ITALY - It is a country located in southern Europe, in the shape of a peninsula, bordered by the Adriatic Sea and by the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is bordered by France to the Northwest, by Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia to the North. The independent countries of San Marino and the City of Vatican are the enclaves within the Italian territory. The enclave Campione d'Italia, located in the Italian-speaking area of Switzerland, also belongs to the country. The origin of its name is more commonly accepted as being the Latin word "vitulus", which means "calf".
Location: southern Europe
Population: 61.070.224 inhabitants
Territorial extension: 301.340 Km²
Territorial extension: 301.340 Km²
|Colosseum in Rome, Italy.|
At later times, from the 9th century BC on, the Etruscan people overcame the other people who shared the peninsula with it. From that moment on, the lands started to have more political organization and also a more complex system for the industrialization of metals and textiles. This improvement usually led to the production of extra goods to be traded by the merchant navy ships which crossed the Mediterranean. Besides the Etruscans, the Greeks inhabited the South of the peninsula and there they developed Greater Greece.
However, it was the creation of the city-state of Rome, which was allegedly founded by Romulus, in 753 BC, that marked the beginning of a civilization which would spread its territory over most of the European continent, the North of Africa and the Middle East. Several peoples had their destinies changed forever after the Roman occupation; languages based on the original Latin spoken by the Empire were created. During its twelve centuries of existence, the Romans moved from a monarchy to a republic oligarchic until it became a vast Empire which dominated the major part of Europe and the surroundings of the Mediterranean, through conquest and cultural assimilation. However, a group of social-political factors aggravated the process of decline, and the empire ended up being divided into two. The western half, in which were included Hispania, Gallia and Italy, suffered a permanent breakdown in the 5th century and generated several independent kingdoms. The Western half, governed from Constantinople, became the Byzantine Empire in the beginning of 476 AD. This year marked the fall of Rome and is considered as the beginning of the Middle Ages.
From the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the 6th century, the Italian province was governed by a series of barbarian kings; the capital of the province was Rome, and it was under the command of the Catholic Church. From the 10th century on, the cities in the North of the Italic Peninsula became independent from each other and turned into important political centers which soon became city-states. Throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, they exerted great influence on the cultural and economic panorama of the European continent. San Marino can be considered a remaining city-state.
Renaissance is considered by many historians as a bridge between the Middle Ages and the Modern period. In the last centuries, Italy has given mankind remarkable contributions in several areas of knowledge. In painting and sculpture, Michelangelo, Rafael, Tiziano, Tintoretto, Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci; in Architecture: Brunelleschi; in Physics: the famous da Vinci, maybe the most eclectic genius of all mankind; in political sciences: Machiavelli; in Accountancy: Luca Pacciolo.
The Catholic Church remains very influential. For many times, Rome was supported by foreign powers, for instance, of Pope Borgia, a Spanish who favored the Spanish influence upon Italy. The country, divided into rival city-states, began to suffer great Spanish influence (1559-1700). Besides, the big fragmentation of the country and the dislocation of the marine routes from the Mediterranean Sea caused the economic decline of the peninsula. Little by little, old cities lost their influence for the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia (Savoy House).
Modern Italy was turned into a State significantly late, if compared to other European nations. Its unification occurred in the second half of the 19th century, when the States of the Italian Peninsula and of the two Sicilians were united to form the Kingdom of Italy. This kingdom was under the ruling of monarch Victor Emanuel II, of the Saboya dynasty, who had governed Piedmont and Sardinia. The main supporter of the Italian unification was Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, the King's prime-minister. Rome, however, remained separated from the rest of Italy, under the command of the Pope, and it was not part of the kingdom of Italy until September 1870, the date of the Italian unification. The Vatican has remained as an independent enclave completely surrounded by Italy.
The fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini started in 1922. Few years later, it caused Italy to establish an Alliance with Nazi German and with the Empire of Japan, in the "Axis" defeated in World War II, from 1939 to 1945. In June 1946, a referendum about the monarchy resulted in change of the Italian system of government: it became a republic and received a new constitution, on January 1st, 1948. The members of the royal family were exiled because of their relationship with the fascist regime, and remained so until November 10th, 2003. Only then were they allowed to return to Italy, due to a Constitution Amendment.
Italy was a founding member of NATO, which was created on April 4th, 1949, and also of the European Union, created between 1952 and 1958. On December 14, 1955, Italy joined the United Nations. The country has taken part in the growing political and economic unification of Western Europe. An example of that was the introduction of the Euro as the official currency of the country, in 1999, replacing the former Italian lira.