Italy

Useful informations
LocationIn the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, in southern Europe
NeighborhoodLigurian Sea, Tyrrhenian Sea, Ionian Sea, Adriatic Sea, France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia.
Area301,338 km2
Density201,3 persons per km2
CapitalRome
CurrencyEuro (EUR; €)

The country also has 2 enclaves on its territory: the Republic of San Marino and the small state of Vatican. Due to its shape, it is often referred to in Italy as “lo Stivale” (the Boot).

Italy’s anthem is called “Il canto degli Italiani” which translates to “The Song of the Italians”. The country is organized as a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic and has a total population of 60.674.003 persons. Other important Italian citizens can be found in countries like Brazil (some 22 million), Argentina (about 25 million), United States (17.222.412), France (about 200.000) or Canada (1.488.425). The official currency in Italy is Euro (EUR).

Italy has the third largest economy in the Eurozone and the eighth largest economy in the world. It has a very high level of human development and enjoys the highest life expectancy in the EU. Italy plays a prominent role in regional and global military, cultural and diplomatic affairs and is often defined by analysts as an “intermittent great power” or “the least of the great powers”. Italy is a founding and leading member of the European Union and the member of numerous international institutions, including the UN, NATO, the OECD, the OSCE, the WTO, the G7/G8, G20, the Union for the Mediterranean, the Council of Europe, Uniting for Consensus, and many more. As a reflection of its vast cultural wealth, Italy is home to 51 World Heritage Sites, the most in the world, and is one of the most visited countries. Italy’s national day or “Festa della Republica” is celebrated on 2 June every year.

Flag of Italy (“bandiera d’Italia”, often referred to “Il Tricolore” in Italian) is a tricolor with three equal vertical bands, coloured in the following order from the flagpole green, white and red. In its current form, it was used since 19 June 1946 and was officially adopted on 1 January 1948.

The ancient peoples of pre-Roman Italy, like the Umbers, Latins (which would underpin the Roman civilization) Volsci, Samnites, and Ligures, who lived in the north of Italy, and many others, were Indo-European people. The main people who were not of Indo-European origin were the Etruscans, Elim and Sicani of Sicily, as well as the prehistoric Sardinians. Between the 17th century and the 11th century BC, the Mycenaean Greeks established contacts with Italy, and in the 8th and 7th centuries BC, Greek colonies were established along the coasts of Sicily and of southern Italian Peninsula, a territory that has been called as Magna Graecia. The Phoenicians established colonies on the coasts of Sardinia and Sicily.

Julius Caesar, was a Roman politician, general, and notable author of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. In 60 BC, Caesar, Crassus, and Pompei formed a political alliance that dominated Roman politics for several years.

These achievements granted him unmatched military power and threatened to eclipse the standing of Pompey, who had realigned himself with the Senate after the death of Crassus in 53 BC. With the Gallic Wars concluded, the Senate ordered Caesar to step down from his military command and return to Rome. Caesar refused the order, and instead marked his defiance in 49 BC by crossing the Rubicon with a legion, leaving his province and illegally entering Roman Italy under arms. Civil war resulted, and Caesar’s victory in the war put him in an unrivaled position of power and influence.

After the fall of the Western Empire Roman, Italy was conquered by the Ostrogoths, followed by a brief reconquest of Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the late 6th century. The invasion of another Germanic tribe, the Lombards, at the end of the same century, reduced the Byzantine presence to a few isolated territorial fragments (like the Exarchate of Ravenna) and led to the beginning of the end of the political unity of the peninsula for the next 1.300 years.

In the south, Sicily had become a flourishing Islamic emirate in the early 9th century, until it was conquered by the Italo-Normans in the late 11th century, with the help of the Lombard and Byzantine principalities of southern Italy. Through a complex string of events, southern Italy developed as a unitary kingdom, first under the Hohenstaufen dynasty, and then under the Capetian House of Anjou and starting from the 15th century, under the dynasty of Aragon.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, central and northern Italy was divided into several warring city-states, the rest of the peninsula being occupied by the Papal States and the Kingdom of Sicily, later called the Kingdom of Naples. The strongest of these city-states were absorbing the surrounding territories giving rise to regional states, which were often run by powerful families of merchants that were set up by the local dynasties. Wars between the city-states were very common, and were held mainly with the help of armed mercenaries called “Condottieri”, bands of soldiers brought in from all over Europe, especially Germany and Switzerland, having Italian commanders in charge.

The Albertine statute of Piemonte from 1848, extended to the whole Kingdom of Italy in 1861 and gave its citizens basic freedoms, but the electoral laws excluded from voting the uneducated classes. The governing of the new kingdom was done in the context of a constitutional monarchy, dominated by liberal forces. In 1913, the universal suffrage for men was adopted. Northern Italy has quickly industrialized, but southern Italy and the rural areas of the north remained underdeveloped and overpopulated, forcing millions of people to emigrate abroad, while the Socialist Italian Party Italian was constantly increasing its strength, contesting the traditional liberal and conservative establishment. Since the last two decades of the 19th century, Italy has transformed into a colonial power, taking advantage of the dying Ottoman Empire’s weaknesses and taking control of Somalia, Eritrea and then Libya and the Dodecanese Islands.

Italy, nominally allied with the German Empire and Austria-Hungary in the Triple Alliance, refused to enter in the First World War in 1914 on their part, because they believed that the alliance is a defensive one. Finally, in 1915, Italy joined the Entente after it was promised important territories, including the Carniola Interior, the former Austrian littoral, Dalmatia and parts of the Ottoman Empire. Italy’s participation hasn’t brought the desired results at the beginning, the Italian army being bogged down in a prolonged attrition war in the Alps, moving forward very little and suffering heavy losses.

During the war, more than 650.000 Italian soldiers and as many civilians died, and the Kingdom has reached the brink of bankruptcy. In the peace treaties of Saint-Germain, Rapallo and Rome, Italy obtained much of the promised territories, except for Dalmatia (they received only the Zara territory), which allowed the nationalists to describe the victory as a “mutilated” one. Italy annexed the Fiume port from Hungary, which wasn’t part of the promised territories at London, but it was occupied after the end of the war by Gabriele D’Annunzio.

In 1935, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia, thus isolating the country on the international stage and withdrawing it from the League of Nations. As a result, Italy has allied with Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire and supported Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, Italy annexed Albania, which was de facto an Italian protectorate since its independence. Italy entered World War II on 10 June 1940. After Italy went forward and conquered the British Somaliland and Egypt, the Italians suffered heavy defeats, losing their best divisions in Greece, Russia and North Africa.

In the early 1990’s, Italy faced significant challenges. The voters were dissatisfied by the political paralysis, the massive government debt and endemic corruption (a system called “Tangentopoli” was discovered by the “Mani pulite” investigations), demanded radical reforms. The scandals involved all major parties, but especially those in the ruling coalition: the Christian Democrats, who ruled for almost 50 years, went through a serious crisis. The party was abolished and it broke into several factions.

In the decades of 1990 and 2000, center-right (dominated by media magnate, Silvio Berlusconi) and center-left (headed by Professor Romano Prodi) governments alternated. The country entered into a prolonged period of economic stagnation. In 2008, Italy has been hit by recession, recording from 2008 to 2015 approximately 42 months of GDP contraction. The economic crisis was one of the main problems that forced Berlusconi to resign in 2011.

The government of the conservative Prime Minister was replaced by Mario Monti’s technocrat office. In April 2013, after general elections, Deputy Secretary of the Democratic Party, Enrico Letta formed a new government at the head of a national unity coalition, but after tensions with the new secretary of the Democratic Party, Matteo Renzi, Letta resigned on 14 February 2014 and was replaced on 22 February with Renzi, who announced that he would promote important constitutional reforms, such as the shift to a unicameral parliament and a new electoral law.

Landforms

The Italian geographical region is divided into mainland Italy, peninsular and insular, and it is linked to the European continent by the Alps. Thanks to its location, it ideally represents a bridge towards Asia and Africa. Italy also separates the western basin of the Mediterranean Sea from the central one, in fact, the Tyrrhenian Sea from the Ionian Sea. To the north of Salento, the long and narrow inlet of the Adriatic Sea pushes towards the Italian peninsula. The island of Sardinia divides the Tyrrhenian Sea from the Sardinian Sea. The Italian coasts are stretching on over 7.456 km and have various shapes (cliffs, sandy, stony and so on).

The Italian soil, mostly anthropic, has various features (volcanic, limestone and so on). The average altitude of the area is about 337 m. The mountain ranges are stretching on a good part of the country. To Italy, it belong a large part of the southern side of the Alpine system, for a length of about 1.000 km. The highest peaks are located in the Western Alps, where there are numerous peaks over 4.000 meters including Matterhorn (Monte Cervino) (4.478 m), Monte Rosa (4.634 m) and Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) (4.810 m), Europe’s highest mountain. Only a quarter of the Italian territory consists of plains.  The Po Plain, an alluvial expanse formed by the Po River and its tributaries is the largest of all. Following in size are the Tavoliere delle Puglie and Salento plains, two upheaval plains, and the Campidano, another alluvial plain.

The largest islands of Italy are Sicily and Sardinia. There are many smaller islands, mostly gathered in archipelagos, such as: the Tuscan archipelago, which contains the island of Elba, the Archipelago of Maddalena, the archipelago Campano, which includes the islands of Ischia and Capri, the Pontine islands , the Pelagie islands, Aeolian, Egadi and the Tremiti islands. In Italy there are many volcanoes: the most well-known are Etna (3.343 m), the highest volcano in Europe, Mount Vesuvius and Stromboli.

Italy has the benefit of several mountain ranges, with snowfields and glaciers, lakes and springs, and thus, it is rich in waterways. In general, given the layout and the altitude of the mountains, the longer rivers with wider range belong to the Alpine region and the Apennine rivers, with the exception of the Tiber and Arno, run for a short range and are torrential.

Climate

The Italian region is located almost in the center of the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere. The climate is strongly influenced by the seas that surround it almost from each side and which constitutes a beneficial reservoir of heat and humidity. According to the Köppen classification, Italy is divided into three types of climate (temperate, cold and cool temperate), which in turn are divided into micro-climates: it goes from the mild subtropical climate (present in coastal areas of Sicily, Southern Sardinia and central and southern Calabria) to the glacial climate (typical for the highest peaks of the Alps covered with perpetual snow, at altitudes generally above 3.500 meters).

Thanks to the great longitudinal extension of the peninsula and the mostly mountainous internal conformation, the climate of Italy is highly diverse.

Flora

The natural vegetation of the Italian territory consists of the forest that spreads throughout the country except on the highest peaks of the snow line, and in the arid areas of the Sicilian islands, as well as in areas closest to the sea. The Italian forests are heavily exploited for forestry which takes the form of coppicing for the oak wood (mainly producing firewood) and chestnut (for the production of poles) while beech and conifers are considered as high forest. Geobotanically, the Italian flora is shared between the Circumboreal Region and Mediterranean Region. According to the index compiled by the Italian Ministry for the Environment in 2001, 274 vascular plant species are protected.

The species of plants present in Italy belong to the flora of the continental Europe or to the Mediterranean flora. We can distinguish in some cases Western species (hornbeam, limited to Western Europe) and eastern species (the oriental hornbeam, present in Eastern Europe).

Fauna

The Checklist of the Species of the Italian Fauna includes 4777 endemic animal species. Unique Mammals include the Corsican hare, the Sardinian long-eared bat, the Apennine shrew, the Udine shrew the Calabria pine vole and the Sardinian deer. Endemic amphibians and reptiles include the spectacled salamander, the Sardinian cave salamander, the Italian cave salamander, the Monte Albo cave salamander, the Sardinian brook newt, the Italian newt, the Italian frog, the Apennine yellow-bellied toad, the Sicilian green toad, the Aeolian wall lizard, the Sicilian wall lizard, the Italian Aesculapian snake, and the Sicilian pond turtle.

A notable species is the European owl moth found only in Southern Italy. There are 102 mammal species in Italy. Some of the species are Alpine Marmot, forest dormouse, Etruscan shrew (the smallest mammal in the world), European snow vole, and Schreiber’s long-fingered bat. Notable large mammals are the Eurasian lynx, Italian wolf, Marsican brown bear, Pyrenean chamois, Alpine ibex, common genet, axis deer, mouflon, rough-toothed dolphin and Mediterranean monk seal.

Italy has recorded 516 bird species. Notable birds are the hoopoe, roller, white-backed woodpecker, black woodpecker, European green woodpecker, Alpine chough, snow finch, rock partridge, Bonelli’s eagle, goshawk, eagle owl, lammergeier, Egyptian vulture, griffon vulture, collared pratincole, glossy ibis, spoonbill, Allen’s gallinule, great bustard, trumpeter finch, rosy starling, great spotted cuckoo, woodchat shrike, bluethroat and Eurasian nightjar.

Language

Italian the official language of Italy and it is a Romance language. It is the second-closest to Latin in terms of vocabulary after Sardinian. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City and Istria (in Slovenia and Croatia). It used to have official status in Albania, Malta and Monaco, where it is still widely spoken, as well as in former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa regions where it plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and by small minorities in places such as Crimea, France (especially in Corsica), Montenegro and Tunisia. Many speakers are native bilinguals of both standardized Italian and other regional languages.

Religion

Roman Catholicism is by far the largest religion in the country, although Catholicism is no longer the official state religion. In 2010, the percentage of Italians who identified themselves as Roman Catholics was 81.2%. According to the 2012 Global Religious Landscape survey, 83.3% of Italy’s residents are Christians, 12,4% are irreligious, atheist or agnostic, 3,7% are Muslims and 0,6% adhere to other religions.

The headquarters of the 1,2 billion strong Catholic Church, the State of Vatican City (Holy See), is an enclave within the city of Rome and, thus, the Italian territory. The Church’s world leader, the Pope, is the Bishop of Rome, hence the special relationship between Italians and the Church, and the latter’s entanglement with Italian politics (through the Lateran Treaty).

World Heritage

On UNESCO’s list there can be found 47 cultural objectives and 4 natural objectives in Italy:

Cultural Objectives:

  • 18th Century Royal Palace at Caserta with the Park, the Aqueduct of Vanvitelli, and the San Leucio Complex
  • Sacri Monti of Piemonte and Lombardy
  • Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale
  • Archaeological Area and the Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia
  • Archaeological Area of Agrigento
  • Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata
  • Assisi, the Basilica of San Francesco and Other Franciscan Sites
  • Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico), Padova
  • Castel del Monte
  • Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena
  • Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie with “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci
  • Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park with the Archeological Sites of Paestum and Velia, and the Certosa di Padula
  • City of Verona
  • City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto
  • Costiera Amalfitana
  • Crespi d’Adda
  • Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna
  • Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia
  • Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta
  • Genoa: Le Strade Nuove and the system of the Palazzi dei Rolli
  • Historic Centre of Florence
  • Historic Centre of Napoli
  • Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura
  • Historic Centre of San Gimignano
  • Historic Centre of Siena
  • Historic Centre of the City of Pienza
  • Historic Centre of Urbino
  • Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (South-Eastern Sicily)
  • Longobards in Italy. Places of the Power (568-774 A.D.)
  • Mantova and Sabbioneta
  • Medici Villas and Gardens in Tuscany
  • Piazza del Duomo, Pisa
  • Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto)
  • Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps
  • Residences of the Royal House of Savoy
  • Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes
  • Rock Drawings in Valcamonica
  • Su Nuraxi di Barumini
  • Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica
  • The Trulli of Alberobello
  • The Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera
  • Val d’Orcia
  • Venice and its Lagoon
  • Villa Adriana (Tivoli)
  • Villa d’Este, Tivoli
  • Villa Romana del Casale
  • Vineyard Landscape of Piemonte: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato

Natural Objectives:

  • Isole Eolie (Aeolian Islands)
  • Monte San Giorgio
  • Mount Etna
  • The Dolomites

 

Demographics

The population of Italy almost doubled during the 20th century, but the pattern of growth was extremely uneven due to large-scale internal migration from the rural South to the industrial cities of the North, a phenomenon which happened as a consequence of the Italian economic miracle of the 1950-1960’s. In addition, after centuries of net emigration, from the 1980’s, Italy has experienced large-scale immigration for the first time in modern history. According to the Italian government, there were an estimated 5.000.073 foreign nationals resident in Italy.

The most densely populated areas are the Valley of Po (where nearly half of the population lives) and the metropolitan areas of Rome and Napoli, while some vast regions such as the Alps and the Apennines, the plateaus of Basilicata and Sardinia, are very thinly populated.

About 68% of Italian population is classified as urban, a relatively low figure among developed countries.

Economy

Italy has a capitalist mixed economy, the 3rd largest in the Eurozone and 8th in the world. The country is a founding member of the G7, G8, OECD and Euro zone.

Italy is considered to be one of the most industrialized countries in the world and a leader in world trade and exports. It is a very developed country, ranked 8th in the world in quality of life and 25th after the Human Development Index. Despite the recent global crisis, the GDP per capita of Italy remains roughly equal to the EU average, and the unemployment rate (12,6%) is slightly higher than the Euro area average. The country is known for its creative and innovative business, for a large agricultural and competitive sector (Italy is the largest producer of wines), and for its influence and high quality of the automotive industry, machine building, food and fashion design.

Italy is the 6th country in the world regarding industrial production, characterized by the presence of a smaller number of multinational corporations than other economies of comparable size and a large number of small and medium companies, crowded in some industrial districts which represent the backbone of the Italian industry. Together they form a sector of the manufacturing industry, often focused on exports in niche markets and luxury goods, meaning on the one hand that Italy is less able regarding the competitiveness of quantity, but on the other hand more able to cope with higher quality products competition coming from China and emerging Asian economies which are based on the low cost of labor.

Transportation

A major part of the Italian rail network is managed and operated by Ferrovie dello Stato, a state owned company. Other regional agencies, mostly owned by public entities such as regional governments, operate on the Italian network. The Italian railways are subsidised by the government, receiving 8.1 billion € in 2009.

Italy is the world’s first country to establish a High-speed rail network. In 1967, the Bologna-Florence high-speed line, with speeds up to 230 km/h.

The Bologna-Florence high-speed line was upgraded to 300 km/h and the current journey time is 35 minutes. A new high-speed line linking Milan and Torino, operating at 300 km/h, opened to passenger traffic in 2009, reducing the journey time from 2 hours to 1 hour.

Italy has 2.400 km of navigable waterways for various types of commercial traffic, although of limited overall value. In the northern regions of Lombardy and Venice, commuter ferry boats operate on Lake Garda and Lake Como to connect towns and villages at both sides of the lakes.

Italy is the 5th in Europe by number of passengers by air transport, with about 148 million passengers or about 10% of the European total in 2011. Most of passengers in Italy are on international flights, about 57%. A big share of domestic flights connect the major islands (Sardegna and Sicily) to the mainland.

There are long-distance intercity buses run by local companies, but the services are infrequent during the week and usually provide a secondary link to railway services. Italy does not have a nationwide bus operator. However, in 2015, the British company Megabus launched daily intercity bus services on several domestic routes.

The Metro misses much of the city centre and even when Line C finally arrives in the city centre compared with other major cities like Paris and London it will have limited coverage of the very centre of Rome. Travelling by Metro is not the pleasant fast transit it should be. Stations aren’t very clean often, graffiti is a real problem, so much so that sometimes you can’t see out the windows of the Metro trains particularly hard hit with graffiti. The system is also very crowded.

People

Discover some of the most popular persons who live / lived in Italy.

Antonio Vivaldi

Antonio Vivaldi

He is recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread across Europe. He is known mainly for composing many instrumental concertos, for the violin and a variety of other instruments, as well as sacred choral works and more than forty operas. His best known work is a […]

Giusepe Verdi

Giuseppe Verdi

Verdi was born near Busseto to a provincial family of moderate means, and developed a musical education with the help of a local patron. Verdi came to dominate the Italian opera scene after the era of Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini, whose works significantly influenced him, becoming one of the pre-eminent opera composers in history. His […]

Michelangelo Buonarroti

Michelangelo Buonarroti

Was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer of the High Renaissance who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. Considered to be the greatest living artist during his lifetime, he has since also been described as one of the greatest artists of all time. Despite making few forays beyond the […]

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Culinary

Discover some of the traditional receips from Italy.

Limoncello

Limoncello

Is an Italian lemon liqueur mainly produced in Southern Italy, especially in the region around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula and the coast of Amalfi, and islands of Procida, Ischia, and Capri. It is also produced in Abruzzo, Basilicata, Apulia, Sicily, Sardinia, Menton in France, and the Maltese island of Gozo. In northern […]

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Ingredients: 500g Italian Savoiardi ladyfingers 500g mascarpone 4 eggs 8 tablespoons sugar 6 tablespoons milk 2 small bags of vanilla sugar 250 ml coffee 3 tablespoons of amaretto Powdered cocoa   Steps: Separate the eggs. Mix the egg yolks with sugar and powdered sugar then beat the composition with a mixer until they lighten and […]

Torta del Nonna

Torta del Nonna

Ingredients: For the dough: 350g flour 1 egg 1 egg yolk A pinch of salt 8g baking powder 120g butter 170g sugar For the cream: 750 ml milk Zest from 1/2 lemon Vanilla essence 8 egg yolks 200g sugar 50g of food starch Other ingredients: 40g pine nuts 2-3g powdered sugar   Steps: For the […]

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