Italy was in reality no more culturally unified during the Risorgimento than it was politically unified. People in different regions spoke different dialects, had different customs, and different traditions, including political traditions. But across Italy, particularly in northern Italy and in Sicily, Italians chafed at being under foreign rule as waves of nationalism swept through Europe in the wake of Napoleonic rule. Giuseppe Mazzini's views on romantic democratic nationalism were formed amidst popular unrest against foreign (i.e. Austrian) dominance. Organizations like the carbonari, the secret nationalist organization Mazzini joined before forming Young Italy were dominated by affluent, educated young men, but their views were popular with common people as well.
Popular uprisings, often related to economic conditions as much as to nationalistic tendencies, broke out in Parma, Modena, Tuscany, and Romagna in the wake of war between Sardinia-Piedmont and Austria in 1859. Ultimately these cities were incorporated into the northern kingdom of Piedmont. In the south, extreme poverty and repression under Bourbon rule made Italians receptive to Garibaldi and his Redshirts when they arrived. Again, social conditions made unification a more legitimate course of action if only because Italians turned to people who offered them something different than the status quo.