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Italy ( , ), officially the Italian Republic ( ), is a country located on the Italian Peninsula in Southern Europe and on the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Seamarker, Sicily and Sardinia. Italy shares its northern, Alpine boundary with Francemarker, Switzerlandmarker, Austriamarker and Sloveniamarker. The independent states of San Marinomarker and the Vatican Citymarker are enclaves within the Italian Peninsula, and Campione d'Italiamarker is an Italian exclave in Switzerland. The territory of Italy covers 301,338 km2 and is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate. With 60,157,214 inhabitants, it is the sixth most populous country in Europe, and the twenty-third most populous in the world.

The land known as Italy today has been the cradle of European cultures and peoples, such as the Etruscansmarker and the Romans. Italy's capital, Romemarker, 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 such as the Lombards and Ostrogoths, to the Normans and later, the Byzantines, among others. Centuries later, Italy would become the birthplace of the Renaissance, an immensely fruitful intellectual movement that would prove to be integral in shaping the course of European thought. Through much of its post-Roman history, Italy was fragmented into numerous kingdoms and city-states (such as the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and the duchy of Milanmarker), but was unified in 1861, a tumultuous period in history known as the "Risorgimento". In the late 19th century, through World War I, and to World War II, Italy possessed a colonial empire, which extended its rule to Libyamarker, Eritreamarker, Italian Somalialand, Ethiopiamarker, Albaniamarker, Rhodesmarker, Dodecaneses and the Tientsinmarker part of Chinamarker. Italy was a founding member of the European Community (EC) in 1957, which became the European Union in 1993. It is part of the Schengen zone and adopted the European currency, the euro, in 1999.

Modern Italy is a democratic republic and a developed country with the eighth-highest quality of life index rating in the world. Italy enjoys a high standard of living, and is the world's 18th most developed country. It is a founding member of what is now the European Union, having signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957, and it is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATOmarker). It is a member of the G8 and G20, having the world's seventh-largest nominal GDP, and is also a member state of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Council of Europe, and the Western European Union. It has the world's eight-largest defence budget and shares NATO's nuclear weapons. Italy, especially Romemarker, has a major global impact in politics and culture, with worldwide organizations such as FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Glocal Forum, World Food Programme (WFT), and the NATO Defence College being headquartered in the country and the city. The country's European political, social and military influence make it a major regional power, alongside the United Kingdommarker, Francemarker, Germanymarker, and Russiamarker. The country has a high public education level, high labour force, high charitability,, is a globalised nation, and also has 2009's sixth best international reputation.. Italy also has the world's 19th highest life expectancy, after New Zealandmarker and Bermudamarker.

Etymology

The origin of the term Italia, from ,OLD, p. 974: "first syll. naturally short (cf. Quint.Inst.1.5.18), and so scanned in Lucil.825, but in dactylic verse lengthened metri gratia." is uncertain. According to one of the more common explanations, the term was borrowed through Greek from the Oscan Víteliú, meaning "land of young cattle" (cf. Lat vitulus "calf", Umb vitlo "calf"). The bull was a symbol of the southern Italian tribes and was often depicted goring the Roman wolf as a defiant symbol of free Italy during the Samnite Wars.

The name Italia originally applied only to a part of what is now Southern Italy—according to Antiochus of Syracuse, the southern portion of the Bruttium peninsula (modern Calabria). But by his time Oenotria and Italy had become synonymous, and the name also applied to most of Lucania as well. The Greeks gradually came to apply the name "Italia" to a larger region, but it was not until the time of the Roman conquests that the term was expanded to cover the entire peninsula.

History

Prehistory to Magna Graecia

Excavations throughout Italy reveal a modern human presence dating back to the Palaeolithic 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. Subsequently, Romans referred to this area as Magna Graecia, as it was so densely inhabited by Greeks.

Ancient Rome

Ancient Romemarker 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 Seamarker, in which Ancient Greek and Roman cultures merged into one civilization. This civilization was so influential that parts of it survive in modern law, administration, philosophy and arts, forming the ground that Western civilization is based upon. In its twelve-century existence, it transformed itself from monarchy to republic and finally to autocracy. In steady decline since the 2nd century AD, the empire finally broke into two parts in 285 AD: the Western Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire in the East. The western part under the pressure of Goths finally dissolved, leaving the Italian peninsula divided into small independent kingdoms and feuding city states for the next 14 centuries, and leaving the eastern part sole heir to the Roman legacy.

Early Middle Ages

Following a short recapture of the Italian peninsula by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD from the Ostrogoths, a new wave of Germanic tribes, the Lombards, soon arrived in Italy from the north. For several centuries the armies of the Byzantines were strong enough to prevent Arabs, the Holy Roman Empire, or the Papacy from establishing a unified Italian Kingdom, but were at the same time too weak to fully unify the former Roman lands themselves. Nevertheless, during early Middle Ages Imperial dynasties such as the Carolingians, the Ottonians and the Hohenstaufens managed to impose their overlordship in Italy.

In the sixth century AD the Byzantine Emperor Justinian reconquered Italy from the Ostrogoths. The invasion of a new wave of Germanic tribes, the Lombards, doomed his attempt to resurrect the Western Roman Empire but the repercussions of Justinian's failure resounded further still. For the next thirteen centuries, whilst new nation-states arose in the lands north of the Alps, the Italian political landscape was a patchwork of feuding city states, petty tyrannies, and foreign invaders.

For several centuries the armies and Exarchs, Justinian's successors, were a tenacious force in Italian affairs - strong enough to prevent other powers such as the Arabs, the Holy Roman Empire, or the Papacy from establishing a unified Italian Kingdom, but too weak to drive out these "interlopers" and recreate Roman Italy.Later Imperial orders such as the Carolingians, the Ottonians and Hohenstaufens also managed to impose their overlordship in Italy; But their successes were as transitory as Justinian's and a unified Italian state remained a dream until the nineteenth century.

Late Middle Ages, Signorie and Comuni

Italy's regions were eventually subsumed by their neighbouring empires with their conflicting interests and would remain divided up to the 19th century. It was during this vacuum of authority that the region saw the rise of the Signoria and the Comune. In the anarchic conditions that often prevailed in medieval Italian city-states, people looked to strong men to restore order and disarm the feuding elites. In times of anarchy or crisis, cities sometimes offered the Signoria to individuals perceived as strong enough to save the state, most notably the Della Scala family in Veronamarker, the Visconti in Milanmarker and the Medici in Florencemarker.

Italy during this period became notable for its merchant Republics. These city-states, oligarchical in reality, had a dominant merchant class which under relative freedom nurtured academic and artistic advancement. The four classic Maritime Republics in Italy were Venicemarker, Genoamarker, Pisamarker and Amalfimarker. Venice and Genoa were Europe's gateways to trade with the East, with the former producer of the renowned venetian glass. Florence was the capital of silk, wool, banks and jewelry. The Maritime Republics were heavily involved in the Crusades, taking advantage of the new political and trading opportunities, most evidently in the conquest of Zaramarker and Constantinoplemarker funded by Venice.

During the late Middle Ages Italy was divided into smaller city-states and territories: the kingdom of Naples controlled the south, the Republic of Florence and the Papal Statesmarker the centre, the Genoesemarker and the Milanesemarker the north and west, and the Venetiansmarker the east.

Renaissance



The unique political structures of late Middle Ages Italy have led some to theorize that its unusual social climate allowed the emergence of a rare cultural efflorescence. Italy was divided into smaller city states and territories: the kingdom of Naples controlled the south, the Republic of Florence and the Papal Statesmarker the center, the Genoesemarker and the Milanesemarker the north and west, and the Venetiansmarker the east. Fifteenth-century Italy was one of the most urbanised areas in Europe. Most historians agree that the ideas that characterized the Renaissance had their origin in late 13th century Florencemarker, in particular with the writings of Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) and Francesco Petrarch (1304–1374), as well as the painting of Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337). The Renaissance was an especially important period in Italian history, and brought along numerous political, philosophical, literary, cultural, social and religious reforms.

The Renaissance was so called because it was a "rebirth" of certain classical ideas that had long been lost to Europe. It has been argued that the fuel for this rebirth was the rediscovery of ancient texts that had been forgotten by Western civilization, but were preserved in some monastic libraries and in the Islamic world, and the translations of Greek and Arabic texts into Latin.

Renaissance scholars such as Niccolò de' Niccoli and Poggio Bracciolini scoured the libraries in search of works by such classical authors as Plato, Cicero and Vitruvius. The works of ancient Greek and Hellenistic writers (such as Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, and Ptolemy) and Muslim scientists were imported into the Christian world, providing new intellectual material for European scholars.

The Black Death pandemic in 1348 left its mark on Italy by killing one third of the population. However, the recovery from the disaster of the Black Death led to a resurgence of cities, trade and economy which greatly stimulated the successive phase of the Humanism and Renaissance (15th-16th centuries) when Italy again returned to be the center of Western civilization, strongly influencing the other European countries with Courts like Este in Ferraramarker and De Medici in Florencemarker.

Florencemarker became Italy's main centre of the Renaissance. Numerous artists, such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli worked in the city. Its economy flourished, and according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Florencemarker from the 14th century to the 16th century was one of Europe's greatest cities, and its numerous museums, palazzi and churches, such as the Pitti Palacemarker and the Uffizimarker have been described by the encyclopedia as works of art themselves.

Romemarker was also a city particularly affected by the Renaissance. This period of reform changed the city's face dramatically, with works like the Pietà by Michelangelo and the frescoes of the Borgia Apartment. 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 Basilicamarker built by Emperor Constantine the Great, who in Rome became one the most famous painters of Italy creating frescos in the Cappella Niccolina, the Villa Farnesinamarker, the Raphael's Rooms, plus many other famous paintings. Michelangelo started the decoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapelmarker and executed the famous statue of the Moses for the tomb of Julius. Rome lost in part its religious character, becoming increasingly a true Renaissance city, with a great number of popular feasts, horse races, parties, intrigues and licentious episodes. Its economy was rich, with the presence of several Tuscan bankers, including Agostino Chigi, who was a friend of Raphael and a patron of arts. Before his early death, Raphael also promoted for the first time the preservation of the ancient ruins.

Foreign Domination (16th - 19th centuries)



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, lasting half of the sixteenth century, and a competition between France and Spain for the possession of the country. Ultimately Spain prevailed (the Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis in 1559 recognised the Spanish possession of the Duchy of Milanmarker and the Kingdom of Naples) and for almost two centuries became the hegemon in Italy. The holy alliance between Habsburg Spain and the Holy See resulted in the systematic persecution of any Protestant movement, with the result that Italy remained a Catholic country with marginal Protestant presence. During its long rule on Italy, Spain systematically spoiled the country and imposed a heavy taxation. Moreover, Spanish administration was slow and inefficient.

Austria succeeded Spain as hegemon in Italy after the Peace of Utrecht (1713), having acquired the State of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples. The Austrian domination, thanks to the Enlightenment embraced by Habsburgic emperors, was a considerable improvement. The northern part of Italy, under the direct control of Viennamarker, gained economic dynamism and intellectual fervour.

Through Austrian domination, the northern part of Italy gained economic dynamism and intellectual fervor. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars (1796–1815) introduced the ideas of equality, democracy, law and nation. The plague repeatedly returned to haunt Italy throughout the 14th to 17th centuries. Italy's last major epidemic occurred in 1656 in Naplesmarker. Italy’s population between 1700 and 1800 rose by about one-third, to 18 million.

Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)

Risorgimento (1846-1870)

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 the context of the 1848 liberal revolutions that swept through Europe, an unsuccessful war was declared on Austria.



Giuseppe Garibaldi, popular amongst southern Italians, led the Italian republican drive for unification in southern Italy, while the northern Italian monarchy of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia whose government was led by Camillo Benso, conte di Cavour, had the ambition of establishing a united Italian state under its rule. The kingdom successfully challenged the Austrian Empiremarker in the Second Italian War of Independence with the help of Napoleon III, liberating the Lombardy-Venetia. It established Turinmarker as capital of the newly formed state.In 1866, Victor Emmanuel II aligned the kingdom with Prussia during the Austro-Prussian Warmarker, waging the Third Italian War of Independence which allowed Italy to annex Venice. In 1870, as France during the disastrous Franco-Prussian War abandoned its positions in Romemarker, Italy rushed to fill the power gap by taking over the Papal Statemarker from French sovereignty. Italian unification finally was achieved, and shortly afterwards Italy's capital was moved to Rome. Whilst keeping the monarchy, the goverment became a parliamentary system, run by liberals.

Liberal rule and World War I (1870 - 1922)

As Northern Italy became industrialized and modernized, Southern Italy and agricultural regions of the north remained under-developed and stagnant, forcing millions of people to migrate to the emerging Industrial Triangle or abroad. The Sardinian Statuto Albertino of 1848, extended to the whole Kingdom of Italy in 1861, provided for basic freedoms, but the electoral laws excluded the non-propertied and uneducated classes from voting. In 1913, male universal suffrage was adopted. The Socialist Party became the main political party, outclassing the traditional liberal and conservative organisations. The high point of Italian emigration was 1913, when 872,598 persons left Italy. Starting from the last two decades of the nineteenth century, Italy developed into a colonial power by forcing Somaliamarker, Eritreamarker and later Libyamarker and the Dodecanese under its rule. During World War I, Italy at first stayed neutral but in 1915 signed the Treaty of London, entering Entente on the promise of receiving Trentomarker, Triestemarker, Istriamarker, Dalmatia and parts of Ottoman Empire. During the war, 600,000 Italians died, and the economy collapsed. Under the Peace Treaty of Saint-Germain, Italy obtained just Bolzano-Bozen, Trento, Trieste and Istria in a victory described as "mutilated" by the public.

Fascist Italy and World War II (1922 - 1945)

The turbulence that followed the devastation of World War I, inspired by the Russian Revolution, led to turmoil and anarchy. The liberal establishment, fearing a socialist revolution, started to endorse the small National Fascist Party, led by Benito Mussolini. In October 1922 the fascists attempted a coup (the Marcia su Roma, "March on Rome"), but the king ordered the army not to intervene, instead forming an alliance with Mussolini. Over the next few years, Mussolini banned all political parties and curtailed personal liberties, thus forming a dictatorship. In 1935, Mussolini subjugated Ethiopiamarker after a surprisingly lengthy campaign. This resulted in international alienation and the exodus of the country from the League of Nations. A first pact with Nazi Germany was concluded in 1936, and a second in 1938. Italy strongly supported Franco in the Spanish civil war. The country was opposed to Adolf Hitler's annexations of Austria, but did not interfere with it. Italy supported Germany's annexation of Sudetenland, however .

On 7 April 1939 Italy occupied Albaniamarker, a de facto protectorate for decades, and entered World War II in 1940, taking part in the late stages of the Battle of France. Mussolini, wanting a quick victory like Hitler's blitzkriegs in Poland and France, invaded Greecemarker in October 1940 via Albania but was forced to accept a humiliating defeat after a few months. At the same time, Italy, after initially conquering British Somalia, saw an allied counter-attack lead to the loss of all possessions in the Horn of Africa. Italy was also defeated by Britishmarker forces in North Africa and was only saved by the urgently dispatched German Africa Corps led by Erwin Rommel. Italy was invaded by the Allies in June 1943, leading to the collapse of the fascist regime and the arrest of Mussolini. In September 1943, Italy surrendered. The country remained a battlefield for the rest of the war, as the allies were moving up from the south as the north was the base for loyalist Italian fascist and German Nazi forces. The whole picture became more complex by the activity of the Italian partisans; see Italian resistance movement. The Nazis left the country on 25 April 1945 and the remaining Italian fascist forces eventually disbanded. Nearly half a million Italians (including civilians) died between June 1940 and May 1945. An estimated 200,000 partisans took part in the Resistance, and German or fascist forces killed some 70,000 Italians (including both partisans and civilians) for Resistance activities.

The Italian Republic (1946-)



In 1946, Vittorio Emanuele III's son, Umberto II, was forced to abdicate. Italy became a republic after a referendum held on 2 June 1946, a day celebrated since as Republic Day. This was also the first time in Italy that Italian women were entitled to vote. The Republican Constitution was approved and came into force on 1 January 1948. Under the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947, the eastern border area was lost to Yugoslaviamarker, and, later, the free territory of Trieste was divided between the two states. Fears in the Italian electorate of a possible Communist takeover proved crucial for the first universal suffrage electoral outcome on the 18th of April 1948 when the Christian Democrats, under the leadership of Alcide De Gasperi, won the election with 48 percent of the vote.In the 1950s Italy became a member of NATOmarker and allied itself with the United States. The Marshall Plan helped revive the Italian economy which, until the 1960s, enjoyed a period of sustained economic growth commonly called the "Economic Miracle". In 1957, Italy was a founder member of the European Economic Community (EEC), which became the European Union (EU) in 1993.

From the late 1960s till late 1980s the country experienced a hard economic crisis and the Years of Lead, a period characterized by widespread social conflicts and terrorist acts carried out by extra-parliamentary movements. The Years of Lead culminated in the assassination of the Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro in 1978, bringing to an end the "Historic Compromise" between the DC and the Communist Party. In the 1980s, for the first time since 1945, two governments were led by non-Christian-Democrat premiers: a republican (Giovanni Spadolini) and a socialist (Bettino Craxi); the Christian Democrats remained, however, the main force supporting the government. The Socialist Party (PSI), led by Bettino Craxi, became more and more critical of the Communists and of the Soviet Unionmarker; Craxi himself pushed in favour of US president Ronald Reagan's positioning of Pershing missiles in Italy, a move the Communists hotly contested.



From 1992 to 2009, Italy faced significant challenges, as voters, disenchanted with past political paralysis, massive government debt and extensive corruption (collectively called Tangentopoli after being uncovered by Mani pulite – "Clean hands"), demanded political, economic, and ethical reforms. The scandals involved all major parties, but especially those in the government coalition: between 1992 and 1994 the Christian Democrats underwent a severe crisis and was dissolved, splitting up into several pieces, while the Socialists and the other governing minor parties also dissolved. The 1994 elections put media magnate Silvio Berlusconi into the Prime Minister's seat. However, he was forced to step down in December of that year when the Lega Nord Party withdrew its support. In April 1996, national elections led to the victory of a centre-left coalition under the leadership of Romano Prodi. Prodi's first government became the third-longest to stay in power before he narrowly lost a vote of confidence, by three votes, in October 1998. A new government was formed by Massimo D'Alema, but in April 2000 he resigned.

In 2001, national elections led to the victory of a centre-right coalition under the leadership of Silvio Berlusconi, who became prime minister once again. Mr. Berlusconi was able to remain in power for a complete five-year mandate, but with two different governments. The first one (2001–2005) became the longest-lived government in post-war Italy. Under that government, Italy joined the US-led military coalition in Iraq. The elections in 2006 were won by the centre-left, allowing Prodi to form his second government, but in early 2008 he resigned after losing a confidence vote in Parliament. Mr. Berlusconi won the ensuing elections in April 2008 to form a government for a third time.

Geography

Topography

Italy is located in Southern Europe and comprises the long, boot-shaped Italian Peninsula, the land between the peninsula and the Alps, and a number of islands including Sicily and Sardinia. Its total area is 301,230 km², of which 294,020 km² is land and 7,210 km² is water.Including islands, Italy has a coastline and border of 7,600 km on the Adriaticmarker, Ionianmarker, Tyrrhenianmarker seas (740 km), and borders shared with Francemarker (488 km), Austriamarker (430 km), Sloveniamarker (232 km) and Switzerlandmarker; San Marinomarker (39 km) and the Vatican Citymarker (3.2 km), both entirely surrounded by Italy, account for the remainder.The Apennine Mountainsmarker form the peninsula's backbone; the Alps form its northern boundary. The largest of its northern lakes is Gardamarker ( ); in the centre is Trasimeno Lakemarker. The Pomarker, Italy's principal river, flows from the Alps on the western border and crosses the great Padan plain to the Adriatic Sea. Several islands form part of Italy; the largest are Sicily ( ) and Sardinia ( ).

Volcanism

Italy is a volcanically active country, containing the only active volcano in mainland Europe. The country's volcanism is due chiefly to the presence, a short distance to the south, of the boundary between the Eurasian Plate and the African Plate. The magma erupted by Italy's volcanoes is thought to result from the upward forcing of rocks melted by the subduction of one plate below another.

There are several active volcanoes in Italy: Etnamarker, the second-largest active volcano in Europe; Vulcanomarker; Strombolimarker; and Vesuviusmarker, the only active volcano on the mainland of Europe.

Climate

The climate in Italy is highly diverse and can be far from the stereotypical Mediterranean climate depending on the location. Most of the inland northern areas of Italy, for example Turinmarker, Milanmarker and Bolognamarker, have a continental climate often classified as humid subtropical (Köppen climate classification Cfa). The coastal areas of Liguria and most of the peninsula south of Florencemarker generally fit the Mediterranean stereotype (Köppen climate classification Csa). The coastal areas of the peninsula can be very different from the interior higher altitudes 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.

Government and politics

The politics of Italy take place in a framework of a parliamentary, democratic republic, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised collectively by the Council of Ministers, which is led by a President (Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri), informally referred to as "premier" or primo ministro (that is, "prime minister"). Legislative power is vested in the two houses of Parliament primarily, and secondarily in the Council of Ministers. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislative. Italy has been a democratic republic since 2 June 1946, when the monarchy was abolished by popular referendum (see "birth of the Italian Republic"). The constitution was promulgated on 1 January 1948.

Giorgio Napolitano is the President of the Italian Republic. US President Barack Obama described him "as somebody who has the admiration of the Italian people because of not only his longstanding service but also his integrity and his graciousness. And I just want to confirm that everything about him that I had heard is true. He's an extraordinary gentleman, a great leader of this country, and the fact that he has been such a gracious host is something that we all greatly appreciate."

Silvio Berlusconi is the Italian Prime Minister, and with a net worth of US$ 9.4 billion the Western world's and Europe's richest head of government.

The President of the Italian Republic (Presidente della Repubblica) 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 president nominates the Prime Minister, who proposes the other ministers (formally named by the president). The Council of Ministers must obtain a confidence vote from both houses of Parliament. Legislative bills may originate in either house and must be passed by a majority in both.


Italy elects a parliament consisting of two houses, the Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei Deputati), which has 630 members and the Senate of the Republic (Senato della Repubblica), comprising 315 elected members and a small number of senators for life). Legislation may originate in either house and must be passed in identical form by a majority in each. The houses of parliament are popularly and directly elected through a complex electoral system (latest amendment in 2005) which combines proportional representation with a majority prize for the largest coalition. All Italian citizens 18 years of age and older can vote. However, to vote for the Senate, the voter must be 25 or older. The electoral system for the Senate is based upon regional representation. As of 15 May 2006 there are seven life senators (of which three 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.

A peculiarity of the Italian Parliament is the representation given to Italian citizens permanently living abroad (about 2.7 million people). Among the 630 Deputies and the 315 Senators there are respectively 12 and 6 elected in four distinct overseas constituencies. Those members of Parliament were elected for the first time in April 2006, and they have the same rights as members elected in Italy.

The Italian judicial system is based on Roman law modified by the Napoleonic code and later statutes. The Supreme Court of Cassation is the court of last resort for most disputes. The Constitutional Court of Italy (Corte Costituzionale) rules on the conformity of laws with the Constitution and is a post-World War II innovation.

Foreign relations

Italy was a founding member of the European Community—now the European Union (EU). Italy was admitted to the United Nations in 1955 and is a member and strong supporter of the North Atlantic Treaty Organizationmarker (NATO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization (GATT/WTO), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe, and the Central European Initiative. Its recent turns in the rotating Presidency of international organisations include the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE), the forerunner of the OSCE, in 1994; G8; and the EU in 2001 and from July to December 2003.

Italy supports the United Nations and its international security activities. Italy deployed troops in support of UN peacekeeping missions in Somaliamarker, Mozambiquemarker, and East Timor and provides support for NATO and UN operations in Bosniamarker, Kosovomarker and Albaniamarker. Italy deployed over 2,000 troops to Afghanistanmarker in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in February 2003. Italy still supports international efforts to reconstruct and stabilize Iraqmarker, but it has withdrawn its military contingent of some 3,200 troops as of November 2006, maintaining only humanitarian workers and other civilian personnel.In August 2006 Italy sent about 2,450 soldiers to Lebanonmarker for the United Nations' peacekeeping mission UNIFIL. Furthermore, since 2 February 2007 an Italian, Claudio Graziano, is the commander of the UN force in the country.

Military

The Italian armed forces are under the command of the Supreme Defence Council, presided over by the President of the Italian Republic. In 2008 the military had 186,798 personnel on active duty, along with 114,778 in the national gendarmerie. As part of NATO's nuclear sharing strategy Italy also hosts 90 United Statesmarker nuclear bombs, located in the Ghedi Torre and Avianomarker air bases. Total military spending in 2007 was $33.1 billion, equal to 1.8% of national GDP.

The Italian armed forces are divided into four branches:

Army

The Italian Army (Esercito Italiano) is the ground defence force of the Italian Republic. It has recently become a professional all-volunteer force of active-duty personnel, numbering 109,703 in 2008. Its best-known combat vehicles are the Dardo infantry fighting vehicle, the Centauro tank destroyer and the Ariete tank, and among its aircraft the Mangusta attack helicopter, recently deployed in UN missions. The Esercito Italiano also has at its disposal a large number of Leopard 1 and M113 armored vehicles.

Navy

The Italian Navy (Marina Militare) in 2008 had a strength of 43,882 and ships of every type, such as aircraft carriers, destroyers, modern frigates, submarines, amphibious ships, and other smaller ships such as oceanographic research ships The Marina Militare is now equipping itself with a bigger aircraft carrier, (the Cavour), new destroyers, submarines and multipurpose frigates. In modern times the Italian Navy, being a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organizationmarker (NATO), has taken part in many coalition peacekeeping operations around the world.

Air Force

The Italian Air Force in 2008 has a strength of 43,882 and operates 585 aircraft, including 219 combat jets and 114 helicopters. As a stopgap and as replacement for leased Tornado ADV interceptors, the AMI has leased 30 F-16 Block 15 ADF and four F-16B Block 10 Fighting Falcons, with an option for more. The coming years also will see the introduction of 121 EF2000 Eurofighter Typhoons, replacing the leased F-16 Fighting Falcons. Further updates are foreseen in the Tornado IDS/IDT and AMX fleets. A transport capability is guaranteed by a fleet of 22 C-130J and Aeritalia G.222s of which 12 are being replaced with the newly developed G.222 variant called the C-27J Spartan.

Gendarmerie

The Carabinieri are the gendarmerie and military police of Italy, providing the republic with a national police service. At the Sea Islands Conference of the G8 in 2004, the Carabinieri was given the mandate to establish a Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units (CoESPU) to spearhead the development of training and doctrinal standards for civilian police units attached to international peacekeeping missions.

Administrative divisions

Italy is subdivided into 20 regions (regioni, singular regione). Five of these regions have a special autonomous status that enables them to enact legislation on some of their local matters; these are marked by an asterisk (*) in the table below. The country is further divided into 109 provinces (province) and 8,100 municipalities (comuni).

Region Capital Area (km²) Population
Abruzzo L'Aquilamarker
Aosta Valleymarker* Aostamarker
Apuliamarker Barimarker
Basilicata Potenzamarker
Calabria Catanzaromarker
Campania Naplesmarker
Emilia-Romagna Bolognamarker
Friuli-Venezia Giulia* Triestemarker
Lazio Romemarker
Liguria Genoamarker
Lombardy Milanmarker
Marche Anconamarker
Molise Campobassomarker
Piedmont Turinmarker
Sardinia* Cagliarimarker
Sicily* Palermomarker
Tuscany Florencemarker
Trentino-Alto Adige* Trentomarker
Umbria Perugiamarker
Veneto Venicemarker


Demographics

Population

Population 1960–2006.
Number of inhabitants in thousands.


At the end of 2008, the Italian population surpassed 60 million. Italy currently has the fourth-largest population in the European Union and the 23rd-largest population worldwide. Italy's population density, at 199.2 persons per square kilometre, is the fifth highest in the European Union. The highest density is in Northern Italy, as that one-third of the country contains almost half of the total population.After World War II, Italy enjoyed a prolonged economic boom which caused a major rural exodus to the cities, and at the same time transformed the nation from a massive emigration country to a net immigrant-receiving country. High fertility persisted until the 1970s, when it plunged below the replacement rates, so that as of 2008, one in five Italians was over 65 years old. Despite this, thanks mainly to the massive immigration of the last two decades, in the 2000s Italy saw a crude birth rates growth (especially in the northern regions) for the first time in many years. The total fertility rate also significantly grew in the past few years, thanks both to rising births in foreign born and Italian women, as it climbed to 1.41 children per woman in 2008 compared to 2005 when it sat at 1.32.

Cities and metropolitan areas

According to the OECD, the largest metropolitan areas are:
Metropolitan area Population
Milan 7.4 million
Romemarker 3.7 million
Naplesmarker 3.1 million
Turinmarker 2.2 million


Main Cities

A list and description of Italy's five main and biggest cities by population:





  • Naplesmarker ( IPA: /ˈna(ː)poli/, Neapolitan: Napule) is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples. The city proper has a population of around 1 million people, while the population of urban area is estimated by Eurostat to be 2.25 million. The Naples metropolitan area, according to different sources, is the second after the Milanmarker metropolitan area (with 4.434.136 inhabitants according to SVIMEZ DATA or 4.996.084 according to CENSIS INSTITUTE) or the third (3.1 million inhabitants according to OECD) most populated metropolitan area in Italy.Naples is ranked fourth in Italy, for economic strength, after Romemarker, Milanmarker and Turinmarker. Naplesmarker is a thriving and cosmopolitan metropolis with a GDP of $43 billion. Naples is one of the oldest cities of the western world, whose current urban structure retains elements of its long and eventful history. Founded by the Ancient Greeks as "Νεάπολις", Neápolismarker (New City), it held an important role in Magna Graecia and then as part of the Roman Republic in the central province of the Empire. The city has seen a multitude of civilizations come and go, each leaving their mark and now the historic city centre is listed by UNESCOmarker as a World Heritage Site. Naples was the capital city of a kingdom which bore its name from 1282 until 1816 in the form of the Kingdom of Naples, then in union with Sicily it was the capital of the Two Sicilies until the Italian unification. Naplesmarker has profoundly influenced many areas of Europe and beyond.






Independent estimates on metropolitan areas

According to Censis Foundation, the largest Metroplexs in Italy are:
Metroplex/ Metropolitan area Population

Area

(in km²)
Density

(people/km²)
1 Milan metropolitan area (Lombardy mega region) 8,047,125 8,362.1 965.6
2 NaplesSalernomarker 4,996,084 3,841.7 1,300.5
3 Rome metropolitan area 4,339,112 4,766.3 910.4
4 VenicemarkerPadovamarkerVeronamarker (Veneto mega region) 3,267,420 6,679.6 489.2
5 BarimarkerTarantomarkerLeccemarker (Low adriatic linear system) 2,603,831 6,127.7 424.9
6 RiminimarkerPesaromarkerAnconamarker (High adriatic linear system) 2,359,068 5,404.8 436.5
7 Turin metropolitan area 1,997,975 1,976.8 1,010.7
8 Greater BolognaPiacenzamarker 1,944,401 3,923.6 495,6
9 FlorencemarkerPisamarkerSienamarker 1,760,737 3,795.9 629.8
10 MessinamarkerCataniamarkerSiracusamarker (Eastern Sicilian linear system) 1,693,173 2,411.7 702.1


Immigration

At the start of 2009 there were 3,891,295 foreign nationals resident in Italy and registered with the authorities. This amounted to 6.5% of the country’s population and represented a year-on-year increase of 458,644 or 13.4%. These figures include more than half a million children born in Italy to foreign nationals—second generation immigrants are becoming an important element in the demographic picture—but exclude foreign nationals who have subsequently acquired Italian nationality; this applied to 53,696 people in 2008. They also exclude illegal immigrants, the so-called clandestini whose numbers are difficult to determine. In May 2008 the The Boston Globe quoted an estimate of 670,000 for this group.

Since the expansion of the European Union, the most recent wave of migration has been from surrounding European nations, particularly Eastern Europe, and increasingly Asia, replacing North Africa as the major immigration area. Some 800,000 Romanians, around 10 percent of them being Gypsies, are officially registered as living in Italy, replacing Albanians and Moroccans as the largest ethnic minority group. The number unregistered Romanians is difficult to estimate, but the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network suggested that in 2007 that there might half been half a million or more. As of 2009, the foreign born population origin of Italy was subdivided as follows: Europe (53.5%), Africa (22.3%), Asia (15.8%), the Americas (8.1%) and Oceania (0.06%). The disribution of foreign born population is largely uneven in Italy: 87.3% of immigrants live in the northern and central parts of the country (the most economically developed areas), while only 12.8% live in the southern half of the peninsula.

Origin Population % of total*
Italian 93.52% Romanian 1.32% North African 1.01% Albanian 0.73% Chinese 0.28% Ukrainian 0.26% Asian (non-Chinese) 0.74% Latin American 0.50% Sub-Saharan African 0.44% Other 1.19%


The Italian diaspora



Italy became a country of mass emigration soon after the national reunification process in the late 1800s. Between 1898 and 1914, the peak years of Italian diaspora, approximately 750,000 Italians emigrated each year. Italian communities once thrived in the former African colonies of Eritreamarker (nearly 100,000 at the beginning of World War II), Somaliamarker and Libyamarker (150,000 Italians settled in Libya, constituting about 18% of the total population). All of Libya's Italians were expelled from the North African country in 1970. In the decade after World War II, up to 350,000 ethnic Italians left Yugoslavia (see Istrian exodus). Large numbers of people with full or significant Italian ancestry are currently found inBrazilmarker (25 million), Argentinamarker (20 million), United Statesmarker (17.8 million), Uruguaymarker (1.5 million), Canadamarker (1.4 million), Venezuelamarker (900,000) and Australia (800,000).

Recognized ethnic minorities and minority languages

Several ethnic groups are legally recognized, and a number of minority languages have co-official status alongside Italian in various parts of the country. French is co-official in the Valle d’Aostamarker—although in fact Franco-Provencal is more commonly spoken there. German has the the same status in the Province of Bolzano-Bozen as, in some parts of that province and in parts of the neighbouring Trentino, does Ladin. Slovene is officially recognised in the provinces of Trieste and Goriziamarker in Venezia Giulia.

In these regions official documents are bilingual (trilingual in Ladin communities), or available upon request in either Italian or the co-official language. Traffic signs are also multilingual, except in the Valle d’Aosta where—with the exception of Aostamarker itself which has retained its Latin form in Italian as in English—French toponyms are generally used, attempts to Italianise them during the Fascist period having been abandoned. Education is possible in minority languages where such schools are operating.

Language



Standard Italian

Italy's official language is Standard Italian, which is a descendant of the Tuscan dialect and Latin. Ethnologue has estimated that there are about 55 million speakers of the langauge in Italy and a further 6.7 million outside of the country. However, there are over 150 million people in the world who use Italian as a second or cultural language. In Switzerlandmarker, Italian is one of four official language. It is also the official language of San Marinomarker, as well as the primary language of Vatican Citymarker. Standard Italian, adopted by the state after the unification of Italy, is based on Tuscan (in particular on the dialects of the city of Florencemarker) and is somewhat intermediate between the Italo-Dalmatian languages of the South and the Gallo-Romance Northern Italian languages. Its development was also influenced by the other Italian dialects and by the Germanic language of the post-Roman invaders.

Italian derives diachronically from Latin and is the closest language to Latin. Unlike most other Romance languages, Italian has retained the contrast between short and long consonants which existed in Latin. As in most Romance languages, stress is distinctive. In particular, among the Romance languages, Italian is considered to be the closest to Latin in terms of vocabulary.

Italian dialects and other languages spoken

Italy has a numerous dialects, spoken all over the country, and some Italians cannot speak the standard language at all. However, the establishment of a national education system led to a decrease in variation in the languages spoken across the country. Standardization was further expanded in the 1950s and 1960s thanks to economic growth and the rise of mass media and television (the state broadcaster RAImarker helped set an Italian standard).

Other historic Romance languages spoken in Italy except Italian include Emiliano-Romagnolo, Friulian, Ladin, Ligurian, Lombard, Neapolitan, Piedmontese, Sardinian, Sicilian, Venetian and Romansh. These languages have given way to regional varieties of Italian. Variety is often used in idioms and folk songs.

However, there are other languages spoken in Italy, such as Albanian, Catalan, Croatian, Franco-Provençal, French, Friulian, German, Greek, Ladin, Occitan, Sardinian, and Slovene. A law passed in 1999 recognises the existence of twelve linguistic minorities which are thus officially protected.

Religion



Roman Catholicism is by far the largest religion in the country, although the Catholic Church is no longer officially the state religion. Fully 87.8% of Italians identified themselves as Roman Catholic, although only about one-third of these described themselves as active members (36.8%).

Most Italians believe in God, or a form of a spiritual life force. According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll 2005:
  • 74% of Italian citizens responded that they believe there is a God;
  • 16% answered that they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force;
  • 6% answered that they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force.


Roman Catholicism in Italy



The Italian Catholic Church is part of the global Roman Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope, curia in Romemarker, and the Conference of Italian Bishops. In addition to Italy, two other sovereign nations are included in Italian-based dioceses, San Marinomarker and Vatican Citymarker. There are 225 dioceses in the Italian Catholic Church, see further in this article and in the article List of the Roman Catholic dioceses in Italy. Even though by law the Vatican Citymarker is not part of Italy, it is in Romemarker, and along with Latin, Italian is the most spoken and second language of the Vaticanmarker. Italy has a rich Catholic culture, especially due to the fact that numerous Catholic saints, martyrs and popes were Italian themselves. Roman Catholic art in Italy especially flourished during the Middle-Ages, Renaissance and Baroque periods, with numerous Italian artists, such as Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, Caravaggio, Fra Angelico, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Sandro Botticelli, Tintoretto, Titian, Raphael and Giotto, to name a few. Roman Catholic architecture in Italy is equally as rich and impressive, with churches, basilicas and cathedrals such as St Peter's Basilicamarker, Florence Cathedralmarker and St Mark's Basilicamarker, to name a few. Currently, Roman Catholicism is the largest religion and denomination in Italy, with around 87.8% of Italians considering themselves Catholic. Italy also is home to the greatest number of cardinal in the world.

Other Christian denominations in Italy

Even though the main Christian denomination in Italy is Roman Catholicism, there are some minorities of Protestant, Waldensian, Eastern Orthodox and other Christian churches.

In the 20th century, Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentecostalism, non-denominational Evangelicalism, and Mormonism were the fastest-growing Protestant churches. Immigration from Western, Central, and Eastern Africa at the beginning of the 21st century has increased the size of Baptist, Anglican, Pentecostal and Evangelical communities in Italy, while immigration from Eastern Europe has produced large Eastern Orthodox communities.

In 2006, Protestants made up 2.1% of Italy's population, and members of Eastern Orthodox churches comprised 1.2%. Also, currently other Christian groups in Italy include more than 700,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians including 180,000 Greek Orthodox, 550,000 Pentecostals and Evangelicals (0.8%), of whom 400,000 are members of the Assemblies of God, 235,685 Jehovah's Witnesses (0.4%), 30,000 Waldensians, 25,000 Seventh-day Adventists, 22,000 Mormons, 15,000 Baptists (plus some 5,000 Free Baptists), 7,000 Lutherans, 4,000 Methodists (affiliated with the Waldensian Church).

Other Faiths

Jews are Italy's oldest non-Christian religious group, having been in the country since Ancient Rome. Italy has seen many influential Italian-Jews, such as Luigi Luzzatti, who took office in 1910, Ernesto Nathan served as mayor of Romemarker from 1907 to 1913 and Shabbethai Donnolo (died 982). During the Holocaust, Italy took in many Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. However, with the creation of the Nazi-backed puppet Italian Social Republic, about 15% of Italy's Jews were killed, despite the Fascist government's refusal to deport Jews to Nazi death camps. This has only left a small community of around 45,000 Jews in Italy today.

Due to immigration from around the world, there has been an increase in non-Christian faiths. In 2009, there were 1.0 million Muslims in Italy[1861] forming 1.6 percent of population although, only 50,000 hold Italian citizenship. Independant estimates put the Islamic population in Italy anywhere from 0.8 million[1862] to 1.5 million[1863].

There are more than 200,000 followers of faith originating in the Indian subcontinent woth some 70,000 Sikhs with 22 gurdwaras accross the country[1864], 70,000 Hindus, and 50,000 Buddhists[1865].

Economy

According to the International Monetary Fundmarker, in 2008 Italy was the seventh-largest economy in the world and the fourth-largest in Europe. Italy belongs to the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations, it is a member of the European Union, OECD, and the Group of Seven (G7). The country is divided into a developed industrial north dominated by large private companies and an agricultural, state-assisted south. In the post-war period, Italy was transformed from a weak, agricultural based economy into one of the world's most industrialized nations, even so that in 1987, the Italian economy beat the British economy, by GDP (nominal), an event known to the Italians as 'il sorpasso '. According to the World Bank, Italy has high levels of freedom for investments, business and trade. Italy has the world's 6th (7th including the European Union) highest exports, that of US$ 546,900,000,000 (est.) in 2008. Italy, also, has the world's 24th highest oil exports, which was US$ 521,400 in 2004, even beating Germanymarker and Francemarker. Also, the country exports and produces the highest level of wine, exporting over 1,793 tonnes. Italy was responsible for producing approximately one-fifth of world wine production in 2005.
The Italian economy is one of the world's major economies, and its main industries are tourism, commerce, communications, chemicals, machinery, car manufacture, food, textiles, clothing, footwear and ceramics. Italy is a developed country, and, according to The Economist, has the world's 8th highest quality of life. The country enjoys a very high standard of living, and is the world's 19th most developed country, even beating the UKmarker and Greecemarker. Also, the cities of Milanmarker and Romemarker are major European financial and political centres. The Milan metropolitan area has Europe's 4th highest GDP (nominal), $312 (€241) billion, and the Rome metropolitan area has a GDP of €109 billion. Milanmarker and Romemarker are also the world's 11th and 18th (respectively) most expensive cities in the world. Milanmarker is Europe's 26th richest city by purchasing power in 2009, with a GDP of $115 billion. Milanmarker has one of Europe's highest GDP (per capita), about €35,137 (US$ 52,263), which is 161.6% of the EU average GDP per capita, whilst Romemarker had a 2003 GDP per capita of €29,153 (US$ 37,412), which was second in Italy, (after Milanmarker), and is more than 134.1% of the EU average GDP per capita. Even Naplesmarker, in southern Italy, which is characterized by high levels of unemployment and organized crime, is the world's 91st richest city by purchasing power, with a GDP of $43 billion and even beating Bucharestmarker and Zurich by absolute GDP terms.

During the 1950s and 60s, Italy saw a transformation from being a weak, agricultural-based economy into one of the world's leading industrialized nations, an event known as the "Italian economic miracle", (or 'il boom'). Even American President John F. Kennedy, on his 1963 1-2 July visit to Romemarker and Naplesmarker, praised Italy's economic growth, on a dinner with the Italian President of the time, Antonio Segni. Migrants from the poor south came to the leading industrial centres of Italy, Milanmarker, Turinmarker and Genoamarker, and these cities started to open up more factories and industrial districts. The release of the new Fiat 500 and the construction of the Pirelli Towermarker in Milanmarker, were all events which symbolized Italy's growing economy. Also, in 1964 onwards, Italy's GDP grew at an average of +8% every year.

Since the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s, the economy of southern Italy has had a remarkable growth. Unemployment has been decreasing, since the 2003 contreversial "Biagi law", as unemployment in Campania has fallen from 23.7% in 1999 to 11.2% in 2007, and in Sicily from 24.5% to 13%.

However, the country's economy suffers from many problems. During the last decade the average annual growth was 1.23% in comparison to an average EU annual growth rate of 2.28%. Italy has often been referred the sick man of Europe, characterised by economic stagnation, political instability and problems in pursuing reform programs. However, according to the last Eurostat data, Italian per capita GDP at purchasing power parity remains approximately equal to the EU average.



Firstly, Italy suffers from structural weaknesses due to its geographical conformation and the lack of raw materials and energy resources. The territory is mostly mountainous, so much of the terrain is not suitable for intensive cultivation and communication is made more difficult. The energy sector is highly dependent on imports from abroad: in 2006 the country imported more than 86% of its total energy consumption (99.7% of the solid fuels demand, 92.5% of oil, 91.2% of natural gas and 15% of electricity)

Secondly, the Italian economy is weakened by the lack of infrastructure development, market reforms and research investment. In the Index of Economic Freedom 2008, the country ranked 64th in the world and 29th in Europe, the lowest rating in the Eurozone.The country has an inefficient state bureaucracy, low property rights protection and high levels of corruption, heavy taxation and public spending that accounts for about half of the national GDP. In addition, the most recent data show that Italy's spending in R&D in 2006 was equal to 1.14% of GDP, below the EU average of 1.84% and the Lisbon Strategy target of devoting 3% of GDP to research and development activities.

Thirdly, Italy has a smaller number of world-class multinational corporations than other economies of comparable size, but there are a large number of small and medium companies. This has produced a manufacturing sector often focused on the export of niche market and luxury products, capable of facing the competition from China and other emerging Asian economies based on lower labour costs. Italy's major exports are motor vehicles (Fiat Groupmarker, Aprilia, Ducati, Piaggio); chemicals and petrochemicals (Eni); energy and electrical engineering (Enel, Edison); home appliances (Candy, Indesit), aerospace and defense technologies (Alenia, Agusta, Finmeccanica), firearms (Beretta), fashion (Armani, Valentino, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli, Benetton, Prada, Luxottica); food processing (Ferrero, Barilla Group, Martini & Rossi, Campari, Parmalat); sport and luxury vehicles (Ferrarimarker, Maseratimarker, Lamborghini, Pagani); yachts (Ferretti, Azimut).

Transport

A train in Val Pusteria.
In 2004 the transport sector in Italy generated a turnover of about 119.4 billion euros, employng 935,700 persons in 153,700 enterprises. Regarding to the national road network, in 2002 there were 668,721 km (415,612 mi) of serviceable roads in Italy, including 6,487 km (4,031 mi) of motorways, state-owned but privately operated by Atlantia company.
Italian motorway network (motorways, distributions, connections, orbitals).
In 2005, about 34,667,000 passenger cars (equal to 590 cars per 1,000 people) and 4,015,000 road good vehicles circulated on the national road network. The national railway network, state-owned and operated by Ferrovie dello Stato, in 2003 totalled 16,287 km (10,122 mi) of which 69% electrified, and on which 4,937 locomotives and railcars circulated. The national inland waterways network comprised 1,477 km (918 mi) of navigable rivers and channells in 2002. In 2004 there were approximately 30 main airports (including the two hubs of Malpensa Internationalmarker in Milanmarker and Leonardo Da Vinci Internationalmarker in Romemarker) and 43 major seaports in Italy (including the seaport of Genoamarker, that is the country largest and the second largest in the Mediterranean Seamarker after Marseillemarker). In 2005 Italy maintained a civilian air fleet of about 389,000 units and a merchant fleet of 581 ships.

Tourism

Tourism is one of the fastest growing and most profitable sectors the national economy: with 43.7 million international tourist arrivals and total receipts estimated at $42.7 billion, Italy is the fourth highest tourist earner in the world. Italy is the fifth most visited country in the world, behind France (76.0 million), Spain (55.6 million), United States (49.4 million), and China (46.8). People mainly come to Italy for its rich art, cuisine, archaeology, history, fashion, and culture, its beautiful coastline and beaches, its good Mediterraneanmarker weather, its mountains, its lakes, and priceless ancient monuments, especially those from the Greek civilization and Roman civilization. Romemarker, Italy's capital, is one of the most visited cities in the world, with an average of 7-10 million tourists a year. The Colosseummarker (4 million tourists) and the Vatican Museumsmarker (4.2 million tourists) are the 39th and 37th (respectively) most visited places in the world, according to a recent study. Other main sights in the city include the Pantheonmarker, the Trevi Fountainmarker, Piazza Navonamarker, St Peter's Basilicamarker, the Roman Forummarker, Castel Sant'Angelomarker, the Basilica of St. John Lateranmarker, the Spanish Stepsmarker, Villa Borghese park, Piazza del Popolomarker, the Trasteveremarker and the Janiculummarker.

Automobile Industry

The automobile industry in Italy (formerly the vehicle industry in Italy) is a quite large employer in the country, with a labour force of over 196,000 (2004) working in the industry.Italy is the 5th largest automobile producer in Europe (2006). Today the Italian automotive industry is almost totally dominated by Fiat Groupmarker, in 2001 over 90% of vehicles were produced by it. Italian automotive part industry covered over 2,131 firms and employed almost 250,000 people in 2006. Italy's automotive industry is best known for its automobile designs and small city cars, sports and supercars. The automotive industry makes a significant contribution of 8.5% to Italian GDP. Italian car companies include Fiatmarker, Lancia, Iveco, Bertone, Maseratimarker, Ferrarimarker, Abarth, Pagani and Lamborghini, to name a few. Italy is also very famous for its supercar and sportscar industry, with iconic automobiles such as Ferrarismarker, Lamborghinis, Maseratismarker and Paganis.

Energy

Italy has built several nuclear reactors from 1963-1990, but after Chernobylmarker, the country stopped all work on its nuclear program. Currently, the majority of Italy’s electricity is produced gas, oil, coal, and hydro. Italy also imports about 16% of its electricity need from France for 6.5 GWe, which makes it the world’s biggest importer of electricity. Due to its reliance on expensive fossil fuels and imports, Italians pay approximately 45% more than the EU average for electricity.“Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries.” Australian Uranium Association. April 2008. /www.uic.com.au/nip102.htm>

In 2004, a new Energy Law brought the possibility of joint ventures with foreign companies to build nuclear power plants and import electricity. Public opinion on nuclear power was positive, as Italy’s younger generations embraced nuclear energy. In 2005, Italy’s power company, ENEL made an agreement with Electricite de France for 200 MWe from a nuclear reactor in France and potentially an additional 1,000 MWe from new construction. As part of the agreement, ENEL received a 12.5% stake in the project and direct involvement in design, construction, and operation of the plants. In another move, ENEL also bought 66% of the Slovak Electric utility that operates six nuclear reactors. As part of this agreement, ENEL will pay the Slovak government EUR 1.6 billion to complete a nuclear power plant in Mochovce, which has a gross output of 942 MWe. With these agreements, Italy has managed to access nuclear power without placing reactors on Italian territory.

There was a uranium enrichment facility in Bosco Marengomarker, but which is being decommissioned by Sogin, a spinoff of ENEL.

The country was also ranked ranked as the world’s sixth largest producer of wind power with an installed nameplate capacity of 3,736 GW in 2008, behind India and ahead of France and the United Kingdom.

Northern and Central Italy

Northern Italy is the wealthiest and most prosperous of Italian regions. Lombardy (GDP: € 311 billion (2006)), Lazio (GDP: € 161 billion (2006)), Veneto (GDP: € 140 billion (2006)), Emilia-Romagna (GDP: € 129 billion (2006)) and Piedmont (GDP: € 120 billion (2006)) are Italy's wealthiest regions. The cities of Milanmarker, Turinmarker and Genoamarker together form Italy's famous "industrial triangle", which is characterized by heavy industry, machinery, production and commerce. Also, the Province of Bolzano-Bozen is Italy's richest province GDP per capita (€32,900; 135.5% of EU average), followed by Lombardy (€32,800; 135.1% of EU average) and Emilia-Romagna (€30,700; 126.6% of EU average). Also, with Northern Italy having a 2007 nominal GDP estimated in €834.7 billion, Northern Italy accounts for almost 54% of the national economy.

Southern Italy

Southern Italy is the country's less affluent and less prosperous area. Even though cities in the Southern part of the peninsula (such as Naplesmarker) have had a remarkable economic growth in the post-war period, there are problems such as high unemployment, corruption, inefficient levels of bureaucracy, tax evasion and organized crime (the Sicilian Mafia, Camorra and 'Ndrangheta are all based in regions of Southern Italy).

Although southern Italy was less affluent than northern Italy throughout modern history, at times southern Italy had prosperous and advanced areas, culturally and economically wealthier than northern or central Italy, mainly prior to the Renaissance. Southern Italy was a leader in European cultural and political affairs. The Norman Kingdom of Sicily was prosperous and politically powerful, becoming one of the wealthiest states in Europe.

In the 11th and 12th centuries, Sicily and the Kingdom of Naples played a major role in European affairs and exhibited many signs of prosperity. By the middle of the 13th century, due to fiscal policies that prevented the growth of a strong merchant class, the region became economically backward compared to the other Italian states.

Following unification with the rest of the Italian peninsula in 1861, factory technology (which the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies had gained from the British) was taken away to Piedmont, Lombardy and Liguria.

After unification southern Italy experienced a huge demographic expansion which provoked mass emigration, especially between 1892 and 1921. In addition, corruption was such a large problem that the prime-minister Giovanni Giolitti once conceded that places existed "where the law does not operate at all".

One study released in 1910 examined tax rates in north, central and southern Italy indicated that northern Italy with 48% of the nation's wealth paid 40% of the nation's taxes, while the south with 27% of the nation's wealth paid 32% of the nation's taxes.

Today, Southern Italy has Italy's lowest GDP per capita, that of € 16,300-16,600 in 2006, and a 2003 GDP nominal of US$369 billion. The area's richest region, Campania, has a GDP nominal of € 94.3 billion in 2006, and a GDP per capita of € 16,294.

Exports

Italy's major exports are precision machinery, motor vehicles (utilitaries, luxury vehicles, motorcycles, scooters), chemicals and electric goods, but the country's more famous exports are in the fields of food and clothing.

Italy's closest trade ties are with the other countries of the European Union, with whom it conducts about 59% of its total trade. Italy's largest EU trade partners, in order of market share, are Germanymarker (12.9%), Francemarker (11.4%), and Spainmarker (7.4%).

Public Health, Education, Telecommunications and Media

Healthcare



Healthcare spending in Italy has accounted for more the 9.0% of the country's GDP, slightly above the OECD countries' average of 8.9%, however, this has resulted in Italy having the world's 2nd best healthcare system, 19th highest life expectancy, and the world's 3rd best healthcare performance. Italy's life expectancy at birth was in 2004 80.9, two years above the OECD average.

Education

Italy's public education is free and compulsory from 6–14 years of age, and has a five-year primary stage and an eight-year secondary stage, divided into first-grade secondary school (middle school) and second-grade secondary school (or high school). Italy has a high public education standard, beating that of the UKmarker and Germanymarker. The country has both public and private education systems.

Italy hosts a broad variety of universities, colleges and academies. Milan's Bocconi Universitymarker, has been ranked among the top 20 best business schools in the world by The Wall Street Journal international rankings, especially thanks to its M.B.A. program, which in 2007 placed it no. 17 in the world in terms of graduate recruitment preference by major multinational companies. Also, Forbes has ranked Bocconi no.1 worldwide in the specific category Value for Money. In May 2008, Bocconi overtook several traditionally top global business schools in the Financial Times Executive education ranking, reaching no. 5 in Europe and no. 15 in the world.

Other top universities and polytechnics include the Polytechnic University of Turinmarker, the Politecnico di Milanomarker (which in 2009 was ranked as the 57th technical university in the world by Top Universities, in a research conducted on behalf of Times Higher Education. This was a 6-positions growth from the 63rd position in 2008. In 2009 an Italian research ranked it as the best in Italy over indicators such as scientific production, attraction of foreign students, and others ), the La Sapienzamarker (which in 2005 was Europe's 33rd best university, and currently ranks amongst Europe's 50 and the world's 150 best colleges) and the University of Milan (whose research and teaching activities have developed over the years and have received important international recognitions. The University is the only Italian member of the League of European Research Universities (LERU), a prestigious group of twenty research-intensive European Universities. It also been awarded ranking positions as such: -1st in Italy and 7th in Europe (The Leiden Ranking - Universiteit Leiden).

Italy and the Western world's oldest college is the University of Bolognamarker. The University of Padua, also remains one of Europe's oldest.

Telecommunications

Italy has modern telephone and data services. The country has 17.7 million internet hosts, 4th-most in the world, and 32 million internet users, 10th highest in the world. There are 88.58 million mobile cellular telephones in Italy, far exceeding the actual population and ranking 11th in the world, and 20 million landline telephones. Italy has high-capacity cables for domestic usage of phones, and numerous international connections.

Media and Censorship

The first form of televised media in Italy was introduced in 1939, when the first experimental broadcasting began. However, this lasted for a very short time: when fascist Italy entered World War II in 1940 all the transmission were interrupted, and were resumed in earnest only nine years after the end of the conflict, in 1954. There are two main national television networks responsible for most viewing: state-owned RAImarker, funded by a yearly mandatory licence fee and Mediaset, commercial network founded by current Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. While many other networks are also present, both nationally and locally, these two together reach 80% of the TV ratings, as detailed further below.

As with all the other media of Italy, the Italian television industry is widely considered both inside and outside the country to be overtly politicized. The public broadcaster RAImarker is, unlike the BBC which is controlled by an independent trust, under direct control of the government; the most important commercial stations in the country are, in turn, owned by the current prime minister. According to a December 2008 poll, only 24% of Italians trust television news programmes, compared unfavourably to the British rate of 38%, making Italy one of only three examined countries where online sources are considered more reliable than television ones for information. Also, along with Turkeymarker, Italy has one of the lowest levels of press freedom in Europe, even falling behind some ex-communist countries, such as Polandmarker and the Czech Republicmarker.

Society



Italy has been nominated 2009's sixth most internationally valued country, coming ninth in export branding 2008, first in tourism branding, second in cultural branding, third in people branding and ninth in immigration branding.

LGBT rights

Italy legally accepts homosexuals and transgenders, however they may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Italy, but same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples.

Italian opinions have changed in the past and people now tend to be more supportive and liberal of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights, but tend to be more repressive than other European nations. Tolerance is seen in a peculiar way that is due to the religious influence of the Roman Catholic Church, which has been ingrained in Italian society for 1,700 years. Conservative Italian politicians such as Silvio Berlusconi have often been opposed to increasing gay rights. A Eurobarometer survey published on December 2006 showed that 31% of Italians surveyed support same-sex marriage and 24% recognise same-sex couple's right to adopt (EU-wide average 44% and 33%). A recent 2007 poll asking whether they supported the civil partnership law for gays. Support for the measure was at 45% support, with 47% oppose. 8% said they were unsure. Homosexuals are also allowed to serve fully in military service.

Italian people

Over the centuries, Italy has boasted numerous people of excellence in many fields, including some of the most renowned geniuses, architects, actors, polymaths, artists and politicians of all time. Examples include Julius Caesar, Petrarch, Marco Polo, Dante, Botticelli, Machiavelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Palladio, Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, Canaletto, Vivaldi, Garibaldi, Cavour, Mazzini, Verdi, Puccini, Maria Montessori, Salvatore Ferragamo, Federico Fellini, Federico Faggin, De Chirico, Aldo Moro and Pavarotti, to name a few.

Daily life and leisure

Italians' social customs and daily lives have profoundly changed since World War II, transforming the nation from a highly traditional, agricultural-based society, into a progressive and modernized one. This is especially reflected in the fact that women play a far greater role today in politics and higher education than they did before.

Most Italians currently favour doing activities such as going to the cinema, reading newspapers, watching the television and listening to the radio; reading books and playing sport has proved less popular. According to some surveys, Italians are generally highly satisfied with social relations and family, healthcare, daily life and friendship relations; however, Italians find economic status and job opportunites generally less satisfying, especially with the fact that Southern Italy still suffers from relatively high unemployment. Also, meeting up and socializing with friends in the country's abundant piazzas, going to bars, discos, pizzerias and restaurants and finding other forms of entertainment remain popular with Italians, especially the younger generations. Automobiles still hold a strong part of Italian daily life, however this results in many cities being congested.

Public Holidays

List of Public holidays in Italy:

Date English Name Local Name Remarks
1 January New Year's Day Capodanno
6 January Epiphany Epifania
Movable Easter Sunday Pasqua
Monday after Easter Easter Monday Lunedì dell'Angelo, Pasquetta
25 April Anniversary of Liberation Festa della Liberazione End of World War II in Italy, 1945
1 May Labour Day Festa dei Lavoratori
2 June Republic Day Festa della Repubblica Birth of the Italian Republic, 1946
15 August Ferragosto/Assumption Day Ferragosto and Assunzione
1 November All Saints Ognissanti or Tutti i santi
8 December Immaculate Conception Immacolata Concezione (or just Immacolata)
25 December Christmas Day Natale
26 December St Stephen's Day Santo Stefano


Architecture

Italy boasts a long period of different architectural styles, from Classical Roman and Greek, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-Classical, Art Nouveau to Modern. Italian architecture began with Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Etruscansmarker, when both civilizations built temples, basilicae, columns, fora, palaces, aqueducts, walls and public baths. After these classical civilizations, Italian developed a renowned Gothic architecture, especially towards the 12th century. Cities such as Venicemarker, Vicenzamarker, Florencemarker, Sienamarker, Assisimarker and Pisamarker were mainly affected by the Gothic and Romanesque architectural periods. Italy then was, in the 15th and 16th centuries, considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, with Florencemarker and Romemarker as its main centres. Examples of renowned Renaissance buildings include Florence Cathedralmarker, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggioremarker, the Basilica of St. John Lateranmarker, the Capitoline Museumsmarker, the Uffizimarker and the Pitti Palacemarker, to name a few. Italy then became a main European centre for the baroque, with diverse baroque architectural styles emerging, especially in Sicily (see Sicilian baroque). Later, in the 18th and 19th centuries neo-classical style buildings began to appear in Romemarker, Milanmarker, Turinmarker and all around Italy. Currently, modern Italian architecture and design is considered world-class and is very renowned, with Milanmarker as the country's capital. Numerous modern Italian architects, such as Renzo Piano, are famous worldwide.

Italian Gothic architecture

Elaborately ornate facade of the Duomo di Orvieto
architecture appeared in Italy in the 12th century, but did not mature into a regionally distinct style until the 13th century, partly due to geographic factors. Due to its comparatively late maturity, the influence of Byzantine and classical art, and the fact that brick--not stone--was the most common building material and marble the most common decorative material, Italian Gothic architecture maintained peculiar characteristics which differentiated its evolution from that in France, where it had originated, and in other European countries. In particular, the architecturally daring solutions and technical innovations of the French Gothic cathedrals rarely appeared. With the exception of the Cathedral of Milan, the product of a centuries-long collaboration between Italian, French, and German minds, few Italian churches show the emphasis on vertical development, clustered shafts, ornate tracery and complex ribbed vaulting that characterise Gothic in other parts of Europe. Notable examples of Italian Gothic architecture include Basilica of Santa Crocemarker, Orvieto Cathedralmarker, and Siena Cathedralmarker, where the distinctively ornate Italian realization of façade design is evident.

Italian Renaissance architecture

The Romanesque Baptistry of Florence was the object of Brunelleschi's studies of perspective
Italy of the 15th century, and the city of Florence in particular, was home to the Renaissance. It is in Florence that the new architectural style had its beginning, not slowly evolving in the way that Gothic grew out of Romanesque, but consciously brought to being by particular architects who sought to revive the order of a past "Golden Age". The scholarly approach to the architecture of the ancient coincided with the general revival of learning. A number of factors were influential in bringing this about.

Italian architects had always preferred forms that were clearly defined and structural members that expressed their purpose. Many Tuscan Romanesque buildings demonstrate these characteristics, as seen in the Florence Bapistry and Pisa Cathedral.

Italy had never fully adopted the Gothic style of architecture. Apart from the Cathedral of Milan, largely the result of a French-Italian collaboration, few Italian churches show the emphasis on vertically, the clustered shafts, ornate tracery and complex ribbed vaulting that characterise Gothic in other parts of Europe.

The presence, particularly in Rome, of ancient architectural remains showing the ordered Classical style provided an inspiration to artists at a time when philosophy was also turning towards the Classical.

Palaces and Palazzi in Italy

Italy boasts a wide variety of palaces, in various cities, mainly Romemarker, Florencemarker, Venicemarker, Milanmarker, Turinmarker, Bolognamarker and Naplesmarker, built in a wide variety of different styles, from Roman, Byzantine, Romansque, Medieval and Gothic, to Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Classical and Fascism. In Italian, the word "Palazzo" is more broadly used in Italy than its English equivalent “palace”. In Italy, a palazzo is a grand building of some architectural ambition that is the headquarters of a family of some renown or of an institution, or even what the British would call a “block of flats” or a tenement. In Venice, most palaces are referred to as "Ca'", which is short for "Casa", meaning "house" in Italian, for example Ca' Pesaromarker or Ca' Rezzonicomarker. However, the word "palazzo" has started to be used abroad, for instance, The Palazzomarker in Las Vegasmarker.Examples of major and famous Italian palaces include Palazzo Spadamarker, Palazzo Lateranomarker, Palazzo Quirinalemarker, Palazzo Vecchiomarker, Palazzo Pittimarker, Palace of Casertamarker, Royal Palace of Turinmarker, Royal Palace of Capodimontemarker, Royal Palace marker, Palazzina di caccia of Stupinigimarker, Palazzo Littamarker, Palazzo del Temarker, Ca' d'Oromarker, Ca' Foscarimarker, Doge's Palacemarker and Ca' Rezzonicomarker, to name a few.

Italian Renaissance Gardens and Villas

Gardens of the Villa Lante.
The Italian Renaissance garden was a new style of garden which emerged in the late fifteenth century at villas in Romemarker and Florencemarker, inspired by classical ideals of order and beauty, and intended for the pleasure of the view of the garden and the landscape beyond, for contemplation, and for the enjoyment of the sights, sounds and smells of the garden itself.

In the late Renaissance, the gardens became larger, grander and more symmetrical, and were filled with fountains, statues, grottoes, water organs and other features designed to delight their owners and amuse and impress visitors. The style was imitated throughout Europe, influencing the gardens of the French Renaissance and the English garden.

Culture

Italy did not exist as a state until the country's unification in 1861. Due to this comparatively late unification, and the historical autonomy of the regions that comprise the Italian Peninsula, many traditions and customs that are now recognized as distinctly Italian can be identified by their regions of origin. Despite the political and social distinction of these regions, Italy's contributions to the cultural and historical heritage of Europe and the world remain immense. Italy is home to the greatest number of UNESCOmarker World Heritage Sites (44) to date, and has rich collections of world art, culture and literature from many different periods

Visual Art



Italian painting is traditionally characterized by a warmth of colour and light, as exemplified in the works of Caravaggio and Titian, and a preoccupation with religious figures and motifs. Italian painting enjoyed preeminence in Europe for hundreds of years, from the Romanesque and Gothic periods, and through the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the latter two of which saw fruition in Italy. Notable artists who fall within these periods include Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Bernini, Titian and Raphael. Thereafter, Italy was to experience a continual subjection to foreign powers which caused a shift of focus to political matters, leading to its decline as the artistic authority in Europe. Not until 20th century Futurism, primarily through the works of Umberto Boccioni and Giacomo Balla, would Italy recapture any of its former prestige as a seminal place of artistic evolution. Futurism was succeeded by the metaphysical paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, who exerted a strong influence on the Surrealists and generations of artists to follow.

Literature

The basis of the modern Italian language was established by the Florentinemarker poet Dante Alighieri, whose greatest work, the Divine Comedy, is considered amongst the foremost literary statements produced in Europe during the Middle Ages. There is no shortage of celebrated literary figures in Italy: Giovanni Boccaccio, Giacomo Leopardi, Alessandro Manzoni, Torquato Tasso, Ludovico Ariosto, and Petrarch, whose best-known vehicle of expression, the sonnet, was invented in Italy. Prominent philosophers include Giordano Bruno, Marsilio Ficino, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Giambattista Vico. Modern literary figures and Nobel laureates are nationalist poet Giosuè Carducci in 1906, realist writer Grazia Deledda in 1926, modern theatre author Luigi Pirandello in 1936, poets Salvatore Quasimodo in 1959 and Eugenio Montale in 1975, satirist and theatre author Dario Fo in 1997.Regarding the Italian theatre, it can be traced back to the Roman tradition which was heavily influenced by the Greek; as with many other literary genres, Roman dramatists tended to adapt and translate from the Greek. For example, Seneca's Phaedra was based on that of Euripides, and many of the comedies of Plautus were direct translations of works by Menander. During the 16th century and on into the 18th century, Commedia dell'arte was a form of improvisational theatre, and it is still performed today. Travelling troupes of players would set up an outdoor stage and provide amusement in the form of juggling, acrobatics, and, more typically, humorous plays based on a repertoire of established characters with a rough storyline, called canovaccio.

Science

Through the centuries, Italy has given birth to some notable scientific minds. Amongst them, and perhaps the most famous polymath in history, Leonardo da Vinci made several contributions to a variety of fields including art, biology, and technology. Galileo Galilei was a physicist, mathematician, and astronomer who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations, and support for Copernicanism. The physicist Enrico Fermi, a Nobel prize laureate, was the leader of the team that built the first nuclear reactormarker and is also noted for his many other contributions to physics, including the co-development of the quantum theory. A brief overview of some other notable figures includes the astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini, who made many important discoveries about the Solar System; the physicist Alessandro Volta, inventor of the electric battery; the mathematicians Lagrange, Fibonacci, and Gerolamo Cardano, whose Ars Magna is generally recognized as the first modern treatment on mathematics, made fundamental advances to the field; Marcello Malpighi, a doctor and founder of microscopic anatomy; the biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani, who conducted important research in bodily functions, animal reproduction, and cellular theory; the physician, pathologist, scientist, and Nobel laureate Camillo Golgi, whose many achievements include the discovery of the Golgi complex, and his role in paving the way to the acceptance of the Neuron doctrine; and Guglielmo Marconi, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics for the invention of radio.

Music

From folk music to classical, music has always played an important role in Italian culture. Having given birth to opera, Italy provides many of the foundations of the classical music tradition. Instruments associated with classical music, including the piano and violin, were invented in Italy, and many of the prevailing classical music forms, such as the symphony, concerto, and sonata, can trace their roots back to innovations of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italian music. Italy's most famous composers include the Renaissance composers Palestrina and Monteverdi, the Baroque composers Alessandro Scarlatti, Corelli and Vivaldi, the Classical composers Paganini and Rossini, and the Romantic composers Verdi and Puccini. Modern Italian composers such as Berio and Nono proved significant in the development of experimental and electronic music.While the classical music tradition still holds strong in Italy, as evidenced by the fame of its innumerable opera houses, such as La Scalamarker of Milan and San Carlo of Naples, and performers such as the pianist Maurizio Pollini and the late tenor Luciano Pavarotti, Italians have been no less appreciative of their thriving contemporary music scene. Introduced in the early 1920s, jazz took a particularly strong foothold in Italy, and remained popular despite the anti-American cultural policies of the Fascist regime. Today, the most notable centers of jazz music in Italy include Milan, Rome, and Sicily. Later, Italy was at the forefront of the progressive rock movement of the 1970s, with bands like PFM and Goblin. Today, Italian pop music is represented annually with the Sanremo Music Festival, which served as inspiration for the Eurovision song contest, and the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoletomarker. Singers such as pop diva Mina, classical crossover artist Andrea Bocelli, Grammy winner Laura Pausini, and European chart-topper Eros Ramazzotti have attained international acclaim.

Cinema

The history of Italian cinema began a few months after the Lumière brothers began motion picture exhibitions. The first Italian film was a few seconds long, showing Pope Leo XIII giving a blessing to the camera. The Italian film industry was born between 1903 and 1908 with three companies: the Società Italiana Cines, the Ambrosio Film and the Itala Film. Other companies soon followed in Milanmarker and in Naplesmarker. In a short time these first companies reached a fair producing quality, and films were soon sold outside Italy. Cinema was later used by Benito Mussolini, who founded Rome's renowned Cinecittàmarker studio for the production of Fascist propaganda until the World War II.

After the war, Italian film was widely recognised and exported until an artistic decline around the 1980s. World-famous Italian film directors from this period include Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Sergio Leone, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Michelangelo Antonioni and Dario Argento. Movies include world cinema treasures such as La dolce vita, Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo and Ladri di biciclette.In recent years, the Italian scene has received only occasional international attention, with movies like La vita è bella directed by Roberto Benigni and Il postino with Massimo Troisi.

Sport

Popular sports include football, basketball, volleyball, waterpolo, fencing, rugby, cycling, ice hockey (mainly in Milan, Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto), roller hockey and motor racing. Winter sports are most popular in the northern regions, with Italians competing in international games and Olympic venues. Turinmarker hosted the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. Sports are incorporated into Italian festivities like Palio (see also Palio di Sienamarker), and the gondola race (regatta) that takes place in Venice on the first Sunday of September. Sports venues have extended from the gladiatorial games of Ancient Rome in the Colosseummarker to the Stadio Olimpicomarker of contemporary Rome, where football clubs compete.

The most popular sport in Italy is football, the Serie A being one of the most famous competitions in the world. Italy's national football team is the second-most-successful team in the world, with four World Cup victories, the first one of which was in 1934. Italy is also the current (2006) FIFAmarker world champion. Rugby has recently gained popularity in Italy, and the Italian rugby union national team takes part in the Six Nations Championship. Cricket is also slowly gaining popularity; the Italian national cricket team is administered by the Federazione Cricket Italiana‎ (Italian Cricket Federation). They are currently ranked 27th in the world by the International Cricket Council and are ranked fifth amongst European non-Test teams.

Fashion

Italian fashion is regarded as one of the most important in the world, along with French fashion, American fashion, British fashion and Japanese fashion. Milanmarker and Romemarker are Italy's main capitals, however Florencemarker, Naplesmarker, Turinmarker, Venicemarker, Bolognamarker, Genoamarker and Vicenzamarker are other major centres. According to the 2009 Global Language Monitor, Milan was nominated the true fashion capital of the world, even beating other international cities, such as New Yorkmarker, Parismarker, Londonmarker and Tokyomarker, and Rome came 4th. Major Italian fashion labels, such as Gucci, Prada, Versace, Valentino, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Missoni, Fendi, Moschino, Max Mara and Ferragamo, to name a few, are regarded as amongst the finest fashion houses in the world. Also, the fashion magazine Vogue Italia, is considered the most important and prestigious fashion magazine in the world.

Cuisine

The modern Italian cuisine has evolved through centuries of social and political changes, with its roots reaching back to the 4th century BC. Significant change occurred with the discovery of the New World, when vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, and maize became available. However, these central ingredients of modern Italian cuisine were not introduced in scale before the 18th century.

Ingredients and dishes vary by region. However, many dishes that were once regional have proliferated in different variations across the country. Cheese and wine are major parts of the cuisine, playing different roles both regionally and nationally with their many variations and Denominazione di origine controllata (regulated appellation) laws. Coffee, and more specifically espresso, has become highly important to the cultural cuisine of Italy. Some famous dishes and items include pasta, pizza, lasagna, focaccia, espresso, and gelato.

See also



Notes

 According to Mitrica, an October 2005 Romanian report estimates that 1,061,400 Romanians are living in Italy, constituting 37.2% of 2.8 million immigrants in that country but it is unclear how the estimate was made, and therefore whether it should be taken seriously.
 See also (in Italian): L. Lepschy e G. Lepschy, La lingua italiana: storia, varietà d'uso, grammatica, Milano, Bompiani
 Official French maps show the border detouring south of the main summit, and claim the highest point in Italy is Mont Blanc de Courmayeur (4,748 m), but these are inconsistent with an 1861 convention and topographic watershed analysis.


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