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Italian Republic

Repubblica Italiana  (Italian)
Anthem: "Il Canto degli Italiani"
"The Song of the Italians"
EU-Italy (orthographic projection).svgShow globe
EU-Italy.svgShow map of Europe
Location of  Italy  (dark green)

– on the European continent  (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)  —  [Legend]

and largest city
41°54′N 12°29′E / 41.900°N 12.483°E / 41.900; 12.483
Official languages Italiana
Nationality (2021)
  • 91.3% Italian
  • 8.7% other
Native languages See main article
  • 84.4% Christianity
  • 11.6% no religion
  • 1.0% Islam
  • 3.0% other
Demonym(s) Italian
Government Unitary parliamentary republic
Sergio Mattarella
Giorgia Meloni
Ignazio La Russa
Legislature Parliament
Senate of the Republic
Chamber of Deputies
• Unification
17 March 1861
• Republic
12 June 1946
• Current constitution
1 January 1948
• Founded the EEC (now EU)
1 January 1958
• Total
301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) (71st)
• Water (%)
1.24 (2015)
• 2022 estimate
Decrease 58,853,482 (25th)
• Density
201.3/km2 (521.4/sq mi) (71st)
GDP (PPP) 2023 estimate
• Total
Increase $3.193 trillion (13th)
• Per capita
Increase $54,258 (30th)
GDP (nominal) 2023 estimate
• Total
Increase $2.186 trillion (8th)
• Per capita
Increase $37,146 (26th)
Gini (2020)  32.5
HDI (2022) Steady 0.906
very high · 30th
Currency Euro ()b (EUR)
Time zone UTC+1 (CET)
• Summer (DST)
Date format
  • dd/mm/yyyy
  • yyyy-mm-dd (AD)
Driving side right
Calling code +39c
ISO 3166 code IT
Internet TLD .itd
  1. German is co-official in South Tyrol and Friuli-Venezia Giulia; French is co-official in the Aosta Valley; Slovene is co-official in the province of Trieste, the province of Gorizia, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia; Ladin is co-official in South Tyrol, in Trentino and in other northern areas; Friulian is co-official in Friuli-Venezia Giulia; Sardinian is co-official in Sardinia.
  2. Before 2002, the Italian lira. The euro is accepted in Campione d'Italia but its official currency is the Swiss franc.
  3. To call Campione d'Italia, it is necessary to use the Swiss code +41.
  4. The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern and Western Europe. It is located on a peninsula that extends into the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, with the Alps on its northern land border, as well as several islands, notably Sicily and Sardinia. Italy shares its borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and two enclaves: Vatican City and San Marino. Its territory also includes Campione (an exclave surrounded by Switzerland) and the Pelagie Islands (an archipelago in the African Plate). It is the tenth-largest country by land area in the European continent, covering an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi), and the third-most populous member state of the European Union, with a population of nearly 60 million. Its capital and largest city is Rome.

In antiquity, the Italian peninsula was home to numerous peoples; the Latin city of Rome in central Italy, founded as a Kingdom, became a Republic that conquered the Mediterranean world and ruled it for centuries as an Empire. With the spread of Christianity, Rome became the seat of the Catholic Church and of the Papacy. During the Early Middle Ages, Italy experienced the fall of the Western Roman Empire and inward migration from Germanic tribes. By the 11th century, Italian city-states and maritime republics expanded, bringing renewed prosperity through commerce and laying the groundwork for modern capitalism. The Italian Renaissance flourished in Florence during the 15th and 16th centuries and spread to the rest of Europe. Italian explorers also discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, leading the European Age of Discovery. However, centuries of rivalry and infighting between the Italian city-states among other factors left the peninsula divided into numerous states until the late modern period. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Italian economic and commercial importance waned significantly.

After centuries of political and territorial divisions, Italy was almost entirely unified in 1861, following wars of independence and the Expedition of the Thousand, establishing the Kingdom of Italy. From the late 19th to the early 20th century, Italy rapidly industrialized, mainly in the north, and acquired a colonial empire, while the south remained largely impoverished and excluded from industrialization, fueling a large immigrant diaspora to the Americas. From 1915 to 1918, Italy took part in World War I on the side of the Entente against the Central Powers. In 1922, following a period of crisis and turmoil, the Italian fascist dictatorship was established. During World War II, Italy was first part of the Axis until its surrender to the Allied powers (1940–1943) and then, as parts of its territory were occupied by Nazi Germany with fascist collaboration, a co-belligerent of the Allies during the Italian resistance and the liberation of Italy (1943–1945). Following the end of the war, the monarchy was replaced by a republic, via a referendum; and the country enjoyed a strong recovery, which resulted in prolonged prosperity that is often termed "the economic miracle".

Italy has the eighth-largest nominal GDP in the world, the second-largest manufacturing industry in Europe (7th-largest in the world), and a significant role in regional and global economic, military, cultural, and diplomatic affairs. Italy is a founding and leading member of the European Union, and it is in numerous international institutions, including NATO, the G7, the Mediterranean Union, and the Latin Union. As a cultural superpower, Italy has long been a renowned centre of art, music, literature, cuisine, fashion, science and technology, and the source of multiple inventions and discoveries. It has the world's largest number of World Heritage Sites (59), and is the world's fifth-most visited country.


Colosseum in Rome, Italy - April 2007
The Colosseum in Rome. Its original name is Flavian Amphitheatre, being built under the Flavian dynasty, an imperial Family of the Ancient Rome.

Excavations throughout Italy have found proof of people in Italy dating back to the Palaeolithic period (the "Old Stone Age") some 200,000 years ago.

Italy has influenced the cultural and social development of the whole Mediterranean area, deeply influencing European culture as well. As a result, it has also influenced other important cultures. Such cultures and civilisations have existed there since prehistoric times. After Magna Graecia, the Etruscan civilisation and especially the Roman Republic and Empire that dominated this part of the world for many centuries, Italy was central to European science and art during the Renaissance.

Lightmatter colosseum
The Colosseum in Rome, perhaps the most enduring symbol of Italy

Roman and Medieval Italy

Center of the Roman civilization for centuries, Italy lost its unity after the collapse of the Roman Empire and subsequent barbaric invasions. Conquered by the Ostrogoths and briefly regained by the Eastern Empire (552), it was partially occupied by the Longobards in 568, resulting in the peninsula becoming irreparably divided. For centuries the country was the prey of different populations, resulting in its ultimate decadence and misery. Most of the population fled from cities to take refuge in the countryside under the protection of powerful feudal lords. After the Longobards came the Franks (774). Italy became part of the Holy Roman Empire. Pippin the Short created the first nucleus of the State of the Church, which later became a strong countervailing force against any unification of the country.

Population and economy started slowly to pick up after 1000, with the resurgence of cities (which organised themselves politically in Comuni), trade, arts and literature. During the later Middle Ages the partially democratic Comuni, which could not face the challenges of that period, were substituted by monarchic-absolutistic governments (Signorie), but the fragmentation of the peninsula, especially in the northern and central parts of the country, continued, while the southern part, with Naples, Apulia and Sicily, remained under a single domination. Venice and Genoa created powerful commercial empires in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea.

Italy during the Renaissance and Baroque

The Black Death in 1348 inflicted a terrible blow to Italy, resulting in one third of the population killed by the disease. The recovery from the disaster led to a new 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 civilisation, strongly influencing the other European countries. During this period the many Signorie gathered in a small number of regional states, but none of them had enough power to unify the peninsula.

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 16th century, and a competition between France and Spain for the possession of the country. Ultimately Spain prevailed (the Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis in 1559 recognized the Spanish possession of the Duchy of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples) and for almost two centuries became the hegemon in Italy. The holy alliance between reactionary Catholic 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. The Spanish domination and the control of the Church resulted in intellectual stagnation and economic decadence, also attributable to the shifting of the main commercial routes from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.

Napoleonic Italy and struggle for unification

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 also to the Enlightenment embraced by Habsburgic emperors, was a considerable improvement upon the Spanish one. The northern part of Italy, under the direct control of Vienna, again recovered economic dynamism and intellectual fervor, had improved its situation.

The French Revolution and the Napoleonic War (1796-1815) introduced the modern ideas of equality, democracy, law and nation. The peninsula was not a main battle field as in the past but Napoleon (born in Corsica in 1769, one year after the cession of the island from Genoa to France) changed completely its political map, destroying in 1799 the Republic of Venice, which never recovered its independence. The states founded by Napoleon with the support of minority groups of Italian patriots were short-lived and did not survive the defeat of the French Emperor in 1815.

The Restoration had all the pre-Revolution states restored with the exception of the Republic of Venice (forthwith under Austrian control) and the Republic of Genoa (under Savoy domination). Napoleon had nevertheless the merit to give birth to the first national movement for unity and independence. Albeit formed by small groups with almost no contact with the masses, the Italian patriots and liberals staged several uprisings in the decades up to 1860. Mazzini and Garibaldi were the most economical reformists for the impoverished masses. From 1848 onwards the Italian patriots were more or less openly supported by Vittorio Emanuele II, the king of Sardinia, who put his arms in the Italian tricolor dedicating the House of Savoy to the Italian unity.


The unification of Italy was obtained on March 17 1861, after a successful war (the Second War of Independence) against Austria with the support of France, and the successive invasion of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Naples and Sicily), led in 1860 by Giuseppe Garibaldi. Vittorio Emanuele II became the first king of the united Italy.

The national territory was enlarged to Veneto with Venice in 1866 after the Third War of Independence, fought by allied Italy and Prussia against Austria. Rome with Lazio, thanks to French protection remained for a little less than a decade under the Papacy and became part of the Kingdom of Italy on September 20 1870, after Italian troops stormed the city.

The first unified state was plagued by a gruesome rebellion of the Southern populations opposed to the new domination, by economic stagnation, misery, illiteracy and a weak national consciousness. Italian was spoken by a small part of the population while the rest spoke local dialects.

In 1878 Umberto I succeeded his father Vittorio Emanuele II as King of Italy. He was killed by an anarchist in 1900 and succeeded by his son Vittorio Emanuele III.

Industrialisation, World Wars and Fascism

Industrialisation and modernisation, at least in the northern portion of the country, started in the last part of the 19th century under a protectionist regime. The south, in the meanwhile, stagnated under overpopulation and underdevelopment, so forcing millions of people to search for employment and better conditions of life abroad. This lasted until 1970. It is calculated that more than 26 million Italians migrated to France, Germany, Switzerland, United States, Argentina, Brazil and Australia.

Democracy moved its first steps at the beginning of the 20th century. The Statuto Albertino of 1848 provided for basic freedoms, but the electoral laws excluded the disposed and the uneducated from voting. Only in 1913 male universal suffrage was allowed. The Socialist Party resulted the main political party, outclassing the traditional liberal and conservative organizations. The path to a modern liberal democracy was interrupted by the tragedy of the First World War (1915-1918), which Italy fought along with France and Great Britain. Italy was able to beat the Austrian-Hungarian Empire in November 1918. It obtained Trentino, South Tyrol, Trieste and Istria, besides Fiume and few territories on the Dalmatian coast (Zara), gaining respect as an international power, but the population had to pay a heavy human and social price. The war produced more than 600,000 dead, inflation and unemployment, economic and political instability, which in the end favoured the Fascist movement to seize power in 1922 with the tacit support of King Vittorio Emanuele III, who feared civil war and revolution.

The fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini lasted from 1922 to 1943 but in the first years Mussolini maintained the appearance of a liberal democracy. Mussolini tried to spread his authoritarian ideology to other European countries and dictators such as Salazar in Portugal, Franco in Spain and Hitler in Germany were heavily influenced by the Italian examples. Conservative but democratic leaders in Great Britain and United States were at the beginning favourable to Mussolini. Mussolini tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to spread fascism amongst the millions on Italians living abroad.

Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini Prime Minister of Italy and leader of the Fascist Party

In 1929 Mussolini realised a pact with the Holy See, resulting in the rebirth of an independent state of the Vatican for the Catholic Church in the heart of Rome. In 1935 he declared war on Ethiopia on a pretext. Ethiopia was subjugated in few months. This resulted in the alienation of Italy from its traditional allies, France and Great Britain, and its nearing to Nazi Germany. A first pact with Germany was concluded in 1936 and then in 1938 (the Pact of Steel). Italy supported Franco's revolution in Spanish civil war and Hitler's pretensions in central Europe, accepting the annexation of Austria to Germany in 1938, although the disappearance of a buffer state between mighty Germany and Italy was unfavourable for the country. In October 1938 Mussolini managed to avoid the eruption of another war in Europe, bringing together Great Britain, France and Germany at the expense of Czechoslovakia's integrity.

In April 1939 Italy occupied Albania, a de-facto protectorate for decades, but in September 1939, after the invasion of Poland, Mussolini wisely decided not to intervene on Germany's side, due to the poor preparation of the armed forces. Italy entered in war in June 1940 when France was almost defeated. Mussolini hoped for a quick victory but Italy showed from the very beginning the poor nature of its army and the scarce ability of its generals. Italy invaded Greece in October 1940 via Albania but after a few days was forced to withdraw. After conquering British Somalia in 1940, a counter-attack by the Allies led to the loss of the whole Italian empire in the Horn of Africa. Italy was also defeated in Northern Africa and saved only by the German armed forces led by Rommel.

On July 25, 1943, Mussolini was removed by the Great Council of Fascism, and, on September 8, 1943, Badoglio said that the war as an ally of Germany was ended. Italy started fighting as an ally of France and the UK, but Italian soldiers did not know whom to shoot. In Northern Italy, a movement called Resistenza started to fight against the German invaders.

Mussolini tried to make a small Northern Italian fascist state, the Republic of Salò, but it failed. On April 25, 1945, Italy became free. The state became a republic on June 2, 1946, and, for the first time, women were able to vote. Italian people ended the Savoia dynasty and adopted a republic government.

In February 1947, Italy signed a peace treaty with the Allies losing all the colonies and some territorial areas: (Istria and parts of Dalmatia).

Since then Italy has joined NATO and the European Community (as a founding member), becoming one of the seven biggest industrial economies in the world.


Satellite image of Italy in March 2003
Satellite image of Italy

Italy is a peninsula, meaning it is encompassed by the sea on all of its sides apart from one side of the country (its north side). Northern Italy is separated from France, Switzerland, and Austria by the Alps, a chain of mountains. Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco in Italian or white mountain in English), the highest mountain in western Europe, belongs to this chain. The second important chain of mountains in Italy is the Apennines (Appennini in Italian), which are in central and southern Italy.

The capital of Italy is Rome where the Roman Empire started. Other cities in Italy are Milan, Turin, Florence, Genoa, Naples, Palermo, and Venice. The country has a number of islands, the biggest of which are Sicily and Sardinia, which can be reached by ship or aircraft. It shares maritime borders with Libya to the south.

The Po River is the longest river in Italy. It flows through 5 cities: Torino, Piacenza, Cremona Ferrara and Rovigo. The Tiber River runs through the city of Rome.

Northern Italy has some of the biggest lakes in the country, such as Lake Garda, Lake Como, Lake Maggiore and Lake Iseo. Because it is surrounded by the sea, Italy has many kilometers of coast, which brings tourists from all over the world. Tourists also come to see Italy's historical places.

Two very small separate countries are located within Italy. They are San Marino, which is surrounded by part of Northern Italy, and the Vatican City, which is inside Rome.

People and culture

People from Italy are called Italians. Even if an Italian were to leave Italy, it is possible that their descendants could also claim Italian citizenship due to Italian nationality law relying mostly on ius sanguinis or "right of blood" in Latin. Nearly all the Italians are Christians, and most of these are Roman Catholics, which is based in the Vatican City and home to its leader, the Pope. Leonardo da Vinci is a famous artist, he is the creator of the Mona Lisa which is now in the louvre Paris.

The population of Italy is a little over 60 million. About 2.7 million of them live in Rome, and 1.3 million in Milan. As of 31 December 2015, over 5 million foreigners were living in Italy, which is 8.3% of the total population.

The official language of Italy is Italian and in some small areas German, Slovenian or French. People also speak dialects of Italian such as Sicilian and Sardinian. There are many different dialects spoken in Italy. They vary between regions and, in some cases, also between provinces.

The people of Italy are mostly descendant from the ancient Romans.

Italy is home to more World Heritage Sites than any other nation in the world. These sites are culturally important and valued according to UNESCO. About 60% of the works of art of the world are in Italy. Italy is also a big wine producer. In 2005 it made over 5 million tonnes.


Italy has a modern social welfare system. The labor market enjoys relative strength, with many foreigners, especially from Romania, working in Italy where the wages are much higher. But it could have been much more workers on the labor market because men and women already retired in the age of 57 and the unemployment rate is relatively high at 8.2 percent. Italy's modern society has been built up through loans and now the country has a catastrophic high debt of €1.9trn or 120 percent of the country's total GDP. And the government cannot pay back the loans during the time period the EU wish.


Italy religiosity
Religion percent
No religion

Most people in Italy are Roman Catholics, but the Catholic Church is no longer officially the state religion. 87.8% of the people said they were Roman Catholic. Only about a third said they were active members (36.8%). There are also other Christian groups in Italy, more than 700,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians. 180,000 of them belong to the Greek Orthodox Church.

550,000 are Pentecostals and Evangelicals (0.8%). 235,685 Jehovah's Witnesses (0.4%), 30,000 Waldensians, 25,000 Seventh-day Adventists, 22,000 Mormons, 20,000 Baptists, 7,000 Lutherans, 4,000 Methodists. The country's oldest religious minority is the Jewish community. It has roughly 45,000 people. It is no longer the largest non-Christian group.

About 825,000 Muslims live in Italy. Most of them immigrated. (1.4% of the total population) Only 50,000 are Italian citizens. In addition, there are 50,000 Buddhists 70,000 Sikh and 70,000 Hindus in Italy.

In Venice, gondolas are a way for people to get around.


The traditional recipe for spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce

Italian cuisine is noted for its regional diversity, abundance of difference in taste, and is known to be one of the most popular in the world, wielding strong influence abroad.

The Mediterranean diet forms the basis of Italian cuisine, rich in pasta, fish, fruits and vegetables and characterised by its extreme simplicity and variety, with many dishes having only four to eight ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation. Dishes and recipes are often derivatives from local and familial tradition rather than created by chefs, so many recipes are ideally suited for home cooking. Ingredients and dishes vary widely by region.

Italian cuisine relies heavily on traditional products. The country has a large number of traditional specialities protected under EU law. Cheese, cold cuts and wine are central to Italian cuisine, and along with pizza and coffee (especially espresso) form part of Italian gastronomic culture. Desserts have a long tradition of merging local flavours such as citrus fruits, pistachio and almonds with sweet cheeses like mascarpone and ricotta or exotic tastes as cocoa, vanilla and cinnamon. Gelato, tiramisù and cassata are among the most famous examples of Italian desserts, cakes and patisserie.

Italian meal structure is typical of the European Mediterranean region. It often consists of breakfast (colazione), lunch (pranzo), and dinner (cena). However, much less emphasis is placed on breakfast, and breakfast itself is often skipped or involves lighter meal portions than are seen in non-Mediterranean Western countries. Late-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, called merenda (plural merende), are also often included in this meal structure.

Major cities


Italy is divided into 20 Regions (Regioni in Italian) and every Region is divided into Provinces.

There are 20 Regions. 5 of them have a special status, they are called autonomous. This means that they can make certain local laws more easily. These regions are marked with an asterisk (*) below.

Region Capital Area (km²) Population
Abruzzo L'Aquila &&&&&&&&&&010794.&&&&&010,794 &&&&&&&&01329000.&&&&&01,329,000
Aosta Valley| Aosta &&&&&&&&&&&03263.&&&&&03,263 &&&&&&&&&0126000.&&&&&0126,000
Apulia Bari &&&&&&&&&&019362.&&&&&019,362 &&&&&&&&04076000.&&&&&04,076,000
Basilicata Potenza &&&&&&&&&&&09992.&&&&&09,992 &&&&&&&&&0591000.&&&&&0591,000
Calabria Catanzaro &&&&&&&&&&015080.&&&&&015,080 &&&&&&&&02007000.&&&&&02,007,000
Campania Naples &&&&&&&&&&013595.&&&&&013,595 &&&&&&&&05811000.&&&&&05,811,000
Emilia-Romagna Bologna &&&&&&&&&&022124.&&&&&022,124 &&&&&&&&04276000.&&&&&04,276,000
Friuli-Venezia Giulia| Trieste &&&&&&&&&&&07855.&&&&&07,855 &&&&&&&&01222000.&&&&&01,222,000
Lazio Rome &&&&&&&&&&017207.&&&&&017,207 &&&&&&&&05561000.&&&&&05,561,000
Liguria Genoa &&&&&&&&&&&05421.&&&&&05,421 &&&&&&&&01610000.&&&&&01,610,000
Lombardy Milan &&&&&&&&&&023861.&&&&&023,861 &&&&&&&&09642000.&&&&&09,642,000
Marche Ancona &&&&&&&&&&&09694.&&&&&09,694 &&&&&&&&01553000.&&&&&01,553,000
Molise Campobasso &&&&&&&&&&&04438.&&&&&04,438 &&&&&&&&&0320000.&&&&&0320,000
Piedmont Turin &&&&&&&&&&025399.&&&&&025,399 &&&&&&&&04401000.&&&&&04,401,000
Sardinia| Cagliari &&&&&&&&&&024090.&&&&&024,090 &&&&&&&&01666000.&&&&&01,666,000
Sicily| Palermo &&&&&&&&&&025708.&&&&&025,708 &&&&&&&&05030000.&&&&&05,030,000
Tuscany Florence &&&&&&&&&&022997.&&&&&022,997 &&&&&&&&03677000.&&&&&03,677,000
Trentino-Alto Adige| Trento &&&&&&&&&&013607.&&&&&013,607 &&&&&&&&01007000.&&&&&01,007,000
Umbria Perugia &&&&&&&&&&&08456.&&&&&08,456 &&&&&&&&&0884000.&&&&&0884,000
Veneto Venice &&&&&&&&&&018391.&&&&&018,391 &&&&&&&&04832000.&&&&&04,832,000


Obelisk of montecitorio arp
The Chamber of Deputies

The Head of State is Sergio Mattarella, whose task began in February 2015. Mattarella is currently the President of the Italian Republic. The first president was Enrico De Nicola.

The Head of Government is Paolo Gentiloni, who became Prime Minister on December 12, 2016, succeeding Matteo Renzi. Renzi was previously the Mayor of Florence and is Italy's youngest-ever Prime Minister, at age 39 when taking office.

Italy was one of the first members of the European Union and in 2002 along with 11 other European countries, it changed to using the euro as its official currency. Before this, the Italian lira had been used since 1861.

Anyone who wants to be President of Italy must have Italian citizenship, be at least 50 years old, and must be able to hold political and civil rights.


Rom Fiumicino Airport 2008 by-RaBoe
Rome-Fiumicino Airport was the sixth busiest airport in Europe in 2008.

The railway network in Italy totals 16,627 kilometres (10,332 mi), the 17th longest in the world. High speed trains include ETR-class trains which travel at 300 km/h (190 mph).

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