nationalists and monarchists loyal to the House of Savoy to establish a united state encompassing the entire Italian Peninsula. In the context of the 1848 liberal revolutions that swept through Europe, an unsuccessful war was declared on Austria. The Kingdom of Sardinia again attacked the Austrian Empire in the Second Italian War of Independence of 1859, with the aid of France, resulting in liberating Lombardy.
In 1860–61, Giuseppe Garibaldi led the drive for unification in Naples and Sicily, allowing the Sardinian government led by the Count of Cavour to declare a united Italian kingdom on 17 March 1861. In 1866, Victor Emmanuel II allied with Prussia during the Austro-Prussian War, waging the Third Italian War of Independence which allowed Italy to annex Venetia. Finally, as France during the disastrous Franco-Prussian War of 1870 abandoned its garrisons in Rome, the Savoy rushed to fill the power gap by taking over the Papal States.
The Sardinian Albertine Statute of 1848, extended to the whole Kingdom of Italy in 1861, provided for basic freedoms, but electoral laws