Italy in a Nutshell

[Abruzzo]  [Apulia]  [Basilicata]  [Calabria]  ~[Campania]  [Emilia Romagna]  [Friuli Venezia Giulia]  [Lazio]  ~[Liguria]  [Lombardy]  [Marche]  [Molise]  ~[Piedmont]  [Sardinia]  [Sicily]  ~[Trentino-Alto Adige]  ~[Tuscany]  [Umbria]  [Valle D'Aosta]  ~[Veneto

General Facts
Italy 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.
Major Cities: (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)

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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.
This area is sometimes referred to as the "Italian Riviera. It's mild temperatures and beautiful beaches make it a populr tourist destination.
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 Colombo).
Genoa below


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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 Torino-Savona.
The capital and largest city is Turin (Italian Turino) (pop. 900,000), host of the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Access 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 Bardonecchia.
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
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The 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 Switzerland.
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 Olympics.
MatterhornMount Blanc

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The Lombardy (Italian Lombardia) regione is the largest in population (pop. 9.6 million). Situated in the northwest, it borders Switzerland to the north.
Three 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.
The 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 Milan.
An 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
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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.
The regione is made up of two provinces, South Tyrol to the north and Trentino to the south. Most of South Tyrol is German-speaking.
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

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The 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.
More than half of Veneto lies within the Po valley. The river empties into the Adriatic south of Venice.
The capital city, Venice (Pop. 270,000), is famous for its canals and gondolas. Gondolas now are primarily used only for tourists and ceremonial events.
Asolo is 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 1952.
Asiago cheese has a protected name. It must be produced in the town of Asiago in Vicenza province.

Friuli Venezia Giulia
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Friuli 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.
The 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 Trieste.

Emilia Romagna
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The name 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."
Ferrari automobiles are manufactured at Maranello in the province of Modena.
Headquarters of Barilla Foods (pasta) is located in the city of Parma in Parma province.
The capital and largest city is Bologna (Pop. 382,000).

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Tuscany 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.
Tuscany 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 regione.
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.
Pisa with its famous Leaning Tower lies downstream on the Arno as it empties into the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The Isle of Elba, famous as the place where Napolean was exiled, is part of Tuscany regione.


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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 seaport.
Ancona was founded by Greek settlers from Syracuse in 387 BC, who gave it its name. The name comes from Greek ?????, meaning "elbow".


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Landlocked within the peninsula is the rather small regione of Umbria. It lies in the Apennine Mountains.
The town 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 1208.

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The Lazio regione includes Rome, capital and largest city of Italy.
To mention the noteable places in Lazio would mean including Rome, which is beyond the scope of this treatise. Suffice it to say there are MANY.
Vatican 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.

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The Abruzzo regione is one of the most mountainous in Italy. Corno Grande (Great Horn) is the highest peak in the Apennines.
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). 

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Prior to 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.
The capital city is Campobasso (Pop. 51,000).

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The spectacular Amalfi coast lies south of the Sorrento peninsula, along the coastline of the province of Salerno.
Naples is all about southern Italian cuisine.  Spaghetti, linguine, pizza, gnocchi tomatoes, ricotta cheese .... even macaroni and cheese.
Campania 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 Naples.

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The "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.
Along the Otranto coast lies the capital city of Bari (Pop. 320,000), considered the second most important economic center of southern Italy, next to Naples.
Inside the heel is the Gulf of Taranto. Taranto, second largest city (Pop. 191,000), lies on the coast.
This 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 B.C.

Santa Maria di Leuca

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The "instep" of Italy is the regione of Basilicata. It has a coastline on both the Gulf of Taranto and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Like Apulia, Basilicata has a Greek influence, with settlements dating back to the 8th century B.C.
Inside the heel is the Gulf of Taranto. Taranto, second largest city (Pop. 191,000), lies on the coast.
This 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

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The "toe" of Italy is the regione of Calabria. Calabria is separated from the Italian peninsula by a range of the Apennines called Pollino.
Calabria 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.

Gioia Tauro

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Sicily is separated from the toe of Italy by the narrow Strait of Messina. It is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.
The 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.
At 10,890 ft. Mount Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe.

Mount Etna

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Sardinia (It. Sardegna) is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily.
The 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.
The capital city is Cagliari, on the southern coast.