From the point of view of Sardinia the First War of Independence (1848) had been unsatisfactory as they had been defeated by Austria, but in 1859 they were ready to try again, and this time they had France as an ally. The Second War of Independence was much more successful, and while this was in large measure thanks to the substantial French army, Sardinia was able to field an excellent army of about 60,000, including large numbers of the elite infantry, the Bersaglieri.
At this date Bersaglieri uniform was a short single-breasted tunic and trousers tucked into short gaiters, but their trademark was the round broad-brimmed hat with the black cockerel feathers on the right side. They were armed with the M1856 rifled Minie carbine and carried a sword bayonet which, like all their smaller kit, hung from a waistbelt as they did not wear crossbelts. The figures in this set accurately reflect that uniform, down to the cords that hung across their chest. The officer wears a longer and more ornate double-breasted tunic, but the same hat as that worn by the men. For the pedants the M1856 carbine was 126cm long, but the weapons in this set are noticeably longer than that. Finally the flag is engraved on both sides with the tricolour and the white cross of Savoy, which is correct.
The style of these figures is much like Esci figures, and unfortunately they also exhibit two unwanted characteristics of both Esci and another old Italian producer, Atlantic. Firstly, a great many of the men are looking to their right rather than where they are going. Thus three of the advancing figures in the first row and the flag-bearer are hurtling forward with little idea of where they are heading. Put together a charge using these figures and it looks like they have all suddenly been distracted by something on their right flank. In this case we assume the difficulty of moulding the hat from the side is to blame, but it was done for some of the figures (by moving the plume towards the back), so why not on most of these?
The second problem is the unreal running pose of the bugler, who has one foot much too high, making him appear to perform some dance move - difficult enough without playing the bugle at the same time! We were not too keen on the man advancing while holding his carbine in front of him either (third figure, top row), but apart from all that the poses are OK, although a marching figure would have been nice to see.
The sculpting is generally OK with very little flash, but a couple of the figures have a problem with mould misalignment, and all suffer from an apparent inability to match the brim of the hat - virtually all have a 'step' or lump where the two halves of the mould meet. While this is largely fixable it is quite annoying.
Although only a minority have knapsacks, these have been properly done. Strangely all seem to have their sword-bayonet sheathed, even those that have another one on the end of their carbine! The equal numbers of each pose inevitably deliver rather too many buglers and flag-bearers for most tastes, and we felt that both the flag and staff were much too small.
While some of the poses may not be ideal and there are some small areas of irritation, overall this is still a very usable set with good detail. Given the choice we would have gone for the regular infantry before modelling the flashy elite units, but as a start to a range of figures to cover this significant period in the histories of Italy, Austria and France this is by no means bad.