Official Name Italian Republic
Capital City Rome
Official Currency: the Euro
Population 58,077,400 (2005)
Population (4 largest cities) Rome (2,643,000),
Milan (1,432,000), Naples (994,000) Turin (851,000)
Religions Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim
Land Area 294,060 sq km (116,334 sq miles)
The Italian Republic or Italy (Italian: Repubblica Italiana or Italia) is a country in Southern Europe. It comprises a boot-shaped peninsula and two large islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia, and shares its northern alpine boundary with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. It is a founding member of what is now the European Union, and a member state of the United Nations, NATO . San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves countries within Italian territory, while Campione d'Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland.
Politics: The houses of parliament are popularly and directly elected by a mixed majoritarian and proportional representation system. Under 1993 legislation, Italy has single-member districts for 75% of the seats in parliament; the remaining 25% of seats are allotted on a proportional basis. The Chamber of Deputies has officially 630 members (de facto, 619 only after the 2001 elections). In addition to 315 senators, elected members, the Senate includes former presidents and several other persons (no more than 5) appointed for life by the President of the Republic according to special constitutional provisions. Both houses are elected for a maximum of 5 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.
The Italian judicial system is based on Roman law modified by the Napoleonic code and later statutes. A constitutional court, the Corte Costituzionale, passes on the constitutionality of laws, and is a post-World War II innovation.
Economy: Italy has a diversified industrial economy with roughly the same total and per capita output as France and the United Kingdom. This capitalistic economy remains divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less developed south. In comparison to its western European neighbours, it has a high number of small to medium sized enterprises (SMEes).
Most raw materials needed by industry and more than 75% of energy requirements are imported. Over the past decade, Italy has pursued a tight fiscal policy in order to meet the requirements of the Economic and Monetary Union and has benefited from lower interest and inflation rates. Italy joined the Euro from its introduction in 1999. Italy's economic performance has at times lagged behind that of its EU partners, and the current government has enacted numerous short-term reforms aimed at improving competitiveness and long-term growth. It has moved slowly, however, on implementing certain structural reforms favoured by economists, such as lightening the high tax burden and overhauling Italy's rigid labour market and expensive pension system, because of the current economic slowdown and opposition from labour unions.
Culture: Italy is well-known for its art and culture. It has many famous works of architecture, among them the leaning tower of Pisa and the Roman Colosseum. It is renowned for its food (pizza, pasta, etc.), wine, lifestyle, elegance, automobiles, visual art and design, cinema, theatre, literature, poetry, music (notably Opera), holidays, and generally speaking, taste.
Europe's Renaissance period began in Italy during the 14th and 15th centuries. Literary achievements, such as the poetry of Dante, Petrarch, Tasso, and Ariosto and the prose of Boccaccio, Machiavelli, and Castiglione exerted a tremendous and lasting influence on the subsequent development of Western culture, as did the painting, sculpture, and architecture contributed by giants such as Filippo Brunelleschi, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, Melozzo da Forl and Michelangelo. Modern artists include the sculptor Tommaso Geraci.
The musical influence of Italian composers Palestrina, Monteverdi, Corelli and Vivaldi proved epochal; in the 19th century, Italian romantic opera flourished under composers Gioacchino Rossini, Giuseppe Verdi, and Giacomo Puccini. Contemporary Italian artists, writers, filmmakers, architects, composers, and designers continue to contribute significantly to Western culture.
Football (calcio; American soccer) is the main national sport and the Italians are well known for their maniacal passion for this sport. Italy has won the Football World Cup three times: in 1934, 1938 and 1982.