Italy is a democratic republic. It has been ranked the world's twenty-third most-developed country and its Quality-of-Life Index has been ranked in the top ten in the world.
Situated in Mediterranean Europe, Italy has land frontiers with France in the north-west, Switzerland and Austria in the north, Slovenia in the north-east and Croatia in the Adriatic sea. The peninsula is surrounded by the Ligurian Sea, the Sardinian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea in the west, the Sicilian Sea and the Ionian Sea in the south and the Adriatic Sea in the east.
Italy enjoys a very high standard of living, and has a high nominal GDP per capita. It is a founding member of what is now the European Union and part of the Eurozone. Italy is also a member of the G8, G20 and NATO. It has the world's seventh-largest nominal GDP, tenth highest GDP and the sixth highest government budget in the world. It is also a member state of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Trade Organization, the Council of Europe, the Western European Union and the United Nations.
Area: 116,303 square miles
Population density: 487/sq. mile
Capital: Roma (2,775,000 inhabitants)
• Italy was the cradle of Etruscan then Roman civilisations, and the center of the first and largest empire in Europe, North Africa and the Near East.
• The city of Syracuse in Sicily was once the largest Ancient Greek city in the world.
• The world's largest Christian edifice is the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome.
• Europe's only three active volcanoes, the Etna, the Stromboli and the Vesuvius, are all in the South of Italy. Mount Etna also happens to be the world's most active volcano. It has been in quasi uninterrupted eruption for the past 3500 years, and spewing lava on a daily basis since 1999.
• Two of Europe's smallest countries, San Marino and the Vatican, are enclaved within Italy.
• Italy is the fourth most visited country in the world, with some 40 million foreign visitors annually.
• Italy now has one of the lowest birthrate and fertility rate in the world.
• There are 15 minority languages officially recognised in Italy, including native languages such as Sardinian and Friulian, and neighbouring countries' languages (Catalan, Occitan, French, Slovenian, Croatian, Albanian and Greek)
Italy is located in Southern Europe and comprises the boot-shaped Italian Peninsula and a number of islands including the two largest, Sicily and Sardinia. It lies between latitudes 35° and 48° N, and longitudes 6° and 19° E. Although the country occupies the Italian peninsula and most of the southern Alpine basin, some of Italy's territory extends beyond the Alpine basin and some islands are located outside the Eurasian continental shelf.
The climate of Italy is highly diverse and can be far from the stereotypical Mediterranean climate, depending on location. Most of the inland northern regions of Italy, for example Piedmont, Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna, have a climate variously described as humid continental or temperate. Adriana Rigutti (in Meteorologia, Giunti 2005) states that the climte of the “Po valley region [is] continental ... with harsh winters and hot summers”. The coastal areas of Liguria and most of the peninsula south of Florence generally fit the Mediterranean stereotype (Köppen climate classification Csa). Conditions on peninsular coastal areas can be very different from the interior's higher ground and valleys, particularly during the winter months when the higher altitudes tend to be cold, wet, and often snowy. The coastal regions have mild winters and warm and generally dry summers, although lowland valleys can be quite hot in summer.
Italy took a long time to confront its environmental problems. After several improvements, it now ranks 84th in the world for ecological sustainability. National parks cover about five percent of the country. In the last decade, Italy has became one of the world's largest producers of renewable energy, ranking as the world’s fifth largest solar energy producer in 2009 and the sixth largest producer of wind power in 2008.
However, air pollution remains a severe problem, especially in the industrialised north, reaching the tenth highest level worldwide of industrial carbon dioxide emissions in the 1990s. Italy is the twelfth largest carbon dioxide producer. Extensive traffic and congestion in the largest metropolitan areas continue to cause severe environmental and health issues, even if smog levels have decreased dramatically since the 1970s and 80s, and the presence of smog is becoming an increasingly rarer phenomenon and levels of sulphur dioxide are decreasing.
14 volcanoes in Italy
The country is situated at the meeting point of the Eurasian Plate and the African Plate, leading to considerable seismic and volcanic activity. There are 14 volcanoes in Italy, three of which are active: Etna (the traditional site of Vulcan’s smithy), Stromboli and Vesuvius. Vesuvius is the only active volcano in mainland Europe and is most famous for the destruction of Pompeii and Herculanum. Several islands and hills have been created by volcanic activity, and there is still a large active caldera, the Campi Flegrei north-west of Naples.
City of Vatican
Vatican is the smallest state in the world, based in Rome in Italy. Vatican city (Citta del Vaticano), the papal residence, is a sovereign state within a state was quaranteed by the Lateran Treaty of 1929, marked by the building of a new road, the Via della Conciliazione. This leads from huge St Peter's basilica to Castel Sant' Angelo, a monument to a far grimmer past.
Inside the Vatican city we can find 11 Vatican Museums with the restored Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, and Vatican Gardens, an enchanted place, a system of large and small gardens, fountain, fish pool and enclousure for rabbits. They date back to medieval times when vineyards and orchards extended to the north of the Apostolic Palace.
The politics of Italy take place in a framework of a parliamentary, democratic republic, and of a multi-party system. Italy has been a democratic republic since 2 June 1946, when the monarchy was abolished by popular referendum and the Italian Republic is born. The constitution was promulgated on 1 January 1948.
The President of the Italian Republic is elected for seven years by the parliament sitting jointly with a small number of regional delegates. As the head of state, the President of the Republic represents the unity of the nation and has many of the duties previously given to the King of Italy. The president serves as a point of connection between the three branches of power: he is elected by the lawmakers, he appoints the executive, he is the president of the judiciary and he is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
The electoral system for the Senate is based upon regional representation. As of 17 August 2010 there are six senator for life (of which two are former Presidents). Both houses are elected for a maximum of five years, but both may be dissolved by the President before the expiration of their normal term if the Parliament is unable to elect a stable government. In post-war history, this has happened in 1972, 1976, 1979, 1983, 1994, 1996, and 2008.
Roman Catholicism is by far the largest religion in the country, although the Catholic Church is no longer officially the state religion. The proportion of Italians that identify themselves as Roman Catholic is 87.8%, although only about one-third of these described as active members (36.8%).
More from Italy