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ItalyThe Italian Republic or Italy is a country in southern Europe. It comprises a boot-shaped peninsula and two large islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia, and shares its northern alpine boundary with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The independent countries of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within Italian territory.
As we hiked in the mountains, we were drawn by the tinkling sound of cowbells to a meadow where we came upon a breathtaking vista: a cluster of velvet-brown cows grazing among wildflowers, with the rugged limestone peaks of the Dolomites in the background. And just as entrancing as the view was the smell of freshly cooked pasta wafting our way from a rifugio, a traditional alpine shelter offering protection from sudden storms, hearty rustic fare and, in this case, a bed for the night. There, perched along a steep cliff at the edge of the meadow, we were soon seated at a table on the balcony, taking in the view along with one of the best meals we've ever had.
That kind of total sensory experience, as much as Italy's better-known wonders of art and architecture, reveals what is so fascinating about the country. A visit to Italy is a lesson in living well. Open-air vegetable and fruit markets, neighborhood bakeries and fresh cheeses made daily are fixtures of Italian life. Tradition reigns: Neighbors still meet in the piazza to discuss the day, laundry is still line-dried, even in the largest of cities, and the passeggiata (leisurely stroll) is still made in the evening air -- preferably with a gelato in hand. From the mountains to the coasts, the emphasis is on simple pleasures and high quality.
Capital and largest city - Rom.
Official language - Italian, but Italy has many more languages than just Italian. Some counts put the number of living languages spoken in Italy is 33, including Cimbrian, Sardinian, Neapolitan, Piemontese, Sicilian, etc.


Italy has shaped the cultural and social development of the whole Mediterranean area. Important cultures and civilisations have existed there since prehistoric times, and archaeological sites of note can be found in many regions: Latium, Tuscany, Umbria and Basilicata. After Magna Graecia, the Etruscan civilization and especially the Roman Empire that dominated this part of the world for many centuries, Italy was central to European philosophy, science and art during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Modern Italy became a nation-state belatedly — on March 17, 1861, when most of the states of the peninsula and the Two Sicilies were united under king Victor Emmanuel II of the Savoy dynasty, hitherto king of Sardinia, a realm that included Piedmont. The architect of Italian unification was Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, the Chief Minister of Victor Emmanuel. Rome itself remained for a decade under the Papacy, and became part of the Kingdom of Italy only on September 20, 1870, the final date of Italian unification. The Vatican is now an independent enclave surrounded by Italy, as is San Marino.
The Fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini that took over in 1922 led to the alliance with Germany and other Axis Powers and ultimately Italy's defeat in World War II.
On June 2, 1946, a referendum on the monarchy resulted in the establishment of the Italian republic, which led to the adoption of a new constitution on January 1, 1948. Male members of the royal family were sent into exile because of their association with the fascist regime, and were only allowed to return to their country in 2002.
Italy was a charter member of NATO and the European Union, and hence joined the growing political and economic unification of Western Europe, including the introduction of the Euro in 1999.
The name Italy (Italia) is an ancient name for the country and people of Southern Italy. Coins bearing the name Italy were minted by an alliance of Italic tribes (Sabines, Samnites, Umbrians and other) competing with Rome in the first century B.C. By the time of emperor Augustus approximately the present territory of Italy was included in Italia as the central unit of the Empire; Cisalpine Gaul, the Upper Po valley, for example was appended in 42 B.C. Ever since, "Italy" or "Italian" was the collective name for diverse states appearing on the peninsula and their overseas properties. Italy is one of the few modern countries bearing a name of such long tradition.

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ItalyItaly consists predominantly of a large peninsula with a distinctive boot shape that extends into the Mediterranean Sea, where together with its two main islands Sicily and Sardinia it creates distinct bodies of water, such as the Adriatic Sea to the north-east, the Ionian Sea to the south-east, the Tyrrhenian Sea to the south-west and finally the Ligurian Sea to the north-west.
The Apennine mountains form the backbone of this peninsula, leading north-west to where they join the Alps, the mountain range that then forms an arc enclosing Italy from the north. Here is also found a large alluvial plain, the Po-Venetian plain, drained by the Po River and its many tributaries flowing down from the Alps, Apennines and Dolomites. Other well-known rivers include the Tiber, Adige and Arno.
Its highest point is Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) at 4,810 m, but Italy is more typically associated with two famous volcanoes: the currently dormant Vesuvius near Naples and the very active Etna on Sicily.


Italy is largely homogeneous in language and religion but is diverse culturally, economically, and politically. Italy has the fifth-highest population density in Europe at 196 persons per square kilometre. Indigenous minority groups are small.

Although Roman Catholicism is the majority religion (85% of native-born citizens are nominally Catholic) there are mature Protestant and Jewish communities and a growing Muslim (see: Islam in Italy) immigrant community.


ItalyWith more than 39,8 million tourists a year Italy is the fourth most visited country in the world, behind France (77), Spain (51,7) and United States (41,9). There are famous places like Venice, Florence, Siena, Milan, Naples or Rome, each with a rich cultural heritage from the Roman Empire. Famous objects are the ruins of Pompei, the Capitole, vineyards in Tuscany, Sicily with Mt. Etna, the coastline of the Adriatic Sea or the Alps.
As a country, Italy offers many different faces, both culturally and geographically. The far north has many German speaking areas, popular destinations for skiing in the winter and walking during spring and summer. The Italian Lakes attract large numbers of visitors yearly, Tuscany (Toscana) and Umbria have been popular destinations for centuries, as has the Amalfi coast.
Puglia (Apulia) and Calabria in the south serve up a very different atmosphere to the north, with centuries of occupation and settlement leaving behind traces of many, many cultures and civilisations. Ditto Sicily (Sicilia). These areas, along with less visited ones such as Marche, Emilia-Romagna and Liguria are likely to offer better bargains for the visitor to Italy.
If you happen to tour Italy during the summer months please make sure you bring light, airy clothing - the temperatures are usually high, but it is the humidity that can often be debilitating.
Italy has some of the Worlds most ancient tourist resorts, dating back to the time of the Roman Republic, when destinations such as Pompeii, Naples, Capri and especially Baiae were popular with the rich of Roman society.

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