The Italy Runestones are three or four Varangian Runestones from 11th century Sweden that talk of warriors who died in Langbarðaland ("Land of the Lombards"), the Old Norse name for Italy. On these rune stones it is southern Italy that is referred to (Langobardia), but the Rundata project renders it rather anachronistically as Lombardy (see the translations of the individual stones, below).
The rune stones are engraved in Old Norse with the Younger Futhark, and two of them are found in Uppland and one or two in Södermanland.
The memorials are probably raised in memory of members of the Varangian Guard, the elite guard of the Byzantine Emperor, and they probably died while fighting in southern Italy against Normans or Muslims. Many of their brothers-in-arms are remembered on the 28 Greece Runestones most of which are found in the same part of Sweden.
The young men who applied for a position in the Varangian guard were not uncouth roughnecks, as in the traditional stereotype, but instead, it appears that they were usually fit and well-raised young warriors who were skilled in weapons. They were the kind of warriors who were welcome as the elite troops of the Byzantine Emperor, and who the rulers of Kievan Rus' requested from Scandinavia when they were under threat.
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“I think sometimes that it is almost a pity to enjoy Italy as much as I do, because the acuteness of my sensations makes them rather exhausting; but when I see the stupid Italians I have met here, completely insensitive to their surroundings, and ignorant of the treasures of art and history among which they have grown up, I begin to think it is better to be an American, and bring to it all a mind and eye unblunted by custom.”
—Edith Wharton (18621937)