The Italian peninsula was home to the Roman Empire, one of the greatest ancient civilizations. The south has two famous volcanoes, Vesuvius and Etna.
Geography: The Appennines form the backbone of a rugged peninsula, extending from the Alps into the Mediterranean Sea. Alluvial plain in the north.
Climate: Mediterranean in the south. Seasonal extremes in the mountains and on the northern alluvial plain.
People and Society: Ethnically homogeneous, but with a gulf between the prosperous, industrial north and the poorer, agricultural south. Strong regional identities persist, especially on Sicily and Sardinia. Family ties remain strong, though the influence of the Roman Catholic Church has lessened.
The Economy: World leader in industrial and product design, fashion, textiles. Strong tourism and agriculture sectors. Large public sector debt.
Insight: Italy was a collection of dukedoms, monarchies, and city states before unification in the 1860’s
Official Name: Italian Republic
Date of Formation: 1861
Population: 59.9 million
Total Area: 116,305 sq. miles (301,230 sq. km)
Density: 527 people per sq. mile
Languages: Italian*, German, French, Rhaeto-Romanic, Sardinian
Religions: Roman Catholic 85%, other and nonreligious 13%, Muslim 2%
Ethnic Mix: Italian 94%, other 4%, Sardinian 2%
Government: Parliamentary system
Currency: Euro = 100 cents