Location and Geography
Officially the Italian Republic (Repubblica italiana in Italian), commonly known just as Italy, is a unitary parliamentary republic in South Europe. Italy is located between the longitudes 6° W and 19°E, and latitudes 35° and 47°N.
Italy borders on the Northwest with France (488 km), Austria (430 km) and Slovenia (232 km) and Switzerland (740 km) in the North, Adriatic Sea in the East, Ionian Sea in the South and Tyrrhenian Sea in the Southwest. It borders with enclaves of Vatican City and San Marino (39 km). And Campione d’Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland.
Italy is member of European Union, Eurozone, G8, G20, NATO and United Nations.
Italy is the 71st biggest country in the world. The two biggest islands Sicily and Sardinia with many smaller islands in the Mediterranean Sea belong to the Italian territory.
The longest river is the Po of 652 km which flows from the Alps. The Alps are the highest mountains with the highest Italian peek Mont Blanc (with its 4,810 m it’s the highest mount of the European Union, too). The peninsula backbone is formed by the Apennine Mountains. Garda, Maggiore, Como, Trasimeno and Bolsena are the five largest Italian lakes.
Italy is located at the meeting point of the African Plate and the Eurasian Plate, hence the volcanic activity. There are 14 volcanoes in Italy, out of which 3 are active – Etna (the biggest volcano in Europe), Stromboli and Vesuvius. Vesuvius was the volcano which destroyed the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Italy is divided into 20 regions (regioni in Italian): Abruzzo, Aosta Valley, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardy, Marche, Molise, Piedmont, Sardinia, Sicily, Tuscany, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Umbria and Veneto. Five of the regions have a special autonomous status: Aosta Valley, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sardinia, Sicily and Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. Italy is further divided into 110 provinces and 8,100 municipalities.
Official language – Italian (Slovene is co-official in the Trieste and Gorizia province, French in Aosta Valley, German and Ladin are co-official in South Tyrol)
Capital – Rome
Anthem – the Song of the Italians (Il Canto degli Italiani in Italian)
Area – 301,338 square kilometres
Coastline together with islands – around 7,600 kilometres
Currency – Euro
Religion – Roman Catholic 88%
Time Zone – UTC +1, in Summer UTC+2
Drives on the right
Calling code +39
Internet TLD .it
The biggest city of Italy is Rome.
The second biggest town is Milan, the Naples, Turin, Palermo, Genoa, Bologna, Florence, Bari and Catania.
The biggest metropolitan areas are those of Milan, Rome, Naples and Turin.
Climate and nature
Not all the Italian territory has the same Mediterranean climate. The North regions( Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont and Lombardy) have a temperate climate. The region around the river Po is continental with hot summers and cold winters. The Mediterranean climate is found South of Florence and in Liguria. Above the tree line in the Alps the average temperature is less than 10°C which is typical for tundra climate. The coasts are characterized by hot and mostly dry summers, and mild winters, and quite windy. On the contrary, the interior is snowy, cold and wet.
It is much colder in the North than in the South Italy. The temperature differences are extreme during winter, even 20 Celsius degrees between the Southern Islands and the Northern Alps. The North gets more thunderstorms and clouds at summer, and the South is more sunny. The west coast is more wet than the east coast but it gets colder in the east coast during the winters.
24 national parks form about 5 % of the country. There are 147 regional parks, 30 marine protected areas and 393 regional nature reserves.
The discovery of the New World and its vegetables (potatoes, maize, tomatoes, bell peppers) helped a lot to to improve the Italian cuisine. Probably the most famous Italian dish in the world is pizza. Then as well pasta (such as spaghetti bolognese or a la carbonara), focaccia, lasagna and gnocchi dumplings. And the best sweet dessert ever – gelato (ice cream).
Small coffee – espresso is widely drunk in Italy, usually more times per day a very small espresso.
Italian cuisine was influenced by the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab and Jewish cuisine. It can be characterized by a huge use of olive oil, white bread, vegetables, fruit, basil, prosciutto ham, Parmigiano cheese, cotechino sausage, oranges, tiramisu.
Traditional Italian breakfast is pastry (a croissant or biscotti) with cappuccino or espresso.
Eating in Italy is very important. For the Italians it is the time spent with family or friends. It can take hours. Before the meals there is the aperitivo (apéritif, e.g. Cinzano, Vermouth, Prosecco, Campari). Then meals usually consist of 3 or 4 courses – antipasto (appetizer), primo (first course, e.g. soup, pasta, gnocchi or risotto), secondo (second course – fish or meat) and contorno (side dish, e.g. a salad). Then formaggio and frutta (cheese and fruit), dolce (dessert), caffé (coffee) and digestivo (liquor, e.g. limoncello, grappa or amaro).
Dinner time is in many families later than in the Northern Europe, from 8 to 10 pm.
Italy is the fifth most visited country in the world, after France, the US, China and Spain with around 43 million tourists a year. It is mostly because of its beaches, cuisine, history (ancient monuments of Romans and Greeks), fashion, art and culture. Italy is home of 44 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- beaches, e.g. Rimini, Lido di Venezia, Baiae, Salerno, Amalfi coast, Sicily beaches (e.g. Palermo, San Vito Lo Capo, Mondello, Taormina), Portofino, Otranto, Isola del Giglio in Tuscany, Sardinia beaches (Domus de Maria, Posada, Cagliari)
- cities, e.g. Milan, Venice, Turin, Bologna, Genoa, Padua, Verona, Ferrara, Ravenna, Perugia, Siena, Cinque Terre
- architecture and history, e.g. Pompei, Naples, Rome, Herculaneum, and romance in Florence, Pisa, Siracusa, Matera, Noto, Assissi
- islands, e.g. Capri, Sicily, Sardinia, Ischia, Favignana, Capraia
A great way to move around Italy is to rent a car via Discover Cars, the website that offers the best price by comparing all existing providers. Road trips are so much fun!
Italy is an amazing country with lovely clean beaches and a lot of history. You can do thousands of different things when you visit, such as:
- skiing (in the Alps)
- yachting, sailing
- kayaking (e.g. in Elba)
- golf (in Tuscany)
- learn Italian
- learn to cook Italian dishes
- learn how to make olive oil
- eat ice cream over and over again – e.g. Rome gelatos
- visit mummies (e.g. in Umbria or Le Marche)
- visit museums
- visit catacombs
- take a boat (e.g. to Capri, Favignana)
- visit lakes
- take a wine route
- visit caves (e.g. Frasassi cave, Blue Grotto in Capri island)
- visit trulli (limestone dwelings in Alberobello)
- watch great Italian football
- take a ride through Venice on gondola or vaporetto
- see an opera
- feed the pigeons
- watch how they make gondolas in Venice
- visit the Colloseum