Situated in Western Europe, on the banks of river Po, Italy is proud to boast of its ancient Italian culture and places of historic importance. It is a country with a historical background that connects to the European mainland in the North. The boot shaped country is officially known as the Italian Republic or “Repubblica Italiana”. It is also known as “lo Stivale” or the Boot or even “il Bel Paese” meaning a Beautiful Land.
The 116 sq odd miles of landscape is marked with the Alps Mountains which act as a physical demarcation for the country from France, Switzerland, Slovenia and Austria. The Vatican City and San Marino are the two independent countries that lie in the enclaves of the Italian peninsula where as Campione d’Italia lies as an exclave in Switzerland.
This area of north Italy is good for winter sports. The western peninsular region of Italy is surrounded by the Sardinian Sea Tyrrhenian Sea and the Ligurian Sea. The South region is marked by the Ionian Sea and the Sicilian Sea where as the Adriatic Sea laps the country in the East. The wonderful Italian Lake District marked by Maggiore, Como and Grada witnesses beautiful rivers flowing down from the mountains to the river basin. The Po Basin is marked by rich alluvial soil and terraces of gravel which makes it one of the most prosperous regions of Italy. The eastern plains are higher where River Po meets the Adriatic Sea. This area witnesses natural or artificial embankments to prevent flooding.
The central region of Italy is Tuscany which is marks its impression with diverse landscape. It boasts of plush Tuscan Apennines which are the second largest mountain range in the country. Central Italy is a region of enticing countryside, stretching ranges of hills, complimented with a sandy coastline. Umbria in this region is known as the “Green Heart of Italy”. It is very well complimented with olives groves and pines lying in the broad plains amidst the hilly ranges. Rome is situated further south which enclaves Vatican City within itself. It is the capital and the largest city of the country.
Southern Italy is mostly flat coastal plains and low lying mountain ranges. This region is marked by long stretches of olives trees, rolling hill ranges and cool forests. This region also witnesses volcanic landscape and isolated marshes which is Puglia or the ‘heel of the boot’. Calabria is the ‘toe’ that is laden with thick forests and is very thinly populated. The mountains of Calabria are niche for bears and wolves. Sardinia and Sicily are the two islands that are fertile but the region is volcanic and mountainous. Sardinia is sandier as compared to Sicily and has beautiful sandy beaches, mountainous landscape and rocky offshore islands.
Italy has diverse climate thought the country. Inland areas of northern Italy like Bologna, Milan, and Turin experience continental climate where as the coastal regions like Liguria and Florence have stereotype Mediterranean climate. Similarly, in winters, the inland areas are extremely cold, wet and experience snow where as the coastal areas inhabited by major cities of the country have Mediterranean climate that is typical of mild winters and hot and dry summers.
Politically, Italy has democratic government and President Giorgio Napolitano is the Head of State and Prime Minister Romano Prodi is the Head of the Government. Both have been holding their office since year 2006. The currency is Euro and the official language is Italian. Although, you also find people speaking German and Ladin around borders of Austria, French around regions of Riviera and Milan. English, German and French is spoken in all big cities as well as established business circles.
Italy is one of the largest powerful nations of the world with seventh largest GDP and 17th highest Human Development Index. It is a member of G8 nations and founder member of European Unions. It is a non-permanent member of United Nation Security Council.
Culturally, Italy is mostly Catholic. Ninety percent of the Italians are Catholic with protestant minorities. The social structure is also greatly influenced by the Catholic Church. Italian culture is greatly influenced by the other European cultures due to invasions from Germans, Celtic, Lombard, etc.
Rome is the capital of the country and is also the largest city. Different dialects are spoken throughout the country the main language still remains Italian. The social structure advocates strong family values and more conservative attitude. The people observe social courtesies and conservative clothes are expected at all religious places. Beachwear is confined to beaches where formal wear is indicted in the invitations. All places of public visits such as malls, public buildings, theatres, transport, etc are non-smoking zones.