Italy

"Italian Republic" redirects here. For the Napoleonic state of 1802-5, see Italian Republic (Napoleonic).
Repubblica Italiana
Italian Republic
Flag of Italy
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: Il Canto degli Italiani (also known as Fratelli d'Italia)
Capital Rome
Largest city Rome
Official language Italian1 (de facto)
Government Parliamentary Republic
 - President Giorgio Napolitano
 - Prime Minister Romano Prodi
Formation  
 - Unification 17 March 1861 
 - Republic 2 June 1946 
Accession to EU March 25 1957 (founding member)
Area
 - Total 301,318 km² (71st)
116,346.5 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 2.4
Population
 - June 2006 estimate 58,863,156 (22nd)
 - October 2001 census 57,110,144
 - Density 195/km² (54th)
499.4/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $1.668 trillion (8th)
 - Per capita $28,760 (21st)
HDI  (2004) 0.940 (high) (17th)
Currency Euro (€)2 (EUR)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 - Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Internet TLD .it3
Calling code +39
1 French is co-official in the Aosta Valley; German is co-official in Trentino-South Tyrol.
2 Prior to 2002: Italian Lira.
3 The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.

Italy (Italian: Italia, IPA: [i'taːlja]; officially the Italian Republic; Italian: Repubblica Italiana, IPA: [ɾe ˌpubblika ita 'ljaːna]) is a country located in Southern Europe, that comprises the Po River valley, the Italian Peninsula and the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia. It is also called by Italians lo Stivale ("the Boot", due to its boot-like shape), or la Penisola[1] ("the Peninsula" as an antonomasia). Italy shares its northern alpine boundary with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The independent countries of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within Italian territory, while Campione d'Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland.

Italy was home to many well-known and influential European cultures, including the Etruscans, Greeks, and the Romans. Its capital Rome has been a historically important world city, especially as the core of ancient Rome and the Roman Catholic Church. For more than 3,000 years Italy experienced migrations and invasions from Germanic, Celtic, Frankish, Lombard, Byzantine Greek, Saracen and Norman peoples during the Middle Ages, followed by the Italian Renaissance period, in which the Italian Wars took place and various city-states were noted for their cultural achievements. Italy was divided into many independent states and often experienced foreign domination before the Italian unification, that created Italy as an independent nation-state for the first time in its history, took place. During the period under the Italian monarchy and during the world wars Italy experienced much conflict, but stability was restored after the creation of the Italian Republic.

Today, Italy is a highly-developed country with the 7th-highest GDP and the 17th-highest Human Development Index rating in the world. It is a member of the G8 and a founding member of what is now the European Union (having signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957), of the Council of Europe and of the Western European Union. It is considered by some as a great power.[2] Starting from January 1 2007, Italy is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Inhabitants of Italy are referred to as Italians (Italiani, or poetically Italici).

Contents

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Origin of the name

The word "Italy" possibly derives from the Homeric (Aeolic) word ἱταλός, which means "calf" (see Liddell-Scott dictonary). The first Greek settlers, who arrived in Southern Italy (Calabria) from Euboea island in the 8th century BCE, named their new land Vitulia ("land of calves"). The area indicated by this name spread later to the north, but it was only under Augustus that this denomination was applied to the whole peninsula.

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History

Excavations throughout Italy have unearthed proof of humans presence 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.

The Colosseum in Rome, perhaps the most enduring symbol of Italy
The Colosseum in Rome, perhaps the most enduring symbol of Italy
[edit]

Rome and the Middle Ages

Centre of the Roman civilisation 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.

[edit]

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 centre 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 recognised 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 Habsburg 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.

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Napoleonic Italy and the 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 fervour, 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 tricolour dedicating the House of Savoy to the Italian unity.

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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 organisations. 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 the United Kingdom. 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. After rigged elections in 1924 gave to Fascism and its conservative allies an absolute majority in Parliament, Mussolini cancelled all democratic liberties on January 3 1925. He then proceeded to establish a totalitarian state, imposing the control of the state upon all single social and political activity. Political parties were banned, independent trade unions were closed. The only permitted party was the National Fascist Party. A secret police (OVRA) and a system of quasi-legal repression (Tribunale Speciale) ensured the total control of the regime upon Italians who, in their majority, either resigned or welcomed the dictatorship, many considering it a last resort to stop the spread of communism. While relatively benign in comparison with Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia, several thousands people were incarcerated or exiled for their opposition and several dozens were killed by fascist thugs (Carlo Rosselli) or died in prison (Antonio Gramsci). 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 of Italians living abroad.

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.

After several defeats, Italy was invaded in May 1943. In July 1943 King Vittorio Emanuele III staged a coup d'etat against Mussolini, having him arrested. In September 1943 Italy surrendered. It was immediately invaded by Germany and for nearly two years the country was divided and became a battlefield. The Nazi-occupied part of the country, where a puppet fascist state under Mussolini was reconstituted, was the theatre of a savage civil war between freedom fighters ("partigiani") and Nazi and fascist troops. The country was liberated by a national uprising on 25 April, 1945 (the Liberazione).

Particularly in the north agitation against the king ran high, left wing and communist armed partisans wanting to depose him as being responsible for the fascist regime. Vittorio Emanuele gave up the throne to his son Umberto II who again faced the possibility of civil war. Italy became a Republic after the result of a popular referendum held on 2 June 1946, a day since then celebrated as Republic Day. The republic won with a 9% margin; the north of Italy voted prevalently for a republic, the south for the monarchy. The Republican Constitution was approved and entered into force on 1 January 1948, including a provisional measure banning all male members of the house of Savoy from Italy. This stipulation was redressed in 2002.

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Italian Republic

Since then Italy has experienced a strong economic growth, particularly in the 50s and 60s, which lifted the country among the most industrialised nations in the world, with a perennial political instability. The Christian Democratic Parliament cabinet led by Lamberto Dini, supported by the left-wing parties and the Northern League, lasted until Romano Prodi's new centre-left coalition won the 1996 general election. In 2001 the centre-right took the government and Berlusconi was able to remain in power for a complete five year mandate. The last elections in 2006 returned Prodi in the government with a slim majority.

Italy is a founding member of the European Community, European Union and NATO.

[edit]

Government and Politics

Romano Prodi is the "Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri" ("President of the Council of Ministers"), the equivalent of Prime Minister of the Italian Government
Romano Prodi is the "Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri" ("President of the Council of Ministers"), the equivalent of Prime Minister of the Italian Government
The Quirinal Palace, house of the President of the Republic.
The Quirinal Palace, house of the President of the Republic.

The 1948 Constitution of Italy established a bicameral parliament (Parlamento), consisting of a Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei Deputati) and a Senate (Senato della Repubblica), a separate judiciary, and an executive branch composed of a Council of Ministers (cabinet) (Consiglio dei ministri), headed by the prime minister (Presidente del consiglio dei ministri).

The President of the Italian Republic (Presidente della Repubblica) is elected for seven years by the parliament sitting jointly with a small number of regional delegates. The president nominates the prime minister, who proposes the other ministers (formally named by the president). The Council of Ministers must retain the support (fiducia) of both houses.

The houses of parliament are popularly and directly elected through a complex electoral system (latest amendment in 2005) which combines proportional representation with a majority prize for the largest coalition (Chamber). The electoral system in the Senate is based upon regional representation. During the elections in 2006, the two competing coalitions were separated by few thousand votes, and in the Chamber the centre-left coalition (L'Unione; English: The Union ) got 345 Deputies against 277 for the centre-right one (Casa delle Libertà; English: House of Freedoms), while in the Senate l'Ulivo got only two Senators more than absolute majority. The Chamber of Deputies has 630 members and the Senate 315 elected senators; in addition, the Senate includes former presidents and appointed senators for life (no more than five) by the President of the Republic according to special constitutional provisions. As of 15 May 2006, there are seven life senators (of which three are former Presidents). Both houses are elected for a maximum of five years, but both may be dissolved by the President before the expiration of their normal term if the Parliament is unable to elect a stable government. In the post war history, this has happened in 1972, 1976, 1979, 1983, 1994 and 1996.

A peculiarity of the Italian Parliament is the representation given to Italians permanently living abroad (more than 2 million). Among the 630 Deputies and the 315 Senators there are respectively 12 and 6 elected in four distinct foreign constituencies. Those members of Parliament were elected for the first time in April 2006 and they enjoy the same rights as members elected in Italy. Legislative bills may originate in either house and must be passed by a majority in both. The Italian judicial system is based on Roman law modified by the Napoleonic code and later statutes. The Constitutional Court of Italy (Corte Costituzionale) rules on the conformity of laws with the Constitution and is a post-World War II innovation.

All Italian citizens older than 18 can vote. However, to vote for the senate, the voter must be at least 25 or older.

See also: Foreign relations of Italy, List of Foreign Ministers of Italy, and List of Prime Ministers of Italy
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Administrative divisions

Administrative divisions.
Administrative divisions.

Italy is subdivided into 20 regions (regioni, singular regione). Five of these regions enjoy a special autonomous status that enables them to enact legislation on some of their specific local matters, and are marked by an *:

  1. Abruzzo (L'Aquila)
  2. Basilicata (Potenza)
  3. Calabria (Catanzaro)
  4. Campania (Naples, Napoli)
  5. Emilia-Romagna (Bologna)
  6. Friuli-Venezia Giulia* (Trieste)
  7. Latium, Lazio (Rome, Roma)
  8. Liguria (Genoa, Genova)
  9. Lombardy, Lombardia (Milan, Milano)
  10. Marche, Marches (Ancona)
  11. Molise, (Campobasso)
  12. Piedmont, Piemonte (Turin, Torino)
  13. Apulia, Puglia (Bari)
  14. Sardinia*, Sardegna (Cagliari)
  15. Aosta Valley*, Valle d'Aosta (Aosta)
  16. Tuscany, Toscana (Florence, Firenze)
  17. Trentino-South Tyrol*, Trentino-Alto Adige, (Trento)
  18. Umbria (Perugia)
  19. Sicily*, Sicilia (Palermo)
  20. Veneto (Venice, Venezia)

All regions except the Aosta Valley are further subdivided into two or more provinces (provincias). The lowest level of division is the municipality (comune).

[edit]

Geography

Italy consists predominantly of a large peninsula (the Italian Peninsula) with a distinctive boot shape that extends into the Mediterranean Sea, where together with its two main islands - Sicily and Sardinia - it creates distinct bodies of water, such as the Adriatic Sea to the north-east, the Ionian Sea to the south-east, the Tyrrhenian Sea to the south-west and finally the Ligurian Sea to the north-west. For a complete list of the islands of Italy, see this comprehensive list.

Satellite image of Italy
Satellite image of Italy

The Apennine mountains form the backbone of this peninsula, leading north-west to where they join the Alps, the mountain range that then forms an arc enclosing Italy from the north. Here is also found a large alluvial plain, the Po-Venetian plain, drained by the Po River — which is Italy's biggest river with 652 km — and its many tributaries flowing down from the Alps (Dora Baltea, 160 km, Sesia, 138 km, Ticino, 248 km, Adda, 313 km, Oglio, 280 km, Mincio), 194 km, and Apennines (Tanaro, 276 km, Trebbia, 115 km, Taro, 115 km, Secchia, 172 km, Panaro, 148 km).

Other well-known or importants rivers include the Tiber (Tevere) (405 km), Adige (410 km), Arno (241 km), Piave (220 km), Reno (212 km), Volturno (175 km), Tagliamento (170 km), Liri-Garigliano (158 km), Isonzo (136 km).

Its highest point is Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) at 4,810 metres (15,781 feet)3. Italy is more typically associated with two famous volcanoes: the currently dormant Vesuvius near Naples and the very active Etna on Sicily.

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Climate

The Italian climate is uniquely diverse and can be far from the stereotype of a "land of sun", depending on the region. The north of Italy (Turin, Milan, and Bologna) has a true continental climate, while below Florence it becomes more and more Mediterranean. The climate of the coastal areas of the Peninsula is very different from that of the interior, particularly during the winter months. The higher areas are cold, wet, and often snowy. The coastal regions, where most of the large towns are located, have a typical Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot and generally dry summers. The length and intensity of the summer dry season increases southwards (compare the tables for Rome, Naples, and Brindisi).

Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Italy and Western Europe.
Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Italy and Western Europe.

Between the north and south there is a quite remarkable difference in the temperatures, above all during the winter: in some days of December or January it can be -2°C and snowing in Milan while it is +17°C in Palermo or Naples. Temperature differences are less extreme in the summer. (See how Po valley can be frosty in winter [1])

The east coast of the peninsula is not as wet as the west coast, but is usually colder in the winter. The east coast north of Pescara is occasionally affected by the cold bora winds in winter and spring, but the wind is less strong here than around Trieste. During these frosty spells from E-NE cities like Rimini, Ancona, Pescara and the entire eastern hillside of the Apennines can be affected by true "blizzards". The town of Fabriano, located just around 300 mt a.s.l., can often see 0.50-0.60 m of fresh snow fall in 24 hours during these episodes.

Italy is subject to highly diverse weather conditions in autumn, winter, and spring, while summer is usually more stable, although the northern regions often experience thunderstorms in the afternoon/night hours. So, while south of Florence the summer is typically dry and sunny, the north is tends to be more humid and cloudy.

The least number of rainy days and the highest number of hours of sunshine occur in the extreme south of the mainland and in Sicily and Sardinia. Here sunshine averages from four to five hours a day in winter and up to ten or eleven hours in summer. In the north precipitation is more evenly distributed during the year, although the summer is usually slightly wetter. Between November and March the Po valley is often covered by fog, especially in the central zone (Pavia, Cremona, and Mantua). Snow is quite common between early December and mid-February in cities like Turin, Milan and Bologna. In the winter of 2005-2006, Milan received around 0.75-0.80 m of fresh snow, Como around 1.00 m, Brescia 0.50 m, Trento 1.60 m, Vicenza around 0.45 m, Bologna around 0.30 m, and Piacenza around 0.80 m. (see the late January 2006 snowfall of Bergamo [2])

Generally, the hottest month is August in the south and July in the north; during these months the thermometer can reach 38-42°C in the south and 33-35°C in the north. The coldest month is January; The Po valley's average temperature is around 0°C, Florence 5-6°C, Rome 7-8°C, Naples 9°C, Palermo 13°C. Winter morning lows can occasionally reach -14°C in Po valley, -6°C in Florence, -4°C in Rome, -2°C in Naples and 1°C in Palermo.

The absolute record low was near -45°C in the Alps, and the record low near the sea level was -28.8°C (recorded during January 1985 near Bologna), while in the south cities like Catania, Lecce or Alghero have experienced highs of 48°C in some hot summers.

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Demographics

[edit]

Population

The latest population estimate done by ISTAT (Italian Statistics Office) stated that there were 58,462,375 inhabitants in Italy in 2005, making it the fourth largest population in the European Union (after Germany, France and the United Kingdom), and the 22nd in the world. In 2006, the Italian population climbed to an estimated 58,751,711[3], an increase of 0.5%, mainly supplemented by immigrants, and an increasing life expectancy of 79.81 years[4]. Despite population growth, Italy is rapidly ageing. 1 in 5 inhabitants are pensioners, and if this ageing trend continues, the Italian population could shrink by a quarter in 2050.[5]

Italy has the 5th highest population density in all of Europe with 193 persons per square kilometre. The highest density is in Northwestern Italy, as two regions out of twenty (Lombardia and Piemonte) combined, contain one quarter of the Italian population, where an estimated 9.4 million people live in the metropolitan Milan area[6]. The literacy rate in Italy is 98% overall as school is mandatory for children aged 6 to 18[7].

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Immigration

Italy's position in Europe and the northern Mediterranean basin meant many influences, invasions and migrations over thousands of years. As a result, the Italian people descend from different ethnic stocks such as the ancient Italic peoples, Etruscan, Roman, Greek, Gaul, Germanic, Norman, French and Catalan peoples who all colonised, invaded or plundered Italy for more than 3,000 years.

During the 1800's and early 1900's, Italy was a major sender of migrants to the Americas, and other nations in Western Europe. However, Italy is now a major destination for immigrants from all over the world with Eastern Europe, North Africa, and Asia being the chief areas. As of 2005, 4.56% or 2,670,514[8] foreigners live in Italy, an increase of 268,357 or 10 percent from the previous year. In many northern Italian cities, like Padua, Milan, and Brescia, migrants make up 33%[9], 15%, and 13% of their total populations.

The most recent wave of migration has been from Eastern Europe, replacing North Africans as a major source of migrants. As of 2005, some 1,025,874 Eastern Europeans live in Italy[10], 40% of the total population migrants in Italy. The Top 5 foreign nationalities in Italy are: Albanian: 348,813, Moroccan: 319,537, Romanian: 297,570, Chinese: 127,822, and Ukrainian: 107,188.[11].

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Religion

Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome
Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome

Roman Catholicism is by far the largest religion in the country. Although the Catholic Church has never been the state religion, it still plays a role in the nation's political affairs, partly due to the Holy See's location in Rome. 87.8% of Italians identified as Roman Catholic [12], although only about one-third of these described themselves as active members (36.8%).

Other Christian groups in Italy include 500,000 Jehovah's Witnesses (0.9%)[citations needed], more than 700,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians (1.2%) [13], including 470,000 newcomers [14] and some 180,000 Greek Orthodoxes, 450,000 Pentecotalists and Evangelicals (0.8%), of which 300,000 members of the Assemblies of God, 30,000 Waldensians [15], 25,000 Seventh-day Adventists, 22,000 Mormons, 15,000 Baptists (plus some 5,000 Free Baptists), 7,000 Lutherans, 5,000 Methodists (affiliated to the Waldensian Church) [16].

However the most historical religious minority is the Jewish community, comprising roughly 45,000 Jews. It is no longer the strongest non-Christian group. Indeed, in the past two decades, Italy has been receiving many waves of immigrants from all over the world, especially eastern Europe and North Africa. As a result some 825,000 Muslims [17] (1.4%), of which only 50,000 are Italian citizens, live in Italy, as well as 110,000 Buddhists (0.2%) [18], [19] and [20], 70,000 Sikhs [21], 70,000 Hindus (0.1%).

See also: Christianity in Italy, Islam in Italy, Jews in Italy, Buddhism in Italy, and List of Italian politicians belonging to a religious minority
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Economy

According to GDP calculations, as measured by purchasing power parity (PPP), Italy is ranked as the 8th largest economy in the world in 2006, behind the United States, Japan, Germany, China, India, UK, and France, and the fourth largest in Europe. According to the OECD, in 2004 Italy was the world's sixth-largest exporter of manufactured goods. This capitalistic economy remains divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less developed agricultural south. Italy's economy has deceptive strength because it is supported by a substantial "underground" economy that functions outside government controls.

Most new materials needed by industry and more than 75% of energy requirements are imported. Over the past decade, Italy has pursued a tight fiscal policy in order to meet the requirements of the Economic and Monetary Union and has benefited from lower interest and inflation rates. Italy joined the Euro from its conception in 1999.

Italy's economic performance has at times lagged behind that of its EU partners, and the current government has enacted numerous short-term reforms aimed at improving competitiveness and long-term growth. It has moved slowly, however, on implementing certain structural reforms favoured by economists, such as lightening the high tax burden and overhauling Italy's rigid labour market and expensive pension system, because of the current economic slowdown and opposition from labour unions.

Italy has a smaller number of world class multinational corporations than other economies of comparable size. Instead, the country's main economic strength has been its large base of small and medium size companies. Many of these companies manufacture products that are technologically moderately advanced and therefore face increasing competition from China and other emerging Asian economies which are able to undercut them on labour costs. Italian companies are responding to this by concentrating on products with a higher technological content, while moving lower-tech manifacturing to plants in countries where labour is less expensive. The small average size of Italian companies remains a limiting factor, and the government has been working to encourage integration and mergers and to reform the rigid regulations that have traditionally been an obstacle to the development of larger corporations in the country.

See also: List of Italian companies
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Culture

See also: Culture of Italy

Italy, as a state, did not exist until the unification of the country came to a conclusion in year 1861. Due to this comparatively late unification, and the historical autonomy of the many regions that comprise the Italian Peninsula, many traditions and customs that we now recognise as distinctly Italian can be identified by their regions of origin, which further reflect the influence of the many different peoples that occupied those areas, and of the importance of religion, especially Roman Catholicism. Despite the pronounced political and social isolation of these regions that prevailed throughout Italy's history, Italy's contributions to the cultural and historical heritage of Europe remain immense. In fact, Italy is home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (41) to date.

Teatro alla Scala, Milan.
Teatro alla Scala, Milan.

Italy has been a seminal place for many important artistic and intellectual movements that spread throughout Europe and beyond, including the Renaissance and Baroque. Perhaps Italy's greatest cultural achievements lie in its long artistic heritage, which is often validated through the names of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Bernini, Titian and Raphael, among many others. Beyond art, Italy's contributions to the realms of literature, science and music cannot be overlooked.

With the basis of the modern Italian language established through the eminent Florentine poet, Dante Alighieri, whose greatest work, the Divina Commedia, is often considered the foremost literary statement produced in Europe during the Middle Ages, there is no shortage of celebrated literary figures; the writers and poets Boccaccio, Giacomo Leopardi, Alessandro Manzoni, Tasso, Ludovico Ariosto, and Petrarca, whose best known vehicle of expression, the sonnet, was invented in Italy. Prominent philosophers include Bruno, Ficino, Machiavelli, Vico. Modern literary figures and Nobel laureates are nationalist poet Giosuè Carducci in 1906, realist writer Grazia Deledda in 1926, modern theatre author Luigi Pirandello in 1936, poets Salvatore Quasimodo in 1959 and Eugenio Montale in 1975, satiryst and theatre author Dario Fo in 1997.

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

In science, Galileo Galilei made considerable advancements toward the scientific revolution, and Leonardo da Vinci was the quintessential Renaissance Man. Other notable Italian scientists and inventors include Fermi, Cassini, Volta, Lagrange, Fibonacci, Marconi, and Meucci.

From folk music to classical, music has always played an important role in Italian culture. Having given birth to opera, for example, Italy provides many of the very foundations of the classical music tradition. Some of the instruments that are often associated with classical music, including the piano and violin, were invented in Italy, and many of the existing classical music forms can trace their roots back to innovations of 16th and 17th century Italian music (such as the symphony, concerto, and sonata). Some of Italy's most famous composers include the Renaissance composers Palestrina and Monteverdi, the Baroque composers Corelli and Vivaldi, the Classical composers Paganini and Rossini, and the Romantic composers Verdi and Puccini. Modern Italian composers such as Berio and Nono proved significant in the development of experimental and electronic music.

Italians are renowned for their love of sports. Their zeal for sports events is, indeed, no less than legendary; from the Gladiatorial games of Ancient Rome, to the Stadio Olimpico of contemporary Rome, where prestigious football clubs compete regularly, the impact that sports has had on Italian culture is enduring and undeniable. Towards the alps, the popularity of winter sports grows, with many Italians from that region competing in international games and Olympic venues. Moving downwards the peninsula, the disparity between participation in sports becomes less regional. Despite any regional variation that may exist, the incorporation of sports in many Italian festivities like Palio (see also Palio di Siena), and the Gondola race (regatta) that takes place in Venice on the first Sunday of September, affirms the role sports play in everyday Italian life. Popular sports include football, cycling, and auto racing (a sport which shares its renown with a staple of Italian design, Ferrari), among others.

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Languages

The official language of Italy is Standard Italian, descendant of Tuscan dialect and a direct descendant of Latin. (Some 75% of Italian words are of Latin origin.) However, when Italy was unified, in 1861, Italian existed mainly as a literary language, and was spoken by less than 3% of the population. Different languages were spoken throughout the Italian peninsula, many of which were Romance languages which had developed in every region, due to political fragmentation of Italy2. Indeed, each historical region of Italy had its own so-called ‘dialetto’ (with ‘dialect’ usually meaning, improperly, a non-Italian Romance language), with variants existing at the township-level.

Venice
Venice

Massimo d'Azeglio, one of Cavour's ministers, is said to have stated, following Italian unification, that having created Italy, all that remained was to create Italians. Given the high number of languages spoken throughout the peninsula, it was quickly established that 'proper' or 'standard' Italian would be based on the Florentine dialect spoken in most of Tuscany (given that it was the first region to produce authors such as Dante Alighieri, who between 1308 and 1321 wrote the Divina Commedia). A national education system was established - leading to a decrease in variation in the languages spoken throughout the country over time. But it was not until the 1960s, when economic growth enabled widespread access to the television programmes of the state television broadcaster, RAI, that Italian truly became broadly-known and quite standardised.

Today, despite regional variations in the form of accents and vowel emphasis, Italian is fully comprehensible to most throughout the country. Nevertheless certain local idioms have become cherished beacons of regional variation—the Neapolitan which is extensively used for the singing of popular folk-songs, for instance—and in recent years many people have developed a particular pride in their local dialects.

In addition to the various regional linguistic varieties and dialects of standard Italian, a number of languages enjoying some form of official recognition are spoken:

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Notes

1 According to Mitrica, an October 2005 Romanian report estimates that 1,061,400 Romanians are living in Italy, constituting 37.2% of 2.8 million immigrants in that country [23] but it is unclear how the estimate was made, and therefore whether it should be taken seriously or not.
2 See also (in Italian): L. Lepschy e G. Lepschy, La lingua italiana: storia, varietà d'uso, grammatica, Milano, Bompiani
3 Official French maps show the border detouring south of the main summit, and claim the highest point in Italy is Mont Blanc de Courmayeur (4,748 m), but these are inconsistent with an 1861 convention and topographic watershed analysis.
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Notes

  1. http://www.demauroparavia.it/81012
  2. See great power
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References

  1. http://www.demauroparavia.it/81012
  2. See great power
Other references can be found in the more detailed articles linked to in this article.
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External links

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Official sites

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Others

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