The Italian Republic or Italy (Italian: Repubblica Italiana or Italia) 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. It is a founding member of what is now the European Union, and a member state of the United Nations, NATO and the G8 nations. The independent countries of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within Italian territory.

Repubblica Italiana
Missing image
Flag of Italy

Italy: Coat of Arms
(In Detail)
Location of Italy
Official language Italian1
Capital and largest city Rome
President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 71st
301,230 km?
 - Total (2004)
 - Density
Ranked 22nd
Unification 17 March 1861
GDP (2003)
  - Total (PPP)
  - Total (nom.)
  - GDP/capita (PPP)
  - GDP/capita (nom.)

$1.579 trillion (8th)
$1.466 trillion (6th)
$27,050 (19th)
$25,429 (20th)
Currency Euro (€)2
Time zone
 - in summer
National anthem Il Canto degli Italiani
Internet TLD .it
Calling Code +39
1 German is the second official language of Alto Adige\South Tyrol autonomous province. There are other 11 linguistic minorities (for example, French is spoken in the Aosta Valley) that are recognized by the italian constitution and laws.

2 Prior to 1999: Italian Lira.



Main article: History of Italy

Italy has shaped the cultural and social development of the whole Mediterranean area, deeply influencing European culture as well. Important cultures and civilizations have existed there since prehistoric times. After Magna Graecia, the Etruscan civilization and especially the Roman Republic and 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 were united under king Victor Emmanuel II of the Savoy dynasty, which ruled over Piedmont. The architects of Italian unification were Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, the Chief Minister of Victor Emmanuel, and Giuseppe Garibaldi, a general and national hero. 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 with the March on Rome, led to the alliance with Nazi Germany and other Axis Powers and ultimately Italy's defeat in World War II (see Greco-Italian War). 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.

Italy was a charter member of NATO (April 4, 1949) and the European Union(1952/58) and on December 14, 1955 Italy joined the United Nations. Italy had joined the growing political and economic unification of Western Europe, including the introduction of the Euro in 1999, thus replacing the Italian Lira.

Etymology of the word Italia

The name Italy (Italia) is an ancient name for the country and people of Southern Italy. The etymology of the word Italia comes from the Latin Italia, having entered early Latin from a non-Latin source. The etymology of Italia probably relates to an ancient Greek word italos (bull), from Proto-Indo-European *wet; the Greek word follows the sound-changes from Proto-Indo-European (PIE) to Greek, but the Latin equivalent vitulus (young bull) from this root, does not.

Speakers of ancient Oscan called Italy Viteliu, also from PIE *wet. Varro wrote that the region got its name from the excellence and abundance of its cattle (italos', "bull" hence italia). Some disagree with this etymology as its origin is unclear, but could mean "Land of Cattle Calves or Veal". The name Viteliu is however documented and linked to the Italic tribes of southern and central Italy.

During the first Social war (90 BCE), the Samnites and their allies (Sabines, Samnites, Umbrians and others) produced coinage while competing with Rome bearing the word "Vitelio." There is much debate as to the exact origin of the name Italia, and there are many theories concerning its etymology.

By about the time of the emperor Augustus, all of what is now known as the Italian peninsula was included in Italia, which was the central unit of the Empire; for example, the upper Po valley, which had been known as Cisalpine Gaul, was formally appended to Italia in 42 B.C. From thence onwards, "Italia" gradually acquired its modern definition as the common name for the territory of the entire peninsula.


Main article: Politics of Italy

The 1948 constitution established a bicameral parliament (Parlamento), consisting of a Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei Deputati) and a Senate (Senato della Repubblica), a separate judiciary, and an executive branch composed of a Council of Ministers (cabinet) (Consiglio dei ministri), headed by the prime minister (Presidente del consiglio dei ministri). The President of the Republic (Presidente della Repubblica) is elected for 7 years by the parliament sitting jointly with a small number of regional delegates. The president nominates the prime minister, who proposes the other ministers (formally named by the president). The Council of Ministers must retain the support (Fiducia, trust) of both houses.

The houses of parliament are popularly and directly elected by a mixed majoritarian and proportional representation system. Under 1993 legislation, Italy has single-member districts for 75% of the seats in parliament; the remaining 25% of seats are allotted on a proportional basis. The Chamber of Deputies has officially 630 members (de facto, 619 only after the 2001 elections). In addition to 315 senators, elected members, the Senate includes former presidents and several other persons (no more than 5) appointed for life by the President of the Republic according to special constitutional provisions. Both houses are elected for a maximum of 5 years, but either may be dissolved before the expiration of its normal term. Legislative bills may originate in either house and must be passed by a majority in both.

The Italian judicial system is based on Roman law modified by the Napoleonic code and later statutes. A constitutional court, the Corte Costituzionale, passes on the constitutionality of laws, and is a post-World War II innovation.


Main article: Regions of Italy

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Map of Italy

Italy is subdivided into 20 regions (regioni, singular regione), of which five enjoy a special autonomous status, marked by an *:

All regions except Valle d'Aosta are further subdivided into two or more provinces.


Main article: Geography of Italy

Italy 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.


Main article: Economy of Italy

Italy has a diversified industrial economy with roughly the same total and per capita output as France and the United Kingdom. This capitalistic economy remains divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less developed south. In comparison to its western European neighbours, it has a high number of small to medium sized enterprises (SMEes).

Most raw materials needed by industry and more than 75% of energy requirements are imported. Over the past decade, Italy has pursued a tight fiscal policy in order to meet the requirements of the Economic and Monetary Union and has benefited from lower interest and inflation rates. Italy joined the Euro from its introduction in 1999.

Italy's economic performance has at times lagged behind that of its EU partners, and the current government has enacted numerous short-term reforms aimed at improving competitiveness and long-term growth. It has moved slowly, however, on implementing certain structural reforms favoured by economists, such as lightening the high tax burden and overhauling Italy's rigid labour market and expensive pension system, because of the current economic slowdown and opposition from labour unions.


Main article: Demographics of Italy

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.

While Roman Catholicism is the majority religion (85% of native-born citizens are nominally Catholic) there are also communities who adhere to the Protestant Church, as well as the Ben頒oma who have been practicing Judaism in Italy for thousands of years. There is also a Muslim (see: Islam in Italy) immigrant community.


Main article: Culture of Italy

Italy is well-known for its art and culture. It has many famous works of architecture, among them the leaning tower of Pisa and the Roman Colosseum. It is renown for its food (pizza, pasta, etc.), wine, lifestyle, elegance, automobiles, visual art and design, cinema, theatre, literature, poetry, music (notably Opera), holidays, and generally speaking, taste.

Europe's Renaissance period began in Italy during the 14th and 15th centuries. Literary achievements, such as the poetry of Dante, Petrarch, Tasso, and Ariosto and the prose of Boccaccio, Machiavelli, and Castiglione exerted a tremendous and lasting influence on the subsequent development of Western culture, as did the painting, sculpture, and architecture contributed by giants such as Filippo Brunelleschi, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, and Michelangelo. Modern artists include the sculptor Tommaso Geraci.

The musical influence of Italian composers Palestrina, Monteverdi, Corelli and Vivaldi proved epochal; in the 19th century, Italian romantic opera flourished under composers Gioacchino Rossini, Giuseppe Verdi, and Giacomo Puccini. Contemporary Italian artists, writers, filmmakers, architects, composers, and designers continue to contribute significantly to Western culture.

Football is the main national sport and the Italians are well known for their passion for this sport. Italy has won the Football World Cup three times: in 1934, 1938 and 1982.


Main article: Languages of Italy

Italy has many more languages than just Italian. Almost every region, in fact, has its own dialect, which derives from the history of that region. Near Venice, for instance, many persons know Venetian; near Naples, Neapolitan...
Some counts put the number of living languages spoken in Italy ( at 33, including Cimbrian, Sardinian, Neapolitan, Piemontese, Sicilian, Venetian, etc.

See also

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