Italy - More Information


Along with its capital Rome, Italy has for centuries been a political and religious centre of European civilisation as the capital of the Roman Empire and site of the Holy See. After the decline of the Roman Empire, Italy endured numerous invasions by foreign peoples. Centuries later, Italy became the birthplace of Maritime republics and the Renaissance. Through much of its post-Roman history, Italy was fragmented into numerous city and regional states (such as the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Republic of Venice and the Papal States), but was unified as a kingdom in 1861 after a drive by Giuseppe Garibaldi. Italy became a Republic in 1948.


Italy has two major mountain ranges. The Apennine Mountains form the backbone of the peninsula whereas the Alps form most of the country’s northern boundary.  In between these mountain ranges lies a large plain in the valley of the Po, Italy’s largest river. Also in northern Italy there are a number of large lakes; Garda being the largest, Maggiore, Como and Lugano. The country is situated at the meeting point of the Eurasian Plate and the African Plate, leading to considerable seismic and volcanic activity. There are 14 volcanoes in Italy, four of which are active; Etna, Stromboli, Vulcano and Vesuvius. Vesuvius is the only active volcano in mainland Europe and is most famous for the destruction of Pompeii and Herculanum.


Because of the distance from north to south of the peninsula and the mostly mountainous internal area, the climate of Italy is highly diverse. In most of the inland northern and central regions, the climate ranges from hot summers and generally warm winters to either hot to cool summers with cold winters. In particular, the climate of the Po valley has mostly harsh winters and hot summers. The coastal areas of Liguria, Tuscany and most of the South have mild winters and very warm and dry summers. Conditions on peninsular coastal areas can be very different from the interior's higher ground and valleys, particularly during the winter months when the higher altitudes tend to be cold, wet, and often snowy.

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