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Italy: art, history and natural beauty

Italy (Repubblica Italiana) is located in southern Europe, in the middle of the Mediterranean sea. The nation includes the Po river valley, the Italian peninsula and the two largest Mediterranean islands, Sicily and Sardinia. Italy is bordered along the Alps in the north-west with France, in the north-west and in the north with Switzerland, in the north-east with Austria and Slovenia. While it is surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean Sea, to the west are the Ligurian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea, to the east is the Adriatic Sea, while to the south are the Sea of Sicily and the Ionian Sea.

Within the Italian territory are the two independent states of San Marino and Vatican City which are enclaves in the Italian territory. While the town of Campione d’Italia is an Italian enclave in Swiss territory. Italy has been a member of the European Union since its foundation. The capital of the country is the city of Rome.

Italy is divided into 20 regions, in turn the regions are divided into provinces and municipalities. The largest region in the country is Sicily (25,711 sq km) followed by Piedmont (25,402 sq km), Sardinia (24,090 sq km), Lombardy (23,861 sq km) and Tuscany (22,994 sq km). The smallest region is Valle d’Aosta (3,263 sq km), followed by Molise (4,438 sq km) and Liguria (5,422 sq km).

THE ITALIAN PENINSULA

The Italian peninsula is one of the largest peninsulas in Europe, 1,000 km long from the Alps in the north to the central Mediterranean in the south. The Apennines form the backbone of the peninsula. The terrain is mainly hilly and mountainous, but there are some inland plains and coastal plains. The largest plain in the country is the alluvial plain of the Po river, the Po valley. This plain is drained by the Po river, which is the longest Italian river with 652 km, and by its tributaries.

THE ALPS

The chain of the Alps closes the northern Italian border like a fortress, here the highest mountains of the European continent are found, except for the Caucasus. The highest point in Italy is Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc, 4,810 meters) in the western Alps on the border with France, but there are many peaks that exceed four thousand meters. Close to the Alpine arc there are also a series of large lakes, the most important of which are Lake Maggiore, Lake Como and Lake Garda.

THE APENNINES

The backbone of the long Italian peninsula is formed by the mountain range of the Apennines that reach the highest altitude in Abruzzo with the Gran Sasso d’Italia (2,914 meters). The Apennines begin in the west close to the Maritime Alps and travel the entire peninsula from north to south to Calabria and Sicily. In the largest island of the Mediterranean, Sicily, there is also the largest volcano in Europe, Etna (3,323 meters).

The climate of Italy.

  • Area: 301,230 sq km
  • Population: 58,883,958 (July 2006 est.) Italians (includes small clusters of German-, French-, and Slovene-Italians in the north and Albanian-Italians and Greek-Italians in the south)
  • State Capital: Rome
  • Language: Italian (official). German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d’Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area).
  • Religion: mainly Roman Catholic (88%) with Islam (1,4%), Orthodox, Protestant, Buddihists and Hebrew minorities.
  • Money: Euro
  • Time: Central European time. Daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October

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