By the mid 19th century there were small communities of Italian emigrants in North and South America who had moved abroad after the failure of the various revolutions which accompanied the Risorgimento. From the late 19th century on, a substantial migratory flow moved towards other European countries, mainly from northern regions - most of all from Liguria. Only subsequently did this phenomenon involve the southern regions, though these continued to show a clear preference for overseas destinations. The choice between the two Americas was made according to whether the emigrant had money available. It was more expensive to travel to Latin America, where financial opportunities were greater, language problems could be easily overcome and cultural differences were not as great. A ticket for the United States was cheaper and, since the country was constantly growing and developing, it was easy to find skilled or unskilled work, in farming or industry. Work on sites in the infrastructure sector was sometimes seasonal, allowing periodic journeys back home.
Genoa, Naples and Palermo were the main ports of embarkation for emigrants.
By train, one could reach other European countries, as well as the port of Le Havre in France, where it was easier for the emigrants from the North to embark for the Americas. The number of departures grew and grew until shortly before the beginning of World War I - this was the “great emigration” era.
At the end of the war, following the progressive closing of access to America, European destinations became popular, albeit on a smaller scale. Trieste became an important port of emigration.
After the end of World War II, departures towards all destinations, whether continental or intercontinental, began again and rapidly increased.