ITALY - CULTURE

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.