Italy Italy Flag

Italy became a nation-state in 1861 when the regional states of the peninsula, along with Sardinia and Sicily, were united under King Victor EMMANUEL II. An era of parliamentary government came to a close in the early 1920s when Benito MUSSOLINI established a Fascist dictatorship. His disastrous alliance with Nazi Germany led to Italy's defeat in World War II. A democratic republic replaced the monarchy in 1946 and economic revival followed. Italy was a charter member of NATO and the European Economic Community (EEC). It has been at the forefront of European economic and political unification, joining the Economic and Monetary Union in 1999. Persistent problems include illegal immigration, organized crime, corruption, high unemployment, sluggish economic growth, and the low incomes and technical standards of southern Italy compared with the prosperous north.



Great dive locations in Italy :

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Understand

Climate
The climate of the coastal regions is a typical Mediterranean climate with mild winters and generally hot and dry summers.

Italy and the large islands of Sicily and Sardinia have very changeable weather in autumn, winter, and spring in marked contrast to the settled sunny weather of summer. Disturbed weather can continue into late May and may commence any time after early September. Throughout the winter, however, cloudy rainy days alternate with spells of mild, sunny weather.

The least number of rainy days and the highest number of hours of sunshine occur in the extreme south of the mainland and in Sicily and Sardinia. Here sunshine averages from four to five hours a day in winter and up to ten or eleven hours in summer.

Generally, the hottest month is July (where temperatures can reach 32°C/34°C); the coldest month is January; the wettest month is November, with an average rainfall of 129mm; while the driest month is July, with an average rainfall of 15mm.

Further reading
Non-guidebooks about Italy or by Italian writers.

The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo - stories about China by the Venetian traveller

Winter Stars by Beatrice Lao - poems born between the Alps and the Tyrrhenian by the oriental poetess, 988979991X

The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone - a biography of Michelangelo that also paints a lovely portrait of Tuscany and Rome

Eat


Cuisine
Italian food inside of Italy is different than Italian in America or western Europe. Italian food is based upon a few simple ingredients and Italians often have very discriminating tastes that may seem strange to Americans and other visitors. For instance, a sandwich stand might sell 4 different types of ham sandwiches that in each case contain ham, mayonnaise, and cheese. The only thing that may differ between the sandwiches is the type of ham or cheese used in them. Rustichella and panzerotti are two examples of sandwiches well-liked by Italians and tourists alike. Also, Italian sandwiches are quite different from the traditional Italian-American “hero”, “submarine”, or “hoagie” sandwich. Rather than large sandwiches with a piling of meat, vegetables, and cheese, sandwiches in Italy are often quite small, very flat (made even more so when they are quickly heated and pressed on a panini grill), and contain a few simple ingredients, rarely, if ever lettuce. Also, a traditional Italian meal is separated into several sections: antipasto (marinated vegetables, etc), primo (pasta or rice dish), secondo (meat course), dolce (dessert). Salads often come with the secondo. Americans will notice that Italian pasta often has a myriad of sauces rather than simply tomato and alfredo. Also, Italian pasta is often served with much less sauce than in America.

Like the language and culture, food in Italy is also very different region by region. Pasta and olive oil are considered the characteristics of southern Italian food, while northern food focuses on rice and butter (although today there are many many exceptions). Local ingredients are also very important. In warm Naples, citrus and other fresh fruit play a prominent role...



Italy (Italian: Italia) is a large country in Southern Europe. It is home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites - art and monuments are everywhere around the country. It is also famous worldwide for its cuisine, its fashion, the luxury sports cars and motorcycles, as well as for its beautiful coasts, lakes and mountains (the Alps and Appennines).

Regions

North - The North of Italy is the country's most populated and developed portion. Cities like Turin, Milan, Bologna, Verona and Venice share the region's visitors with beautiful landscapes like the Lake Como area, impressive mountains such as the Dolomites and the Italian Alps and first-class ski resorts like Cortina d'Ampezzo and others.
  • Northwest - Piedmont (Piemonte), Liguria (home of the Italian Riviera and Cinque Terre), Lombardy (Lombardia), Valle d'Aosta
  • Northeast - Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto


  • Central Italy breathes history and art. Rome boasts the remaining wonders of the Roman Empire and some of the world's best known landmarks such as the Colosseum. Florence, cradle of the Renaissance, is Tuscany's top attraction, whereas nearby cities like Siena, Pisa and Lucca have much to offer to those looking for the country's rich history and cultural heritage.
  • Lazio (the region around Rome), Marche, Tuscany (Toscana), and Umbria, Italy's green heart.


  • Southern Italy - Bustling Naples, the dramatic ruins of Pompeii, the romantic Amalfi Coast and laidback Apulia, as well as up-and-coming agritourism help making Italy's less visited region a great place to explore.
  • Abruzzo, Apulia (Puglia), Basilicata, Calabria, Campania and Molise


  • Italian islands - Sardinia (Sardegna) and Sicily (Sicilia), the large island located to the south of the Italian peninsula (the "ball" to Italy's "boot")

    Cities


    Of the hundreds of Italian cities, here are nine of its most famous:
  • Rome - (Roma): the capital, both of Italy and of the ancient Roman Empire; center of the Roman Catholic Church (the Vatican).

  • Bologna - A major trade fair city.

  • Florence - (Firenze): History, art, architecture. Uffizi gallery, David of Michelangelo Buonarroti.

  • Genoa - (Genova) a vibrant and historical port city, birth place of Columbus.

  • Milan - (Milano) - shares with Paris the title of fashion capital of the world and is the main financial and business center in the country.

  • Naples - (Napoli) with its famous gulf and Vesuvius volcano, including Herculaneum and Pompeii.

  • Pisa - home of the famous Leaning Tower.

  • Venice - (Venezia): History, art. Saint Mark's Piazza. The city is built on a lagoon, filled with canals, with no roads for cars. Very poetic and romantic.

  • Verona - a restored Roman coliseum is the stage for modern opera productions(It also where Romeo & Juliet is based)


  • Other destinations

  • Capri and Ischia - the famed islands in the Bay of Naples
  • Cinque Terre - five tiny, scenic, towns strung along the steep vineyard-laced coast of Liguria
  • Vatican City - the independent city-state and seat of the Pope, head of the Roman Catholic Church
  • Lago di Garda - A beautiful lake in Northern Italy
  • Italian Alps, including The Dolomites - Some of the most beautiful mountains there are


  • Understand

    Climate
    The climate of the coastal regions is a typical Mediterranean climate with mild winters and generally hot and dry summers.

    Italy and the large islands of Sicily and Sardinia have very changeable weather in autumn, winter, and spring in marked contrast to the settled sunny weather of summer. Disturbed weather can continue into late May and may commence any time after early September. Throughout the winter, however, cloudy rainy days alternate with spells of mild, sunny weather.

    The least number of rainy days and the highest number of hours of sunshine occur in the extreme south of the mainland and in Sicily and Sardinia. Here sunshine averages from four to five hours a day in winter and up to ten or eleven hours in summer.

    Generally, the hottest month is July (where temperatures can reach 32°C/34°C); the coldest month is January; the wettest month is November, with an average rainfall of 129mm; while the driest month is July, with an average rainfall of 15mm.

    Further reading
    Non-guidebooks about Italy or by Italian writers.

    The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo - stories about China by the Venetian traveller

    Winter Stars by Beatrice Lao - poems born between the Alps and the Tyrrhenian by the oriental poetess, 988979991X

    The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone - a biography of Michelangelo that also paints a lovely portrait of Tuscany and Rome

    Get in


    By plane

    Italy has its own national airline, Alitalia , as well as several smaller carriers, such as Meridiana . There are 406 budget routes flown from and within Italy by low cost airlines.

    Most of mid-range international flights arrive to the following Italian cities:
  • Milan - with 2 airports: Malpensa (MXP) and Linate (LIN); in addition, Bergamo (BGY - Orio al Serio) is sometimes referred to as "Milan Bergamo"

  • Rome - with two airports: Fiumicino (FCO - Leonardo Da Vinci) and Ciampino (CIA)

  • Bologna (BLQ – Guglielmo Marconi)

  • Naples (NAP - Capodichino)

  • Pisa (PSA - Galileo Galilei)

  • Venice (VCE – Marco Polo)

  • Turin (TRN – Sandro Pertini)


  • By train
  • From France via Nice, Lyon, and Paris
  • From Croatia via Zagreb
  • From Austria via Vienna
  • From Geneva and other Swiss cities
  • From Germany via Munich
  • From Czech Republic via Prague
  • From Hungary via Budapest
  • From Slovenia via Ljubljana
  • From Spain via Barcelona


  • By car

    Italy borders on France, Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia. French and Austrian borders are open,but cars can be stopped behind the border for random checks. Switzerland and Slovenia are not part of the Schengen zone, and full border checks apply - although they have been known to let coaches straight through.

    By boat

    There are several ferries departing from Greece, Albania, Montenegro and Croatia. Most of them arrive to Venice, Ancona, Bari and Brindisi.

    Some regular ferry services connect the island of Corsica in France to Genoa, Livorno, Civitavecchia and North of Sardinia.

    Some regular ferry services connect Sicily to some North African harbours.

    See


    Monuments
    The Islands
    Sicily,
    Sardinia,
    Capri,
    Ischia,
    Elba,
    Procida,
    Aeolian,

    Museums

    Every major city has a number of local museums, but some of them have national and international relevance.
    These are some of the most important permanent collections.
  • The Academia in Florence, keep one of the most significant sculpture of Michaelangelo, David.
  • Uffizi Museum in Florence, one of the greatest museums in the world, must see. Given the great number of visitors, ticket reserving is a good idea to avoid hours-long queues.
  • Egyptian Museum in Turin, holds the second-largest egyptian collection in the world, behind the Egypt's Cairo Museum collection.
  • The Acquarium in Genoa, one of the largest and more beautiful in the world, is located in the Porto Antico (ancient port) in an area completely renewed by architect Renzo Piano in 1992.
  • Science and Technology Museum in Milan, one of the largest in Europe, holds collections about boats, airplanes, trains, cars, motorcycles, radio and energy. Recently has also acquired the Toti submarine, which is open to visitors.
  • Roman Civilization Museum in Rome, hold the world's largest collection about ancient Rome and a marvellous reproduction (scale 1:250) of the entire Rome area in 325 A.D., the age of Constantine the Great.
  • National Cinema Museum in Turin, located inside the wonderful Mole Antonelliana, historical building and symbol of the city.
  • Automobile Museum in Turin, one of the largest in the world, with a 170 car collection covering the entire automobile history.


  • Get around


    By train

    The Italian rail system has different train types: TBiz, EurostarItalia, Eurostar City Italia, IntercityPlus, Intercity, Espresso, Interregionale and Regionale, Eurostar Italia and TBiz being the classiest. Generally speaking, for a given distance each tier costs twice as much as the one below it. The train cars used by the TBiz and Eurostar Italia services are far newer than those used by the other types, but are not necessarily more comfortable. In fact, the cars used by Intercity trains might be split up into distinct, six-seater compartments, which is really nice when you're travelling in groups. A new level has been introduced recently. It is called Intercity-plus and it is just a way to have passengers pay more than the intercity fares. Recently, many of Interegionale trains have been classified as Intercity.

    The main practical difference between train types is reliability. Intercity services are generally very reliable, but if you need to catch a flight, for example, it might be better to pay extra for the Eurostar Italia. Interregionale and Regionale are less reliable, and stops in many more stations along the way. The other big difference between TBiz, Eurostar Italia, Intercity Plus and Intercity with Interregionale, Regionale and Espresso services is that on the best ones seating reservation is compulsory, where every passenger has a seat allocated to him/her. This means that the train will never (theoretically) be packed with an impossible number of people, but it also means you will need to purchase tickets in advance. Actually, many passengers with tickets for other trains that take a wrong one will have to pay the cheap fine for not having a seat reservation. As a result, on major routes or peak hours, expect to find your seat taken, in this case usually a brief discussion is enough to get your seat. During commuter hours, on major north-south routes during the holidays, or before and after large political demonstrations, trains on the lower train types can become extremely full, to the point where it gets very uncomfortable, in which case you could find yourself sitting on a tiny fold out flap in the hallway, where you'll have to move for everyone passing by.

    The pricier train types are usually faster, but there is not a consistent speed difference between trains. The main difference being the number of stops made along the same routes. On some routes, the Eurostar will cut the travel time in half, but on others all trains go more or less at the same speed, and taking the Eurostar Italia might be a waste of money. Just check the FS website or the printed schedule, usually located near the entrance to each platform, to see how long the trip will take.

    On long routes, such as Milan - Rome or Milan - Reggio Calabria, Trenitalia operates special night trains Treni Notte. They depart around 10pm and arrive around 6am and don't have beds but it could be a useful options to save money and time.

    The ultimate way to get the cheapest train tickets is to leave early in the morning usually before 7:00am.

    On the train schedules displayed at each station, every train is listed in different colours (i.e. blue, red, green). The arrival times are listed in parentheses next to the names of each destination. One thing to watch out for is that certain trains only operate seasonally, or for certain time periods (for example, during holidays).

    The lines to buy tickets can be very long, and slow, so get to the station early. There are touch-screen ticket machines which are very useful, efficient, and multilingual, but there are never that many, and the lines for those can be very long too.

    To avoid queues at the station you can reserve tickets in advance via the internet at the Trenitalia website. You can then either print out your reservation details or have them sent by SMS to your mobile phone. Phones do not need to be Italian. The conductor will validate your reservation details when you are on the train and provide you with your ticket.

    Eurostar trains can fill up, so if you're on a tight schedule you should buy those tickets in advance. If you are running late and don't have time to buy a ticket, you can just jump on the train, but you will have to pay extra when the conductor (il controllore) comes around (a flat fee, somewhere around 5-10 euro) and they don't take credit cards. Technically, if you don't have a ticket you are supposed to find the conductor yourself and buy one (otherwise you have to pay another fee - approx. 20 euro), but for foreigners it's enough to just stammer something about being late and they will almost never hassle you about this.

    Also, the way the system works is that unless you validate the ticket by inserting it into one of the yellow boxes on the platform (it says Convalida on the box), you could keep using it for months. The yellow box just stamps a date on the ticket, so the conductor knows you weren't planning on using that ticket again. Technically, a ticket that isn't validated is just like not having a ticket: you have to buy another. It is quite important not to forget to validate your ticket as the conductors are generally not tolerant in this particular matter.

    The cheapest way to travel in a region is to buy a zone ticket card. A chart displayed near the validating machine tells you how many zones you must pay between stations. To buy a zone card for the next region you would have to get off the train at the last station and because the stops are so short you would have to board the next train (usually in about 1 hour).

    As of January 10, 2005 a smoking ban in public places went into effect in Italy. You will be subject to fines for smoking on any Italian train.

    There are special deals offered too...some of them are reserved to foreign tourist and others are available to locals. Some deals are passes that allow travel during a chosen period, while other special offers are normal tickets sold at decent prices with some restrictions. Before you choose to buy a pass, check first if it is cheaper than buying a normal ticket (or better, a discounted normal ticket, if available).

    If you are travelling a lot, and you're not Italian, you can get a TRENITALIA PASS: you buy a number of days of travel to be used within 2 months, however you still have to pay a supplement on the compulsory reservation services, i.e. TBiz, Eurostar Italia, Intercity Plus and Intercity which will between EUR 5.00 and EUR 25.00 depending on the train type. Details are on the Trenitalia website , and also on RailChoice website at .

    By car

    Italy has a well-developed system of highways in the northern side of the country while in the southern it's a bit worse for quality and extension. Every highway is identified by an A followed by a number. Most of the highways (autostrade) are toll roads. Some have toll station giving you access to a section, others have entrance and exit toll stations. Don't lose your entrance ticket or you will be charged for the longest distance (example: if you are on A1 Milano-Napoli at Milan toll station you'll be charged for the entire 700km distance). All the blue lanes (marked "Viacard") of toll stations, accept major credit cards as well as pre-paid card (Viacard) you can buy at tobacconist, Autogrill, gas stations.

    Many italians uses an electronic pay-toll device, and there's reserved lanes marked in Yellow with the sign "Telepass" or a simply "T". Driving through those lanes (controlled by camera system) without the device will result in a fine of 50 euros and a payment of the toll from the longest distance. Due to agreement with other countries,if you're foreigner, you'll pay also extra cost for locating you in your country.

    Policemen sometimes read your ticket at the toll station to see how long you took since joining the autoroute: they can use that info to give you a speeding ticket. Even if speeding is very common on Italian Highways, be aware that there are a number of automatic and almost invisible system to punish speeding and hazardous driving. If you don't know the road very well you should probably keep a reasonable speed.

    Since 2006, some highways are checked by the "Tutor", an automatic system that checks your average speed on a long section (5-10 kms).

    A good clue of a nearby check system is when cars around you suddenly reduce speed. If you see a lot of cars keeping themselves just under the limit and nobody overtaking, you'd better do the same.

    Speed limits are:
  • 130 km/h on highways (autostrade);
  • 110 km/h on freeways (superstrade);
  • 90 km/h on single-lane roads;
  • 50 km/h inside cities.


  • Italian laws allow a 5% (minumum 5 km/h) tolerance on local speed limit.
    Fines are generally very expensive.

    Motorbikes should drive always with the headlights on, for other vehicles that applies only outside cities.

    Drink and driving is a controversial issue. The tolerated limit is 0.50g/L in blood, being above this limit is thus illegal and can entitle you an expensive fine and licence withdraw and maybe also a night in jail, but you'll find that people of every age are not significantly worried for that and there's nothing such designated driver or else.
    All passengers are required to wear their seat belt and children under 10 must use the back seat.
    Unless clearly posted on the road you are using, you are supposed to yield to any vehicle coming from your right from another public thoroughfare.
    Signposts used in Italy are patterned according to EU recommendations and use mostly pictograms (not text) but there are minor differences (example: highways directions are written on green background while the white stands for local roads and blue for the remaining).

    There is also an Italian carpool agency called ViaVai.

    By bus

    Buy bus tickets before boarding from corner stores and other shops. The payment system for most mass transit in Italy (trains, city buses, subway) is based on voluntary payment combined with sporadic enforcement. Specifically, you buy a ticket which can be used at any time (for that level of service, anyway) and when you use it you validate the ticket by sticking it into a machine that stamps a date on it. Once in a while (with varying frequency depending on the mode of transportation) someone will ask you for your ticket and if you don't have one you get a fine, and theoretically (sometimes happens) you can be asked to present to the Police for a formal report. Usually line enforcers aren't very condescending, especially in northern Italy.
    In almost every city there's a different pricing scheme, so check in advance ticket formulas and availability.

    For tourist may be very convenient to buy daily (or multi-day) tickets that allow you to travel as much as you want in a single (or more) day.
    Every major city also has some type of City Card, a fixed-fee card allowing you to travel on local public transportation, visit a number of museums and giving you discounts on shops, hotels and restaurants.

    Check for both these possibilities at local Tourist's Office or on city's website (which is often of the form www.comune.cityname.it as for example www.comune.roma.it).

    By thumb
    Hitchhiking in Italy is related with the hippies and "on the road" kind of culture. Therefore, it is considered out-dated and useless. You will rarely find Italians hitchhiking unless there's a serious problem with the bus or other means of transportation.
    Hitchhiking in the summer in touristy areas works okay because you'll get rides from Northern European tourists, and it works okay in very rural areas as long as there is consistent traffic (because you're still playing the odds), but hitchhiking near large cities or along busy routes is extremely frustrating. As long as you stay on the Autostrada, hitching from one "Area Servizio" to the next, you will not have any trouble crossing the country. Off the Autostrada things are a bit more difficult: Italians are generally very friendly and open people, but they're less likely to pick up hitchhikers than anyone else in the world. It is easier to hitchhike out of the Bronx than it is to hitchhike in Italy. Hitchhiking is not recommended for women travelling alone.
    Hitchhiking along expressways and highways is forbidden.

    By Boat
    For sailors and non-sailors alike: Italy is best approached from the sea and it is more convenient and comfortable than traditional onshore “tours”.
    A yacht charter to Italy is the most fulfilling way to experience this magnificent country. Although the yacht charter industry is smaller than one would expect for this incredibly popular tourist destination, there are many reasons to choose a yacht over a more conventional onshore approach. The Italian coast, like the French coast, attracts luxury yacht charters of the highest standards. “Touring” Italy from a private yacht is surprisingly convenient and comfortable. Experience the breathtaking scenery, fascinating history and the unrivaled Italian lifestyle as local Italian people do when on their vacations. Italy’s dramatic coastline is best appreciated from the sea and the Italians know it! In between visiting the numerous cultural destinations for which Italy is renown, there is always time to take a refreshing swim. Most enjoyable, is relishing the fact that from a private yacht you have a certain relief from the crowds and traffic that are traditionally unavoidable in Italy’s most popular destinations.
    There are major distinct nautical regions in Italy: Tuscany, Amalfi Coast, Sardinia and Sicily. Each has its own flavor and focus. Be sure to plan your itinerary carefully as each region is rewarding in its own particular way.

    Sailing in Italy - All types of yachts for charter, skippered and bareboat. Hire a motor boat, sailing boat, exclusive mega yacht, wooden gulet or motor sailer for a pleasant nautical holiday.

    Windward Islands - Windward Islands, one of the worlds largest yacht charter companies, can take care of all charter requirements, from bareboat to crewed in Italy, Sicily, Sardinia. Operating from 8 international offices (USA, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, Caribbean, Monaco).

    Talk


    Not surprisingly, Italian is the language spoken by the vast majority of Italians. Parts of the Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking with Ladin, a Rhaeto-Romance language related to Switzerland's Romansh, spoken by a minority. There is a small French-speaking minority in the Valle d'Aosta region and Slovene is spoken by a minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area.

    Most likely, if you're trying to speak Italian, then you'll get plenty of help, and they may even try their limited English out on you.

    English is spoken fairly commonly on the well-travelled path, but you'll want a good phrasebook for anything remote although even this may not help for the smaller towns and villages as many areas still speak dialects that you won't find in any phrasebooks.

    Buy


    Italy is part of the Eurozone, so the common currency of the European Union, the Euro (€), is legal tender in Italy.

    Italy is quite an expensive country. It has many luxury hotels and posh restaurants. It may cost €40.00 a day if a person self caters, stays in hostel, avoids drinking and doesn't visit too many museums. However, staying in a comfortable hotel, eating out regularly and visiting lots of museums and galleries, may cost a person at least €100-150 a day. Hiring a car may double expenses, so one should visit with enough budget.

    All the bills include the service charges, so tipping is not necessary. Tipping the taxi drivers is also not necessary, but a hotel porter may expect a little something.

    If you plan to travel through countryside or rural regions you probably should not rely on your credit cards: in many small towns they're accepted only by a small number of shops (particularly restaurants).

    Unless it says otherwise the price includes IVA (same as VAT) of 20%. On some product, such as books, IVA is 4%. If you're a non-EU resident, you are entitled to a VAT refund on purchases of goods that will be exported out of the European Union. Shops offering this scheme have a Tax Free sticker outside. Be sure to ask for your tax-free voucher before leaving the store. These goods have to be unused when you pass the customs checkpoint upon leaving the EU.

    Italian fashion is renowned worldwide. Many of the world's most famous international brands have their headquarters in Italy. The two key areas for high-class shopping are Via della Spiga and Via Montenapoleone (and surroundings), in Milan and via Condotti in Rome, but you'll find flagship stores in almost every major city.

    Eat


    Cuisine
    Italian food inside of Italy is different than Italian in America or western Europe. Italian food is based upon a few simple ingredients and Italians often have very discriminating tastes that may seem strange to Americans and other visitors. For instance, a sandwich stand might sell 4 different types of ham sandwiches that in each case contain ham, mayonnaise, and cheese. The only thing that may differ between the sandwiches is the type of ham or cheese used in them. Rustichella and panzerotti are two examples of sandwiches well-liked by Italians and tourists alike. Also, Italian sandwiches are quite different from the traditional Italian-American “hero”, “submarine”, or “hoagie” sandwich. Rather than large sandwiches with a piling of meat, vegetables, and cheese, sandwiches in Italy are often quite small, very flat (made even more so when they are quickly heated and pressed on a panini grill), and contain a few simple ingredients, rarely, if ever lettuce. Also, a traditional Italian meal is separated into several sections: antipasto (marinated vegetables, etc), primo (pasta or rice dish), secondo (meat course), dolce (dessert). Salads often come with the secondo. Americans will notice that Italian pasta often has a myriad of sauces rather than simply tomato and alfredo. Also, Italian pasta is often served with much less sauce than in America.

    Like the language and culture, food in Italy is also very different region by region. Pasta and olive oil are considered the characteristics of southern Italian food, while northern food focuses on rice and butter (although today there are many many exceptions). Local ingredients are also very important. In warm Naples, citrus and other fresh fruit play a prominent role in both food and liquor, while in Venice fish is obviously an important traditional ingredient. As guideline, in the south cuisine is focused on pasta and dessert, while at north meat is king, but this rule can be very different depending where you are.

    Pizza is also very different than what Americans are used to...thick, greasy, and unhealthy. In Italy, pizza is very thin, flexible, and very good for you. It's made with fresh natural non-preservative ingredients. After Italian pizza, the American kind will never be as good again.

    A note about breakfast in Italy: breakfast in America is often seen as a large meal (eggs, bacon, juice, toast, coffee, fruit, etc). In Italy, this is not the case. Breakfast for Italians might be coffee with a pastry (cappuccino e brioche) or a piece of bread and cold cuts or cheese. The cappuccino is one shot of espresso, one part steamed milk, one part foamed milk with an optional dusting of chocolate. Unless you know for certain otherwise, you should not expect a large breakfast in Italy. Another enjoyable Italian breakfast item is cornetto (pl. cornetti): a light pastry often filled with cream or nutella.

    Usually Italian meals are: small breakfast, one-dish lunch, one-dish dinner. Coffee is welcomed at nearly every hour, especially around 10AM and at the end of a meal.

    Breakfast is small in Italy, but boy do they make up for the lost time at lunch and dinner. Dinner, and especially lunch, are seen as huge social time.

    Lunch is seen as the most important part of the day, so much that they have one hour reserved for eating and another for napping. Usually referred to as a siesta in Italian, it's a time when all shops close down and resume after the two hour break period. To get around this businesses stay open later. And, good luck trying to find a place open during sesta time.

    Please remember that in Italy cuisine is a kind of art (great chefs as Gualtiero Marchesi or Gianfranco Vissani are considered half way between TV stars and magician) and Italians generally don't like any foreigner who asks always for spaghetti or pizza, so please, read the menu and remember that almost every restaurant has a typical dish and some towns have centuries-old traditions that you are invited to learn.

    Specialties
  • Risotto - Rice that has been sautéed and cooked in a shallow pan with stock. The result is a very creamy, and hearty dish. Meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, and cheeses are almost always added depending on the recipe and the locale. Many restaurants, families, towns, and regions will have a signature risotto or at least style of ristotto, in addition or in place of a signature pasta dish (risotto alla Milanese is famous Italian classic).
  • Arancini - Balls of rice with tomato sauce, eggs, and cheese that are deep fried. They are a southern Italian specialty, though are now quite common all over.
  • Polenta - Yellow corn meal (yellow grits) that has been cooked with stock. It is normally served either creamy, or allowed to set up and then cut into shapes and fried or roasted.
  • Gelato This is the Italian version for ice cream, The non-fruit flavors are usually made only with milk. The fruit flavors are non-dairy. It's fresh as a sorbet, but tastier. There are many flavours: coffee, chocolate, fruit, tiramisù... To try absolutely.
  • Tiramisù Italian cake made with coffee, mascarpone, cookies and cocoa powder on the top. The name means "pick-me-up."


  • Cheese and sausages
    In Italy you can find nearly 400 kinds of cheese, including the famous Parmigiano Reggiano, and 300 types of sausages.

    If you want a real kick, then try to find one of the huge open markets, usually on Saturdays, to see all the types of cheeses and meats in action.

    Restaurants
    Italian restaurants and bars charge more (typically double) if you eat seated at a table rather than standing at the bar or taking your order to go. There is usually small, very small print on the menus to tell you this. Some menus may also indicate a coperto (cover charge) or servizio (service charge).

    Traditional meal includes (in order) antipasto (starter), primo (first dish - pasta or rice dishes), secondo (second dish - meat or fish dishes), served together with contorno (mostly vegetables), cheeses/fruit, dessert, coffee, spirits. Italians usually have all of them served and restaurants expect customers to follow this scheme; elegant or ancient restaurants usually refuse to make changes to proposed dishes (exceptions warmly granted for babies or unhealthy people) or to serve them in a different order, and they absolutely don't serve cappuccino between primo and secondo.

    Agree whether you want primo (pasta or rice dishes) or secondo (meat dishes - if you want vegetables too look under contorni and order them as sides). When pizza is ordered, it is served as a primo (even if formally it is not considered as such), together with other primi. If you order a pasta/pizza and your friend has a steak you will get your pasta dish, and probably when you've finished eating the steak will arrive. It's slightly frowned upon to ask them to bring primo and secondo dishes at the same time (or "funny" changes like having a secondo before a primo). They may well say yes...and then not do it. Bad luck if you're doing the Atkins diet...

    Restaurants which propose diet food, very few, usually write it clearly in menus and even outside; others usually don't have any dietetic resources, as Italians on a diet don't go to the restaurant.

    Italian restaurants are completely non-smoking or have a non-smoking area which is well separated from the smoking area; so says a law, but you will discover that Italians have a friendly approach to laws and rules... This particular law is respected almost everywhere, though. Better anyway to precisely ask for an effective smoking or non-smoking area.

    When pets are allowed (not a frequent case), never order ordinary dishes for them; in particular, never ever order meat for your pet, this would seriously upset waiters and other customers. In case of need, you might ask if the chef can kindly propose something (he usually can).

    Better to leave tips in cash (not on your credit card).

    Out of the restaurant, you might eventually be asked to show your bill and your documents by Guardia di Finanza agents (a police specialized in tax subjects - never in uniform); whatever they show you, immediately try to call #113 (similar to America's 911 - English spoken) and ask for policemen in uniform to help you, it could be a trick to pickpocket you. This kind of controls is effectively frequent (they want to know if the owner regularly recorded your money) and completely legitimate, but pickpocketers find it a good excuse to approach their victims. Call 113 or enter the first shop.

    Pizza is a quick and convenient meal. In many large cities there are pizza shops that sell by the gram. When ordering, simply tell the attendant the type of pizza you would like (e.g. pizza margherita, pizza con patata, etc.) and how much ("Vorrei duecento grammi, per favore"). They will slice it, warm it in the oven, fold it in half, and wrap it in paper. Other shops also sell by the slice, similar to American pizza shops. Getting your meal on the run can save money--many sandwich shops charge an additional fee if you want to sit to eat your meal.

    Drink

    Bars are, like restaurants, non-smoking.

    Italians enjoy going out during the evenings, so it's normal to have a soft drink in a bar as pre-dinner. It is called Aperitivo.
    Within the last couple years, started by Milan, a lot of bars have started offering fixed-price cocktails at aperitivo hours (18 - 21) with free, and often a very good buffet meal. It's now widely considered stylish to have this kind of aperitivo (called Happy Hour) instead of a structured meal before going out to dance or whatever.

    While safe to drink, the tap water in many parts of Italy can be cloudy with a slight off taste. Most Italians prefer bottled water, which is served almost exclusively in restaurants. Make sure you let the waiter/waitress know you want regular water or else you could get frizzante (or fizzy club soda water) water.

    Wine
    The Italian Wine is the most exported all over the World. In Italy the wine is a substantial topic, a sort of test which can ensure you respect or lack of attention from an entire restaurant staff (this is why the first question is what you are going to drink). If you are a true connoisseur, don't allow your waiter to discover it; if you don't know how to distinguish wines other than by their color, don't allow your waiter to figure it out either.

    Before reaching Italy, have a quick overview on most important regional types (of the region you are planning to go to) and when on site ask the waiter for one of them (not too young, not too old), he/she will suggest you 4/5 wines (always choose the second or the third one). Pay attention to the fact that as Italian Cuisine can be very different region by region (sometimes also town by town), so it can be with wine. So, for example, avoid asking for a bottle of Chianti if you're not in central Tuscany, Italians are masters to match the exact wine with a dish and often every dish has an appropriate wine. The popular "color rule" (red wines with meat dishes, white wines with fish) can be happily broken when proposed by a sommelier or when you really know what you are doing: Italy has many very strong white wines to serve with meat, as well as very delicate red wines for fish.

    The "vino della casa" (home-made wine) can be a good drinking opportunity in small villages far from towns (especially in Tuscany), where it likely could be what the patron would really personally drink and/or produce. Otherwise, it usually is a mixture of low-quality poor wines: low price, low flavor, possible day-after-headaches. Good wine can be very costly, but bad wine is still expensive.

    Near the town of Alba (Cuneo Province), in the Piedmont grows the Nebbiolo grape, a noble grape. From this grape is produced the prestigious Barolo wines. It has been called the "king of wine" and the "wine of kings." It is considered one of the world´s best red wines. It is a DOCG wine, made entirely from the Nebbiolo grape. Once you have experienced good examples of this wine, you will begin to understand its nobility.

    Foreign wines are rarely served (just check the house wine list), but many grapes have French names (like Cabernet-Sauvignon).

    Beer
    Beer belongs to the Italian tradition as wine does, therefore pubs serving beer are very common. If you are looking for good beers you won't find any problem, you just have to look around a little bit more. First of all, it is very common to import beers from Germany and Belgium. Irish pubs are very common, too. Besides that, Italy produces ca. 10 type of Beers. The most known are: Peroni Gran Riserva (completely different from the standard Peroni, that is just a plain lager), a double malt strong Lager, and Moretti la Rossa (again, completely different from the standard Moretti lager), a dark Vienna lager. There is also a series of beers called Amarcord made with traditional techniques (they have a website in both Italian and English ). Anyway, if you go to a pub with a big selection of beers, just ask the people working there for a suggestion.

    Other drinks
  • Limoncello. A liquor made of alcohol, lemon peels, and sugar. Limoncello can be considered a "moon shine" type of product as every Italian family, especially in the middle (near Napoli) and southern part of the country, has their own recipe for limoncello. Because lemon trees adapt so well to the Mediterreanean climate, and they produce a large amount of fruit continually throughout their long fruit-bearing season, it is not unusual to find many villa's yards filled with lemon trees bending under the weight of their crop. You can make a lot of lemonade, or better yet, brew your own limoncello. It is mainly considered a dessert liquor, served after a heavy meal (similar to amaretto), and used for different celebrations. The taste can be compared to a very strong and slightly thick lemonade flavor with an alcohol tinge to it. Best served room temperature or chilled in the freezer. It is better sipped than treated as a shooter.

  • Don't forget Grappa. You'll either like it or you won't. It's made by fermenting grape stems, so you could imagine how it might taste. If you're going to drink it, then make sure you get a bottle having been distilled multiple times.


  • Sleep


    In major cities and touristic areas you can find a good variety of accommodations, from world-class brand hotels to family-managed bed&breakfasts and room rentals, but hostels are really few.
    Campings are a good way to save money and they're usually well managed, but especially during summer managers tend not to accept last-minute groups of young people (given the high chance of problems that such kind of group of Italian guys tend to cause) so you'd better book in advance.
    Farmstay are an increasingly popular way to experience Italy, particularly in rural areas of Tuscany, Piedmont, Umbria, Abruzzo, Sardinia and Apulia. It provides a great combination of good and healthy food, wonderful sights and not-so-expensive prices.

    Cope

  • Electricity. Italy uses 220V, 50HZ. The plugs are special for Italy. The grounding hole does not work with other systems. The two other holes are too narrow to be used with some plugs. An adapter to convert other plugs to Italian outlets costs €0.80 in supermarkets in Italy.
  • Internet Access. The Italian government has recently passed a law requiring all public-access internet points to keep records of web sites viewed by customers, and even the customer's ID. Accessing e-mail service has been also forbidden. However, if you bring your own laptop you should be able to check e-mail, but not avoid ID recording. Hotels providing Internet access are not required to record ID's if the connection is provided in the guests room, meanwhile if the connection is offered in the main public hall then ID's are required. Publicly available wireless access is forbidden unless the provider has a special government license. This has caused only major phone-like companies to be able to afford that, so wireless access is generally expensive.


  • Learn


    For English-speakers looking to study in Italy, there are a few options. In Rome, Duquesne University, John Cabot, and Temple University maintain campuses. Right outside of Rome the University of Dallas maintains its own campus in Marino. Penn State University has a program that sends architecture students. St. John's University has a graduate program in Rome for International Relations and MBA.

    It depends on how you want to learn. Are you interested in studying in a huge touristy city like Florence or Rome? Or, are you interested in learning from a small town on the Italian Riviera. The smaller cities have better opportunity to learn Italian because there's not a lot of English going around. No matter where you decide, Italy is one of the best spots geographically to travel while you're not studying.

    Think about learning what the Italians are best at: food, wine, Italian language, architecture, motors (cars and bikes) and interior design.

    Work


    Work in Italy is very competitive. Their unemployment rate is through the roof, and mostly made up of young adults. There's a huge underground black market though, where you'll find most of these individuals working, such as in the outdoor open markets.

    It's great to see all the business at the foot of apartment buildings, but remember this is a socialist country and these business owners are heavily taxed by their governments. Often paying three to four levels of government taxes.

    Good business opportunities lie in offering niche services.
    Stay safe

    Like most developed countries, Italy is a very safe country to travel. There are few incidents of terrorism/serious violence and these episodes have been almost exclusively motivated by internal politics. Examples include the 1993 bombing of the Uffizi by the Italian Mafia. Almost every major incident is attributed to organized crime or anarchist movements and rarely, if ever, directed at travelers or foreigners.

    Petty crime can be a problem for unwary travelers. Travelers should note that pickpockets often work in pairs or teams, occasionally in conjunction with street vendors. The rate of violent crimes in Italy is considered a "moderate," and while a portion of violent crimes are committed against travelers, it is normally not a problem. However, instances of rape and robbery as a result of drugging are increasing. Travelers should be careful when going out at night alone.

    There are many bars in Italy that cater to tourists and foreigners with "home country" themes, calling themselves such things as "American bars" or "Irish pubs". In addition to travelers, these bars attract a large number of Italians who, among other reasons, go there specifically to meet travelers and other foreigners. And while the motivation for the vast majority of these Italians is simply to have a good time with new friends, there can be one or two petty criminals who loiter in and out of these establishments hoping to take advantage of travelers who are disoriented or drunk. Traveling to these places in groups is a simple solution to this problem.

    There have been problems in some major Italian cities with police assuming that any Black, East European, or Arab person without an ID card or passport is an illegal immigrant, and treating them accordingly. That could be a considerable problem if you are travelling alone.

    For emergencies, call 113 (Polizia), 112 (Carabinieri), 115 (Fire Department) or 118 (Medical Rescue).

    Stay healthy

    The US Center for Disease Control recommends two vaccines for people traveling to western Europe: Hepatitis A (even though Americans are not at an increased risk) and Hepatitis B.

    Italy has a small incidence rate of "Mad Cow" (bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)) disease--about 14 cases per million head of cattle. Since 2001, when Italy had its high of 48 cases of reported BSE, the reports have dropped to 38 (2002), and 29 (2003). Travelers concerned with this should visit the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) website for information on how to limit their exposure.

    Respect


    Italians are generally open and friendly, if you use the regular politeness you will have no problem.


    Italians, especially those in the North, are very different from the stereotype of "pulcinella, pizza and mandolino" seen in American "B" movies (and you won't find roads full of Fiat 500's).

    Not surprisingly, for many people this stereotype is quite offensive.

    During WWII, Italians had a difficult time under the dictator Benito Mussolini, especially after the infamous alliance with Adolf Hitler fell and the Germans turned into enemies.

    Even if you're making a joke, it is not appropriate to make the "Roman salute", or to make fun of Benito Mussolini. Some people might assume you are a "Neo-nazi/Neo-Fascist".

    Italy has a high population of senior citizens, and it is wise to be respectful. Do things like offering your seat on a bus if the situation arises.

    Contact

    Telephone
    The telephone system is well diffused in all parts of Italy. Both the wire and mobile systems are widespread.

    Telephone numbers used to have separate prefixes (area codes) and a local number. In the 1990's the numbers were unified and nowadays, when calling Italian phones you should always dial the full number. For historical reasons you can still hear of prefix and local number. The number of land lines start with 0. The number of mobile lines start with 3. Numbers starting with 89 are high-fee services. If you don't know somebody's phone number you can dial a variety of recently-established phone services, the most used are 1240, 892424, 892892, but nearly every 12** combination has a different service. Note that most of them have high fees.

    To call abroad from Italy you have to dial 00 + country code + local part where the syntax of the local part depends on the country called.

    To call Italy from abroad you have to dial international prefix + 39 + local part
    Note that you should not skip the starting zero of the local part if you are calling an Italian land line.

    The Italian calling code is 39. To phone another country, dial 00 followed by the calling code and subscriber number.

    In case of emergency call the appropriate number in the list below. Such calls are usually free and calls to 112, 113, 115, 118 can be made from payphones for free without the need of inserting coins. 112 (standard emergency number in GSM specification) can be dialed in any case for free from any mobile phone (even if your credit is empty or if you are in an area covered by a different operator)
  • 112 Carabinieri emergency number - general emergency
  • 113 Police emergency number - general emergency
  • 114 Blue Phone emergency number - children-related emergency (especially various forms of violence)
  • 115 Fire Brigade emergency number
  • 803116 A.C.I. (Italian Automobile Club)- for road side assistance
  • 117 Guardia di Finanza (for commercial and tax issues)
  • 118 Health emergency number (use this if you need an ambulance)

  • Note: this list is not complete (please help us to expand it)
    Always bring a note about the address and the number of your embassy.

    If you are in an emergency and do not know who to call dial 112 or 113 (out of major towns, better to call 113 for English-speaking operators).

    Payphones are widely available, especially in stations and airports. The number of payphones has consistently reduced after the introduction of mobile phones. Some payphones work with coins only, some with phone cards only and some with both coins and phone cards. Only a limited number of phones (just a few in main airports) directly accept credit cards.

    Mobile phones are heavily used. The main networks are TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile, part of Telecom Italia, formerly state controlled), Vodafone, Wind, and 3 (only UMTS cellphones). Note that cellphones from North America will not work in Italy, unless they are Tri-band. Most of the country is covered by GSM signal, while only a small part (2005) is covered by UMTS signal. A convenient way, if you are coming from abroad and you are going to make a consistent number of calls, is to buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card and put it in your current mobile (if compatible and if your mobile set is not locked). Please note that you may incur in subscription fares. Please note that, as a measure to contrast crime and terrorism, you are required to give a valid form of identification to be able to use the SIM card. Subscription-based mobile phones are subject to a governative tax, to which pay as you go contracts are not subject. Sometimes hotels have mobile phone for customer to borrow.

    Costs for calls can vary significantly depending on when, where, from and where to. The cost of calls differs considerably if you call a wired phone or a mobile phone. Usually there is a difference in cost even for incoming calls from abroad. If you can choose, calling the other party's land line could be even 40% cheaper than mobile. Beware of premium rate calls (prefix 892, 899, 12) which can be very expensive.
    Many companies are shifting their customer service numbers to fixed-rate number (prefix 199), this numbers are at local rate, no matter where are you calling from.

    According to national regulations, hotels cannot apply a surcharge on calls made from the hotel (as the switchboard service should be already included as a service paid in the room cost), but to be sure check it before you use.

    Calls between landlines are charged at either the local rate or the national rate depending on the originating and destination area codes; if both are the same then the call will be local rate. Note that local calls are not free.




    Italy (Italia), officially the Italian Republic; (Repubblica Italiana), is a country located in Southern Europe, comprising the Po River valley, Italian Peninsula, and the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia. Italians also refer to it as lo Stivale ("the Boot", due to its boot-like shape), il Bel Paese ("the Beautiful Country") or la Penisola ("the Peninsula" as an antonomasia). Italy shares its northern alpine boundary with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The independent states of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within Italian territory, while Campione d'Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland.

    Italy has been home to many European cultures, including the Etruscans, the Greeks and the Romans. Its capital Rome has been an important center of Western civilization, and is a historically important world city, especially as the core of ancient Rome and the Roman Catholic Church. For more than 3,000 years Italy experienced migrations and invasions from Germanic, Celtic, Frankish, Lombard, Byzantine Greek, Saracen and Norman peoples during the Middle Ages, followed by the Italian Renaissance period, in which the Italian Wars took place and various city-states were noted for their cultural achievements. Italy was divided into many independent states and often experienced foreign domination before the Italian unification, that created Italy as an independent nation-state for the first time in its history, took place. During the period under the Italian monarchy and during the world wars Italy experienced much conflict, but stability was restored after the creation of the Italian Republic.

    Today, Italy is a developed country with the 7th-highest GDP and the 17th-highest Human Development Index rating in the world. It is a member of the G8 and a founding member of what is now the European Union (having signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957), of the Council of Europe and of the Western European Union and of the Central European Initiative. Starting from January 1, 2007, Italy is a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It is considered by some a great power. Inhabitants of Italy are referred to as Italians (Italiani, or poetically Italici).

    Etymology

    "Italy" (It: Italia) comes from the Latin Ītalia, borrowed through Greek, from Oscan Víteliú. It meant "the land of the cattle" and was named for the god of cattle, Mars. The bull was a symbol of the southern Italian tribes and is often depicted goring the Roman wolf as a defiant symbol of free Italy during the Samnite wars.

    The name Italia originally applied to a part of what is now southern Italy. According to Antiochus of Syracuse, it originally referred to only the southern portion of the Bruttium peninsula (modern Calabria), but by his time Oenotria and Italy had become synonymous, and the name also applied to most of Lucania as well.

    History


    Prehistory to Magna Grecia
    Excavations throughout Italy have unearthed proof of human presence in Italy dating back to the Palaeolithic period (the "Old Stone Age") some 200,000 years ago.

    In the 8th and 7th centuries, driven by unsettled conditions at home, Greek colonies were established in places as widely separated as the eastern coast of the Black Sea and Massilia (what is now Marseille, France). They included settlements in Sicily and the southern part of the Italian peninsula.

    The Romans called the area of Sicily and the foot of the boot of Italy Magna Graecia (Latin, “Greater Greece”), since it was so densely inhabited by Greeks.

    Ancient Rome
    Ancient Rome was a civilization that grew from a small agricultural community founded on the Italian Peninsula circa the 9th century BC to a massive empire straddling the Mediterranean Sea. In its twelve-century existence, Roman civilization shifted from a monarchy, to a republic based on a combination of oligarchy and democracy, to an autocratic empire. It came to dominate Western Europe and the entire area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea through conquest and assimilation.

    Italia, under the Roman Republic and later Empire, was the name of the Italian peninsula. During the Republic, Italia (which extended at the time from Rubicon to Calabria) was not a province, but rather the territory of the city of Rome, thus having a special status: for example, military commanders were not allowed to bring their armies within Italia, and Julius Caesar passing the Rubicon with his legions marked the start of the civil war.

    At the beginning of the Empire, Italy was a collection of territories with different statuses. Some cities, called municipii, had some independence from Rome, others, the colonies, were founded by the Romans themselves. Around 7 BC, Augustus Caesar divided Italia into eleven regiones, as reported by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia (iii 46):
    Regio I Latium et Campania; Regio II Apulia et Calabria; Regio III Lucania et Brutii; Regio IV Samnium; Regio V Picenum; Regio VI Umbria et Ager Gallicus; Regio VII Etruria; Regio VIII Aemilia; Regio IX Liguria; Regio X Venetia et Histria; Regio XI Transpadana

    The Italian "province" was privileged by Augustus and his heirs, with the construction, among other public structures, of a dense mesh of roads.
    The Italian economy flourished: agriculture, handicraft and industry had a sensible growth, allowing the export of goods to the other
    provinces. The Italian population grew as well: Three census were ordered by Augustus, to record the presence of male citizens in Italia. They were 4,063,000 in 28 BC, 4,233,000 in 8 BC, and 4,937,000 in AD 14. Including the women and the children, the total population of Italia at the beginning of the 1st century was around 10 million.

    From the 3rd century, the Roman empire went into decline. The western half of the empire, including Hispania, Gaul, and Italy, broke into independent kingdoms in the 5th century. The eastern empire, governed from Constantinople, is usually referred to as the Byzantine Empire after 476, the traditional date for the "fall of Rome" and for the subsequent onset of the Early Middle Ages, also known as the Dark Ages.

    Middle Ages
    Population and economy started to slowly pick up after 1000, with the resurgence of cities (which organized themselves politically in Comuni), trade, arts and literature.

    During the later Middle Ages the partially democratic Comuni, which could not face the challenges of that period, were substituted by monarchic-absolutistic governments (Signorie), but the fragmentation of the peninsula, especially in the northern and central parts of the country, continued, while the southern part, with Naples, Apulia and Sicily, remained under a single domination. Venice and Genoa created powerful commercial empires in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea.

    The Renaissance



    The Black Death in 1348 inflicted a terrible blow to Italy, resulting in one third of the population killed by the disease. The recovery from the disaster led to a new resurgence of cities, trade and economy which greatly stimulated the successive phase of the Humanism and Renaissance (15th-16th centuries) when Italy again returned to be the centre of Western civilization, strongly influencing the other European countries. During this period the many Signorie gathered in a small number of regional states, but none of them had enough power to unify the peninsula.

    After a century where the fragmented system of Italian states and principalities were able to maintain a relative independence and a balance of power in the peninsula, in 1494 the French king Charles VIII opened the first of a series of invasions, lasting half of the sixteenth century, and a competition between France and Spain for the possession of the country. Ultimately Spain prevailed (the Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis in 1559 recognised the Spanish possession of the Duchy of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples) and for almost two centuries became the hegemon in Italy. The holy alliance between Habsburg Spain and the Holy See resulted in the systematic persecution of any Protestant movement, with the result that Italy remained a Catholic country with marginal Protestant presence.

    Kingdom of Sardinia and the struggle for unification

    Austria succeeded Spain as Hegemon in Italy after the Peace of Utrecht (1713), having acquired the State of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples. The Austrian domination, thanks to the Enlightenment embraced by Habsburgic emperors, was a considerable improvement. The northern part of Italy, under the direct control of Vienna,gained economic dynamism and intellectual fervour, which improved its situation.

    In 1720 the kingdom of Sicily was exchanged for that of Sardinia, and the House of Savoy was enabled to call itself royal, as Kings of Sardinia. Officially, the nation's name became "Kingdom of Sardinia, Cyprus, and Jerusalem, Duchy of Savoy and Montferrat, Principality of Piedmont." During most of the 18th- and 19th century under the House of Savoy, the political and economical capital was Turin.

    The French Revolution and the Napoleonic War (1796-1815) introduced the modern ideas of equality, democracy, law and nation. The peninsula was not a main battle field as in the past but Napoleon (born in Corsica in 1769, one year after the cession of the island from Genoa to France) changed completely its political map, destroying in 1799 the Republic of Venice, which never recovered its independence. The states founded by Napoleon with the support of minority groups of Italian patriots were short-lived and did not survive the defeat of the French Emperor in 1815.

    In 1814 the kingdom was restored and enlarged with the addition of the former Republic of Genoa, now a duchy, and it served as a buffer state against France. In the reaction after Napoleon, the country was ruled by conservative monarchs: Victor Emmanuel I and Charles Albert, who fought at the head of a contingent of his own troops at the Battle of Trocadero, which set the reactionary Ferdinand VII on the Spanish throne.

    The Kingdom of Sardinia industrialized from 1830 onward. A constitution, the Statuto Albertino was enacted in the year of revolutions, 1848, under liberal pressure, and under the same pressure war was declared on Austria. After initial success the war took a turn for the worse and the Kingdom of Sardinia lost.

    Like all of Italy, the Kingdom of Sardinia was troubled with political instability, under alternating governments. After a very short and disastrous second war with Austria, Charles Albert abdicated on March 23, 1849, in favour of his son Victor Emmanuel II. In 1850 a liberal ministry under Count Camillo Benso di Cavour was installed, and the Kingdom of Sardinia became the engine driving the Italian Unification. The Kingdom of Sardinia took part in the Crimean War, allied with Turkey, Britain and France, and fighting against Russia.

    Kingdom of Italy to Fascism (1861-1922)
    Industrialisation and modernisation, at least in northern Italy, started in the last part of the nineteenth century under a protectionist regime. The south, in the meanwhile, stagnated under overpopulation and underdevelopment, forcing millions of people to search for employment and better conditions of life abroad. This diaspora lasted until about 1970. It is calculated that more than 26 million Italians migrated to other European countries (primarily France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg), the Americas (especially to Argentina, Brazil, Canada and the United States), and Australia.

    Parliamentary democracy developed considerably at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Sardinian Statuto Albertino of 1848, extended to the whole Kingdom of Italy in 1861, provided for basic freedoms, but the electoral laws excluded the non-propertied and uneducated classes from voting. In 1913 male universal suffrage was allowed. The Socialist Party resulted the main political party, outclassing the traditional liberal and conservative organisations. The path to a modern liberal democracy was interrupted by the tragedy of the First World War (1914-1918), which Italy fought along with France and the United Kingdom. Italy was able to beat the Austrian-Hungarian Empire in November 1918. It obtained Trentino, South Tyrol (Alto Adige), Trieste and Istria, besides Fiume and a few territories on the Dalmatian coast (Zara), gaining respect as an international power, but the population had to pay a heavy human and social price. The war produced more than 600,000 dead, inflation and unemployment, economic and political instability, which in the end favoured the Fascist movement to violently seize power in 1922, albeit with the support of the King Vittorio Emanuele III, who feared civil war and revolution, and preserving, at least initially, constitutional procedures.

    Fascism and World War II (1922-1945)

    The fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini lasted from 1922 to 1943 but in the first years Mussolini maintained the appearance of a liberal democracy. After rigged elections in 1924 gave to Fascism and its conservative allies an absolute majority in Parliament, Mussolini cancelled all democratic liberties on January 3 1925.

    In 1935 Mussolini declared war on Ethiopia on a pretext. Ethiopia was subjugated in a few months. This resulted in the alienation of Italy from its traditional allies, France and the United Kingdom, and it's nearing to Nazi Germany. A first pact with Germany was concluded in 1936 and then in 1938 (the Pact of Steel). Italy supported Franco's revolution in the Spanish civil war and Hitler's pretensions in central Europe, accepting the annexation of Austria to Germany in 1938, although the disappearance of a buffer state between mighty Germany and Italy was unfavourable for the country. In October 1938 Mussolini managed to avoid imminent eruption of another war in Europe, bringing together the United Kingdom, France and Germany at the expense of Czechoslovakia's integrity.

    In April 1939 Italy occupied Albania, a de-facto protectorate for decades, but in September 1939, after the invasion of Poland, Mussolini decided not to intervene on Germany's side, due to the poor preparation of the armed forces. Italy entered the war in June 1940 when France was almost defeated. Mussolini hoped for a quick victory but Italy showed from the very beginning the poor nature of its army and the scarce ability of its generals. Italy invaded Greece in October 1940 via Albania but after a few days was forced to withdraw. After conquering British Somalia in 1940, a counter-attack by the Allies led to the loss of the whole Italian empire in the Horn of Africa. Italy was also defeated by Allied forces, notably Australians, in Northern Africa and was saved only by the German armed forces led by Erwin Rommel.

    After several defeats, Italy was invaded in June 1943. In July 1943 King Vittorio Emanuele III and a group of Fascist leaders staged a coup d'etat against Mussolini, having him arrested. While the old pre-Fascist political parties resurfaced, secret peace negotiations with the Allies were started. In September 1943 Italy surrendered. It was immediately invaded by Germany and for nearly two years the country was divided and became a battlefield. The Nazi-occupied part of the country, where a fascist state under Mussolini was reconstituted, was the theatre of a savage civil war between Italian partisans ("partigiani") and Nazi and fascist troops. The country was liberated by a national uprising on 25 April 1945 (the Liberazione).

    The First Republic (1946-1992)
    Under the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947, minor adjustments were made to Italy's frontier with France, the eastern border area was transferred to Yugoslavia, and the area around the city of Trieste was designated a free territory. In 1954, the free territory, which had remained under the administration of U.S.–UK forces (Zone A, including the city of Trieste) and Yugoslav forces (Zone B), was divided between Italy and Yugoslavia, principally along the zonal boundary.
    In 1946 Vittorio Emanuele III abdicated the throne in favor of his son Umberto II who again faced the possibility of civil war. Italy became a Republic after the result of a popular referendum held on 2 June 1946, a day since then celebrated as Republic Day. The republic won with a 9% margin; the north of Italy voted prevalently for a republic, the south for the monarchy. The Republican Constitution was approved and entered into force on 1 January 1948, including a provisional measure banning all male members of the House of Savoy from Italy. This stipulation was redressed in 2002.

    In 1949 Italy became a member of the NATO alliance and an ally of the United States, which helped to revive the Italian economy through the Marshall Plan. In the same years, Italy also became a member of the European Economic Community (EEC), which later transformed into the European Union (EU). In '50s and '60s the country enjoyed prolonged economic growth was termed "Economic Miracle", which lifted the country among the most industrialised nations in the world, with a perennial political instability.

    Italy crossed a period of political turmoil in the 1970s, which progressively ended in the early 1980s. Known as the Years of Lead, this period was characterized by widespread social conflicts and terrorism acts carried out by extra-parliamentary movements lead by Deanna Licata. The assassination of the leader of the Christian Democracy (DC), Aldo Moro, in 1978 by the Second Red Brigades led by Mario Moretti, put an end to the negotiations of a "historic compromise" between the DC and the Communist Party (PCI). In 2000, a Parliament Commission report from the Olive Tree left-of-center coalition concluded that the strategy of tension had been supported by the United States to "stop the PCI, and to a certain degree also the PSI, from reaching executive power in the country".

    In the 1980s, for the first time, two governments were led by a republican and a socialist (Bettino Craxi) rather than by a member of DC (which nonetheless remained the main force behind the government). With the end of the “lead years”, the PCI gradually increased their votes under the leadership of Enrico Berlinguer. The Socialist party (PSI), led by Bettino Craxi, became more and more critical of the communists and of the Soviet Union; Craxi himself pushed in favour of US president Ronald Reagan's positioning of Pershing missiles in Italy.

    The Second Republic (1992-present)

    From 1992 to 1997, Italy faced significant challenges as voters (disenchanted with past political paralysis, massive government debt, extensive corruption, and organized crime's considerable influence collectively called Tangentopoli after being uncovered by Mani pulite - "Clean hands") demanded political, economic, and ethical reforms. The scandals involved all major parties, but especially those in the government coalition: between 1992 and 1994 the DC underwent a severe crisis and was dissolved, splitting up into several pieces, among whom the Italian People’s Party and the Christian Democratic Center. The PSI (and the other governing minor parties) completely dissolved.

    The 1994 elections also swept media magnate Silvio Berlusconi (leader of "Pole of Freedoms" coalition) into office as Prime Minister. Berlusconi, however, was forced to step down in December 1994 when the Lega Nord withdrew support. The Berlusconi government was succeeded by a technical government headed by Prime Minister Lamberto Dini, which left office in early 1996.

    In April 1996, national elections led to the victory of a center-left coalition under the leadership of Romano Prodi. Prodi's first government became the third-longest to stay in power before he narrowly lost a vote of confidence, by three votes, in October 1998. A new government was formed by Democrats of the Left leader and former communist Massimo D'Alema, but in April 2000, following poor performance by his coalition in regional elections, D'Alema resigned.
    The succeeding center-left government, including most of the same parties, was headed by Giuliano Amato (social-democratic), who previously served as Prime Minister in 1992-93, from April 2000 until June 2001.

    In 2001 the centre-right formed the government and Silvio Berlusconi was able to remain in power for a complete five year mandate, became the longest government in post-war Italy. Berlusconi participated in the US-led military coalition in Iraq, but his successor, Romano Prodi, withdrew Italian forces.

    The last elections in 2006 returned Prodi in the government with a slim majority. In the first year of his government, Prodi has followed a cautious policy of economic liberalization and reduction of public debt.

    Geography

    Topography
    Climate
    The climate in Italy is highly diverse and can be far from the stereotypical Mediterranean climate and "land of sun", depending on the location. The inland northern areas of Italy (Turin, Milan, and Bologna) have a continental climate, while the coastal areas of Liguria and the peninsula south of Florence fit the stereotype (even if, usually, the city of Genoa may experience an heavy snowfall ). The coastal areas of the peninsula can be very different from the interior, particularly during the winter months. The higher altitudes are cold, wet, and often snowy. The coastal regions, where most of the large towns are located, have a typical Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot and generally dry summers. The length and intensity of the summer dry season increases southwards (compare the tables for Rome, Naples, and Brindisi).

    Between the north and south there is a quite remarkable difference in the temperatures, above all during the winter: in some winter days it can be -2 °C and snowing in Milan while Rome gets +12°C and it is +18°C in Palermo. Temperature differences are less extreme in the summer. (See how Po valley can be frosty in winter )

    The east coast of the peninsula is not as wet as the west coast, but is usually colder in the winter. The east coast north of Pescara is occasionally affected by the cold bora winds in winter and spring, but the wind is less strong here than around Trieste.
    During these frosty spells from E-NE cities like Rimini, Ancona, Pescara and the entire eastern hillside of the Apennines can be affected by true "blizzards". The town of Fabriano, located just around 300 meters in elevation, can often see 0.50-0.60 m of fresh snow fall in 24 hours during these episodes.
    Northwide, on the coast line from Ravenna to Venice and Trieste, snow falls more rarely: during cold spells from east, the cold can be harsh but with bright skies; while, during the snowfalls that affects Northern Italy, on the Adriatic coast usually blows a milder Scirocco wind which makes snow turning into rain - the mild effects of this wind, anyway, often disappear just a few kilometers inside the plain, and sometime the coast from Venice to Grado sees snow while it is raining in Trieste, the Po mouths and Ravenna. Rarely, the city of Trieste may see snow blizzards with north-eastern winds, but just in very particular conditions; in the colder winters, the Venice Lagoon may freeze, and in the coldest ones even enough to walk on the ice sheet.

    Italy is subject to highly different weather conditions in autumn, winter, and spring, while summer is usually more stable, although the northern regions often have thunderstorms in the afternoon/night hours and some grey and rainy days. So, while south of Florence the summer is typically dry and sunny, the north is tends to be more humid and cloudy. Spring and Autumn weather can be very changeable, with sunny and warm weeks (sometime with Summer-like temperatures) suddenly broken off by cold spells (sometime bringing snow in November, March or April even at sea level) or followed by rainy and cloudy weeks.

    The least number of rainy days and the highest number of hours of sunshine occur in the extreme south of the mainland and in Sicily and Sardinia. Here sunshine averages from four to five hours a day in winter and up to ten or eleven hours in summer. In the north precipitation is more evenly distributed during the year, although the summer is usually slightly wetter. Between November and March the Po valley is often covered by fog, especially in the central zone (Pavia, Cremona, and Mantua), while the number of days with lows below 0°C usually goes from 60 to 90 a year, with peaks of 100-110 days in the mainly rural zones. Snow is quite common between early December and early March in cities like Turin, Milan and Bologna, but sometime it appears in late November or late March and even April. In the winter of 2005-2006, Milan received around 0.75-0.80 m of fresh snow, Como around 1.00 m, Brescia 0.50 m, Trento 1.60 m, Vicenza around 0.45 m, Bologna around 0.30 m, and Piacenza around 0.80 m. (see the late January 2006 snowfall at Bergamo ) (see the late January 2006 snowfall in the Varese area ) (see the early march 2005 snowfall at Riva del Garda )

    Summer temperatures are often similar North to South, but with the different weather conditions seen above. July temperatures are 22-24 °C north of river Po, like in Milan or Venice, and south of river Po can reach 24-25 °C like in Bologna, with fewer thunderstorms; on the coasts of Central and Southern Italy, and in the near plains, mean temperatures goes from 23 °C to 27 °C. Generally, the hottest month is August in the south and July in the north; during these months the thermometer can reach 38-42 °C in the south and 32-35 °C in the north; Sometimes the country can be split as during winter, with rain and fresh temperatures like 20-22 °C during the day in the North, and 30 °C to 40 °C in the South; but, having a hot and dry summer does not mean that Southern Italy never see rain from June to August.

    The coldest month is January: the Po valley's mean temperature is between -1°C and +1°C, Venice +2°/+3°C, Trieste +4°C, Florence 5°/6°C, Rome 7°/8°C, Naples 9°C, Palermo 12°C. Winter morning lows can occasionally reach -30°C/-20 °C in the Alps, -14°C/-8 °C in Po valley, -7°C in Florence, -4°C in Rome, -2°C in Naples and 2°C in Palermo. In cities like Rome and Milan, strong heat islands can exist, so that inside the urban area, winters can be milder and summers more sultry.
    In some winter morning there can be just -3°C in Milan's Dome plaza while -8°/-9° in the metropolitan outskirts.
    Often, the biggest snowfalls happen in February, sometime in January or March; in the Alps, snow falls more in Autumn and overall Spring over 1500 m, because winter is usually marked by cold and dry weeks; while the Apennines see many more snow falls during winter, but they are warmer and less wet in the other seasons; both the mountain chains can see up to 5-10 m of snow along a year at 2000 m; on the highest pikes of Alps, snow may fall even during mid summer, and small to large glaciers are present.

    The absolute record low was near -45 °C in the Alps, and the record low near the sea level was -29.0 °C (recorded on January 12, 1985 at San Pietro Capofiume by Bologna), while in the south cities like Catania, Foggia, Lecce or Alghero have experienced highs of 46 °C in some hot summers.

    Government and politics

    The 1948 Constitution of Italy established a bicameral parliament (Parlamento), consisting of a Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei Deputati) and a Senate (Senato della Repubblica), a separate judiciary, and an executive branch composed of a Council of Ministers (cabinet) (Consiglio dei ministri), headed by the prime minister (Presidente del consiglio dei ministri).

    The President of the Italian Republic (Presidente della Repubblica) is elected for seven years by the parliament sitting jointly with a small number of regional delegates. The president nominates the prime minister, who proposes the other ministers (formally named by the president). The Council of Ministers must retain the support (fiducia) of both houses.

    The houses of parliament are popularly and directly elected through a complex electoral system (latest amendment in 2005) which combines proportional representation with a majority prize for the largest coalition (Chamber). All Italian citizens older than 18 can vote. However, to vote for the senate, the voter must be at least 25 or older. The electoral system in the Senate is based upon regional representation. During the elections in 2006, the two competing coalitions were separated by few thousand votes, and in the Chamber the centre-left coalition (L'Unione; English: The Union ) got 345 Deputies against 277 for the centre-right one (Casa delle Libertà; English: House of Freedoms), while in the Senate l'Ulivo got only two Senators more than absolute majority. The Chamber of Deputies has 630 members and the Senate 315 elected senators; in addition, the Senate includes former presidents and appointed senators for life (no more than five) by the President of the Republic according to special constitutional provisions. As of 15 May 2006, there are seven life senators (of which three are former Presidents). Both houses are elected for a maximum of five years, but both may be dissolved by the President before the expiration of their normal term if the Parliament is unable to elect a stable government. In the post war history, this has happened in 1972, 1976, 1979, 1983, 1994 and 1996.

    A peculiarity of the Italian Parliament is the representation given to Italians permanently living abroad (about 2.7 million people). Among the 630 Deputies and the 315 Senators there are respectively 12 and 6 elected in four distinct foreign constituencies. Those members of Parliament were elected for the first time in April 2006 and they enjoy the same rights as members elected in Italy. 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. The Constitutional Court of Italy (Corte Costituzionale) rules on the conformity of laws with the Constitution and is a post-World War II innovation.

    Foreign relations

    Italy was a founding member of the European Community--now the European Union (EU). Italy was admitted to the United Nations in 1955 and is a member and strong supporter of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization (GATT/WTO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Council of Europe. It chaired the CSCE (the forerunner of the OSCE) in 1994, the EU in 1996, and the G-8 in 2001 and served as EU president from July to December 2003.

    Italy firmly supports the United Nations and its international security activities. Italy actively participated in and deployed troops in support of UN peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Mozambique, and East Timor and provides critical support for NATO and UN operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania. Italy deployed 1,000 Alpini troops to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in February 2003. Italy also supports international efforts to reconstruct and stabilize Iraq through its military contingent of some 3,200 troops, as well as humanitarian workers and other officials. The troops remained in Iraq under UN mandate and at the request of the sovereign Iraqi Government until December 2006.

    In August 2006 Italy sent about 3,000 soldiers to Lebanon for the ONU peacekeeping mission UNIFIL. Furthermore, since 2 February 2007 an Italian, Claudio Graziano is the commander of the UN force in the country.

    The Italian Government seeks to obtain consensus with other European countries on various defense and security issues within the EU as well as NATO. European integration and the development of common defense and security policies will continue to be of primary interest to Italy.

    Military

    The Italian armed forces are divided into four branches:
  • Esercito Italiano (Army)
  • Aeronautica Militare (Air Force)
  • Marina Militare (Navy)
  • Carabinieri (Military police)


  • The Italian armed forces are under the command of the Italian Supreme Defense Council, presided over by the President of the Italian Republic. The total number of military personnel is approximately 308,000. Italy has the eighth highest military expenditure in the world.

    The Italian Army (Esercito Italiano) is the ground defense force of the Italian Republic. It has recently (July 29th, 2004) become a professional all-volunteer force of 115,687 active duty personnel. Its most famous combat vehicles are Dardo, Centauro and Ariete, and Mangusta attack helicopters, recently deployed in UN missions; but the Esercito Italiano also has at its disposal a large number of Leopard 1 and M113 armored cars.
    The Aeronautica Militare Italiana (AMI) is the air force of Italy. It was founded as an independent service arm on the 28th March, 1923, by King Vittorio Emanuele III as the Regia Aeronautica (which equates to "Royal Air Force"). After World War II, when Italy was made a republic by referendum, the Regia Aeronautica was given its current name. Today the Aeronautica Militare has a strength of 45,879 and operates 585 aircraft, including 219 combat jets and 114 helicopters. As a stopgap and as replacement for leased Tornado ADV interceptors, the AMI has leased 30 F-16A Block 15 ADF and four F-16B Block 10 Fighting Falcons, with an option for some more. The coming years also will see the introduction of 121 EF2000 Eurofighter Typhoons, replacing the leased F-16 Fighting Falcons. Furthermore updates are foreseen on the Tornado IDS/IDT and the AMX-fleet. The transport capacity will be improved with the delivery of eighteen C-130Js (for 2°Gr) and an upgrade programme for the C-130Hs.
    Also a completely-new developed G222, called C-27J Spartan, will enter service replacing the G222's.
    The Marina Militare (the Italian Navy) is one of the four branches of the military forces of Italy. It was born in 1946, as the Navy of the Italian Republic, from the ashes of the Regia Marina. Today's Marina Militare is a modern navy with a strength of 35,261 and ships of every type, such as aircraft carriers, destroyers, modern frigates, submarines, amphibious ships and plenty of other smaller ships, including oceanographic research ships.

    The Marina Militare is now equipping herself with a bigger aircraft carrier (the Cavour), new destroyers, submarines and multipurpose frigates. In modern times, the Marina Militare, being a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), has taken part in many coalition peacekeeping operations. The Marina Militare is considered the fifth strongest navy of the world.

    The Carabinieri are the gendarmerie and military police of Italy. At the Sea Islands Conference of the G8 in 2004, the Carabinieri was given the mandate to establish a Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units (CoESPU) to spearhead the development of training and doctrinal standards for civilian police units attached to international peacekeeping missions. As of 2007 the Carabinieri has a strength of 112,226.

    Article 11 of the Italian Constitution says: "Italy rejects war as an instrument of aggression against the freedoms of others peoples and as a means for settling international controversies; it agrees, on conditions of equality with other states, to the limitations of sovereignty necessary for an order that ensures peace and justice among Nations; it promotes and encourages international organizations having such ends in view.".

    Administrative divisions


    Italy is subdivided into 20 regions (regioni, singular regione). Five of these regions enjoy a special autonomous status that enables them to enact legislation on some of their specific local matters, and are marked by an *. It is further divided into 109 provinces and 8,101 municipalities (comuni).


    Religion
    Roman Catholicism is by far the largest religion in the country. Although the Catholic Church is no longer officially the state religion, it still plays a role in the nation's political affairs, partly due to the Holy See's location in Rome. 87.8% of Italians identified as Roman Catholic , although only about one-third of these described themselves as active members (36.8%).

    Other Christian groups in Italy include more than 700,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians , including 470,000 newcomers and some 180,000 Greek Orthodox, 550,000 Pentecostals and Evangelicals (0.8%), of whom 400,000 are members of the Assemblies of God, 235,685 Jehovah's Witnesses (0.04%), 30,000 Waldensians , 25,000 Seventh-day Adventists, 22,000 Mormons, 15,000 Baptists (plus some 5,000 Free Baptists), 7,000 Lutherans, 5,000 Methodists (affiliated to the Waldensian Church) .
    The country's oldest religious minority is the Jewish community, comprising roughly 45,000 people. It is no longer the largest non-Christian group.

    As a result of significant immigration from other parts of the world, some 825,000 Muslims (1.4%) live in Italy, though only 50,000 are Italian citizens. In addition, there are 110,000 Buddhists (0.2%) , 70,000 Sikhs , and 70,000 Hindus (0.1%) in Italy.

    Economy

    According to the nominal GDP calculations, Italy was ranked as the seventh largest economy in the world in 2006, behind the United States, Japan, Germany, China, UK, and France, and the fourth largest in Europe. According to the OECD, in 2004 Italy was the world's sixth-largest exporter of manufactured goods. This capitalistic economy remains divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less developed agricultural south. Italy's economy has an "underground" sector that is not included in the official data, which has recently been calculated by the Ministry of Finance to account for something close to 1/6 of the official GDP.

    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.

    Italy has a smaller number of world class multinational corporations than other economies of comparable size. Instead, the country's main economic strength has been its large base of small and medium size companies. Some of these companies manufacture products that are technologically moderately advanced and therefore face increasing competition from China and other emerging Asian economies which are able to undercut them on labour costs. These Italian companies are responding to the Asian competition by concentrating on products with a higher technological content, taking advantage of the technological potential of the country and the cultural tradition of high-quality products, while moving lower-tech manufacturing to plants in countries where labour is less expensive. The small average size of Italian companies remains a limiting factor, and the government has been working to encourage integration and mergers and to reform the rigid regulations that have traditionally been an obstacle to the development of larger corporations in the country.

    Italy's major exports are motor vehicles (Fiat Group, Aprilia, Ducati, Piaggio) chemicals, petrochemicals and electric goods (Eni, Enel, Edison), aerospace and defence tech (Alenia, Agusta, Finmeccanica), firearms (Beretta) ; but the country's more famous exports are in the fields of food industry (Parmalat, Barilla Group, Martini & Rossi, Campari), fashion (Armani, Valentino, Benetton, Prada, Luxottica), luxury vehicles (Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini) and motoryachts (Ferretti, Azimut).

    Tourism is very important to the Italian economy. With over 37 million tourists a year, Italy is ranked as the fifth major tourist destination in the world.{{cite web |last= |first= |url=http://www.world-tourism.org/facts/eng/pdf/highlights/2005_eng_high.pdf |title=International Tourism Receipts |format=PDF |work=UNWTO Tourism Highlights, Edition 2005 |pages=12 |publisher=World Tourism Organization |language= |accessdate=2006-0



    Introduction:
    Italy became a nation-state in 1861 when the regional states of the peninsula, along with Sardinia and Sicily, were united under King Victor EMMANUEL II. An era of parliamentary government came to a close in the early 1920s when Benito MUSSOLINI established a Fascist dictatorship. His disastrous alliance with Nazi Germany led to Italy's defeat in World War II. A democratic republic replaced the monarchy in 1946 and economic revival followed. Italy was a charter member of NATO and the European Economic Community (EEC). It has been at the forefront of European economic and political unification, joining the Economic and Monetary Union in 1999. Persistent problems include illegal immigration, organized crime, corruption, high unemployment, sluggish economic growth, and the low incomes and technical standards of southern Italy compared with the prosperous north.

    Location: Southern Europe, a peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea, northeast of Tunisia

    Population: 58,133,509 (July 2006 est.)

    Languages: Italian (official), German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d'Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area)

    Country name: conventional long form: Italian Republic
    conventional short form: Italy
    local long form: Repubblica Italiana
    local short form: Italia
    former: Kingdom of Italy

    Capital: name: Rome
    geographic coordinates: 41 54 N, 12 29 E
    time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
    daylight saving time: +1hr, begins la

    Economy - overview:
    Italy has a diversified industrial economy with roughly the same total and per capita output as France and the UK. This capitalistic economy remains divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less-developed, welfare-dependent, agricultural south, with 20% unemployment. 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 Unions and has benefited from lower interest and inflation rates. The current government has enacted numerous short-term reforms aimed at improving competitiveness and long-term growth. Italy has moved slowly, however, on implementing needed structural reforms, such as lightening the high tax burden and overhauling Italy's rigid labor market and over-generous pension system, because of the current economic slowdown and opposition from labor unions. But the leadership faces a severe economic constraint: the budget deficit has breached the 3% EU ceiling. The economy experienced low growth in 2006, and unemployment remained at a high level.




    Links

    Argonauta Diving Club  - Diving center and school: details of dives, courses, staff, prices, how to get there, accommodation. Based in Dorgali, Sardinia.

    Asinara Diving Center  - Operates PADI 5 Star scuba training and recreational diving in the marine park at Stintino, Sardinia. Includes details of courses, photos and contact information. [English, German and Italian]

    Cetaria Diving Center  - Find information on local dive sites, description of courses offered, photos and contact details. Based in Castellamare del Golfo, Sicily.

    Dive Companie  - Scuba Schools International in Hamburg and Sicily. Dive sites around Sicily.

    DiveSicily.com  - Local information on diving in Sicily.

    Diving Center Capo Galera  - Diving center and school: details of dives, courses, staff, prices, how to get there. Based in Alghero, Sardinia.

    Nautilus  - Diving center and school: details of dives, courses, staff, prices, how to get there. Based in Palau, Sardinia.

    Ocean Blue  - Diving center and school: details of dives, courses, staff, prices, how to get there. Quartu Sant Elena, Sardinia.

    Oceandreams S.r.l.  - Offer a huge variety of dive sites for every level of certification. Based in Muravera, Sardinia.

    Orosei Diving Center  - Diving center and school: details of dives, courses, staff, prices, how to get there, accommodation. Based in Orosei, Sardinia.

    Orsoe Reale Diving  - PADI dive center, based in Elba, Italy.

    Porto Conte Diving  - Diving center and school: details of dives, courses, staff, prices, how to get there, accommodation. Based in Alghero, Sardinia.

    Porto Corallo Diving  - Diving center and school: details of dives, courses, staff, prices, how to get there, accommodation. Based in Villaputzu, Sardinia.

    SCUBA Diving in Central Italy  - Guide to SCUBA diving in the Campania, Marche, and Tremiti Islands of Italy.

    Scuba Point  - Diving center and school: details of dives, courses, staff, prices, how to get there. Based in Palau, Sardinia.

    Subaqua  - PADI dive center, based in Quartu Sant Elena and Villasimius, Sardinia.

    Subnow Diving Center  - Based on Elba Island. Organizes all levels dive courses and excursions.

    Diving Jobs Jobs4Divers is the dive industry’s new leader for job and employment opportunities. Dive centers and companies can list job openings for free for instructors, divemasters, commercial and technical divers free. Job seekers can place their resumes online and search job openings around the world, free!


    Latest discussion about Europe Italy at forum.scubish.com:
    San Francisco area is also acceptable
    Bri C
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    Hi all I will be diving the Ningaloo Reef, Busselton Jetty and HMAS Swan in November. If you have any recommendations of dive operators for these areas, or advice in general I would appreciate hearin...
    Mark Schmidt
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    Updated gallery [url=http://www.antoniopastorelli.com]Antonio Pastorelli's Portfolio[/url] Nautilus, Mantas, Dolphins, Sharks, Turtles.....
    TheSnake
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    Ciao a tutti, sono nuovo del forum, ma soprattutto di questo bellissimo mondo della subacquea^^, sono appena advanced, ma vorrei continuare..sto per ora comprando l'attrezzatura che mi servir in un f...
    Agry_87
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    Naturalmente un buon giorno a tutti sono nuovo del forum anche se ho letto qualche post qua e l e mi congratulo con lo staff Chiedo aiuto ho una sony dsc -72 da un po'. quest'anno vorrei usarla anche...
    ghigoh
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    ...http://usa.worldcupblog.org/group-e/secret-italian-training-video http://usa.worldcupblog.org/group-e/secret-italian-training-video.html
    Canario92
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    Hi, I have been looking around to get an additional dive computer and I have been seeing quite a lot of such items on sale on ebay.co.uk. Now, perhaps this is an extremely silly question, but what uni...
    mm148881
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    new thread
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