Italy, or the Italian Republic (Italian: Italia or Republica Italiana), a country in southern Europe. Jutting southward from the Alps into the Mediterranean Sea, Italy consists mainly of a slender boot-shaped peninsula and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Italy is bordered by France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia, and the Adriatic, Ionian, Mediterranean, Tyrrhenian, and Ligurian seas. It completely encircles two tiny, independent states: San Marino, east of Florence, and Vatican City, in Rome.

Italy's area is 116,340 square miles (301,318 km2)—about twice that of Florida. Peninsular Italy is about 700 miles (1,130 km) long and up to 350 miles (565 km) wide.

The name Italy was first used by the Greeks for the southern tip of the peninsula, where they established colonies as early as the eighth century B.C. Gradually, as the peninsula came under Roman rule, the name was applied to everything south of the Alps.

Italy has contributed greatly to Western civilization. For hundreds of years it was the center of the far-flung Roman Empire. It was in Italy that Christianity first flourished in Europe and became a powerful force. Rome has long been the seat of the papacy and the world center of the Roman Catholic Church. The Renaissance, the period of enlightenment that ended medieval times, began in Italy, and during this period Italians contributed greatly to the intellectual and artistic development of the Western world. Italy still preserves much of its noble past in its cities, museums, and ruins, attracting more foreign visitors than any other country in the world.

Italy in brief
General information
Capital: Rome.
Official language: Italian.
Official name: Repubblica Italiana (Italian Republic).
National anthem: "Fratelli d'Italia" ("Brothers of Italy").
Largest cities: (2001 census) Rome (2,546,804); Milan (1,256,211); Naples (1,004,500); Turin (865,263); Palermo (686,722); Genoa (610,307).
Flag and coat of arms: Italy's flag, adopted in 1870, has three vertical stripes, green, white, and red (left to right). Italians first used the flag in 1796 in support of Napoleon Bonaparte and France during a war against Austria. Napoleon designed the flag to look like that of France, but substituted green, his favorite color, for the blue of the French flag. Italy's coat of arms was established after the formation of the Italian republic in 1946. The star represents unity, the wreath of laurel and oak stands for republicanism, and the cogwheel represents industry. The country's name in Italian is on the ribbon.
Coat of arms: Italy's coat of arms was established after the formation of the Italian republic in 1946. The star represents unity, the wreath of laurel and oak stands for republicanism, and the cogwheel represents industry. The country's name in Italian is on the ribbon.
Land and climate
Land: Italy lies in southern Europe on the Mediterranean Sea. It borders France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia. The Alps form Italy's northern and northwestern border. The Apennines (a mountain chain) occupy the center of Italy's peninsula. The Po River Valley is Italy's only major flat area.
Area: 116,340 mi2 (301,318 km2). Greatest distances—north-south, 708 mi (1,139 km); east-west, 320 mi (515 km).
Elevation: Highest—near the summit of Mont Blanc, which is 15,771 ft (4,807 m). Lowest—sea level.
Climate: Central and southern Italy have hot summers—daytime high temperatures of about 86 degrees F (30 degrees C). Winters are mild, with daytime highs reaching about 54 degrees F (12 degrees C). Northern Italy is only slightly cooler than the rest of the country in summer. However, it is much cooler in winter—daytime highs of only about 41 degrees F (5 degrees C). The north receives adequate year-round moisture. Central and southern Italy have dry summers and moderate winter rainfall. In general, total precipitation decreases from north to south.
Form of government: Parliamentary democracy.
Head of state: President (elected by Parliament to a 7-year term).
Head of government: Prime minister.
Legislature: Parliament of two houses—the Chamber of Deputies (630 members) and the Senate (315 elected members). The two houses have equal legislative powers.
Executive: Prime minister, nation's chief executive, is approved by Parliament. Prime minister chooses Cabinet.
Judiciary: Highest court is the Constitutional Court.
Political subdivisions: 20 regions, each divided into provinces and communes.
Population: Current estimate—58,818,000. 2001 census—56,995,744.
Population density: 506 per mi2 (195 per km2).
Distribution: 68 percent urban, 32 percent rural.
Major ethnic/national groups: About 95 percent Italian; small numbers of Germans, French, Slovenes, Moroccans, and Albanians.
Major religion: Roman Catholic (95 percent of population).
Chief products: Agriculture—beef cattle, corn, grapes, hogs, olives, oranges, tomatoes, wheat. Manufacturing—chemicals, clothing and shoes, foods and beverages, machinery, motor vehicles, petroleum products. Mining—granite, marble, natural gas.
Money: Basic unit—euro. One hundred cents equal one euro. The Italian lira was taken out of circulation in 2002.
International trade: Major exports—chemicals, clothing and shoes, fruits and vegetables, machinery, motor vehicles. Major imports—machinery, metals, motor vehicles, petroleum, textile yarns. Major trading partners—Belgium, France, Germany, United Kingdom, United States.