During the years following national unification, the Mezzogiorno became one of the greatest problems for the Italian government. On the one hand, because of its social and economic backwardness and the loyalty of some sections of the population to the previous illiberal government, it was devalued by the national political and military elite as a part of the large and undeveloped ‘South’ of the world, which was at that time affected by the criticism of ‘orientalistic’ Western discourse. On the other hand, it was also the place where the democratic and progressive opposition to the moderate liberal national rulers was stronger. A transnational and transregional perspective shows how the Mezzogiorno contained two different coexisting nations, a reactionary and a progressive one, which were in mutual conflict and, at the same time, on different grounds, in conflict with the central State. Building the state in the South meant, for the Italian liberal elites, discovering an ambiguous and dangerous periphery of the Nation.