Study Abroad in Italy

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Facts about Italy. Italian history.


Italian flagItaly; officially the Italian Republic; is a country located in Southern Europe, that comprises the Po River valley, the Italian Peninsula and the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia. Italy shares its northern alpine boundary with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The independent countries of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within Italian territory, while Campione d'Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland.

Italy was home to many well-known and influential European cultures, including the Etruscans, Greeks, and the Romans. Its capital Rome has been 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. 


Today, Italy has the 7th-highest GDP and 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. The latest population estimate stated that there were 58,462,375 inhabitants in Italy in 2005, making it the fourth largest population in the European Union (after Germany, France and the United Kingdom), and the 22nd in the world. 

Italy has the 5th highest population density in all of Europe with 193 persons per square kilometre. The highest density is in Northwestern Italy, as two regions out of twenty (Lombardia and Piemonte) combined, contain one quarter of the Italian population, where an estimated 9.4 million people live in the metropolitan Milan area. The literacy rate in Italy is 98% overall as school is mandatory for children aged 6 to 18


The Italian climate is uniquely diverse and can be far from the stereotype of a "land of sun", depending on the region. The north of Italy (Turin, Milan, and Bologna) has a true continental climate, while below Florence it becomes more and more Mediterranean. The climate of the coastal areas of the Peninsula is very different from that of the interior, particularly during the winter months. The higher areas 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. 

Between the north and south there is a quite remarkable difference in the temperatures, above all during the winter: in some days of December or January it can be -2C and snowing in Milan while it is +17C in Palermo or Naples. Temperature differences are less extreme in the summer. 

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). Snow is quite common between early December and mid-February in cities like Turin, Milan and Bologna. Generally, the hottest month is August in the south and July in the north; the coldest month is January.

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