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Q: You don’t see it so much these days, but one of the lasting impressions I have from my time here in Italy is that of rainbow flags flying from balconies in towns both large and small. What’s up with that?

A: The flag, a seven-color banner with the word “pace,” Italian for “peace,” emblazoned across it, began appearing in earnest in connection with a campaign launched in 2002 known as Pace da tutti i balconi, or Peace From Every Balcony.

The flying of the rainbow peace flag peaked somewhere around the time of the mass demonstrations of February 15, 2003, when many nations across Europe rallied in hopes that war in Iraq might be averted.

According to a BBC article of February 2003, even the mayors of several Italian cities and towns, including Rome and Florence, allowed for the peace flags to hang from city and town halls, despite a warning from the office of the prime minister of the time, Silvio Berlusconi, that the display of such flags on public buildings amounted to a criminal offense.

The BBC article noted that in the run-up to the peace demonstrations, demand for the flags was so high that many outlets reportedly ran out of stock.

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