is politically divided into 20 regioni (regions). Five of the
regions are autonomous --- Sardinia, Sicily, Valle D'Aosta, Trentino-Alto
Adige/Südtirol, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
The country is surrounded by five seas --- Ligurian, Tyrrhenian,
Adriatic, Ionian, and Mediterranean.
Italy ranks 72nd in the world in area, about the size of Arizona. The population is about 60 million. It ranks 23rd, just behind
France and the UK.
The island of Corsica (French) is only 55 miles from mainland Italy,
and only 7 miles from Sardinia, at the closest points. The distance
from the "heel" of the boot to the Swiss border is 715 miles.
Under the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, Italy sided with Nazi Germany
in World War II. After the war the country became a democratic republic.
(1) Rome, Lazio 2.6M,
(2) Milan, Lombardy 1.2M,
(3) Naples, Campania 1.0M,
(4) Turin, Piedmont .9M,
(5) Palermo, Sicily .7M,
(6) Genoa, Liguria .6M,
(7) Bologna, Emilia Romagna .4M,
(8) Florence, Tuscany .3M
(9) Venice, Veneto .3M
- [2011 census]
Prime Minister: Paolo Gentiloni (left)
President: Sergio Mattarella (right)
The small regione of Liguria lies along the coast between France and
the regione of Tuscany. The land rises quickly from the coast,
forming the Alps and Apennines mountains. The population of 1.6
million lives primarily along the 200 miles of coastline. A road and
a railroad follow the coast.
area is sometimes referred to as the "Italian Riviera. It's mild
temperatures and beautiful beaches make it a populr tourist
The major city of Liguria is Genoa, the capital. Genoa is a large maritime
port and claims to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo
click twice to enlarge
The Piedmonte regione lies north of Liguria,
separated from each other by the Ligurian Alps (west) and the Apennines
(east). The two mountain ranges join at the Ligurian city of Altare.
The pass between the two mountain ranges is
Colle di Cadibona, located near Altare. This is the main highway route
from Piedmont to the coast. The highway is marked E717
capital and largest city is Turin (Italian Turino) (pop. 900,000),
host of the 2006 Winter Olympics.
from Turin west to France is blocked by the French Alps. In the early
1800's Napoleon built a 24-mile long road over Mt. Cenis (Italian
Moncenisio). Then in 1871 the 8.5-mile long Mt. Cenis railway
tunnel (a.k.a. Fréjus tunnel) was
opened after 14 years of construction. In 1980, a road tunnel was added.
The new high-speed TGV trains use this route, entering Italy near
The Po River starts as a small stream at the base of Monte Viso in
southwestern Piedmont, flowing through Turin and eventually emptying into the
Adriatic sea near Venice. Traversing Italy at its widest point, the Po is
Italy's longest river.
Monferrato in the Apennines with the Alps in the distance.
Valle D'Aosta regione is the smallest, least populated (pop. 128,000)
and least densely populated of all the regioni of
Italy. Situated in the northwest, it borders both France and
Aosta shares the Matterhorn with Switzerland. The south face of the
Matterhorn lies in Aosta. Another famous peak lies in Aosta - Mont Blanc,
the highest mountain in the Alps.
Although not the capital,
Courmayeur is the best known town in Aosta. It is near the Mont Blanc
tunnel to Chamonix, France, and shares with Chamonix resorts for skiers of
the many nearby alpine ski areas. Chamonix was the site of the 1924 Winter
The Lombardy (Italian
Lombardia) regione is the largest in population
(pop. 9.6 million). Situated in the northwest, it borders Switzerland
to the north.
large lakes lie in Lombardy. To the west, along the border with Piedmont
is Lago Maggiore. On the eastern border with Trentino-Alto
Adige is Lago di Garda. And located within the regione
is the famous tourist destination Lago di Como.& To the north lies
Lago di Lugano, but the lake is mostly in Switzerland. The Po river
forms much of the southern border with Emilia Romagna.
capital and largest city is Milan (Italian Milano). Milan is home
to La Scala opera house. The mural The Last Supper
by Leonardo da Vinci is located at Santa Maria delle Grazie church in
interesting province of Lombardy is Campione d'Italia. It is an
exclave of Italy being entirely within Switzerland. It is separated from
Italy by mountains and Lake Lugano.
Trentino-Alto Adige is
the northernmost regione of Italy. It was part
of Austria-Hungary prior to the annexation by Italy in 1919. It
shares a border with Switzerland and Austria.
regione is made up of two provinces, South Tyrol to the north
and Trentino to the south. Most of South Tyrol is
The region of the Alps in northern Trentino-Alto Adige and the adjoining part of
Austria is known as the Tyrolean Alps.
The main northbound highway
in the area crosses into Austria over Brenner Pass. It is a major route
between northern and southern Europe.
Trento (Pop. 115,000) is the capital city.
Dolomites of South Tyrol
Veneto regione is located at the northern end of the
Adriatic Sea, along the Gulf of Venice, named for its capital city. The
coastline covers about 120 miles, half of which is beach.
than half of Veneto lies within the Po valley. The river empties into the
Adriatic south of Venice.
capital city, Venice (Pop. 270,000), is famous for its canals and
gondolas. Gondolas now are primarily used only for tourists and ceremonial
a town in the province of Treviso. A theatre was built there in 1798. The
theater was purchased by John Ringling and moved to Sarasota, Florida, in
cheese has a protected name. It must be produced in the town of Asiago in
Friuli Venezia Giulia
Venezia Giulia regione lies to the east of Veneto at
the northern end of the Adriatic Sea and shares the Gulf of Venice with its
neighbor. Its capital and largest city, Trieste (Pop. 205,000), is located
on the coast.
Austria borders to the north, and Slovenia borders to the east.
small province of Trieste could easily have been included with Slovenia and made
part of Yugoslavia after World War I. But, Trieste was occupied by
the Italian Army at the time hostilities ended between Italy and
Austria-Hungary. Thus Trieste was annexed by Italy.
The beautiful Miramare Castle is a well known landmark along the coast of
Emilia Romagna comes from the names of two historic regions of Italy.
Emilia takes its name from the Via Aemilia, a Roman road
built in 187 BC. Romagna comes from the Latin name Romania,
meaning "land inhabited by Romans."
automobiles are manufactured at Maranello in the province of
Headquarters of Barilla Foods (pasta) is located in the city of
Parma in Parma province.
capital and largest city is Bologna (Pop. 382,000).
is the true essence of Italy. Famous people who call Tuscany home include:
Dante, Michelangelo, Niccolo Machiavelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei,
Amerigo Vespucci and Puccini.
is the epicenter of Italian vineyards. Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino
are just two of the many fine wines made from grapes grown in the
capital and largest city is Florence (Pop. 370,000, but over a million in
the metropolitan area). The river Arno runs through the city.
with its famous Leaning Tower lies downstream on the Arno as it empties into the
of Elba, famous as the place where Napolean was exiled, is part of Tuscany
Named after the medeival "March of Ancona" in the Middle Ages,
Marche is a hilly regione which lies on
the Adriatic. The capital and largest city is Ancona, a
Ancona was founded by Greek settlers from Syracuse in 387 BC, who
gave it its name. The name comes from Greek ?????, meaning
Landlocked within the peninsula is the rather
small regione of Umbria. It lies in the Apennine
of Assisi lies in the province of the same name. It is the birthplace of
St. Francis of Assisi, who founded the Franciscan religious order there in
Lazio regione includes Rome, capital and largest city of
mention the noteable places in Lazio would mean including Rome, which is
beyond the scope of this treatise. Suffice it to say there are
City, while within Lazio is not part of Lazio or even Italy. It is its own
sovernity, making it the smallest independent state in the world, both in area
(110 acres) and population (800). The Vatican became an independent state in
1929 as a result of the Lateran Treaty.
The Abruzzo regione is one of the most
mountainous in Italy. Corno Grande (Great Horn) is the highest peak in the
The capital is the inland city of L'Aquila, whose center district was badly
damaged by an earthquake in 2009.
The largest city is the seaport of Pescara (Pop. 123,000).
1963, Molise and Abruzzo, were one regione. Molise, whose
population is only 319,000, has seen a 20% decline in that population over the
past 60 years.
Overlooking the valley of the Vulturno River is the town of
Monteroduni. The medieval Pignatelli Castle is here, as is the Church of
Santa Maria in Altissimis, built in the 11th century.
capital city is Campobasso (Pop. 51,000).
spectacular Amalfi coast lies south of the Sorrento peninsula, along
the coastline of the province of Salerno.
is all about southern Italian cuisine. Spaghetti, linguine, pizza, gnocchi
tomatoes, ricotta cheese .... even macaroni and cheese.
is the second most populous and most densely
populated regione. The population is just under 6 million,
with more than half of that population in the capital city of
"heel" of Italy is the regione of Apulia (It:
Puglia). Along the outside of the heel is the
Strait of Otranto. which connects the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea. On
a clear day it is possible to see Albania across the strait.
the Otranto coast lies the capital city of Bari (Pop. 320,000), considered the
second most important economic center of southern Italy, next to
the heel is the Gulf of Taranto. Taranto, second largest city (Pop.
191,000), lies on the coast.
area of Italy was settled by the anciend Greeks around 800 B.C. Greek
artwork has been discovered dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries
Santa Maria di Leuca
"instep" of Italy is the regione of Basilicata. It has a
coastline on both the Gulf of Taranto and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Apulia, Basilicata has a Greek influence, with settlements dating back to the
8th century B.C.
the heel is the Gulf of Taranto. Taranto, second largest city (Pop.
191,000), lies on the coast.
area of Italy was settled by the anciend Greeks around 800 B.C. First
contact with the Romans dates to the 4th and 5th centuries B.C.
Capital city, Matera
"toe" of Italy is the regione of Calabria. Calabria is
separated from the Italian peninsula by a range of the Apennines called
is linked by road to the peninsula along each coast, as well as the A3 motorway
inland. Despite its rather remote location, its port at Gioia Tauro is
Italy's largest container port. It is also the entry point of considerable
cocaine and illegal arms.
is separated from the toe of Italy by the narrow Strait of Messina. It is
the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.
Greeks occupied Sicily as far back as the 8th century B.C. The most
important settlement was Syracuse. During the 3rd century B.C., the Punic
Wars brought control of Sicily to the Romans. Sicily was most recently
unified with Italy in the 19th century.
10,890 ft. Mount Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe.
(It. Sardegna) is the second largest island in the
Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily.
Kingdom of Sardinia has existed since the 14th century A.D. During much of
this time it was in personal union with the Spanish Empire. In 1861,
Sardinia became the founding state of the new Kingdom of Italy, and
all other states were annexed.
capital city is Cagliari, on the southern coast.