Italy comprises some of the most varied and scenic landscapes on Earth and is often described as a country shaped like a boot. At its broad top stand the Alps, the highest points are along Monte Rosa, which peaks in Switzerland, and along Mont Blanc, which peaks in France. Tuscany, to the south, is perhaps the country’s best-known region. The southern Apennines are unstable, with several active volcanoes, including Vesuvius, which from time to time belches ash and steam into the air above Naples and the surrounding area. At the bottom of the country, in the Mediterranean Sea, lie the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
The Rialto Bridge In Venice
In World War I, Italy fought on the side of the Allies, but, under the rule of the fascist leader Benito Mussolini, it waged war against the Allied powers in World War II. From the end of World War II to the early 1990s, It had a multiparty system dominated by two large parties, the Christian Democratic Party and the Italian Communist Party. In the early 1990s the Italian party system underwent a radical transformation, and the political centre collapsed, and gave rise to such political leaders as media magnate Silvio Berlusconi.
The whole country is relatively prosperous, certainly when compared with the early years of the 20th century, when the economy was predominantly agricultural. Much of that prosperity has to do with tourism, for in good years nearly as many visitors as citizens can be found in the country. Italy is part of the European Union and the Council of Europe, and, with its strategic geographic position on the southern flank of Europe, it has played an important role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
The capital is Rome, one of the oldest of the world’s great cities and a favourite of visitors, who go there to see its great monuments and works of art as well as to enjoy the city’s famed dolce vita, or “sweet life.” Other major cities include the fashion centre of Milan; the sprawling southern metropolis of Naples; and Venice, one of the world’s oldest tourist destinations.
Surrounded by Rome is an independent state, the Vatican City, which is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and the spiritual home of Italy’s overwhelmingly Catholic population.
The magnificent Colosseum of Rome
Each of those cities, and countless smaller cities and towns, has retained its differences against the levelling effect of the mass media and standardised education. Thus, many Italians, particularly older ones, are inclined to think of themselves as belonging to families, then neighbourhoods, then towns or cities, then regions, and then, last, as members of a nation.
To the north the Alps separate Italy from France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia. Elsewhere Italy is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, in particular by the Adriatic Sea to the northeast, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, the Tyrrhenian Sea to the southwest, and the Ligurian Sea to the northwest.