"Balilla" was the nickname of Giovan Battista Perasso, a Genoese boy who, according to local legend, started the revolt of 1746 against the Habsburg forces that occupied the city in the War of the Austrian Succession.

tory and legacy

The word "Balilla" is widely held to mean "little boy", and thus one of only two clues about Perasso's age (the other being an Austrian report that makes reference to "a little boy" throwing stones at officials); however, some have suggested that the name is merely a pet form of "Giovan Battista"/"Giambattista".

Legend asserts that Perasso was the first to attack the troops in the Portoria area of the city, asking his fellow citizens a question that, although uttered in the Genoese dialect, has passed as a catch phrase into standard Italian: "Che l'inse?" ("Am I to begin?" or "Shall I start?"). The episode itself is not backed by historical evidence.

For his supposed age and revolutionary activity, Perasso became a symbol of the struggle of Italian people for independence and unification. Italy's Fascists named the Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB), a youth organization, after him.

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