Italy (Repubblica Italiana) is located in Southern Europe, at the center of the Mediterranean Sea, the nation comprises the Po River valley, the Italian Peninsula and the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia. Italy is bordered along the Alps to the north-west with France, to the north-west and to the north with Switzerland, to the north-east with Austria and Slovenia, and is surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean Sea, to west are the Ligurian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea, to the east is the Adriatic Sea, while to the south is the Sea of Sicily and the Ionian Sea.
Within the Italian territory are the two independent states of San Marino and the Vatican City which are enclaves within Italian territory, while the town of Campione d’Italia is an Italian enclave in Switzerland territory. Italy is a member of the European Union since its foundation. The country’s capital is the city of Rome.
Italy is divided into 20 regions, which in turn are divided into provinces and municipalities. The largest region of Italy 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 smaller region is the Valle d’Aosta (3,263 sq km), followed by the Molise (4,438 sq km) and Liguria (5,422 sq km).
The Italian peninsula is one of the largest European peninsulas, 1.000 km long from the Alps in the north to the central Mediterranean to the south. The Apennine Mountains form the backbone of the peninsula. The land is mainly hilly and mountainous, but there are some interior and coastal plains. The largest plain in the country is the alluvial plain of the river Po, the Po Valley, which is drained by the river Po, which is the longest Italian river with 652 km, and its tributaries.
The Alps close the northern border of Italy as a fortress, here are the highest mountains in the continent of Europe, excluding the Caucasus. The highest point in Italy is Monte Bianco (4,810 meters) in the western Alps on the border with France, but there are many peaks over four thousand meters. Behind the Alps are also a number of large lakes, among which the most important are Lake Maggiore, Lake Como and Lake Garda.
The backbone of the long Italian peninsula is formed by the Apennines mountain range reaching the highest point in the Gran Sasso mountain in Abruzzo (2,914 meters). The Apennines begin to the west near the Maritime Alps and across the peninsula from north to south to Calabria and Sicily. In the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily, is also the largest volcano in Europe, Mount Etna (3,323 meters).
- 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