The Northern Region of Italy called Veneto was one of the poorest in the country. After the end of the Second World War, during the Sixties, this area knew a period of great changes, becoming one of the richest region in the whole country. The global crisis of the early XXI century, which is still ongoing, was responsible, in Italy, of the failure of thousands of industries and small firms: 39.500 between 2008 and 2011. In 2013 they were 50.000, according to Confesercenti. During 2012 the number of suicides, due to economic situation, grew 40%.

For decades there has been deep-seated dissatisfaction in the rich northern regions of Italy with what is widely regarded as inefficient and venal rule from Rome, as well as resentment that hard-won tax revenues are sent south and often squandered.

Recent opinion polls suggest that two-thirds of the four million electorate favour splitting from Rome, but the vote will not be legally binding.

The online poll was organised by local activists and parties, who want a future state called Republic of Veneto.

This would be reminiscent of the sovereign Venetian republic that existed for more than 1,000 years.

Campaigners have been inspired by the example of Scotland, which will hold its referendum on independence from the rest of the UK in September, and Catalonia, where around half the population say they want to break away from Spain.