Between 1861 and 2002, the currency of Italy was called lira or lire in plural. Its ISO 4217 code is ITL and its symbol is L. It was subdivided to 100 centesimi or centesimo in singular but was abolished after the Second World War. The term “lira” came from the Latin word libra. It originated from the pound weight value of silver.
The Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy used lira as their currency from 1807 to 1814. It was subdivided to 100 centesimi or 20 soldi. In 1861, lira was unified. In 1865, the lira was equal to the Swiss and French francs when Italy joined the Latin Monetary Union. Lira remained to be the official currency of Italy until it was replaced by the Euro (EUR) on January 1, 1999.
Coins were issued from 1807 to 1813 in the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy in denominations of 1, 3, and 10 centisimi, 1, 10 and 15 soldi, and 1, 2, 5, 20, and 50 lire. Coins were minted in 1861 in denominations of 1, 2, 5, and 10 in copper, 50 centesimi and 1, 2, 5 lire in silver, and 10 and 20 lire in gold. In 1919, the value of lira was reduced and in 1943, the production of all coins ended. The production resumed in 1946. The circulating coins were replaced with new smaller-sized ones in 1951. 50 and 100 lire were introduced in stainless steel in 1954 to 1955 and 20 lira coins in aluminum-bonze in 1957 and 500 lire in silver the following year. In 1977, 200 lire in aluminum were introduced, followed by the bi-metallic 500 lire in 1982 which was the first bi-metallic coin to be circulated.
In 1882, the issuance of paper money, which was called “Biglietto di Stato,” began. Notes that were called “Buono di Cassa” were issued in 1893 but production was ceased in 1925 and was resumed 10 years later. Before the euro was introduced, 50,000 lire (introduced in 1997), 100,000 and 50,000 (1967), 10,000 and 5,000 lire (1945), and 1,000 lire (1943) were in circulation.
The lira was pegged to USD in 1927 at the rate of 19 lire = 1 dollar. In 1939, the rate was 19.8 lire. A rate of 120 lire to 1 USD was set after the Allied Invasion of Italy. In September 1949, the rate was 625 lire to 1 USD until the early 1970s.