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
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
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
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.
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
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.
Electricity (voltage) - 230 V, 50 Hz, plug
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