Area: 301,318 km2

Population: 59.13 m

Capital City: Rome (population: 2.7 m)

The highest peak: Monte Bianco 4,807 m

The longest river: Po 652 km

The largest lake: Lago di Garda 370 km2

People: Mostly Italian, with small populations of German, French and Slovene Italians in the north and Albanian-Italians and Greek-Italians in the south.

Language(s): Italian. However, German is the predominant language in the South Tyrol (Trentino-Alto Adige); French is predominant in the Valle d’Aosta region on the Swiss/French border and Slovene on the Slovene border.

Religion(s): 83% Roman Catholic; remainder Jewish and Protestant and a growing Muslim immigrant community

Life expectancy: men (78.3), women (84)

Currency: Euro

Parliament: Italy has a bicameral system composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies

Government: Republic

Italy is located on the Italian Peninsula in Southern Europe and on the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia. Several smaller islands also form part of Italy notably Elba, Capri, Ischia and the Lipari Islands. It borders on France in the northwest, the Ligurian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea in the west, the Ionian Sea in the south, the Adriatic Sea in the east, Slovenia in the northeast, and Austria and Switzerland in the north. Italy also has two independent countries within its borders. Vatican City is the centre for the Roman Catholic Church, and is the world’s smallest country. San Marino is located on the north east coast of Italy and is an independent republic. The entire country including Sardinia and Sicily covers an area of 301,230 square kilometres and with a population of around 59 million is among the most populous states of Europe.

The Italian economy has changed dramatically since the end of World War II. From an agriculturally based economy, it has developed into an industrial state ranked as the world’s sixth-largest market economy. Italy belongs to the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations. It is a member of the European Union and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Italy’s economic strength is in the processing and manufacturing of goods, primarily in small and medium-sized family-owned firms. The principal farm products are fruits, sugar beets, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, soybeans, grain, olives and olive oil, and livestock (especially cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats). In addition, much wine is produced from grapes grown throughout the various regions of the country. Other major industries are precision machinery, automotive, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electric goods, clothing and fashion. Italy is known also for its fashion houses: Versace, Valentino, Fendi, Gucci, Prada, Roberto Cavalli, Sergio Rossi, Dolce & Gabbana, Benetton, Armani and others.

The only Italian automaker is FIAT, specialized in utility and luxury vehicles, under the brands FIAT, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati. Italian industry also produces motorcycles and scooters, with global brands like Piaggio and Ducati.


Ferrari - source

Italy has substantial foreign trade, facilitated by its sizable commercial shipping fleet. The leading exports are textiles and apparel, metals, machinery, motor vehicles, and chemicals. The main imports are machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, food and food products, and minerals (especially petroleum). Tourism is a major source of foreign exchange. The chief trade partners are Germany, France, the United States, and Great Britain.

Italy has an efficient and modern infrastructure, even though it performs poorly compared to other Western European countries of comparable size. The whole peninsula is well connected through an extensive system of railways, expressways, national roads, airports and seaports. It has greatly improved its highway system in the post-war years, especially in the South. Most of the country’s infrastructure was rebuilt after the ravages of World War II, is well maintained and regularly upgraded. Much attention is paid to this, as most goods in Italy are transported by road, and there is a highly developed and efficient network of interconnected highways and lesser roads, particularly in northern regions.

There are a total of 136 airports, including a number of key international airports; the most important are Fiumicino (Rome), Malpensa and Linate (both serving Milan), Ronchi dei Legionari (Trieste), Caselle (Turin), and Marco Polo (Venice). The national carrier, Alitalia, has a fleet of 166 planes and connects Italy to 60 other countries. Maritime transportation and Seaports used to be a key element of the Italian transport system but are less so today. The rail system is also highly developed. However, infrastructure is not of the same quality throughout the country. While the road and rail networks are intricate and plentiful in the north and centre of the country, the southern infrastructure is poor.

The currency of Italy is the Euro, the same currency used in most of the European Union countries. Each country that uses the Euro has their own set of coins uniquely theirs. The coins can be used in any other country that accepts Euros, but in Italy you will mostly get Italian coins. The previous currency was the lira, before Euro banknotes and coins were initially circulated on the 1 January 2002.

Greeks settled in the southern tip of the Italian Peninsula in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. Etruscans, Romans, and others inhabited the central and northern mainland. The peninsula subsequently was unified under the Roman Republic. The neighbouring islands came under Roman control by the third century B.C. By the first century A.D., the Roman Empire effectively dominated the Mediterranean world. After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West in the fifth century A.D., the peninsula and islands were subjected to a series of invasions, and political unity was lost. Italy became an oft-changing succession of small states, principalities, and kingdoms, which fought among themselves and were subject to the ambitions of foreign powers. Popes of Rome ruled central Italy and rivalries between the popes and the Holy Roman Emperors, who claimed Italy as their domain, often made the peninsula a battleground. This long period of quiet stagnation was known as the Dark Ages.

The Colosseum

The Colosseum - source

Prosperity did not return to Italy again until the Fourteenth Century, when city-states such as Florence, Milan, Pisa, Genoa, and Venice became centres of trade. The influx of wealth and increased trade contact with foreign lands, transformed Italy into Europe’s premier centre of culture. Funded by wealthy patrons, figures such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dante, Machiavelli, and Galileo, among others, revolutionized the fields of art, literature, politics, and science. Italian explorers, such as Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus, introduced Italy and Europe to the rest of the world. Italy remained a centre of power until the Sixteenth Century, when trade routes shifted away from the Mediterranean. Weakened, the various Italian city-states became vulnerable to conquest by Spain, France, and Austria. Italy remained a patchwork of principalities controlled through proxy by various European powers until the Nineteenth Century, when the French leader Napoleon supported the unification of Italy as a way of creating a buffer state against his many enemies.

Fra Mauro map, Venice

Fra Mauro map, Venice - source

In 1861, Victor Emmanuel II of the House of Savoy was proclaimed King of Italy. Rome was incorporated in 1870. From 1870 until 1922, Italy was a constitutional monarchy with a parliament elected under limited suffrage. During World War I, Italy renounced its standing alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary and, in 1915, entered the war on the side of the Allies. Under the post-war settlement, Italy received some former Austrian territory along the northeast frontier. In 1922, Benito Mussolini came to power and, over the next few years, eliminated political parties, curtailed personal liberties, and installed a fascist dictatorship termed the Corporate State. The king, with little or no effective power, remained titular head of state. Mussolini spent the next twenty years consolidating power and building up the Italian economy, but he never gave up on the idea of restoring Italy as a great power. Calling himself "Il Duce" (meaning Leader), Mussolini dreamed of leading a new Roman Empire. In the 1930s, he indulged his dreams of conquest, by invading Ethiopia and Albania.

Italian Carabinieri served in Palestine during the First World War

Italian Carabinieri served in Palestine during the First World War - source

When the Second World War broke out, Italy remained neutral at first. However, once it appeared (erroneously) through the Fall of France that Germany would win, Mussolini eagerly joined Hitler, a fellow Fascist and long-time ally, and rushed to invade Greece, the Balkans, and North Africa. Overextended and unprepared for such a large-scale effort, Italy quickly found that it could not maintain its military position and had to ask Germany for help. In the closing period of the ware, abandoned by a Hitler, Il Duce and his mistress were captured and executed by Italian partisans. After the Second World War, Italy abolished its monarchy and declared it a republic. With the strong support of the United States, Italy rebuilt its economy through loans from the Marshall Plan, joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and is a founding member of what is now the European Union, having signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957.

Italy has been a democratic republic since 2 June, 1946, when the monarchy was abolished by popular referendum. The constitution was promulgated on 1 January, 1948. The 1948 Constitution of Italy established a bicameral parliament, consisting of a Chamber of Deputies and a Senate, with a separate judiciary, and an executive branch composed of a Council of Ministers, headed by the prime minister. The President of the Italian Republic 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 obtain a confidence vote from both houses of Parliament. Under 2005 legislation, the Chamber of Deputies has 630 members (12 of whom are elected by Italians abroad). In addition to 315 elected members (six of whom are elected by Italians abroad), the Senate includes former presidents and several other persons appointed for life according to special constitutional provisions. Both houses are elected for a maximum of five years, but either may be dissolved before the expiration of its normal term. Legislative bills may originate in either house and must be passed by a majority in both. All Italian citizens 18 years or older can vote, with the exception that in order to vote for the senate, the voter must be at least 25 or older.

The Chamber of Deputies

The Chamber of Deputies - source

Until recently, there had been frequent government turnovers since 1945. In spite of this, the dominance of the Christian Democratic (DC) party during much of the post-war period lent continuity and comparative stability to Italy’s political situation. Italy’s dramatic self-renewal transformed the political landscape between 1992 and 1997. Scandal investigations touched thousands of politicians, administrators, and businessmen, and in 1993 referendums voters approved substantial changes, including moving from a proportional to a largely majority based electoral system and the abolishment of some ministries.

Party changes were sweeping. The Christian Democratic Party dissolved. The Italian People’s Party and the Christian Democratic Centre emerged. Other major parties, such as the Socialists, saw support plummet. A new populist and free-market oriented movement, Forza Italia, gained wide support among moderate voters. The National Alliance broke from the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement. A trend toward two large coalitions, one on the centre-left and the other on the centre-right, emerged from the April 1995 regional elections. For the 1996 national elections, the centre-left parties created the Olive Tree coalition while the centre right united again under the Freedom Pole. The May 2001 elections ushered into power a refashioned centre-right coalition dominated by Berlusconi’s party, Forza Italia. In 2005 parliament passed a new electoral law based on full proportional assignment of seats. The April 2006 elections returned the centre-left to power under the Union coalition, a successor to the Olive Tree. Freedom House now sits in the opposition.

The largest bloc in the Chamber of Deputies was the Olive Tree (31.3%), a grouping of the Democrats of the Left and the Daisy Party within the Union coalition; Forza Italia (23.7%); the National Alliance (12.3%); the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats (6.8%); and the Communist Renewal Party (5.8%). Similar rankings generally apply in the Senate, in which the Olive Tree coalition and Forza Italia were the dominant parties. In October 2007, the Olive Tree parties officially merged to form the Democratic Party. Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni was chosen as party leader and is expected to be the centre-left’s main candidate in the April 2008 elections. Silvio Berlusconi launched an alliance between his Forza Italia party and Gianfranco Fini’s National Alliance. The parties will run together under the People of Liberty symbol. A reform of the electoral system is expected after the elections, with the goal of reducing the influence of small parties.


Senate - source

Head of state: Giorgio Napolitano (PD) - President, head of Government: Silvio Berlusconi (PDL) - Prime Minister, Governing party: PDL, LN, MPA

Last national elections 2008

Last national elections 2008

Last European Parliament election June 2009 See: •,_2009_(Italy)

Regions, provinces, and municipalities

Italy is subdivided into 20 regions. Five of these regions have a special autonomous status that enables them to enact legislation on some of their local matters. It is further divided into 109 provinces and 8,101 municipalities.

Region Capital Area (km²) Population
Abruzzo L’Aquila 10,794 1,305,000
Basilicata Potenza 9,992 594,000
Calabria Catanzaro 15,080 2,004,000
Campania Naples 13,595 5,790,000
Emilia-Romagna Bologna 22,124 4,187,000
Friuli-Venezia Giulia Trieste 7,855 1,208,000
Lazio Rome 17,207 5,304,000
Liguria Genoa 5,421 1,610,000
Lombardy Milan 23,861 9,375,000
Marche Ancona 9,694 1,528,000
Molise Campobasso 4,438 320,000
Piedmont Turin 25,399 4,341,000
Apulia Bari 19,362 4,071,000
Sardinia Cagliari 24,090 1,655,000
Aosta Valley Aosta 3,263 123,000
Tuscany Florence 22,997 3,619,000
Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol Trento 13,607 985,000
Umbria Perugia 8,456 867,000
Sicily Palermo 25,708 5,017

Vatican City

Population: 800

Capital City: Vatican City

Languages: Italian, Latin

Currency: the Euro

Religions: Catholic

Land Area: 44,030 km2

St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City

St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City - source

This is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome. At approximately 44,030 square kilometres, and with a population of around 800, it is the smallest independent state in the world by both population and area. Vatican City is a non-hereditary, elected monarchy that is ruled by the Bishop of Rome - the Pope. The highest state functionaries are all clergymen of the Catholic Church.

San Marino

Population: 4,385

Capital City: San Marino

Languages: Italian

Currency: the Euro

Religions: Catholic, others

Land Area: 61.2 km2

A country in the Apennine Mountains, this is a landlocked enclave, completely surrounded by Italy. One of the European microstates, San Marino has the smallest population of all the members of the Council of Europe. San Marino claims to be the oldest constitutional republic in the world and that it was founded on 3 September 301 by Marinus of Rab. It is composed of a few towns dotted around the mountain sides. The capital of San Marino is itself called San Marino and is situated high up on a mountain top surrounded by a wall and three distinct towers overlooking the rest of the country.


Population: 5,132,000

Capital City: Palermo (680,810)

Languages: Italian

Currency: the Euro

Religions: Catholic, others

Land Area: 25,706 km2

Italy’s largest island, and the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily is also a geographical and political region of Italy, famed for its beautiful beaches, cuisine, and fascinating history. Because of its strategic location, Sicily was invaded over the centuries by many armies, and was once the site of Roman and Greek colonies. The economy is based largely on agriculture, fishing, mining, and tourism.

Most of the island is a mountainous plateau. The highest point, Mt. Etna (an active volcano), rises to 3,323 m. The central plateau slopes to coastal lowlands and to some fertile areas drained by many small rivers and streams. Major rivers include the Salso and the Simeta.

The Mafia (also known as La Cosa Nostra) is a Sicilian criminal secret society which is believed to have first developed in the mid-19th century in Sicily. The Sicilian Cosa Nostra is a loose confederation of about one hundred Mafia groups, also called cosche or families, each of which claims sovereignty over a territory, usually a town or village or a neighbourhood of a larger city, though without ever fully conquering and legitimizing its monopoly of violence. For many years, the power mechanisms of the single families were the sole ruling bodies within the two associations, and they have remained the real centres of power even after super ordinate bodies were created in the Cosa Nostra beginning in the late 1950s.


Italy’s Population has grown up to 58,751,711 people according to the latest census. It is the fourth largest populated country of Europe and ranks twenty-second in the world. The great majority of the population speaks Italian (including several dialects). There are small German, French, and Slavic speaking minorities. Italy’s Population growth has been mainly affected by the high birth rate of 8.72 births per 1,000 people and relatively high life expectancy and low death rate of 10.4 deaths/1,000 people. The most populous cities are Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin, Palermo and Genoa. Among other major cities those with 250,000 or more inhabitants are Bologna, Florence, Bari, Catania, Venice and Verona.

Roman Catholicism has played a historic and fundamental role in Italy. It was the official religion of the Italian state from 1929, with the signing of the Lateran Treaty, until a concordat was ratified in 1985 that ended the church’s position as the state religion, abolished compulsory religious teaching in public schools, and reduced state financial contributions to the church. More than 90 percent of the population declare themselves Roman Catholics, although the number of practicing Catholics is declining. Other Christian groups in Italy are Lutherans, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, and Waldensians. They are all members of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy founded in 1967. Migration that began in the latter third of the 20th century brought with it many people of non-Christian religious beliefs, significantly middle-eastern Muslims, Albanian Muslims, and Jewish communities. In 1987 Jews obtained special rights from the Italian state allowing them to abstain from work on the Sabbath and to observe Jewish holidays.

  • Greetings are enthusiastic yet rather formal.
  • Italians are guided by first impressions, so it is important that you demonstrate propriety and respect when greeting people, especially when meeting them for the first time.
  • Many Italians use calling cards in social situations. These are slightly larger than traditional business cards and include the person’s name, address, title or academic honours, and their telephone number.
  • If you are staying in Italy for an extended period of time, it is a good idea to have calling cards made. Never give your business card in lieu of a calling card in a social situation.
  • Punctuality is not mandatory. You may arrive between 15 minutes late if invited to dinner and up to 30 minutes late if invited to a party.

Business Etiquette and Protocol in Italy:

  • Italians prefer to do business with people they know and trust.
  • A third party introduction will go a long way in providing an initial platform from which to work.
  • Italians much prefer face-to-face contact, so it is important to spend time in Italy developing the relationship.
  • Your business colleagues will be eager to know something about you as a person before conducting business with you.
  • Demeanour is important as Italians judge people on appearances and the first impression you make will be a lasting one.
  • Italians are intuitive. Therefore, make an effort to ensure that your Italians colleagues like and trust you.
  • Networking can be an almost full-time occupation in Italy. Personal contacts allow people to get ahead.
  • Take the time to ask questions about your business colleague’s family and personal interests, as this helps build the relationship.
  • Italians are extremely expressive communicators. They tend to be wordy, eloquent, emotional, and demonstrative, often using facial and hand gestures to prove their point.
  • Appointments are mandatory and should be made in writing (in Italian) 2 to 3 weeks in advance.
  • Reconfirm the meeting by telephone or fax (again in Italian).
  • In the north, punctuality is viewed as a virtue and your business associates will most likely be on time.
  • The goal of the initial meeting is to develop a sense of respect and trust with your Italian business colleagues.
  • Have all your printed material available in both English and Italian.
  • Hire an interpreter if you are not fluent in Italian.
  • It is common to be interrupted while speaking or for several people to speak at once.
  • People often raise their voice to be heard over other speakers, not because they are angry.
  • Although written agendas are frequently provided, they may not be followed. They serve as a jumping off point for further discussions.
  • Decisions are not reached in meetings. Meetings are meant for a free flow of ideas and to let everyone have their say.
  • In the north, people are direct, see time as money, and get down to business after only a brief period of social talk.
  • In the south, people take a more leisurely approach to life and want to get to know the people with whom they do business.
  • Allow your Italian business colleagues to set the pace for your negotiations.
  • Italians prefer to do business with high-ranking people.
  • Hierarchy is the cornerstone of Italian business. Italians respect power and age.
  • Negotiations are often protracted.
  • Never use high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Always adhere to your verbal agreements. Failing to follow through on a commitment will destroy a business relationship.
  • Heated debates and arguments often erupt in meetings. This is simply a function of the free-flow of ideas.
  • Haggling over price and delivery date is common.
  • Decisions are often based more on how you are viewed by the other party than on concrete business objectives.

Italy is a peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea. Its most prominent feature is its boot-like shape kicking the island of Sicily. About 75% of Italy is mountainous or hilly, and roughly 20% of the country is forested. There are narrow strips of low-lying land along the Adriatic coast and parts of the Tyrrhenian coast.

The Dolomite Mountains which extend across northern Italy are part of the Alps mountain range. The Apennine mountains cut down the centre of Italy, stretching from north to south, dividing the east and west coasts. The Po Valley, just south of the Dolomite Mountains, is the basin of the Po River. It is the richest part of the country, with the best farmland and the largest industrial centres. Other than the Po and Adige, Italy has primarily smaller rivers, among which, the Arno and the Tiber are the best known.

Marmolata – Dolomites

Marmolata – Dolomites - source

Italy includes two large islands: Sicily and Sardinia. Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, and has active volcanoes and earthquakes. Sardinia is basically a mountain range rising out of the ocean. There are several active volcanoes in Italy: Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe, Vulcano, Stromboli and Vesuvius, the only active volcano on the mainland of Europe.

The climate in Italy is highly diverse and can be far from the stereotypical Mediterranean climate depending on the location. In summer the Northern parts of Italy are warm with occasional rainfall. But temperatures can reach below the freezing during the winters, with snow. The coastal regions have mild winters and warm and generally dry summers.


Etna - source

Today Italy has one national language, which is "Italian". In Italy, some other languages are also spoken. Over the centuries many regional languages have developed are considered as modern Italian. Just as, Milanese, which is spoken near the city of Milan, Neapolitan which is spoken near Naples, Sicilian which is spoken on Sicily.

Italian is the official language of Italy, and 93% of population are native Italian speakers. Around 50% of population speak a regional dialect as their mother tongue. Many dialects are mutually unintelligible and although considered by linguists as separate languages, are not officially recognised. Friulian, one of these dialects, is spoken by 600,000 people in the north east of Italy, which is 1% of the entire population. Other northern minority languages include Ladin, Slovene, German, which enjoys equal recognition with Italian in the province of Alto-Adige, and French, which is legally recognised in the Alpine region of the Val d’Aosta. Albanian is spoken by 0.2% of the population, mainly in the southern part of Italy, as too are Croatian and Greek. Catalan is spoken in one city, Alghero, on the island of Sardinia, by around 0.07% of the population. On the rest of the island, Sardinian is spoken by over 1m, which comes to 1.7% of the Italian population. - Italy country profile

Phrases in Italian: