Italy is a country in Southern Europe. Along with Greece, it is recognized as the birthplace of Western civilization and therefore hosts the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. High art and monuments are found all over the country.
The history of Italy is closely connected with the culture of the Mediterranean but also of Europe in general. The Italian peninsula has been inhabited since prehistoric times and in the 8th century b.C. the Greeks established colonies in southern Italy and Sicily. From the 3rd c.b.C. The Roman Empire emerged by conquering most of the then known world, following a period of development and relative peace, the so-called Pax Romana, until its collapse in the 4th century AD.
During the Middle Ages, many cities became principalities. The rise of the bourgeoisie and the development of trade led to economic prosperity and the development of arts, which reached its peak during the Renaissance. In larger cities such as Venice, Florence and Rome which is also the religious center, literature, painting, architecture, sculpture and science flourished. Artists such as Michael Angelos, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Titian left wonderful pieces of the best art over many centuries.
Italy, in World War II, allied with Hitler’s Nazi Germany, but after the fall of dictator Mussolini in 1943, split in two and part of it sided with the Allies.
Italy is world famous for its excellent cuisine, winemaking, as well as the high fashion and luxury sports car industry.
Its rich natural environment includes beautiful coasts, alpine lakes and mountain ranges such as the Alps and the Apennines. For all these reasons, it is often called Bel Paese (The Beautiful Country).
Two independent enclosed micro-nations are surrounded by Italy: San Marino and the Vatican City. Although technically not part of the European Union, both countries are also part of the Schengen area and the European Monetary Union. Italian is also the official language of San Marino and is usually spoken in the Vatican City, whose official language is Latin.
Italians are a people of passion, finesse, eroticism and a unique Mediterranean temperament. Their virtues are reflected in the achievements of every field of development, creativity, arts and science.
Italy is bordered on the north by the Alpine mountain range, enclosing the Po river valley. To the south, it consists of the Italian peninsula and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia which are the two largest islands of the Mediterranean, as well as many smaller islands. The sovereign states of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within Italy, while the Campione d’Italia is an Italian enclave in Switzerland.
Its highest point is Mont Blanc (4,810 m) in the Aosta Valley, the highest point in the European Union.
More than 35% of Italian territory is mountainous, with the Apennines being the backbone of the peninsula. Other known mountains are the Matterhorn in the Western Alps and the Dolomites along the east side.
Italy has intense volcanic activity. In the southern archipelago there are many volcanic islands, such as Eolie, Ustica and Pantelleria. There are also active volcanoes such as Mount Etna in Sicily (the largest active volcano in Europe), Vulcano, Stromboli and Mount Vesuvius.
Major cities besides the capital Rome are Milan, Naples, Turin, Palermo and Catania in Sicily, Genoa, Bologna, Florence, Bari, Venice, Verona.
Tuscany is a region of central Italy with Florence as its capital and largest city. Tuscany is known for its landscapes and cultural heritage. Six of its sites have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the historic centers of Florence, Siena, Pisa, San Gimignano, Pienza and the Val d’Orcia.