Giuseppe Garibaldi's body to be exhumed in Italy

Statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi in Genoa, Italy (file photo)
Image caption Giuseppe Garibaldi is commemorated in statues and street names throughout Italy

The body of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the 19th Century military leader who played a key role in the unification of Italy, is to be exhumed, in response to doubts about its true location.

The exhumation is to be carried out at the end of September, after descendants said that the tomb thought to be his may not contain his body.

They say the tomb, on an island near Sardinia, may have been tampered with.

Garibaldi is seen as a national hero in Italy, and one of its founding fathers.

The authorities gave their permission for the exhumation after the culture ministry backed a request by Garibaldi's family for the tomb, on the island of Caprera, off the northern coast of Sardinia, to be opened.

"It may be a way of knowing what's happened to him and finally arrive at the truth. I think it's very important," Garibaldi's great-granddaughter, Anita Garibaldi, said.

"If he's there, I think he needs to be preserved for the future. If he is not there, perhaps we should stop telling lies to the tourists that go there and people tell them 'Here is Garibaldi' and he's not."

Last wish

Born in 1807, Giuseppe Garibaldi commanded several military campaigns in the mid-19th Century that eventually resulted in the unification of Italy - for centuries divided into independent states and often dominated by outside powers - under King Victor Emmanuel II.

A much-loved national figure, Garibaldi's memory is honoured in statues and street names across Italy.

When he died, his wish for a simple burial or cremation was ignored, and his body was embalmed, but the family believe the job may not have been done properly.

If DNA testing establishes that Garibaldi is indeed in the tomb on Caprera, there may be a debate about whether to ensure his remains are better preserved, or whether to grant him his final wish, the BBC's Alan Johnston reports from Rome.