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Next to Germany, France and Russia, Italy is the country with the most fragmented Scout movement, but it is also one of the few countries where the single largest association, in this case the Associazione Guide e Scouts Cattolici Italiani, is denominational and comprises more of 80% of the country's Scouts and Guides. Also, counting the other Catholic associations, more than 90% of the Italian Scout movement, is Catholic.
The first attempts at Scouting in Italy go back to 1910. They are due in part to the meeting between English gentlemen, who were directly influenced by the work and ideas of Robert Baden-Powell, and Italian educators already engaged in pedagogical activity within the new education of the beginning of the century.
The meeting between teacher Remo Molinari and Francis Vane, an old aide of Baden-Powell's and a former Scout Commissioner of London before Baden-Powell ousted him from The Scout Association, led to the founding of the Ragazzi Esploratori Italiani (Italian Boy Scouts, REI) on 12 July 1910 in Bagni di Lucca, Tuscany. The press coverage and the presence of King Vittorio Emanuele III at San Rossore on 6 November 1910 gave much publicity to their initiative. This saw the creation of new troops under the name of Ragazzi Patrioti in three Tuscan cities Lucca, Pisa and Florence. The interest of authorities and educators peaked in Genoa, Liguria and Milan, Lombardy. The organization was also known with other names, including Boy Scouts della Pace (Peace Boy Scouts, BSP).
Another meeting in 1910, between English doctor and educator James Richardson Spensley, who had met Baden-Powell, and Mario Mazza, a Catholic educator from Genoa, would bear more durable fruits for Italian Scouting. In 1905 Mazza had founded Juventus Juvat, a movement of active education divided in groups of boys known as Gioiose. Mazza understood that the principles and methods of his organization would better work out within the Scout movement, as he knew it from meeting Spensley and attending a conference given by Vane. This would later expand into all of Liguria and also in Florence and Naples, by the way of absorbing some of the REI's troops.
Vane was busy with all these initiatives and qualified them as the Italian section of the British Boy Scouts, which he had founded in England after he was expelled from The Scout Association. This lasted until 1914, when Vane was called to war. By that time, however, the REI had disbanded, and in 1912 the Corpo Nazionale Giovani Esploratori ed Esploratrici Italiani (CNGEI) had been founded. For this reason, the official birthdate of Scouting in Italy is often listed as 1912.
In 1916 the Associazione Scouts Cattolici Italiani (ASCI) was founded, while in 1943 its female counterpart, the Associazione Guide Italiane (AGI), was launched. The two Catholic associations were merged in 1974 in order to form the Associazione Guide e Scouts Cattolici Italiani (AGESCI). Some ASCI and AGI leaders, who had disagreed with the merger (and, above all, opposed the principle of coeducation) and had refused to join AGESCI, formed the Associazione Italiana Guide e Scouts d'Europa Cattolici (AIGSEC or Scouts d'Europa) in 1976, along with disgruntled members of the early AGESCI.
Italy was a founding member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) in 1922 and, after its suspension during the Fascist regime, was readmitted to WOSM in 1946. Since 1986 AGESCI and CNGEI are associated within the Italian Scout Federation (FIS), Italy's national member of the WOSM and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). FIS is nothing more than a formal coordination as AGESCI and CNGEI operate as separate entities.
This is a list of the main Scouting and Guiding associations in Italy.