The country's parliament approved same-sex unions Wednesday in a confidence vote 369-193 for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
, ensuring that the civil unions bill will become law.
Until the vote, Italy was the last major Western country not to legally recognize same-sex relationships. Previous attempts to legalize gay unions had been stymied and fiercely contested by conservatives and the Roman Catholic church
, which holds significant sway in the nation.
Landmarks across Rome from the Colosseum to the Trevi Fountain lit up in colors of the rainbow, representing the LGBT community, to celebrate the historic decision.
PM: Italy cannot postpone everything
"It's a day of celebration for many. For those who feel finally feel recognized," Renzi said on his official Facebook page.
"For those who had trouble sleeping tonight, for those who for days have wondered where to celebrate, for those who simply couldn't wait anymore," he added.
Renzi made special mention of Alessia Bellini, a Florence councilor, who worked with the prime minister when he presided over the province. Bellini was openly homosexual and died in 2011 after losing her battle with cancer.
"In these decisive hours I keep close to my heart the thought and the memory of Alessia," Renzi said. "And that is enough for me. Because laws are made for people, not for ideology. For who loves, not for who proclaims".
"Let's write a new important page of the Italy that we want. We do it through the confidence vote because further delays were not possible after years of failed attempts. We do it with humility and courage, but we do it now because in Italy it cannot be possible to continue to postpone everything."