Italian lira

Last updated
Italian lira
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
1100 Centesimo
(dismissed after World War II)
Plural lire
Centesimo centesimi
Symbol ₤ (before numerals)
or L. (after numerals)
Freq. used₤1,000, ₤2,000, ₤5,000, ₤10,000, ₤50,000, ₤100,000
Rarely used₤500,000
Freq. used₤50, ₤100, ₤200, ₤500
Rarely used₤1, ₤2, ₤5, ₤10, ₤20, ₤1000

Flag of Albania (1939-1943).svg Kingdom of Albania (1939-1943)
Flag of San Marino (1862-2011).svg  San Marino (local issue: Sammarinese lira)


Flag of the Vatican City.svg   Vatican City (local issue: Vatican lira)
Central bank Banca d'Italia
Printer Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato
Mint Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato
Inflation 2.3% (2001)
Since13 March 1979, 25 November 1996
Withdrawn17 September 1992
Fixed rate since31 December 1998
Replaced by €, non cash1 January 1999
Replaced by €, cash1 March 2002
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 lira 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 is thus directly related to the British pound sterling (referred to in Italian as "lira sterlina" or simply "sterlina") from the Germanic silabar; 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" or "cents".

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 and the French franc. 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 languages 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 the British pound would be £1 = ₤90the 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 1 January 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 28 February 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, and 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.


1 Italian lira 1863
VE2 lira 1863.jpg
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 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 (plural soldi) 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 lire coin depicting Victor Emmanuel II of Italy Italy 1864-T BN 100 Lira.jpg
1864 100 lire coin 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 lira, 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 one fifth 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-lira pieces in 1922 and 1923, respectively. In 1926, silver 5- and 10-lira coins were introduced, equal in size and composition to the earlier 1- and 2-lira coins. Silver 20-lira 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 the AM-lira was issued, in circulation in Italy after the landing in Sicily on the night between 9 and 10 July 1943. After 1946, the AM-lira ceased to be the currency of employment and was used along with normal notes, until June 3, 1950.

Between 1947 and 1954, zone B of the Free Territory of Trieste used the Triestine lira.

Italian Republic, 1946–2002

100 lire (FAO's celebration.)
100 Lira (Italy).jpg
Obverse: Young woman with braid facing left and Repubblica Italiana (Republic of Italy)Reverse: Cow nursing calf, face value & date. FAO at bottom and Nutrire il Mondo (E: Feed the world) at top
200 Italian lire (Montessori)
Italia 200 lire Montessori.JPG
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 aluminium 1, 2, 5 and 10 lire (although the 2-lira coin was not minted in 1951 or 1952) and in 1954–1955, Acmonital (stainless-steel) 50- and 100-lira coins were introduced, followed by aluminium-bronze 20-lira in 1957 and silver 500-lira in 1958. Increases in the silver bullion price led to the 500-lira coins being produced only in small numbers for collectors after 1967. The 500-lira (and later the 1,000-lira) also appeared in a number of commemorative coin issues, such as the centennial of Italian unification in 1961. Between 1967 and 1982, two types of "paper money" were issued with a value of 500 lire. These were not issued by "Banca d'Italia", but directly by the government bearing the title "Repubblica Italiana".

In 1977, aluminium-bronze 200-lira 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. [3]

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

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: [4]

  • 1 lira (0.05 cents, only for collectors)
  • 2 lire (0.10 cents, only for collectors)
  • 5 lire (0.26 cents, only for collectors)
  • 10 lire (0.52 cents, only for collectors)
  • 20 lire (1.03 cents, only for collectors)
  • 50 lire (2.58 cents)
  • 100 lire (5.16 cents)
  • 200 lire (10.33 cents)
  • 500 lire (25.82 cents)
  • 1,000 lire (51.65 cents)


In 1882, the government began issuing low-denomination paper money bearing the title "Biglietto di Stato"(meaning " Ticket of the state"). To begin with, there were 5- and 10-lira notes, to which 25-lira 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-lira notes were issued. In 1918–1919, 25-lira 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-lira 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-lira notes were introduced (again replacing Bank of Italy notes) which were produced until replaced in 1982 by a coin.

Fifty-thousand- and 100,000-lira notes were introduced by the Bank of Italy in 1967, followed by 2,000-lira notes in 1973, 20,000-lira notes in 1975 and 500,000-lira notes in 1997.

In the mid-1970s, when coinage was in short supply, Italian banks printed "miniassegni" in 50- and 100-lira 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)
ImageValueDimensionEquivalent in euros (€)Main colorObverseReverseWatermark
Lire 1000 (Maria Montessori).jpg 1000 lire112 x 62 mm€0.516Red-violet Maria Montessori Montessori education Maria Montessori
Lire 2000 (Guglielmo Marconi).JPG 2000 lire135 x 65 mm€1.03Dark brown Guglielmo Marconi Marconi's yacht "Elettra"; Radio towers at Marconi's station Glace Bay in Nova Scotia; telegraphGuglielmo Marconi
Lire 5000 (Vincenzo Bellini).JPG 5000 lire126 x 70 mm€2.58Olive-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 lire133 x 70 mm€5.16Dark blue Alessandro Volta; Electrophor ("Volta Column", galvanic battery)Museum "Tempio Voltiano" in Como Alessandro Volta
Lire 50000 (Bernini).JPG 50,000 lire150 x 70 mm€25.82Red-violet or Violet and dull green Gian Lorenzo Bernini; Triton Fountain in Rome Equestrian statue (by Bernini), interior of St. Peter's Basilica (Vatican City)Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Lire 100000 (Caravaggio).JPG 100,000 lire156 x 80 mm€51.65Dark brown, reddish brown and pale green Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi), couple from Caravaggio's painting "The Fortune Teller" Fruit basket in the backgroundCaravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi)
Lire 500000 (Raffaello Sanzio).JPG 500,000 lire163 x 78 mm€258.23Deep 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

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, and vice versa. Specific Vatican coins were minted in Rome, and were legal tender also in Italy and San Marino.

The Vatican City switched to the euro along with 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 along with Italy and the Vatican City. As with old Sammarinese lira coins, the country has its own set of euro coins.


Miniassegni (singular: miniassegno) were a special kind of money called notgeld that circulated in Italy in the late 1970s in place of change, as in that period small-denomination coins were scarce and were often replaced by candy, stamps, telephone tokens, and in some cities public transport tickets. The first miniassegni made their appearance in December 1975, and were subsequently issued by many banks; they had nominal values of 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300 and 350 lire.


In 2005, the Lega Nord launched a campaign to reintroduce the lira as a parallel currency. [6] In 2014, Beppe Grillo, the Five Star Movement leader spearheaded a referendum bid, to restore the lira in Italy. [7]

See also

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  1. "Poesie e Prose in dialetto". Archived from the original on 2019-07-02. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
  2. Bank, European Central. "Determination of the euro conversion rates". European Central Bank. Archived from the original on 2015-06-27. Retrieved 2015-06-26.
  3. Krause, Chester L.; Clifford Mishler (1991). Standard Catalog of World Coins: 1801–1991 (18th ed.). Krause Publications. ISBN   0873411501.
  4. "Libero - Community - I siti personali".
  5. This note was issued briefly in 1975, with a limited reprinting in 1985, so there were few of them in circulation
  6. "Northern League launch campaign to revive lira". Archived from the original on 2014-10-21. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  7. [ dead link ]