Secret societies such as the Carbonari appeared and carried on revolutionary activity after the restoration of the old order by the Congress of Vienna (1814–15). The Carbonari engineered uprisings in the Two Sicilies (1820) and in the kingdom of Sardinia (1821). Despite severe reprisals inspired by the Holy Alliance, new uprisings occurred in 1831 in the Papal States, Modena, and Parma. Italian literature of this period, especially the novels of Alessandro Manzoni and the marchese d'Azeglio and the poetry of Ugo Foscolo and Giacomo Leopardi, did much to stimulate Italian nationalism.
The Risorgimento was primarily a movement of the middle class and the nobility; since economic issues were virtually ignored, the peasantry remained indifferent to its ideals. Political activity was carried on by three groups. Giuseppe Mazzini led the radical faction through his secret society Giovine Italia [young Italy], founded in 1831. Its program was republican and anticlerical; it vaguely alluded to social and economic reforms. The conservative and clerical elements among the nationalists generally advocated a federation of Italian states under the presidency of the pope. The moderates—the propertied bourgeoisie and the north Italian promoters of industry—favored unification of Italy under a king of the house of Savoy. This monarch, as it later turned out, was Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia.