Italy (Italian: Italia) is located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea and in southern Europe. It is often referred as lo Stivale or the boot, due to its shape. Italy shares border with six countries: Slovenia to the east, France to the west, Switzerland and Austria to the north and two enclaved microstates, San Marino and Vatican City. Due to historical cities and a rich history, Italy is one of the most popular European destinations.
Italy covers around 301,338 square kilometers and has a population of 60.67 million (6th in Europe), most of whom are Italians (92%), with the most common religious denomination being Roman Catholicism. With a population of 2.869.461, Rome is the capital and the largest city of Italy. The highest peak in Italy with 4810 meters is Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc). Italy is also a member of the United nations (since 1955), NATO (since 1949) and European Union (since 1957).
Italy was home to some great historians like Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo, Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci… But all of this great people were born in Italy because around 40.000 years ago first modern people settle in Italy. In 753 BC Rome was founded and becomes the greatest empire in all European history, until 476 AD when the empire eventually dissolved. In the Middle Ages, rulers were constantly changing (from Byzantine Empire, Frankish Empire, Islamic Empire to Holy Roman Empire). In the 14th and 15th Italy was split into two parts. The north was divided into a number of warring city-states and the south being occupied by the Papal States and the Kingdom of Sicily (Naples). Until 1861 many wars were fought in Italian territory, which have replaced many of the occupiers and rulers.
Then 1861, the Kingdom of Italy was born, thanks to the House of Savoy who wanted to unite the entire Italian Peninsula. At the start of WWI Italy allied with the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the German Empire in the Triple Alliance, but then in 1915 changed sides due to a promise of substantial territorial gains. Eventually the war ended in 1918 with huge loses for Italy, more than 650,000 Italian soldiers and as many civilians died. In 1939, Italy annexed Albania and in 1940 entered WWII, once again allied with Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan. Italy fought many battles, but was forced in 1943 to surrender for the first time as the Kingdom of Italy and in 1945 for the second time as the Italian Social Republic. Then in 1946, Italy became a republic after a referendum and remained as such until today.
Italian flag and Coat of arms
How to get there
By car – By car, you may enter Italy from all neighbour countries at border crossings. The most famous is the 11,6 km long Mont Blanc Tunnel. Italy has completed over 6487 kilometres (4031 miles) of motorways called Autostrade that connect Rome with the north and the south of Italy. In an average year, over 40 million vehicles circulated on the national road network.
Speed limits: Motorways 130 km/h, dual carriageway 110 km/h, outside a built up areas 90 km/h and in built up areas 50 km/h. More traffic regulations.
By bus or train – As with a car, you can enter Italy by bus or train through all neighbouring countries. Buses and trains drive daily to Italian cities from many European destinations, so you can check timetables to find your train or bus. For timetables, routes and other information, you should visit EuroLines and ItaliaRail.
By plane – Italy has 130 airports of which 99 have paved runways and 30 of them are main airports including two hubs. Some of the biggest airports are: Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa, Milan Linate, Venice Marco Polo, Bologna Guglielmo Marconi, Naples Capodichino… The biggest airport is Rome Fiumicino Airport located near Rome. It connects Rome and Italy to more then two hundred domestic, intercontinental and European destinations. The most famous airline company in Italy is Alitalia, that flies to more than 100 destinations.
By ship or boat – There are many connections to Italy from France, Spain, Croatia… You can find many ferries and fast boats that travel to Italy. In some places like Venice, boats are the only means of transport. Italy has also a huge number of cargo and passenger ports. Five biggest passenger ports are: Messina , Reggio di Calabria, Capri, Naples, and Piombino.
Top 10 things to see in Italy
The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre (Latin: Amphitheatrum Flavium), is an oval amphitheatre located in the centre of Rome (Capital of Italy). It was built in AD 80 under the emperor Vespasian and his heir Titus. Colosseum is built out of stone, sand and is known as the largest amphitheatre ever built. It is estimated that Colosseum could hold up to 80,000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles. When visiting Italy, this is a must see attraction.
Venice (Italian: Venezia) is a famous and historical Italian city situated across a group of 117 small islands, formed by 177 canals and linked with 409 bridges. Some parts of Venice are famous for the beauty of their settings, their architecture, and artwork. Each year millions of tourists visit this beautiful floating city. Venice and its Lagoon is also listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Rome (Italian: Roma) or The Eternal City is the capital city of Italy. As the legend says, Rome was established in year 753 BC and is today the largest city in Italy with 2,9 million residents. Due to its rich history, Rome has many famous attractions like: Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Castel Sant’Angelo, The Pantheon, The Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, Column of Marcus Aurelius, ruins of the Roman Forum… and the state of Vatican City.
4. Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Italian: Torre pendente di Pisa) is probably the most famous campanile in the world, known for its unintended tilt. Located in the city of Pisa, it was built in 1372 and was leaning until 1990 when restoration work began. Today the centre of the tower is displaced horizontally for around 3.9 meters (12 ft 10 in). Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) which includes also the tower, is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Florence (Italian: Firenze) is the capital and also the most populous city of the Italian region of Tuscany. With around 382.000 inhabitants its also the 8th largest city in Italy. Most famous building in Florence is the Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore or Il Duomo di Firenze which is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site.This basilica is one of the largest churches in Italy and has largest brick dome ever constructed.
Pompeii is yet another Italian landmark, that belongs to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Pompeii was an ancient Roman city, located near modern Naples. It was abandoned in AD 79 when the eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried the city under around 4 meters (13 ft) of volcanic ash. Researchers believe, that the estimated population was about 11.000 people and the city had a complex water system, gymnasium, a port and an amphitheatre.
7. Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre (Meaning “Five Lands”) is a rugged portion of coast at the west side of Italy famous for 5 villages (Riomaggiore, Corniglia, Vernazza, Manarola, and Monterosso al Mare) built on the rugged, steep landscape. The only way to reach this beautiful villages, is by foot, boats or trains. This area is a very popular European destination any many tourist visit it each year. The Cinque Terre coastline and the five villages are all listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tuscany (Italian: Toscana) is an Italian region in central Italy with around 3.8 millions inhabitants and the regional capital Florence. Tuscany is known for its beautiful and unforgettable landscape. The territory is mostly hilly (67%) with some mountains (25%) and small planes (8%). Tuscany is also known for some of the best wines in the world.
9. Greek ruins, Sicily
Sicily (Italian: Sicilia) is the largest island in the Mediterranean sea. Here you can find some nice cities like Palermo, Catania and Messina. Sicily has also one of the most famous active volcanoes, Mount Etna. But above all, you can find many Greek ruins and sites like The Temple of Hera at Selinunte or The Teatro Greco in Taormina.
Milan (Italian: Milano) is the capital of the Lombardy region and with 1,35 million inhabitants, the second biggest city in Italy. It is the main industrial and financial centre of Italy and one of the most important in Europe. Milan is known as the leading city in the world of fashion.