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country

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Italy

Capital Rome
Continent Europe
Code +39
Currency Euro (€)
Languages Italian , Italian

Description

Due to its central geographic location in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, Italy has historically been home to myriad peoples and cultures. In addition to the various ancient peoples dispersed throughout what is now modern-day Italy, the most predominant being the Indo-European Italic peoples who gave the peninsula, its name, beginning from the classical era, Phoenicians and Carthaginians founded colonies, mostly in insular Italy, Greeks established settlements in the so-called Magna Graecia of Southern Italy, while Etruscans and Celts inhabited central and northern Italy respectively. An Italic tribe known as the Latins formed the Roman Kingdom in the 8th century BC, which eventually became a republic with a government of the Senate and the People. The Roman Republic initially conquered and assimilated its neighbors on the Italian peninsula, eventually expanding and conquering parts of Europe, North Africa, and Asia. By the first century BC, the Roman Empire emerged as the dominant power in the Mediterranean Basin and became a leading cultural, political and religious center, inaugurating the Pax Romana, a period of more than 200 years during which Italy's law, technology, economy, art, and literature developed.

During the Early Middle Ages, Italy endured the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the barbarian invasions, but by the 11th century, numerous rival city-states and maritime republics, mainly in the northern and central regions of Italy, became prosperous through trade, commerce, and banking, laying the groundwork for modern capitalism. These mostly independent statelets served as Europe's main trading hubs with Asia and the Near East, often enjoying a greater degree of democracy than the larger feudal monarchies that were consolidating throughout Europe; however, part of central Italy was under the control of the theocratic Papal States, while Southern Italy remained largely feudal until the 19th century, partially as a result of a succession of Byzantine, Arab, Norman, Angevin, Aragonese, and other foreign conquests of the region. The Renaissance began in Italy and spread to the rest of Europe, bringing a renewed interest in humanism, science, exploration, and art. Italian culture flourished, producing famous scholars, artists, and polymaths. During the Middle Ages, Italian explorers discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, helping to usher in the European Age of Discovery. Nevertheless, Italy's commercial and political power significantly waned with the opening of trade routes that bypassed the Mediterranean. Centuries of foreign meddling and conquest, and the rivalry and infighting between the Italian city-states, such as the Italian Wars of the 15th and 16th centuries, left Italy politically fragmented, and it was further conquered and divided among multiple foreign European powers over the centuries.

By the mid-19th century, rising Italian nationalism and calls for independence from foreign control for a period of revolutionary political upheaval. After centuries of foreign domination and political division, Italy was almost entirely unified in 1861 following a war of independence, establishing the Kingdom of Italy. From the late 19th century 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, fuelling a large and influential diaspora. Despite being one of the victorious allied powers in World War I, Italy entered a period of economic crisis and social turmoil, leading to the rise of the Italian fascist dictatorship in 1922. Participation in World War II on the Axis side ended in military defeat, economic destruction, and civil war. Following the rise of the Italian Resistance and the liberation of Italy, the country abolished its monarchy, established a democratic Republic, enjoyed a prolonged economic boom, and became a highly developed country.

Italy has an advanced economy. The country is the eighth-largest by nominal GDP (third in the European Union), the sixth-largest by national wealth, and the third-largest by central bank gold reserve. It ranks highly in life expectancy, quality of life, healthcare, and education. The country is a great power and it has 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 a member of numerous international institutions, including the United Nations, NATO, the OECD, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the World Trade Organization, the Group of Seven, the G20, the Union for the Mediterranean, the Latin Union, the Council of Europe, Uniting for Consensus, the Schengen Area, and many more. The source of many inventions and discoveries, the country has long been a global center of art, music, literature, philosophy, science and technology, and fashion, and has greatly influenced and contributed to diverse fields including cinema, cuisine, sports, jurisprudence, banking, and business. As a reflection of its cultural wealth, Italy has the world's largest number of World Heritage Sites (58) and is the fifth-most visited country.

History

The history of Italy covers the Ancient Period, the Middle Ages, and the modern era. Since classical antiquity, the ancient Phoenicians, Greeks, Etruscans, Illyrians (Messapians), and Celts have inhabited the Italian Peninsula, with various Italic peoples dispersed throughout Italy alongside other ancient Italian tribes and Greek, Carthaginian, and Phoenician colonies. In antiquity, Italy was the homeland of the Romans and the metropolis of the Roman Empire. Rome was founded as a Kingdom in 753 BC and became a republic in 509 BC, when the monarchy was overthrown in favor of a government of the Senate and the People. The Roman Republic then unified Italy at the expense of the Etruscans, Celts, and Greeks of the peninsula. Rome led the federation of the Italic peoples, and later, with the Rise of Rome, dominated Western Europe, Northern Africa, and the Near East.

The Roman Republic saw its fall after the Assassination of Julius Caesar. The Roman Empire later dominated Western Europe and the Mediterranean for many centuries, making immeasurable contributions to the development of Western philosophy, science, and art. After the fall of Rome in AD 476, Italy was fragmented into numerous city-states and regional polities, and, despite seeing famous personalities from its territory and closely related ones (such as Dante Alighieri, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Niccolò Machiavelli, Galileo Galilei, or even Napoleon Bonaparte) rise, it remained politically divided to a large extent. The maritime republics rose to great prosperity through shipping, commerce, and banking, acting as Europe's main port of entry for Asian and Near Eastern imported goods and laying the groundwork for capitalism. Central Italy remained under the Papal States, while the southern part remained largely feudal due to a succession of Byzantine, Arab, Norman, Spanish, and Bourbon crowns. The Italian Renaissance spread to the rest of Europe, bringing a renewed interest in humanism, science, exploration, and art with the start of the modern era. Italian explorers (including Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, and Amerigo Vespucci) discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, helping to usher in the Age of Discovery, although the Italian States had no occasion to find colonial empires outside of the Mediterranean Basin.

By the mid-19th century, the Italian unification (led by Giuseppe Garibaldi, backed by the Kingdom of Sardinia) led to the establishment of an Italian nation-state. The new Kingdom of Italy, established in 1861, quickly modernized and built a colonial empire, controlling parts of Africa, and countries along the Mediterranean. However, southern Italy remained rural and poor, originating from the Italian diaspora.

In World War I, Italy completed the unification by acquiring Trento and Trieste and gained a permanent seat in the League of Nations's executive council. Nevertheless, Italian nationalists considered World War I a mutilated victory because Italy did not have all the territories promised by the Treaty of London (1915) and that sentiment led to the rise of the fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini in 1922. The subsequent participation in World War II with the Axis powers, together with Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan, ended in military defeat, Mussolini's arrest and escape (aided by the German dictator Adolf Hitler), and an Italian Civil War between the Italian Resistance (aided by the Kingdom, now a co-belligerent of the Allies) and a nazi fascist puppet state known as "the Italian Social Republic". Following the liberation of Italy, the fall of the Social Republic, and the killing of Mussolini at the hands of the Resistance, the country abolished the monarchy with a referendum, reinstated democracy, enjoyed an economic miracle, and founded the European Union, NATO, and the Group of Six (later G7 and G20). It remains a strong economic, cultural, military, and political factor in the 21st century.

Geography

Italy, whose territory largely coincides with the homonymous geographical region, is located in Southern Europe and it is also considered a part of western Europe, between latitudes 35° and 47° N, and longitudes 6° and 19° E. To the north, Italy borders France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia and is roughly delimited by the Alpine watershed, enclosing the PO Valley and the Venetian Plain. To the south, it consists of the entirety of the Italian Peninsula and the two Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia (the two biggest islands of the Mediterranean), in addition to many smaller islands. The sovereign states of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within Italy, while Campione d'Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland.

The country's total area is 301,230 square kilometers (116,306 sq mi), of which 294,020 km2 (113,522 sq mi) is land and 7,210 km2 (2,784 sq mi) is water. Including the islands, Italy has a coastline and border of 7,600 kilometers (4,722 miles) on the Adriatic, Ionian, Tyrrhenian seas (740 km (460 mi)), and borders shared with France (488 km (303 mi)), Austria (430 km (267 mi)), Slovenia (232 km (144 mi)) and Switzerland (740 km (460 mi)). San Marino (39 km (24 mi)) and Vatican City (3.2 km (2.0 mi)), both enclaves, account for the remainder.

Over 35% of the Italian territory is mountainous. The Apennine Mountains form the peninsula's backbone, and the Alps form most of its northern boundary, where Italy's highest point is located on Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) (4,810 m or 15,780 ft). Other worldwide-known mountains in Italy include the Matterhorn (Monte Cervino), Monte Rosa, the Gran Paradiso in the Western Alps, and Bernina, Stelvio, and the Dolomites along the eastern side.

The PO, Italy's longest river (652 kilometers or 405 miles), flows from the Alps on the western border with France and crosses the Padan plain on its way to the Adriatic Sea. The PO Valley is the largest plain in Italy, with 46,000 km2 (18,000 sq mi), and it represents over 70% of the total plan area in the country.

Many elements of the Italian territory are of volcanic origin. Most of the small islands and archipelagos in the south, like Capraia, Ponza, Ischia, Eolie, Ustica, and Pantelleria are volcanic islands. There are also active volcanoes: Mount Etna in Sicily (the largest active volcano in Europe), Vulcano, Stromboli, and Vesuvius (the only active volcano in mainland Europe).

The five largest lakes are, in order of diminishing size: Garda (367.94 km2 or 142 sq mi), Maggiore (212.51 km2 or 82 seek me, whose minor northern part is Switzerland), Como (145.9 km2 or 56 sq mi), Trasimeno (124.29 km2 or 48 sq mi) and Bolsena (113.55 km2 or 44 sq mi).

Although the country includes the Italian peninsula, adjacent islands, and most of the southern Alpine basin, some of Italy's territory extends beyond the Alpine basin and some islands are located outside the Eurasian continental shelf. These territories are the communes of Livigno, Sexten, Innichen, Toblach (in part), Chiusaforte, Tarvisio, Graun I'm Vinschgau (in part), which are all part of the Danube's drainage basin, while the Val di Lei constitutes part of the Rhine's basin and the islands of Lampedusa and Lampione are on the African continental shelf.

Economy

Italy has a major advanced capitalist mixed economy, ranking as the third-largest in the Eurozone and the eighth-largest in the world. A founding member of the G7, the Eurozone, and the OECD, it is regarded as one of the world's most industrialized nations and a leading country in world trade and exports. It is a highly developed country, with the world's 8th highest quality of life in 2005 and the 26th Human Development Index. The country is well known for its creative and innovative business, a large and competitive agricultural sector (with the world's largest wine production), and its influential and high-quality automobile, machinery, food, design, and fashion industry.

Italy is the world's sixth-largest manufacturing country, characterized by a smaller number of global multinational corporations than other economies of comparable size and many dynamic small and medium-sized enterprises, notoriously clustered in several industrial districts, which are the backbone of the Italian industry. This has produced a manufacturing sector often focused on the export of niche market and luxury products, that if on one side is less capable to compete with the quantity, on the other side is more capable of facing the competition from China and other emerging Asian economies based on lower labor costs, with higher quality products. Italy was the world's tenth-largest exporter in 2019. Its closest trade ties are with the other countries of the European Union. Its largest export partners in 2019 were Germany (12%), France (11%), and the United States (10%).

The automotive industry is a significant part of the Italian manufacturing sector, with over 144,000 firms and almost 485,000 employed people in 2015, and a contribution of 8.5% to Italian GDP. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or FCA is currently the world's seventh-largest automaker. The country boasts a wide range of acclaimed products, from compact city cars to luxury species such as Maserati, Lamborghini, and Ferrari. The Banca Monte Dei Paschi di Siena is the world's oldest or second oldest bank in continuous operation, depending on the definition, and the fourth-largest Italian commercial and retail bank. Italy has a strong cooperative sector, with the largest share of the population (4.5%) employed by a cooperative in the EU.

Italy is part of the European single market, which represents more than 500 million consumers. Several domestic, commercial policies are determined by agreements among European Union (EU) members and by EU legislation. Italy introduced the common European currency, the Euro in 2002. It is a member of the Eurozone which represents around 330 million citizens. Its monetary policy is set by the European Central Bank.

Italy has been hit hard by the Financial crisis of 2007–08, which exacerbated the country's structural problems. Effectively, after strong GDP growth of 5–6% per year from the 1950s to the early 1970s, and a progressive slowdown in the 1980-90s, the country virtually stagnated in the 2000s. The political efforts to revive growth with massive government spending eventually produced a severe rise in public debt, which stood at over 131.8% of GDP in 2017, ranking second in the EU only after the Greek one. For all that, the largest chunk of Italian public debt is owned by national subjects, a major difference between Italy and Greece, and the level of household debt is much lower than the OECD average.

A gaping North-South divide is a major factor of socio-economic weakness. It can be noted by the huge difference in statistical income between the northern and southern regions and municipalities. The richest province, Alto Adige-South Tyrol, earns 152% of the national GDP per capita, while the poorest region, Calabria, has 61%. The unemployment rate (11.1%) stands slightly above the Eurozone average, but the disaggregated figure is 6.6% in the North and 19.2% in the South. The youth unemployment rate (31.7% in March 2018) is extremely high compared to EU standards.

Culture

Italy is considered one of the birthplaces of western civilization and a cultural superpower. Divided by politics and geography for centuries until its eventual unification in 1861, Italy's culture has been shaped by a multitude of regional customs and local centers of power and patronage. Italy has had a central role in Western culture for centuries and is still recognized for its cultural traditions and artists. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, several courts competed to attract architects, artists, and scholars, thus producing a legacy of monuments, paintings, music, and literature. Despite the political and social isolation of these courts, Italy has made a substantial contribution to the cultural and historical heritage of Europe.

Italy has rich collections of art, culture, and literature from many periods. The country has had a broad cultural influence worldwide, also because numerous Italians emigrated to other places during the Italian diaspora. Furthermore, Italy has, overall, an estimated 100,000 monuments of any sort (museums, palaces, buildings, statues, churches, art galleries, villas, fountains, historic houses, and archaeological remains), and according to some estimates, the nation is home to half the world's art treasures.

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