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.