What do you call a land with so many unique but distinguished characteristics? The land of pizzas and pastas, the land of inventions of violin, piano and Baroque music, the land of Lamborghini, Ferrari and the Alfa Romeo, the land of Romeo and Juliet, the land of elevators.....The land is Italy. Due to the mentioned features, Italy is the fifth most visited countries in the world. Its capital city, Rome, is also known as the Eternal City, as it one of the oldest civilizations of the world. Italy, officially known as the Italian Republic, has one of the lowest birth rates and has two independent states within it, namely, the Republic of San Marino and the Vatican City. The green colour of the Italian flag indicates the landscape, the white is the snow-capped Alps and red symbolizes the struggle and bloodshed that brought about independence to the country. It was in 1861, that Italy became a nation-state under King Victor Emmanuel II. In the early 1920s, Benito Mussolini established a Fascist dictatorship and it was under his alliance with the Nazis that Italy got defeated in World War II. However, in 1946, monarchy was replaced by a democratic republic.

Where is Italy located?

Italy is located in the Southern Europe and comprises a peninsula that extends into the central Mediterranean Sea to the north of Tunisia and includes the two largest islands-Sicily and Sardinia. Covering a total area of 301,340 sq. km, Italy borders Austria (430 km), France (488 km), Holy See (3.2 km), San Marino (39 km), Slovenia (199 km) and Switzerland (740 km). It stretches a coastline of 7600 km and lies between 42°50’N latitude and 12°50’E longitude. The Italian Republic is a unitary parliament and is larger than Arizona. The natural resources of the land are coal, mercury, zinc, potash, marble, asbestos, feldspar, natural gas and crude oil reserves and fish.

How are the land and weather conditions in Italy?

Strategically located, Italy dominates the central Mediterranean, the southern sea and one can see air approaching to the Western Europe. The longest river in Italy is Po and flows from the Alps with France, crossing the Padan plain to the Adriatic Sea. The five largest lakes in the country are Garda, Maggiore, Como, Trasimeno and Bolsena. The land is generally mountainous with few plains and coastal lowlands. Due to the extension of the peninsula, Italy enjoys a Mediterranean climate. The climate is humid subtropical in the inland of the northern and central regions and varies from humid to continental as the regions vary. The winters are cool, wet and snowy whereas the summers are often dry and hot. The average temperature in the winter ranges from 0°C–12°C and in summers between 20°C–30°C.

How is the flora and fauna of Italy like?

Due to the human settlements, the flora and fauna of Italy have been affected to a great extent. The holly, pine and cork oak dominate the landscape of Italy. The natural vegetation was replaced by the crops, pastures and vineyards. The fauna, too, have been eradicated. One can see the existing species in the Natural Parks and enclaves. These include the eagles, ibex, chamois, bears, wolves and marmots. Also, there are bears and wolves that are migrated from Slovenia in limited numbers. Occasionally, one can see the swordfish and dolphins.

What are the food habits of the Italians?

There is an obligation to offer food and drink to anyone who enters an Italian home. People are tied to each other through the food. Italian breakfast include a hard roll, butter, strong coffee and fruit juice or fruits. The main meal of the day is lunch. The traditional meal consists of Pasta, a part of all the meals, soup, bread, meat or fish. Dinners are the leftovers of the noon meal. The recent modern times have the dinner as an important and family meal. On occasions like the New Year Eve, a feast of seven fishes is served. Also for the feast day of Saint Lucy, there is a special Saint Joseph’s bread, Easter bread with boiled eggs served.

How is the overall culture of Italy?

Due to high rate of unemployment, there is a noticeable difference between the rich and the poor. Also, there is unequal distribution of income in the north and the south. The social class is marked by the speech of an educated individual, the branded clothing and the food habits. Although, pasta and bread is the staple food for all the classes, the quantity of meat matters in order to understand the social class. It was in the olden times when women were the caretakers of the household and men went out for work. However, women have become equal in the eyes of law and work at par with men. In families, men are the ‘head’ and women are the ‘soul ‘of the household. Dowry was an important part of the arranged marriages and the recent times have a love marriage anywhere in the world. A general custom is to be unmarried and look after the aged parents and the system of divorce is forbidden. Formal and higher education is highly emphasised. People greet each other by kissing and hugging in public. Italians find it polite to sit close and interact with people by lightly touching their arms. They gaze intensely because it is believed that if you cannot look into the eyes and talk to the person, you are hiding something. Elders are highly respected and great care is taken in not violating each other’s dignity.

Which religion do Italians follow and how do they communicate?

There are various dialects in the country but the official language is Italian and is taught in schools. The Italian speakers also understand Greek, Arabic, Latin, Norman French and German. Majority of the population in Italy are Roman Catholics. The other denominations include Jews, Muslims and Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholics. There is a supernatural belief that the Catholic Church is mixed with some older beliefs. An example is Sicily, where the Arabic and Greek are mixed with the Spanish beliefs and are a part of Catholicsm.

What is the economic structure of Italy?

The Italian economy is diversified between the north and the south. The north is developed and industrial in nature, dominated by the private companies whereas the south is less developed, agricultural and highly subsidized and has high unemployment. The nature of the economy is driven by the high quality consumer goods, the small and medium sized industries and other family owned enterprises. The agricultural produce of Italy include fruits, vegetables, grapes, potatoes, sugar beets, grain, soybeans, olives and dairy products. The industries that contribute to the development of Italy are tourism, machinery, textiles and clothing, motor vehicles, food beverages and tobacco and minerals. Italy exports engineering products, transport equipment, food and beverages, minerals, etc to Germany, France, Switzerland, UK and Spain whereas it imports chemicals, energy products, metals, textiles and clothing, food and beverages and tobacco from Germany, France, China, Netherlands, Spain and Belgium.

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