Italy on the world map. Map of Italy
Map of Italy with cities. Where Italy is on the world map. The main geographical facts about Italy - population, country area, capital, official language, religions, industry and culture.
Italy Fact File
Official name Italian Republic
Form of government Republic with two legislative bodies (Senate and Chamber of Deputies)
Area 301,230 sq km (116,305 sq miles)
Time zone GMT + 1 hour
Projected population 2015 55,239,000
Population density 191.6 per sq km (496.2 per sq mile)
Life expectancy 79.3
Infant mortality (per 1,000) 5.8
Official language Italian
Other languages German, French, Greek, Albanian Literacy rate 98 %
Religions Roman Catholic 98%, other 2%
Ethnic groups Italian, 94%; German-, French-, Slovene- and Albanian-Italian communities 6%
Economy Services 71 %, industry 20%, agriculture 9%
GNP per capita US$ 25,000
Climate Temperate; north has cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers; south has mild winters and hot, dry summers
Highest point Mont Blanc 4,807 m (15,771 ft)
Map reference Pages 294-95
Situated in southern central Europe, the Italian mainland consists of a long peninsula that juts out into the Mediterranean Sea. Shaped roughly like a long, high-heeled boot, this land mass is bordered to the north by Switzerland and Austria, to the west by France, and to the east by Slovenia. At the southwestern tip of the peninsula, the narrow Strait of Messina separates the toe of the boot from the large Italian island of Sicily, while further west in the Mediterranean, separated from the mainland by the Tyrrhenian Sea and sitting just south of the French island of Corsica, is the island of Sardinia, also part of Italy. About 70 other small islands, scattered mainly around the coasts of Sicily and Sardinia and off the western coast of the mainland, make up the rest of present-day Italy. The peninsula's eastern coastline is washed by the waters of the Adriatic Sea, across which lies the coast of Croatia.
History ItalyItaly Physical features and land use
Industry, commerce, and culture Italy
Italy's capital, Rome, situated in central western Italy, was for 800 years, from about 400 bc, the hub of the mighty Roman Empire. At the height of their powers in the first and second centuries ad the Romans controlled the whole of the Italian Peninsula and vast swathes of Europe. Their empire stretched as far as Britain in the north, the Iberian Peninsula in the west, into Egypt in North Africa and eastward as far as the Persian Gulf. Italy became Christianized after the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine in ad 313. The sacking of Rome by the Visigoths in ad 410 precipitated a series of subsequent invasions which resulted, over the centuries, in the fragmentation of Italy into a number of states ruled by different powers. For some time all of Italy came under the control of the eastern Roman Empire, based in Constantinople. The Franks, under Charlemagne, gained control of much of northern Italy at the end of the eighth century ad, and in the eleventh century the Normans invaded Sicily, which led to the creation of a kingdom based around the southern city of Naples.
In the later Middle Ages a number of powerful city-states emerged in central and northern Italy, the most notable being Florence, Pisa, Venice, and Genoa. From the fourteenth century, these states, especially Florence, promoted a great cultural revival which involved a blossoming of artistic, musical, literary, and scientific activity. This revival, which gradually spread through most of Europe, is now known as the Renaissance.
France, Spain, and Austria vied for domination of different parts of Italy between the fifteenth and the eighteenth centuries. Most of Italy fell to Napoleon's armies in 1796-97, but after his downfall in 1815 Italy was again fragmented, with Austria the dominant power in the north. A series of uprisings during the 1820s and 1830s gave rise to the movement known as the Risorgimento (resurrection), which eventually led to the total unification of Italy and the installation of Victor Emmanuel II, the King of Sardinia, as King of Italy in 1861. During the next half-century Italy acquired a number of overseas territories including Eritrea, part of Somalia, and some Greek islands.
Although officially allied to Germany, Italy at first remained neutral in the First World War and later joined the Allied side. In 1919 Benito Mussolini, a former socialist, founded the Fascist Party as a bulwark against communism. In 1922 he seized power, setting up a dictatorship. Embarking on a policy of foreign conquest, Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935. Fascist Italy joined the side of Nazi Germany in the Second World War but in 1943 it was invaded by Allied troops and subsequently declared war on its former German ally. Dismissed from the Italian government, Mussolini was installed by Germany as head of a puppet government in northern Italy but he was captured and executed by partisans in 1945.
After the war, Italy was stripped of its foreign territories. A referendum in 1946 resulted in the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a democratic republic. Since then, government in Italy has been wracked by instability as changing allegiances and coalitions have created a succession of short-lived governments. In 1993 a referendum approved a plan to simplify Italy's complex electoral system. Since 1994 three-quarters of the members of Italy's two houses of parliament have been elected by a simple majority of votes, while the rest are elected by proportional representation. The president, whose duties are largely ceremonial, is elected for a seven-year term. Both houses are elected for a maximum of five years.
Most of Italy is mountainous, with a central range, the Appenines, sweeping down the length of the peninsula and extending into Sicily, where the still-active volcanic peak of Mount Etna soars to a height of 3,323 m (10,902 ft) above sea level. Further north, near Naples, the active Mount Vesuvius offers evidence of the volcanic origins of Italy's mountains. The Appenines, which are rich in limestone, reach heights of almost 3,000 m (10,000 ft) in the Gran Sasso Range, east of Rome. The slopes of the Appenines are covered with thin soils, which in some places provide reasonable pasture. In the valleys there are some extensive stretches of arable land. At the far northwestern tip of the Italian Peninsula the Appenines merge with the Alps, which are generally higher than the Appenines and which arch right across the north of Italy, forming natural boundaries with the countries of Switzerland, Austria, and France. In the southern extremities of the Alps are a series of large, spectacular lakes which include the much visited Lago Maggiore, Lago di Como, and Lago di Garda. These lakes and the rivers that feed into them are the source of the hydroelec-tricity which supplies about half the electricity needs of industrialized northern Italy.
In the northeast of the country, enclosed by the Alps to the north and the west and the Appenines to the south, and stretching eastwards as far as the Adriatic coast, is the country's largest lowland region, known as the Plain of Lombardy. Drained by the River Po, which flows from west to east across the widest part of the country, this area is the most fertile as well as the most heavily industrialized and populous part of Italy. About two-fifths of Italy's crops are grown here. Agriculture is also extensive on the coastal plains on each side of the Appenines. Farms are mainly small. Crops include potatoes, wheat, maize, olives, and other vegetables as well as a wide range of citrus and stone fruits. Italy produces more wine than any other country and there are extensive vineyards, most particularly in the Chianti region in Tuscany. Sheep, pigs, and cattle are the principal livestock.
Apart from marble in the south, for which it is famous, and some oil deposits in Sicily, Italy is not well endowed with mineral resources and imports most of the energy needed by its highly developed industrial sector. This is concentrated overwhelmingly in the north of the country—although Naples, Bari, and Taranto in the south and Rome in the center have a certain amount of heavy industry— and is based around such cities as Milan, Turin, and Genoa. The building of cars, aircraft, and other transport equipment are major industries, as are tool, textile, clothing, and chemical manufacture.
Italy's manufacturing sector, which was heavily subsidized by the state, developed largely in the half-century since the Second World War, before which the economy was based predominantly on agriculture. It now employs about a fifth of the country's workforce. Tourism is an important source of income, with about 30 million people visiting Italy every year.
There is a great divide in Italy between the high living standards of the industrialized, affluent north and the much lower living standards of the largely undeveloped south, especially in Calabria in the far south. In the south unemployment is chronically high, investment is hard to attract, poverty is widespread, and for many people crime offers the best means of survival.
Abruzzi • Basilicata • Calabria Campania • Emilia-Romagna Friuli-Venezia Giulia • Lazio • Liguria Lombardy • Marche • Molise Piedmont • Puglia • Sardinia Sicily • Trentino-Alto Adige • Tuscany Umbria • Valle d'Aosta • Veneto
The Forum Romanum, once the centerpiece of the Roman Empire, Rome (above left). Fishing boats in the harbor of Camogli in Liguria, northern Italy (above right). The Tower of Pisa (below right). The rooftops of Florence, including the cathedral, seen from Piazzale Michelangelo (below left).