This article analyses the case of Italy and how the memory of World War II came to provide the ground for political legitimacy and the ideological foundations of post-war democracy. It focuses on the topos of the Resistance against Fascism as a ‘second Risorgimento’, e.g. a national and patriotic war of liberation supported by the entire populace. The article argues that the process of memory formation of the Resistance as a ‘second Risorgimento’ during the period of transition from Fascism to democracy shares the defining features of a rite of passage in the sense originally introduced by Arnold Van Gennep. The article develops a conceptual approach that brings together social science approaches to liminality, transition, and memory studies. Advancing a processual approach to memory formation, the article thus offers an alternative to the still dominant functionalist-presentist approaches to memory, heavily influenced by Durkheim society since the pioneering work of Halbwachs.