The Italian Republic, Repubblica Italiana, is located in Southern Central Europe and since its initial declaration of unification in 1861 it is a country that has grown in economic and political influence. Italy's economy has a significant global impact and, particularly within the European context, the Italian State continues to have an increasingly strong political influence.
Italy lies on a peninsula that extends into the Mediterranean Sea. Its shape resembles a high-heeled boot. There are two major Italian islands: The triangular shaped island of Sicily lies on the far tip of the peninsula and the island of Sardinia, which is located 160 miles (260 kilometres) West of Italy.
The Alps, as well as being home to some of the most chic ski resorts in Europe, form a Northern boundary, which, in the past, has done little to protect the peninsula from invaders. The mountains separate Italy from France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia and extend all the way down the Italian peninsula as a less elevated range, the Apennines.
The largest plain area is located in the Northern triangle of the Po Valley, even if it covers only 21 per cent of a total area of 116,000 square miles (301,000 square kilometres). The coastline instead covers over 10,000 kilometres.
Based on the last census of 2001 the population in Italy is just a little over 56 million. The official language is Italian, even if each region has its own dialect. Dialects are in fact an important element of Italy's various regional identities, for someone who does not have an ear for a particular dialect it may well be difficult to understand a Neapolitan or a Sicilian, for example, whose dialects are traditionally strong.
Italy is a deeply religious country, home to the Catholic Church and the Pope himself. Over 90 per cent of the population is Catholic. Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim minorities also coexist, but their presence, as the statistics suggest, is limited and often restricted to the more cosmopolitan areas of the country.
Agriculture, which operates in often-difficult natural and economic conditions, contributes about 4 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), industry about 30 per cent and public and private services more than 50 per cent.
Italian industry includes every type of production. Although mineral resources are scarce, imported raw materials since World War II have boosted the production of iron and steel, other metallurgy and construction.
The chemical industry also flourishes, especially the textile one, which constitutes one of Italy's largest industries. Service industries, such as tourism, are extremely important; that is why efforts have been made to provide comprehensive networks of autostrade (express motorway).
Small, specialised businesses make up a significant portion of those that operate in Italy, particularly in the North where the bulk Italian industry and wealth resides.
The North/South divide is overwhelmingly stark, with the North being one of the wealthiest and industrialised areas in the whole of Europe and the South being one of the poorest.
EU aid is having an impact on southern development, cheap labour and subsidies are beginning to attract modern industries, but the road to recovery is long and hindered by political instability and corruption.
Italy is a parliamentary republic. The legislative power theParliament receives comes from the Constitution, which is the basic law. The Parliament is composed of the Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of the Senate and is directly elected by universal suffrage for 5 years. The President of the Republic is the Chief of State and is elected every 7 years by Parliament in ordinary session. The President of the Republic designates the Presidente del Consigilo, Prime Minister, after consultation with other political parties. Justice is exercised by magistracy, which is granted complete independence.
Despite a relatively modern constitution Italy suffers from chronic political instability. Governments tend to be made up of loosely tied coalitions, which rarely last more than two years.
This historic instability has inflicted considerable mistrust of the Italian State, its apparatus and infrastructure.
The Italian territory is divided into 20 regions, which are made up of several provinces. The Capital City, Rome, has a population, which is over 3.000.000 and is the largest of the Italian cities.
Rome is the focal point not only for politics but also for cultural interests.
Finding somewhere to live
With tourism being a major Italian industry, Italy has more than enough temporary accommodation. For those planning to spend an extended period of time either studying or working in Italian there are various options.
For those studying, Halls of Residence places are available but there are only 28,000 in the whole of Italy and so it is not to be relied on!
For specific information it is best to contact the Institution at which you wish to study and be informed on their specific situation.
Renting accommodation isn't overly complicated, the average price of a room is about five hundred Euro a month and so most choose to share. Prices vary from region to region and information is available from local agencies and through word of mouth.
A General Overview of The Italian Economy
After World War II the Italian economy has progressed from being one of the weakest economies in Europe to being one of the most stable and powerful ones. The metallurgic and engineering industries represent its major strengths while the weaknesses come from the lack of primary materials and energy sources (more than 80 percent of Italys energy requirements are imported).
A strong entrepreneurial bias combined with liberal trade policies since the war, enabled manufacturing exports to expand at a phenomenal rate, but an unmanageable bureaucracy and insufficient planning have hindered an even economic development throughout the country.
Although the Italian economy was a latecomer to the industrialisation process, the north has managed to catch up and overtake many Western Europe neighbours. However the south has lagged behind. The percentage of the labour force working in agriculture is often taken as an indication of the rate of industrialisation and wealth of a nation, and in Italys case the figures clearly illustrate the grave imbalance between the north and the south. Against an EC average of 9.6 per cent in 1990, Lombardy compared favourably with only 3.5 per cent of the population working on the land, while in Molise 26.2 per cent were still engaged in agricultural work. In Basilicata and Calabria the percentages were only slightly lower, at 22.3 and 21.2 per cent respectively.The Italian Institute for Foreign Trade
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The Italian Capital rises on the banks of the Tevere, and is home to over two thousand years of history. The majestic architectural and artistic treasures to be found across the city are known throughout the world and are now set in the frenetic metropolis that is modern Rome.
The Colosseum, Arch of Titus, Castle of St. Angelo and the Aurelian walls are just a few of the major historical cites to be found in a city rich in culture and diversity.
Two major airports serve Rome: Fiumicino or Leonardo Da Vinci Airport, which is 36km west of the city, and Ciampino Airport, which is just 16km south-east. Termini and Tiburtina are the citys principal stations and allow for railway access across the country. Rome has a well-structured underground that is a pleasure to use and is also served by a considerable number of buses and trams.
Milan, Milano (Lombardia)
Milan is not only the capital of its Province and Region but it is also the financial and economic centre of Italys industrial heartland, the North. A city of 1,371,000, Milan is known for having high culture, high fashion and high prices, but despite its prices, the city is known in Italy as a shopping Mecca.
Nearby places of interest include Pavia, Como and Bergamo all between 30km-45km, but Milan itself, like all major Italian cities, has considerable historic value as well as the modern hustle and bustle. The Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore, the Sforzesco Castle and Leonardo Da Vinci's "Last Supper" ("Il Cenacolo") are just a few of the significant sites.
Milan is well served by two international airports, Linate and Malpensa. The main station, La Centrale in Piazza Duca DAosta is supported by several small stations which, together with bus services, make a comfortable and comprehensive public transport system.
Naples, Napoli (Campania)
Napoli, the largest trading port in Italy is a city blessed with a warm climate and welcoming people. A city of contrasts: on the one side Napoli is blessed with an idyllic setting, which is complemented by the history and culture of the city itself, on the other, political and social problems ravage the South as a whole.
Not far from Napoli are the coastal towns of Positano, Amalfi, Capri and Sorrento; some of the most beautiful places in Europe. Being Italy's largest port, the tourism and import-export industries are important and ever-growing potential places to find work.
Napoli has its own underground and is served by the international Capodichino airport and 3 main train stations: Napoli Centrale, Mergellina and Campi Flegrei. The surrounding areas are easily accessible by using the Circumvesuviana which is a relatively cheap light railway.
Turin, Torino (Piemonte)
Italys fourth city, in terms of population, after Rome, Milan and Naples, Turin is another of the major industrial centres of the North. Its industrial capacity is supported by its domination of Italian car manufacturing. The Fiat Group, which includes Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Ferrari, the latter produced at Maranello (near Modena), sustains a host of traditional industries and therefore helps to keep the local economy buoyant.
Turins international airport is 15km north-west of the city, which is well served by three train stations and like most has an economical and well planned public transport system.
Bologna, Bologna (Emilia Romagna)
Bologna's stark brick architecture, porticoed streets and famous twin towers make for an intriguing city. Europes city of culture in 2000, Bologna has a particularly relaxed atmosphere and is a city that has endless amounts to offer in terms of places to go and things to see.
The citys central positioning means its a good base from which to travel around Italy. Being in the middle of everywhere coupled with vast agricultural resources makes Bologna an important commercial centre and hence allows the city to enjoy a certain standard of living. A standard of living, unfortunately, not shared by the considerable number of homeless who come to Bologna to take refuge under the porticoes of its sheltered streets.
Bologna is served by the Guglielmo Marconi airport, is the centre of Italys railway network and has a well-running public transport system.
Speak to someone from Bologna and theyre likely to tell you that petty crime is increasing and the City is on a slippery slope. However, with the oldest university in the world, founded in 1088, an active nightlife and so many other things to offer, Bologna is an ideal place to live.
Venice, Venezia (Veneto)
Capital of the Veneto region, Venice has 310,000 inhabitants and is a unique city. Sometimes known as The City of islands, Venice is built on over 100 separate islands 4km from the mainland and subsequently has a historic centre crissed-crossed by canals and bridges.
These unique characteristics coupled with legendary charm, beauty and atmosphere plus architectural treasures such as the Basilica di San Marco, the Piazza of the same name and the Grand Canal itself make Venice a must-see city.
The fact that that at high tide the city's streets flood seems to be an attraction for most and few pay attention to the considerably polluted canals which, particularly in summer time, can give off a less than pleasurable smell.
Venices airport, Marco Polo, is 13km from the city and the Santa Lucia train station is located near the final stretch of the Grand Canal. Getting around the city itself, particularly the centre, is limited to the use of water taxis, streamers (vaporetti) and gondolas.
Padua, Padova (Veneto)
An energetic and lively university city, Padova is just 30 minutes by train from Venezia, but is by no means put to shame by its more famous neighbour. A city of pilgrimage for millions of Catholics, Padova is another wealthy north-eastern city with a strong artistic and cultural tradition. The Basilica di Sant Antonio is what attracts the pilgrims but many come to see the best preserved collection of Giottos work and experience another Italian city full of character and verve.
Florence, Firenze (Toscana)
Capital of the Italian State from 1865-1871, Florence rises on the banks of the Arno River, which neatly divides the city in two. Recognised as being the city at the centre of the Italian renaissance, Florence is another Italian city blessed with numerous cites of historical, artistic and architectural value. Major areas of interest include the Basilica di San Lorenzo, the Brancacci Chapel, the Church of the Holy Annunciation and the Baptistry.
With its temperate climate, Florence enjoys long periods void of extremes of temperature and can therefore be appreciated throughout the year. The Amerigo Vespucci airport is just 5km from the city centre and the central station is the Santa Maria Novella. Florence is served by a particularly good public transport system with buses being the most convenient way to enter the semi-pedestrianised centre.
Trieste, Trieste (Friuli-Venezia Giulia)
Trieste lies in the far north-east of Italy, and was in dispute with Yugoslavia until its hand over in 1954. It has a strong Slav contingent, with Slavic a common language on the streets. Trieste is known as a city of political extremes, a situation exacerbated by the conflict in the Balkans and an influx of Slav refugees.
There are many examples of neo-classical architecture dating back to the time when Trieste was the Hapsburg Empires most southerly port. Still an active port, Trieste is home to the hill of San Giusto and its Roman ruins as well as the Cathedral of San Giusto.
Bari, Bari (Puglia)
Bari is the Capital and commercial centre of the Puglia region, Italys heel. Known as the Milan of the South, the city has 350,000 inhabitants with a massive student contingent.The city itself is divided in to two distinct parts: a logical, planned, modern 19th century city and a medieval town designed to protect its citizens from invaders and the Adriatic sea winds. An active port, Bari is Italys main link with Greece, with an extensive network of ferries linking the two countries.
Genoa, Genova (Liguria)
Genova, the provincial capital of Liguria, as well as being a working commercial port is also a relaxed seaside resort. It is home to an active shipbuilding industry that helps to support primary and secondary economic activity including steel, oil refineries, cement and paper. The birthplace of Christopher Columbus now has 700,000 inhabitants and has named its airport, which is 16km from downtown Genoa, after its most famous son. The Citys historic centre is best appreciated on foot and the museums and palaces make for major tourist attractions.
Palermo, Palermo (Sicilia)
The Sicilian Capital is also the island's largest port, a city of wide boulevards and traditional Old Italian streets. An exotic, multicultural architectural backdrop includes monuments in Arabic, Norman and art noveau styles. Sicily, an island of undisputed natural beauty, is served by Palermos international airport, Punta Raisi at 32km from Palermo.
Sicilys traditional problems are perhaps worse than those of Napoli as the City is overcrowded and in considerable disrepair.Unemployment is high among the 900,000 who live in Palermo, but tourism as well as the export of raw materials are growing industries.
Thanks to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the information provided