Pronounced As: itl , Ital. Italia, officially Italian Republic,
republic (1995 est. pop. 58,262,000), 116,303 sq mi (301,225 sq
km), S Europe. 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. The country includes the large Mediterranean
islands of Sicily and Sardinia and several small islands, notably
Elba, Capri, Ischia, and the Lipari Islands. Vatican City (see under
Vatican) and San Marino are two independent enclaves on the Italian
mainland. Rome is Italy's capital and largest city.
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. In addition
to Rome, other important cities include Milan, Naples, Turin, Genoa,
Palermo, Bologna, Florence, Catania, Venice, Bari, Trieste, Messina,
Verona, Padua, Cagliari, Taranto, Brescia, and Livorno.
Northern Italy, made up largely of a vast plain that is contained
by the Alps in the north and drained by the Po River and its tributaries,
comprises the regions of Liguria, Piedmont, Valle d'Aosta (see Aosta,
Valle d'), Lombardy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Venetia, Friuli-Venezia
Giulia, and part of Emilia-Romagna (which extends into central Italy).
It is the richest part of the country, with the best farmland, the
chief port (Genoa), and the largest industrial centers. Northern
Italy also has a flourishing tourist trade on the Italian Riviera,
in the Alps (including the Dolomites), on the shores of its beautiful
lakes (Lago Maggiore, Lake Como, and Lake Garda), and in Venice.
Gran Paradiso (13,323 ft/4,061 m), the highest peak wholly situated
within Italy, rises in Valle d'Aosta.
The Italian peninsula, bootlike in shape and traversed in its entire
length by the Apennines (which continue on into Sicily), comprises
central Italy (Marche, Tuscany, Umbria, and Latium regions) and
southern Italy (Campania, Basilicata, Abruzzi, Molise, Calabria,
and Apulia regions). Central Italy contains great historic and cultural
centers such as Rome, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Perugia, Assisi, Urbino,
Bologna, Ravenna, Rimini, Ferrara, and Parma. The major cities of
S Italy, generally the poorest and least developed part of the country,
include Naples, Bari, Brindisi, Foggia, and Taranto.
Except for the Po and Adige, Italy has only short rivers, among
which the Arno and the Tiber are the best known. Most of Italy enjoys
a Mediterranean climate; however, that of Sicily is subtropical,
and in the Alps there are long and severe winters. The country has
great scenic beauty-the majestic Alps in the north, the soft and
undulating hills of Umbria and Tuscany, and the romantically rugged
landscape of the S Apennines. The Bay of Naples, dominated by Mt.
Vesuvius, is one of the world's most famous sights.
The great majority of the population speaks Italian (including several
dialects); there are small German-, French-, and Slavic-speaking
minorities. Nearly all Italians are Roman Catholic. There are numerous
universities in Italy, including ones at Bari, Bologna, Genoa, Milan,
Naples, Turin, Padua, Palermo, and Rome.