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The central European northern part of the Republic of
Italy borders in the Alpine region in the west on France
, in the north on Switzerland and Austria and in the
east on Slovenia. The elongated central and southern
part in the form of a boot consists of the Po Valley to
the northeast and the Apennine Peninsula to the south,
which extends far into the Mediterranean. The coastal
regions border the Gulf of Venice and the Adriatic Sea
in the east and the Ionian Sea in the south. The Messina
Strait runs between Sicily and the Apennine Peninsula.
To the west between the mainland and Sardinia, 250 km
away, is the Tyrrhenian Sea, which merges into the
Ligurian Sea in the Gulf of Genoa. In addition to
Sardinia and Sicily, some other smaller islands in the
Mediterranean are part of the 301 230 km² large national
The ridges of the Alps to the north often form both
watershed and national borders with neighboring
countries. There are about 800 glaciers in the Alps, the
highest Italian mountain is the 4,634 m high Monte Rosa
in the mountain range of the same name in the regions of
Piedmont and Aosta Valley. A moraine hill country with
lakes lies south of the mountains. The most important
lakes are Lago Maggiore, which belongs to a fifth of
Switzerland, Lake Como between the Lugano and Bergamask
Alps and the largest inland water with 368 km², Lake
Garda. The end moraine land merges into the plains of
the Po and Veneto. The southern peninsula is crossed by
the Apennine mountain range, which is up to 3,000 m high
and separates the west and east sides of the Italian
boot. The wider western coastal area has numerous bays,
whereas the eastern coastal area is narrower. Rivers
arise in the Fontanili zone on the edge of the Alps and
the Apennines and flow to the sea. In the southern part
of the peninsula there are still some active volcanoes.
The most famous are Vesuvius near Naples, Etna - the
highest volcano in Europe and the highest mountain in
Sicily - and the Stromboli on one of the Aeolian Islands
north of Sicily. The largest rivers are the 652 km long
Po in Northern Italy, the 410 km long Adige in South
Tyrol, the 241 km long Arno, which flows into the
Ligurian Sea at Pisa, and the 405 km long Tiber, which
flows through Rome and flows into the Tyrrhenian Sea at
Ostia. In addition to the Alpine lakes, Italy has some
volcanic lakes, the largest of which is the Trasimeno
lake northwest of Perugia.
Sicily is the largest Italian island with 25.426 km².
The autonomous region is mostly mountainous and has only
narrow coastal areas. Sardinia has an area of 23,813
km², is also an autonomous region, mountainous and rich
in coves. The swamp areas on the island were still
malaria-prone until 1945, but were largely drained.
In terms of climate, Italy is divided into the Alpine
region and southern Italy with its islands.
The Italian Alps are part of the Central European
climate area with a humid summer climate. Mild winters
and hot summers are alternated by frequent rains in
autumn and spring. These basic weather parameters change
in the summer-dry Mediterranean climate of the south
below the latitude of Rome. Mild winters with rain
combine with hot, dry summers in Sicily. Sardinia to the
north also has a typical winter rain climate with hot
and dry summers. Western winds dominate, so that the
west side of the Apennines has consistently higher
rainfall than the east side. Earthquakes occur
The mean temperatures in the summer months are almost
the same in comparison between northern and southern
Italy, whereas in winter they show considerable
differences. In Milan, not far from the southern edge of
the Alps, they average 2.5 กใ C in January and 24.5 กใ C
in July. Rome in the center of the southern peninsula
has 7 กใ C in January, 25 กใ C in July, Palermo in Sicily
12 กใ C in January and 26 กใ C in July. Similar to the
winter temperatures, the annual precipitation varies
from region to region. They decrease from north to south
and average 1,012 mm in Milan, 745 mm in Rome and 510 mm
Flora and fauna
The Italian flora can be divided into three
vegetation zones: the Alps, the Po Valley and the
Mediterranean Apennine Region.
In the north and in the mountains there are mainly
deciduous and coniferous forest. However, clearing and
cultivation of large areas have created heathlands,
pasture and scrubland in many places. The Alpine region
is divided into three vegetation zones according to the
respective altitude. The southern pre-Alpine region of
Lombardy has olive trees, cypresses and laurel trees in
the area of the northern Italian lakes, beech trees
are located somewhat higher, which are then replaced by
larch and spruce. In the high mountain zone there are
juniper bushes and rhododendrons as well as slightly
higher pastures with wild flowers and wild grasses. Only
a few plants, including mosses and lichens, still grow
above the snow line.
The lowlands around the Po were densely forested
before it was settled. Today crops dominate there.
Remains of the original vegetation are sedge grass in
the drier areas as well as small pine forests and
The southern peninsula is determined by Mediterranean
vegetation levels. In the area of the Apennine
Mountains, which extends over the entire peninsula, holm
oaks grow, in the upstream mountain area also cork oaks,
chestnuts, beeches and pines. Mainly on the rainier west
coasts and in the south thrive evergreen plants and
maquis, which has taken the place of the holm oak
forests. Olive trees, oleander plants and wild wine can
also be found here. In the mountain regions further
south there are still parts of the natural mountain
forest with oaks, chestnut trees and poplars.
In Sicily, forest and evergreen shrubbery have
largely been displaced by cultivated land, a special
feature are the papyrus perennials that often occur in
fresh water, which were cultivated in antiquity and used
to produce mats and rafts. In Sardinia, the destruction
of the once growing carob forests and the decline of
olive trees have created steppe regions with various
grasses that serve as pastureland. In the mountain
regions there are some cork oak forests.
The wildlife of Italy has been decimated over the
centuries due to the narrowing of the habitat. Marmots,
rabbits, mountain partridges and stoats can be found in
the Alpine regions. Capricorn, chamois and deer live on
larger mammals in the region, but mostly only in nature
parks. Lynxes and foxes are rarely found in the Alps,
more often they are found in more remote regions of the
Apennines. Birds, especially songbirds, are greatly
reduced by hunting. However, eagles can still be spotted
in the Alps. Salamanders and water newts live on
amphibian species in Italy, and vipers are particularly
common on reptiles. Brown bears still live occasionally
in Abruzzo - the highest part of the Apennines.
Sardinia is home to the mouflon wild sheep, fallow
deer and wild boar. Predominant freshwater fish are
trout, sturgeon and eel, tuna and swordfish in the sea.
There are also isolated great white sharks in the
southern regions of the sea. Due to chemical residues
and over-fertilization, algae growth is sometimes very
high in the more industrialized coastal regions.
Italy has around 57.89 million residents. The largest
city is the capital Rome with 2.54 million residents.
Other major cities are Milan (1,271 million), Naples
(1.0 million) and Turin (868,000).
97% of the Italian population are native Italians.
The three percent foreigners in the country are mostly
immigrants from developing countries. Many of the male
immigrants are black Africans, and women are a large
group of Asian women. Today immigrants from Eastern
Europe are the main immigration group.
According to COUNTRYAAH, 83% of Italians are Christian, the majority of them
Roman Catholic. 16% are denominated; Muslims represent a
The national language is Italian, about 1.25 million
Sardinian-speaking Italians live in Sardinia. German is
the second official language in the province of Bolzano
and in parts of Trentino; over 330,000 citizens speak
German. The Aosta Valley is French-speaking. Small
Slovenian minorities live in the north, in the
Trieste-Gorizia area, in the south, Albanian and Greek.
The population growth is 0.4%. About two percent of
Italians cannot read and write; mostly they are African
or Asian immigrants.
Italy has been a republic with a parliamentary
democracy since 1948. The president (Giorgio Napolitano,
since May 2006) is elected head of state indirectly by
the parliament and three representatives of the regions
for seven years. It can dissolve parliament, appoint the
prime minister and influence the legislative process
through a suspensive veto.
The executive is headed by the Prime Minister (Enrico
Letta, since April 2013) and his government. The Prime
Minister determines the policy guidelines and is
responsible to Parliament.
A two-chamber system forms the legislative branch. It
consists of "Camera dei Deputati" (Chamber of Deputies
with 630 members who are elected for five years) and
"Senato della Repubblica" (Senate with 315 members
elected for five years, plus currently four senators for
life; as of early 2013), both have almost identical
responsibilities in the legislative process. Since an
electoral law reform at the end of 2005, a pure
proportional representation right with majority bonus
has been in force. The Senate represents the regions
from which at least seven senators are sent: the
exception is the Aosta Valley with one senator.
The Supreme Court is the Constitutional Court, which
is made up of fifteen judges, one third of whom are
elected by the President, the Parliament and the other
two highest courts.
Italy consists of 20 regions (including five with
special autonomy rights) and 109 provinces. The regions
have their own legislative and executive bodies.
Italy is a modern industrial country. The differences
between the highly industrialized north and the less
developed south are large. After the global economic
crisis in 2007/2008, Italy is still in recession. In
2012 the economy shrank by 2.4%, the unemployment rate
continued to rise (2012 to 10.7%), as did government
debt (127% of GDP in 2012).
Over half of the country is used for agriculture.
Wheat is cultivated on almost 40% of the arable land,
particularly in the Po Valley. Corn, rice, barley,
tobacco, olives, sugar beets, vegetables and, above all,
pome fruit are grown in South Tyrol. Winegrowing plays
an important role in many regions of Italy. Cattle and
pig breeding is also practiced in northern Italy, and
forestry covers just over a tenth of the timber
The country's most important mineral resources are
coal, mercury, zinc and potassium chloride. Marble is
broken in Carrara.
The large-scale industrial plants are mainly found in
northern and central Italy. The clothing, wood, textile,
food, shoe and furniture industries are often organized
as medium-sized companies. In southern Italy there are
state-sponsored partial manufacturing companies, in
particular steel mills and petrochemical companies. A
specialty is the silk industry in the Como area, which
is based on domestic silkworm farming in Veneto and
Lombardy. Also to be highlighted are the numerous
handicraft businesses, particularly located in Venice
and Florence. The energy supply is characterized by a
very high dependency on imports, almost four fifths of
the energy requirement is imported. All nuclear power
plants are shut down.
The state's most important imports are chemical
products, petroleum, and motor vehicles and parts; the
most important export goods are machinery and chemical
products. Italy's main trading partners in exports are
the large EU countries and the USA.
Every year over 40 million tourists visit Italy,
making tourism the most important source of foreign
currency, especially the seaside resorts as well as
Rome, Venice and South Tyrol are main travel
The most important trading ports are the oil import
ports of Genoa and Trieste. The largest passenger port
is Messina. Italy has 24 international airports, the
most important of which are Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin,
Venice and Rimini.
The currency is the euro.