Italy is a republic in southern Europe with just over 60 million inhabitants. The country is bounded by the Alps in the north, and by the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea in the south, the Tyrrhenian Sea in the west and the Ligurian Sea in the northwest. The islands of Sicily and Sardinia belong to Italy, as well as a number of other smaller islands. The neighboring countries in the north are France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The largest city in Italy is Rome, which is also the country’s capital.
The Italian peninsula has played a major role in much of European history, such as the center of the Roman Empire, the cradle of the Renaissance and the center of the Catholic Church.
Italy is the country in the world that has the most places on UNESCO’s list of the world’s cultural and natural heritage. The cities of Rome, Florence and Venice are among the world’s most visited tourist destinations.
Throughout history, a number of Europe’s great writers, artists and intellectuals have searched for Italy: Goethe, Byron, Nietzsche, Ibsen and Bjørnson to name a few, and many millions of tourists from around the world follow in their footsteps every year.
Geography and environment
A large part of Italy is covered by mountains. In the Alps there are mountain peaks over 4000 meters, while the Appennine mountain range, which extends throughout the Italian peninsula, has its highest point in Gran Sasso, which is 2914 meters above sea level. Northern Italy south of the Alps is dominated by the large Posletta, which has very favorable agricultural conditions. Italy is located in an earthquake zone, and there are also active volcanoes in the country, such as Mount Vesuvius, Etna and Stromboli.
Animal and plant life is very rich and diverse. There are no countries in Europe that have more species of seed flowers than Italy. The climate is subtropical in the south, with hot and dry summers. In the north, winters can be relatively cold, especially in some parts of the Alps.
People and society
With a population of over 60 million, Italy is one of the most populous countries in Europe ranked by Countryaah. The Italian peninsula has for thousands of years been a melting pot for different peoples: Etruscans, Greeks, Romans, Gauls and Germans have all left their mark in Italy.
The largest population concentrations are found today around the cities of Rome, Milan and Naples. Naples was Italy’s largest city from the Renaissance to the early 1900s. Today Rome is the largest city municipality, but Milan is the biggest if you count on the suburbs. The significant industrialization and economic growth in the north in the period after 1945 has contributed to a large part of the population moving from south to north.
A large majority of the population are Catholics, and the Catholic Church has played an important role in Italy’s history. A small part of the population belongs to Orthodox or Protestant religious communities. In recent times, especially through immigration from North Africa, some Muslims have also come to Italy.
The official language of Italy is Italian. A few regions are bilingual, such as the Valle d’Aosta (Italian and French) and Trentino-Alto Adige (Italian and German ). Otherwise, Slovenian, Albanian, Catalan, Greek, Franco-Provencal and several other have minority status in certain parts of the country. Sardinian, the language of Sardinia, is considered a separate language.
State and politics
Italy has been a republic since 1946. The constitution is from 1948, with amendments from 1993. The legislative power has been added to a two-chamber parliament, with a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. The country’s head of state is the president, who is elected for seven years by an electoral college. Sergio Mattarella is President from February 3, 2015. Prime Minister from June 1, 2018 is the party-less Giuseppe Conte. Foreign Minister from September 5, 2019 is Luigi Di Maio of the Five Star Movement.
There are many political parties in Italy. Throughout the post-war period, coalition governments and frequent change of government have been commonplace. The biggest parties today are Lega Nord, the Five Star Movement and Partito Democratico.
In the period after 1945, Italy has been a driving force in the work for international cooperation. The country joined NATO in 1949, the Council of Europe in 1949, the United Nations in 1955, the European Coal and Steel Fellowship in 1951 and the EEC (later the European Union) in 1958.
The defense consists of the army, navy and air force, in addition to semi-military forces, among them carabinieri. Military duty was abolished in 2005, and military service is voluntary. Italy has participated in several peacekeeping operations around the world.
Il Bosco verticale, the vertical forest, is the name of two residential blocks built in Milan in 2014.
It is believed that the oldest traces of human activity in the Italian peninsula are from ancient Paleolithic times. Stone implements have been found near the town of Isernia in Molise, 700,000 years old, and skeletal remains of Homo erectus and Neanderthal humans have been found elsewhere in the peninsula.
In ancient times, Italy was dominated by several peoples, including Roman ( Latin ), Etruscan, Celestial and Greek. The Roman Empire was based in the city of Rome, which according to tradition must have been founded in 753 BCE. The Romans subjugated the rest of Italy during the period from 400 to 200 BCE, and later also large parts of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
In the period between the fall of the Roman Empire around 400 AD and Italy’s collection in 1861, the Italian peninsula was divided into small states. In 1861 the country was united with Turin as its capital. In 1865 the capital was moved to Florence, and in 1871 to Rome, when the Church State was incorporated into the new kingdom.
Benito Mussolini came to power in 1922, and under his fascist rule Italy became a dictatorship in which opposition parties were banned. Mussolini was executed in 1945 by Italian partisans. In 1946, a scarcely majority of the Italian people voted to abolish the monarchy and to establish a republic. The post-war period was characterized by great economic growth and a significant commitment to international cooperation.
In the post-war period, the Christian Democrats ( Democrazia cristiana) and the Communist Party (Partito Comunista Italiano) were the largest political parties in Italy. In the early 1990s, a major corruption scandal helped to completely change the political landscape. Most of the old political parties were dissolved and new ones emerged. Key politicians in the period after 1994 were Silvio Berlusconi, Romano Prodi, Umberto Bossi and Gianfranco Fini, while Matteo Renzi, Matteo Salvini and Beppe Grillo were among the most central in the period after 2010.
The Senate is located in the Palazzo Madama in Rome, a Renaissance palace built in the late 1400s.
Economy and business
Italy is the world’s eighth largest economy (in 2016) and is a member of the G8 group. The country is industrialized, but industrialization has primarily taken place in Northern Italy. While about 46 percent of the population lives in Northern Italy, 60 percent of the gross domestic product is created there. Unemployment for the entire country was 9.7 per cent in 2018, but it is significantly higher in the south than in the north. As in many other countries, youth unemployment is a major problem, and here too, southern Italy is more severely affected than northern Italy.
The main export markets for Italy are Germany and France, and the main export goods are machinery, appliances, vehicles, clothing, shoes, leather goods and agricultural products.
The tertiary industries account for around 70 per cent of the gross domestic product, and the tourism sector plays a very important role for the Italian economy.
Italy joined NATO in 1949 and the United Nations in 1955. The country has sent soldiers to many international peacekeeping missions around the world. Here a soldier from the parachute brigade Brigata paracadutisti Folgore.
Knowledge and culture
There are many historical monuments in Italy. Here from the Valley of the Temples outside Agrigento in Sicily, where there are several well-preserved Greek temples, most of them dating from the 400s BCE.
There are few countries in the world that have such a rich and diverse cultural history as Italy. The country has for many periods played a very important role in European cultural history in a number of areas, such as in architecture, art, literature, music and film.
Italy has in modern times consolidated its position as a cultural nation. A number of Italian writers, artists, fashion creators, actors and athletes have made their mark on many parts of the world.
Rome and Milan are the main centers of Italian mass media. The state-run TV channel Rai is headquartered in Rome, while the private channels Canale 5, Rete 4 and Italy 1 are headquartered in Milan. They are all owned by the media and communications company Mediaset. The biggest daily newspapers in Italy are Corriere della Sera, which comes out in Milan, and La Repubblica, which comes out in Rome.
The first universities in Europe appeared in Italy in the Middle Ages. The University of Bologna was founded in 1088 and is considered the oldest in the world. La Sapienza University in Rome, with approximately 140,000 students, is Europe’s largest.
It is compulsory schooling in Italy from the age of six to the age of 16.