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What Should I Know About Italy?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 23, 2024
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Italy is a European country that extends into the Mediterranean Sea. Italy has a 4,722.4 mile (7,600 km) coastline, but it is shares land border with a number of countries to its north—Austria, France, Slovenia, and Switzerland—as well as Vatican City and San Marino within its borders. The total area of Italy is 187,175.6 square miles (301,230 sq km).

The creation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 with King Victor Emmanuel II, formerly ruler of Piedmont, Savoy, and Sardinia, lasted until 1946, when a republic was established by referendum. True unity was not actually accomplished until 1970. In the early part of the twentieth century, Benito Mussolini established a Fascist dictatorship in Italy and formed an alliance with Nazi Germany, leading to Italy’s defeat in World War II. Italy has been a charter member of both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as well as the European Economic Community (EEC).

The population of Italy was estimated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to be 58,126,212 in July 2009, making it the 24th most populous country in the world. A fifth of the population is age 65 or over. The population is primarily Italian, but there are also peoples from German, French, and Slovenian origins in the north and Albanian and Greek origins in the south. Ninety percent of the population is considered Roman Catholic, but only a third of those are practicing their faith. The other ten percent is comprised of Protestants, Jews, and Muslims.

The official name of Italy is Repubblica Italiana, which is given in English as Italian Republic, and the capital is Rome, once the capital of the Roman Empire. The chief of state is a president, who is elected by both houses of parliament and representatives from the 15 regions and five autonomous regions. Italian is the official language of Italy, but in some parts of the Trentino-Alto Adige region, people predominantly speak German. There are also areas in which there are a French-speaking or Slovene-speaking minority. The literacy rate is 98.4%.

Italy’s economy is more focused on industry in the north and agriculture in the south, where there is more unemployment. Overall, 65% of the labor force is in services, with 30.7% in industry, and 4.2% in agriculture. The main industries are tourism, machinery, metals and chemicals, food processing, and textiles. The chief agricultural products are fruits and vegetables, grapes, and potatoes.

Italy is known for its cheeses, sausages, hams, and wines, as well as for many prepared dishes from its widely varying regional cuisines. Cheeses include Parmesan, Romano, mozzarella, and gorgonzola. Sausages include pepperoni and sopressata. Some of the dishes for which it is known include pizza, pasta in a wide variety of shapes and prepared with a wide variety of sauces, polenta, risotto, gnocchi, and antipasto. Seafood is also widely served.

CulturalWorld.org is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth , Writer
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for CulturalWorld.org, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.

Discussion Comments

By surflover00 — On Jul 09, 2010

allienoelle - I visited Sicily on a recent trip to Italy and am so glad that I did.

Sicily often gets overlooked by tourists, but has so much to offer. I stayed in the capital, Palermo, and spent my time visiting ancient ruins and beautiful cathedrals. The food was delicious and I found the people to be laid-back and friendly.

I also spent a considerable amount of time at the beach. Sicily has great beaches and the weather is nice pretty much all year round. I would definitely recommend that anyone planning a trip to Italy make sure and visit Sicily.

By allienoelle — On Jul 09, 2010

People should also be aware that Italy rules over two islands located in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia.

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and has a population of just over 5 million people. Sicily has many tourist attractions including ancient Greek and Roman ruins and is well-known for its seafood cuisine. The island even has its own language, Sicilian, which is quickly dying out and is usually only spoken by elderly individuals.

Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean and has a population of about 1.7 million. Sardinia is known for its beautiful beaches and nice climate.

By catapult43 — On Oct 14, 2009

Italy is a beautiful country with with old architecture, beautiful countryside, and many famous resorts such as Portofino, Cinque Terre and others.

The cuisine is exquisite, with pasta and variety sauces leading the way. Of course, do not forget the espresso and gelato.

It is also known for its style in design whether it be clothing, architecture, or art. Very elegant. A great country to visit.

Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth


Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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