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Quick Facts about Italy
- Italy is part of the European Union, and the Euro is its official currency.
- It is a long and narrow country! It stretches over 730 miles from its most northern point to its most southern point.
- Many people say that Italy is shaped like a giant boot, kicking a soccer ball (Sicily). GOAL!!
- Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy. He was commissioned by the Spanish King and Queen to find a western route to India, but found the New World instead.
- It was the center of the Renaissance period, which lasted from the late thirteenth century to the mid-fifteenth century.
- The ancient Roman empire was one of the longest surviving and most extensive empires in human history, lasting from 27 BCE to 476 CE.
- Trains are a critical part of travel in Italy as they are in many parts of Europe. Tourists and citizens alike use them to easily reach far away cities such as Paris and Berlin.
The definition of a peninsula is a landmass that is bordered by water on three sides and Italy fits that description perfectly. Almost the entire nation except for the top one-quarter is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea.
The remaining one-quarter, on the northern end of the nation, connects the nation to the rest of Europe. This quarter is bordered by four separate nations. These are, from west to east, France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.
The area of Italy is 301,340 square kilometers. This is equivalent to 116,350 square miles.
The official language of Italy is Italian, which the vast majority of people speak. Because of Italy's proximity to the other countries, many people speak additional languages, including French and German. English is also widely spoken as a second language, partly because of the large numbers of tourists that arrive from English-speaking countries.
Italy experiences several climates due to its geography and length, as well as its terrain.
The southern half of the nation has a near tropical climate known as a Mediterranean Climate. Some areas here are dry and almost desert-like, with brush covering much of the landscape as well as hot summers. Others areas here have tropical foliage like palm trees.
Futher north, the climate becomes more temperate, with ample rain and warm summers. The famous region of Tuscany is located in this area, and the climate supports the many vineyards that stretch out across the rolling hills found there.
In the most northern regions of Italy, the climate changes quite abruptly. Here, the great Alps mountain range rises high above the peaceful rolling hills below. The summers in the Alps are mild and somewhat cool, and the winters are cold and frigid. Snow is quite common, and can often be seen into late May and June.
Italy's current government is a republic that was formed shortly after the end of World War 2. The republic was somewhat modeled after the government of the United States, as the United States helped Italy transition from a monarchy to a republic after the war was over.
In this Republic, Italy has three branches of government - a legislative, executive and judicial branch. The legislative branch is a parliament, where representatives have been elected by citizens to represent them. The President, or executive branch, of Italy is elected by the representatives. Finally, the judicial branch is made up of judges who help to determine the legality of major legislation and handle criminal and civil court cases.
- Rome - Rome is the capital of Italy and also the largest city in the country with over 2.8 Million citizens in the city of Rome, and over 4 Million people living in the Metropolitan area. Rome is one of the most amazing cities in the world, with a historical blend of architecture and art that span across three major time periods - Ancient Rome, Early Christian Rome, and the Renaissance. Here, you can find ancient Christian tombs, art from Michelangelo, and ancient Roman architecture all within a few miles.
- Venice - An old merchant city that was established as early as 641 A.D. It is world renowned for its water transportation system, where water taxis called vaparettos move passengers from point to point along the islands that make up Venice, and smaller boats called gondolas move through tiny channels within the buildings of the city. Venice is also well known for its glassware called Murano.
- Turin - Turin is a city in northwestern Italy with large, open piazzas, amazing gelatto and a distinctly french cultural influence. A mysterious religious artifact known as the Shroud of Turin is kept there, and displayed once every ten to fifteen years.
- Milan - Milan is one of the leading fashion and design cities in the world. It has a population of over 1.3 Million people, and has two major international airports close by where many tourists enter and exit the country.
- Florence - Florence is well known for its art and culture. Michelangelo's masterpiece 'The Statue of David' is kept here, at the Galleria dell'Accademia. The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore can be seen for miles around - particularly its large, red dome - and many incredible paintings and frescoes can be found inside the cathedral.
- Naples - Naples is a city located on the coast of southwestern Italy. It is well known for its stunning natural and architectural beauty, and famous for its Neapolitan cuisines and dishes.
- The Colosseum - An enormous rotund structure in the heart of Rome where, in ancient Rome, games would be played. These games would sometimes be violent, even to the point of death. The Colosseum still stands today, as both a reminder of the magnificent architectural achievement it was and a reminder of horrors that occurred there.
- Leaning Tower of Pisa - This 'Wonder of the Medieval World' is located towards the northwestern part of the country near the Mediterranean Coast in a town called Pisa. Though the architecture was initially slightly flawed, the tower has been standing since 1319, and has brought more delight to tourists and children's awe than the builder could have ever imagined.
- Statue of David - The Statue of David is one of Michelangelo's greatest sculptures. It resides in the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence, Italy.
- Rialto Bridge - A beautiful large bridge that crosses over the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. Thousands of tourists traverse the bridge to see the boats and gondolas below, as well as for photo opportunities and sometimes even marriage proposals.
- Vatican City - Though it is technically an independent country within Italy, it is a must see when visiting Rome. It is located on the western side of city, and has vast amounts of beautiful artworks and sculptures, including Michelangelo's painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and his sculpture of Holy Mary.
- Trevi Fountain - A magnificent sculpture and fountain that is tucked into the winding and maze-like streets of Rome. Some people believe that if you throw coins into the fountain, it is meant to be with your right hand over your left shoulder.
- The Amalfi Coast - A picturesque coastline with steep cliffs that lies about 20 miles south of Naples in the southwestern part of Italy.