Italy occupies a long, boot-shaped peninsula, it is home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, ranked as the fifth major tourist destination in the world.
Italy did not exist as a state until the country's unification in 1861. The creation of the Kingdom of Italy was the result of the efforts by Italian nationalists and monarchists loyal to the House of Savoy to establish a united kingdom encompassing the entire Italian Peninsula. It became a Republic after a referendum held on June 2, 1946, a day celebrated since as Republic Day.
A large country in Southern Europe, it is home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, art and monuments are everywhere. It is also famous worldwide for its cuisine, its fashion, luxury sports cars and motorcycles, as well as for its beautiful coasts, lakes and mountains. Italy is a volcanically active country, containing the only active volcano, Etna, the second-largest active volcano in Europe, as well as the Vesuvius, famous for destroying the city of Pompeii.
The land known as Italy today has been the cradle of European cultures and peoples, such as the Etruscans and the Romans. Italy's capital, Rome, was for centuries the political center of Western civilization, as the capital of the Roman Empire. After its decline, Italy would endure numerous invasions by foreign peoples, from Germanic tribes, to the Normans and later, the Byzantines, among others. Centuries later, Italy would become the birthplace of the Renaissance, an intellectual movement that would prove to be integral in shaping the subsequent course of European thought. Through much of its post-Roman history, Italy was fragmented into numerous kingdoms and city-states, but was unified in 1861. In the late 19th century, through World War I, and to World War II, Italy possessed a colonial empire, which extended its rule to Libya, Eritrea, Italian Somaliland, Ethiopia, Albania, Rhodes, and a concession in Tianjin, China.
You are always a relatively short distance from a beach in Italy, but when you get there you might be rather confused, especially if you come from a country where beach access is free to all. In theory that is the case but a lot of things in this country the practice may be somewhat different to the law. Many stretches of beach, particularly those close to urban areas, are let out to private concessions, covering almost all the beach with rows and rows of sunbeds (lettini) and umbrellas (ombrelloni). You should be able to pass through these establishments to get to the sea, and should be able to walk along the sea in front of them, but you may be prevented from doing so. Topless women are more or less accepted everywhere but nudity is limited to certain beaches, but mostly non-existent. These are unlikely to be announced, so you will have to be guided by what others are doing.
In general my overall opinion of Italy is a nation rich in culture and history with plenty to amuse anyone. However, it does have limitations regarding ones freedoms and not the most 'open' liberal and accepting nations, mostly governed by the church and the influence of the Vatican, but saying that, what the people practice doesn't always follow the ways of the nation, but usually behind closed doors.
Italy's capital Rome was for centuries the center of Western civilization, it also spawned the Baroque movement and seats the Catholic Church.Venice
Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it stretches across 118 small islands in the marshy Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea in northeast Italy.Catania
Located on the east coast of the island of Sicily, at the foot of the active volcano Mount Etna. Baroque buildings and churches, volcanic rock beaches, markets and streets littered and marked by graffiti.Taormina
A small town on the east coast of the island of Sicily, a popular tourist destination since the 19th century. The site of the old town is about 300 meters above the sea.
Beware. You may get effected with the Florence Syndrome when you visit, there is no where else on earth that has as much art and culture as Florence has on offer. If you love art, Florence is a feast for the eyes!Pisa
Beware. You may get effected with the Florence Syndrome when you visit, there is no where else on earth that has as much art and culture as Florence has on offer. If you love art, Florence is a feast for the eyes!Siena (Sienna)
A picturesque city medieval city in the region of Tuscany, located in the north of Italy some 70 km south of Florence, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and famous for the Palio, a traditional horse race from the 11th century held twice annually in the town square.San Gimignano
Excavations throughout Italy reveal a modern human presence dating back to the Paleolithic period, some 200,000 years ago In the 8th and 7th centuries BC Greek colonies were established all along the coast of Sicily and the southern part of the Italian Peninsula, leaving a lasting imprint in Italy and particularly on the culture of ancient Rome.
Ancient Rome was at first a small agricultural community founded circa the 8th century BC that grew over the course of the centuries into a colossal empire encompassing the whole Mediterranean Sea and as far north as Scotland, in which Ancient Greek and Roman cultures merged into one civilization, so influential that parts of it survive in modern law, administration, philosophy and arts, forming the ground that Western civilization is based upon.
Its decline began in the 2nd century AD, and the empire finally broke into two parts, the Western Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire in the East. In the 6th century AD a Germanic tribe, the Lombards, arrived from the north; hence the present-day northern region of Lombardy. The balance of power between them and other invaders such as the Byzantines, Arabs, and Muslim, with the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy meant that it was not possible to unify Italy. In the south the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, a result of unification of the Kingdom of Sicily with the Kingdom of Naples in 1442, had its capital in Naples. In the north Italy was a collection of small independent city states and kingdoms and would remain so until the 19th century. This is how dynasties such as the Medici in Florence developed, these families became patrons of the arts, allowing Italy to become the birthplace of the Renaissance, with the emergence of men of genius such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
The Renaissance was so called because it was a "rebirth" of many classical ideas that had long been buried in the chapters of classical Antiquity. The fuel for this rebirth was the rediscovery of ancient texts that had been almost 'forgotten' by Western civilization, but were preserved in some monastic libraries or private libraries of powerful and wealthy patrons, such as the Medici family in Florence. Translations of Greek and Arabic texts into Latin from the Islamic world that found their way into Italy and contributed to the Italian/European Renaissance.
Rome was also a city particularly affected by the Renaissance, this period of reform changed the city's face dramatically. Rome reached the highest point of splendour under Pope Julius II (1503?1513) and his successors Leo X and Clement VII, both members of the Medici family. In this twenty-years period Rome became one of the greatest centres of art in the world. The old St. Peter's Basilica built by Emperor Constantine the Great, was re-built mainly by Michelangelo, who in Rome became one the most famous painters of Italy.
After a century where the fragmented system of Italian states and principalities were able to maintain a relative independence and a balance of power in the peninsula, in 1494 the French king Charles VIII opened the first of a series of invasions, a competition between France and Spain for the possession of the country, ultimately Spain prevailed and for almost two centuries became the authority in Italy. Austria succeeded Spain as rulers in Italy in 1713, having acquired the State of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples. The northern part of Italy, under the direct control of Vienna, gained economic nd intellectual fervour.
The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars of 1796?1815 stirred the ideas of equality, democracy, law and nation which many in Italy endorsed and even supported as the basis on which they could and eventually would build national unity in Italy.
The creation of the Kingdom of Italy was the result of efforts by Italian nationalists and monarchists loyal to the House of Savoy to establish a united kingdom encompassing the entire Italian Peninsula. In 1848 liberal revolutions swept through Europe, war was declared on Austria. The northern kingdom successfully challenged the Austrians and established Turin as capital of the newly formed state.
In 1870, as France abandoned its positions in Rome, Italy rushed to fill the power gap by taking over the Papal State from French sovereignty. Italian unification finally was achieved, and shortly afterwards Italy's capital was moved to Rome. The Kingdom of Italy lasted from 1861 to 1946.
A small National Fascist Party led by Benito Mussolini attempted a coup with its "March on Rome" in October 1922, which resulted in the King forming an alliance with Mussolini. A pact with Germany was concluded by Mussolini in 1936, and 1938. During the Second World War Italy was invaded by the Allies in June 1943, leading to the collapse of the fascist regime and the arrest, flight, eventual re-capture and death of Mussolini. In September 1943, Italy surrendered, however, fighting continued on its territory for the rest of the war, with the allies fighting those Italian fascists who did not surrender, as well as German forces. In 1946, King Umberto II, was forced to abdicate and Italy became a republic.
From the late 1960s till the late 1980s the country experienced an economic crisis, a fear both inside and outside Italy (particularly in the USA), that the Communist Party, which regularly polled over 20% of the vote, would one day form a government. From 1992 to the present day Italy has faced massive government debt and extensive corruption. There remain significant divisions in Italy, the northern part of the country is richer and more industrialized than the south. Inefficient bureaucracy, relatively low property rights and high levels of corruption, heavy taxes, and heavy public consumption, massive government debt, and organized crime known as the mafia.
|Population||59,619,290 ( 2007)|
|Area||301,318 km² /
116,346.5 sq mi;