Italy is a state in Southern Europe in the center of the Mediterranean, located mainly on the Apennine Peninsula. The country also occupies a small (northwestern) part of the Balkan Peninsula, the Padan Plain, the Southern Alps, and a number of large and small islands in the Mediterranean Sea, including Sicily and Sardinia. Italy borders France to the northwest, Switzerland and Austria to the north, and Slovenia to the northeast. The state also has internal borders with the Vatican and San Marino. It is the country with the greatest cultural, historical and artistic heritage, the cradle of one of the greatest empires in human history and the Renaissance.
Italy (Italian Republic)
Italy is one of the most unique and fascinating places in the world. It has some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in Europe, the world’s largest number of historical, cultural and artistic treasures, a favorable warm climate and delicious authentic cuisine. At the same time, the country is not perfect. Its historic cities and antiquities suffer from modern development, its infrastructure is at its peak, and there are problems in the economy and social sphere. But once you visit, you will definitely fall in love with this European country for its violent temperament, reckless nature, delicious cuisine and special atmosphere.
Useful information about Italy
|Population of||60.8 million people (Italy ranks 23rd in the world by this indicator)|
|Area||301,340 square kilometers|
|Time||Central European UTC + 1, in summer + 2|
|Visa||Schengen visa is required|
|VAT (Tax Free)||Can be refunded from the purchase of 154.94 Euros|
|The voltage of the electrical network||220 V, 50 Hz. Note: Italy uses its own electrical connector, so some devices may require an adapter. You can buy it in any supermarket|
|Safety||Italy is a fairly safe country. Bad news is rare. The main thing is to follow basic safety rules and beware of scammers in popular tourist destinations.|
|Government||The government of the Italian Republic is a unitary parliamentary type. The head of state is the President. The executive branch is the Parliament, headed by the President of the Council of Ministers.|
|The flag of Italy||It is a symbol of the Italian Republic, and is a rectangular cloth consisting of three vertical stripes of equal size: green at the hoist, white in the middle, and red at the free edge of the cloth. The ratio of the flag’s width to its length is 2:3.|
Geography and nature
Italy is located in Southern Europe in the Mediterranean. Most of the country lies on the Apennine Peninsula. The territory is mostly hilly and mountainous. From the north, Italy is backed by the Southern Alps, and the Apennine Mountains are located on the peninsula. The country’s territory is located at the point of contact of lithospheric plates, so earthquakes are not uncommon here. In addition, there are several large volcanoes: Etna, Vesuvius, etc.
Italy has a huge coastline. The country is washed by the seas of the Mediterranean: Adriatic and Ionian in the east, Tyrrhenian and Ligurian in the west. The largest river is the Po River. Large lakes are Garda and Como.
Due to geographical and climatic features, nature is very diverse throughout Italy. Although most of, the territory’s relief was changed by human activity in ancient times. In the north, on the slopes of the Alps, there are mixed and coniferous forests, on the coast and in the south – subtropical plants. The central part of the country is a mixture of subtropical and temperate nature.
Italy’s climate is very diverse and can be very different from the Mediterranean in some regions. In most of the country, summers are very warm and dry, and July is the warmest month. Autumn is usually rainy. Winters are cool and wet (hence the frequent fogs) in the north and milder in the south. In the provinces that are located in the foothills of the Alps, the climate is mountainous. Summers are cool and winters are cold and snowy.
The best time to visit
Italy has a favorable warm climate. Although the conditions in the Alps are a bit harsher and the foothills can be quite cold. To choose the best time to visit, you need to weigh several factors: hotel and food prices, weather, cultural events, and seasonal atmosphere. The highest season is summer. If you want to come to Italy to explore its wonderful cultural and historical heritage, it is better to choose the lowest season – winter. The best time in terms of weather and number of tourists is April-May and September-October.
History of Italy and interesting facts
Italy’s past is very rich and diverse. The country has seen ups and downs, been divided and united over the period of its existence. A great empire, the Roman Empire, emerged on its territory in ancient times. And it is Italy that can be called the cradle of Western civilization.
The territory of modern Italy was settled more than 50 thousand years ago. The name of the country comes from the tribe of Italians who inhabited a small part of the Emilia-Romagna region in the 5th century BC. Already in the 3rd century, Italy was understood to mean the entire peninsula up to the Rubicon River, and in the 2nd century – the territory up to the slopes of the Alps. In the pre-Roman period, tribes of Ligurians, Etruscans, Umbri, and even Gauls lived here.
In 753 BC, Rome was founded on the Tiber River. The Romans gradually began to spread their influence over the entire Apennine Peninsula. Initially, Rome was ruled by 7 kings. In 509, the kings were replaced by a republic. During the republican period, active military expansion to other tribes began. By the 3rd century BC, Rome had conquered most of modern Italy.
In 390, the Gauls defeated the Roman army, captured and burned Rome.
The growth of Rome’s power and the spread of its influence in the Mediterranean led to a clash with Carthage. As a result of three Punic wars, Carthage was destroyed and its territory became part of the republic. In the 1st century, the republic was shaken by internal conflicts. First, there was a slave uprising led by Spartacus. Later, a civil war broke out, in which Julius Caesar won. He established a dictatorship and laid the foundations for the creation of an empire.
After the assassination of Julius Caesar, power passed to Octavian Augustus, who is considered the founder of the Roman Empire. After the death of the first Roman emperor, power passed to Tiberius, who became the first of the Julius-Claudius dynasty. The Claudian dynasty ended in the middle of the 1st century AD with the assassination of Nero. Then, until the end of the 1st century, Rome was ruled by the Flavian dynasty, which was replaced first by the Antonine dynasty and later by the Severans. During this period, the Roman Empire reached the peak of its power and development, owning almost all of Southern Europe, a huge part of Western Europe and North Africa.
In the 4th century, the fall of Rome began. In 330, Emperor Constantine founded Constantinople and moved his capital there. At the end of the 4th century, the Western and Eastern Roman Empires were formed. In the 5th century, Vandals and Visigoths invaded Italy. Rome was taken and sacked, and the mighty ancient empire fell. The Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) existed for almost a thousand years after that and fell only in the 15th century.
In the 5th century, Italy was conquered by the Ostrogoths. In the 6th century, the kingdom of the Lombards emerged in the north. In the 8th-11th centuries, Italy was part of the Frankish Empire. Its southern part was captured by the Normans during this period. In the 11-13 centuries, the Frankish Empire was destroyed. Power was concentrated in the “hands” of the Popes. The Kingdom of Sicily and several free states in Northern Italy emerged.
In the 13th-15th centuries, the power of the Popes decreased significantly. Many states emerged on the territory of Italy: the Kingdom of Naples, the Papal Region, the Republics of Venice and Genoa, Savoy, and Milan. At the end of this period, the Renaissance began, with Florence as its cradle.
Several Italian wars broke out in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The First Italian War arose from France’s claims to the north of the country. French troops occupied Tuscany, Rome, and marched on Naples. But they were stopped by the alliance of Venice, Milan, and Emperor Maximilian. During the Second Italian War, France captured Genoa and Milan, and Spain captured Naples. As a result of the third war, the Spaniards defeated the French, who were forced to give up their claims to Italy. In the 16th century, most of its territory was under Spanish influence.
In the early 18th century, after the War of the Spanish Succession, Italy became part of the Austrian Habsburg Empire. At the end of the 18th century, French troops entered the country. At this time, several republics were formed, which later united into the Italian Republic, which was transformed into a kingdom in 1805. During this period, the Risorgimento movement for freedom and independence emerged. By 1860, the country began to unite around the Kingdom of Sardinia. In 1870, the Kingdom of Italy included Rome, which became its capital.
At the beginning of the First World War, Italy declared its neutrality. But in 1915 it joined the Entente. In 1919, the Fascist movement emerged here. In 1922, the Fascists, led by Mussolini, came to power. In 1940, the country entered World War II on the side of Germany. In 1943, it surrendered. In 1945, Mussolini’s regime was overthrown. In 1947, the Constitution was adopted and the country became a parliamentary republic.
Administratively, Italy is divided into 20 regions: Valle d’Aosta, Lombardy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Piedmont, Liguria, Venice, Tuscany, Umbria, Emilia-Romagna, Marche, Abruzzo, Lazio, Molise, Basilicata, Campania, Calabria, Puglia, Sardinia, and Sicily. The capital of the country is Rome. Regions, in turn, are divided into provinces, of which there are 110.
Italy can also be divided into regions:
- Northwestern Italy (Piedmont, Liguria (San Remo), Lombardy, Valle d’Aosta) – is the richest and most developed region of the country. It is home to the country’s largest port, Genoa, the main financial and business center, Milan, and the center of industry and technology, Turin.
- The northeastern part (Emilia-Romagna (Rimini), Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto) – a diverse region with charming Venice and one of the main student cities – Bologna, charming Parma and romantic Verona. You can find almost everything here: from ski resorts and the natural beauty of South Tyrol to the coast and beaches.
- Central Italy (Lazio, Marche, Tuscany (Viareggio), Abruzzo, and Umbria) – breathes history, culture, and art. The main sights of the country and the most famous artistic masterpieces are located here. The cities here need no introduction: the eternal city of legendary Rome, the cradle of the Renaissance and the modern Italian language – Florence, ancient Pisa, Lucca and Siena.
- Southern Italy (Puglia (Veste), Basilicata, Calabria, Campania and Molise) – A southern region with incredible temperament: stormy Naples, dramatic Pompeii ruins, romantic Amalfi and Capri coasts.
- The islands of Sicily and Sardinia (Cagliari) – beautiful sea and beaches. The most famous resorts in Italy are located here.
Italy ranks fourth in the European Union in terms of population. More than 90% of the population are Italians. Large diasporas: Romanians, people from North Africa, Albanians. The official language is Italian. German is also spoken in Bolzano and South Tyrol, Slovenian in Trieste, and French in Aosta.
Italians themselves are open, friendly, very temperamental and emotional. Although there are differences between the North and the South. In the north of Italy, people are more closed, punctual, and pragmatic, while in the south it is quite the opposite.
Italians are very traditional, proud of their country and cuisine. They love their region, having fun and eating well.
Major international airports:
- Rome has two airports: Fiumicino (FCO – Leonardo da Vinci) and Ciampino for low-cost airlines.
- Milan – with two airports: Malpensa (MXP) and Linate (LIN). In addition, there is an airport in Bergamo (BGY – Orio al Serchio).
- Palermo (PMO – Punta Raisi).
- Venice (VCE – Marco Polo).
- Catania (CTA – Vincenzo Bellini).
- Pisa (PSA – Galileo Galilei).
- Turin (TRN – Sandro Pertini).
- Treviso (TSF-Antonio Canova).
- Genoa (GOA – Christoforo Colombo).
- Bologna (BLQ – Guglielmo Marconi).
- Bari (BRI – Palese).
- Naples (NAP – Capodichino).
Rail connections connect Italy with Germany (via Munich), Austria (Vienna, Innsbruck, Villach), France (Paris, Lyon, Nice), Switzerland (Basel, Geneva), and Spain (via Barcelona). High-speed trains run to the largest cities in Italy: Rome, Turin, Milan, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Naples.
We should also mention the highways that permeate the entire country. These roads are of excellent quality and are no different from the famous German autobahns, except that they are tolled. When entering a highway, you need to take a special ticket. When leaving, you need to give this ticket to the cashier or insert it into a special machine. Cash and bank cards are accepted for payment. Payment methods are indicated on special signs.
The largest cities in Italy
There are hundreds of popular cities in Italy that are worth visiting. Almost every city boasts interesting sights and a rich history. But there are some places that you must see. Our Top 10 cities in Italy:
- Rome is the capital of Italy and one of its oldest cities. A place where history is frozen in the streets and monuments are symbols of the whole country.
- Venice is one of the most romantic cities in the world. It is a unique place with canals, bridges, gondolas, and magnificent architecture.
- Florence is the cradle of the Renaissance, the city where Leonardo Da Vinci, Dante, Michelangelo and dozens of other geniuses were born. The capital of Tuscany will impress you with museums and art collections.
- Milan is one of the capitals of world fashion. It is a modern metropolis, financial and business center of the country. If you are interested in shopping, this is the place for you.
- Naples is the main city of the Italian south. An ancient city with a southern temperament and the birthplace of pizza.
- Verona is one of the most romantic cities in Italy, where you can touch history and feel like Shakespeare’s heroes.
- Bologna is the gastronomic capital of the country, a city of youth, culture, and art.
- Pisa is one of the most popular cities in Tuscany with the famous Leaning Tower.
- Turin is the first capital of the United Italy, a city of industry and technology.
- Genoa is the largest Italian port, a city with a rich history and many attractions.
- Perugia – a city in the center of Italy, the main city of the Umbria region
Other interesting places:
- Lake Garda and Como, as well as the pearl of the Dolomites – Brianza.
- The Italian Alps and South Tyrol are full of picturesque nature and magnificent mountains.
- Amalfi is a rocky coast with beautiful towns.
- Cinque Terre – charming seaside towns on the Ligurian coast.
- Pompeii and Herculaneum are the ruins of ancient cities destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
- Sardinia – stunning beaches and seascapes.
Sights and attractions
Italy has more attractions than any other country in the world. There are 53 UNESCO World Heritage Sites on its territory. Just listing the main attractions would take several pages. Therefore, only symbolic monuments are listed here.
The Colosseum is a grand ancient amphitheater and probably the most famous landmark in Italy. It is located in Rome. It was built in just 8 years. The construction was started by Emperor Vespasian and finished by Titus.
The Colosseum, the hallmark of Italy, is made in the form of a giant ellipse. It is the largest amphitheater of antiquity, striking in its size – the outer axis is 524 meters long, the size of the site is 85×53 meters, and the height is 48 to 50 meters. It is one of the most amazing and huge structures of ancient Rome.
The Pantheon is one of the largest bath structures in the world. It was built between 25-27 AD by the consul Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and rebuilt in 126 AD after a fire during the reign of Hadrian. The Pantheon is translated as “the temple of all the gods”. It is one of the best preserved ancient buildings in Rome.
The Roman Forum is the heart of the Roman Empire, the main political and social center of ancient Rome. It is a rectangular square surrounded by the remains of ancient buildings and temples. The Roman Forum is located in the valley between the Capitoline and Palatine hills in the center of the Italian capital.
Vatican City is the heart of the Catholic world, a mini-state in the center of Rome. It is home to the largest Christian church in the world. And Vatican museums exhibit great treasures of art.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the famous Leaning Tower, the main symbol of Pisa. It was conceived as the bell tower of the Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral. It was built for almost two centuries from the 12th century. The height of the tower is more than 50 meters, and the deviation from the axis is at least 4%.
Santa Maria del Fiore is the main attraction and one of the most recognizable symbols of Florence. The beautiful and imposing cathedral with pink, white and green marble trim is made in the Gothic style and is located in the historic center on Piazza Duomo. Santa Maria del Fiore was built on the site where the ancient cathedral of the capital of Tuscany, Santa Reparata, once stood, the remains of which can be seen in the crypt.
The Duomo or Cathedral of Santa Maria Nazente is a symbol of Milan, located in the heart of the city on the square of the same name. It is one of the largest religious buildings in the world (accommodates about 40,000 people) and probably the most beautiful church in the Gothic style. The Duomo was built over 4 centuries starting in the 14th century. Its roof is crowned with 135 spires, and the facade is decorated with 2,245 marble statues.
Amalfi is a stunningly beautiful stretch of coastline south of Naples with picturesque towns that climb steep cliffs.
Venice is a city of amazing beauty, which is an attraction in itself. More than 20 million tourists come here to see the charming canals, elegant architecture and bridges, ride gondolas, walk around San Marco, see St. Mark’s Cathedral and the Rialto Bridge, buy glassware on the island of Murano and take pictures of the colorful houses of Burano. The historic center of Venice is built on 118 islands of the Venetian Lagoon.
Pompeii is a legendary ancient city destroyed during the devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD at the height of its power. Despite the lava flows and tons of ash that buried the city and its inhabitants, it has been preserved in fantastic condition.
In large cities and popular tourist areas, you can find a variety of accommodation options: from world-class hotels to family-run hotels and apartments. One caveat is that there are few hostels in Italy. In Tuscany, Piedmont, Umbria, Abruzzo, Sardinia, Apulia, and Emilia-Romagna, agritourism is becoming increasingly popular. In Italy, you can find many charming hotels with two stars or less.
The cost of living depends on the popularity of the region, location, and season. The highest hotel prices are from May to August. The lowest are in winter. In general, prices for hotels and apartments in Italy are not the highest compared to the rest of Europe. Most of the money for accommodation will be required in Milan, Venice, the vicinity of Lakes Garda and Como. Although you can find interesting and cheap options there as well.
Italian cuisine is perhaps the most delicious and varied in Europe. At the same time, the cuisine remains purely regional. Believe me, Italian cuisine is not only about pasta and pizza. There are a huge number of dishes and ingredients that can satisfy any gourmet.
Traditional Italian dishes and products:
- Pizza is one of the most popular dishes of Italian cuisine that has spread widely around the world. Each region has its own traditions of cooking it. The way pizza is made in Italy is not made anywhere else.
- Risotto is rice with meat, vegetables, and seafood.
- Polenta is corn grits with meat.
- Pasta (spaghetti, pasta) with sauces and meat.
- Tortellini – Italian dumplings with cheese and meat.
- Gelato – ice cream.
- Panini – sandwiches.
- Cheese. Some types of cheese can be produced only in a particular region. More than 800 types of cheese are produced in Italy.
- Olive oil.
- Sausage and ham – more than 400 types.
The main drink in Italy is wine. Grapes are grown in almost every province, except for the highlands. Each region has strong winemaking traditions.