Facts about Italy

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ItalyItaly became a nation-state in 1861 when the regional states of the peninsula, along with Sardinia and Sicily, were united under King Victor EMMANUEL II. An era of parliamentary government came to a close in the early 1920s when Benito MUSSOLINI established a Fascist dictatorship. His alliance with Nazi Germany led to Italy's defeat in World War II. A democratic republic replaced the monarchy in 1946 and economic revival followed. Italy was a charter member of NATO and the European Economic Community (EEC). It has been at the forefront of European economic and political unification, joining the Economic and Monetary Union in 1999. Persistent problems include illegal immigration, organized crime, corruption, high unemployment, sluggish economic growth, and the low incomes and technical standards of southern Italy compared with the prosperous north.

Geography of Italy

Southern Europe, a peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea, northeast of Tunisia
42 50 N, 12 50 E
total: 301,230 sq km
note: includes Sardinia and Sicily
water: 7,210 sq km
land: 294,020 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly larger than Arizona
Land boundaries:
total: 1,932.2 km
border countries: Austria 430 km, France 488 km, Holy See (Vatican City) 3.2 km, San Marino 39 km, Slovenia 232 km, Switzerland 740 km
7,600 km
Maritime claims:
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
territorial sea: 12 NM
predominantly Mediterranean; Alpine in far north; hot, dry in south
mostly rugged and mountainous; some plains, coastal lowlands
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) de Courmayeur 4,748 m (a secondary peak of Mont Blanc)
Natural resources:
mercury, potash, marble, sulfur, natural gas and crude oil reserves, fish, coal, arable land
Natural hazards:
regional risks include landslides, mudflows, avalanches, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding; land subsidence in Venice
Environment current issues:
air pollution from industrial emissions such as sulfur dioxide; coastal and inland rivers polluted from industrial and agricultural effluents; acid rain damaging lakes; inadequate industrial waste treatment and disposal facilities
Geography - note:
strategic location dominating central Mediterranean as well as southern sea and air approaches to Western Europe

Population of Italy

58,145,320 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 13.8% (male 4,147,149/female 3,899,980)
15-64 years: 66.5% (male 19,530,512/female 19,105,841)
65 years and over: 19.7% (male 4,771,858/female 6,678,169)
Median age:
42.2 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
6.07 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 79.54 years
male: 76.61 years
female: 82.66 years (2004 est.)
Fertility rate:
5.83 deaths/1,000 live births
noun: Italian(s)
adjective: Italian
Ethnic groups:
Italian (includes small clusters of German-, French-, and Slovene-Italians in the north and Albanian-Italians and Greek-Italians in the south)
approximately 90% Roman Catholic (about one-third regularly attend services); mature Protestant and Jewish communities and a growing Muslim immigrant community
Italian (official), German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d'Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98.6%
male: 99%
female: 98.3% 


Country name:
conventional long form: Italian Republic
local long form: Repubblica Italiana
former: Kingdom of Italy
local short form: Italia
Government type:
Administrative divisions:
20 regions (regioni, singular - regione); Abruzzi, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardia, Marche, Molise, Piemonte, Puglia, Sardegna, Sicilia, Toscana, Trentino-Alto Adige, Umbria, Valle d'Aosta, Veneto
17 March 1861 (Kingdom of Italy proclaimed; Italy was not finally unified until 1870)
National holiday:
Republic Day, 2 June (1946)
1 January 1948
Legal system:
based on civil law system; appeals treated as new trials; judicial review under certain conditions in Constitutional Court; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal (except in senatorial elections, where minimum age is 25)
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Giorgio NAPOLITANO (since 15 May 2006)
head of government: Prime Minister Silvio BERLUSCONI (referred to in Italy as the president of the Council of Ministers) (since 8 May 2008) note - in Italy the prime minister is referred to as the president of the Council of Ministers
cabinet: Council of Ministers nominated by the prime minister and approved by the president
elections: president elected by an electoral college consisting of both houses of parliament and 58 regional representatives for a seven-year term (no term limits); election last held 10 May 2006 (next to be held in May 2013); prime minister appointed by the president and confirmed by parliament.
Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament or Parlamento consists of the Senate or Senato della Repubblica (315 seats; elected by proportional vote with the winning coalition in each region receiving 55% of seats from that region; members serve five-year terms) and the Chamber of Deputies or Camera dei Deputati (630 seats; elected by popular vote with the winning national coalition receiving 54% of chamber seats; members serve five-year terms); note - electoral vote reform passed in December 2005.
Judicial branch:
Constitutional Court or Corte Costituzionale (composed of 15 judges: one-third appointed by the president, one-third elected by Parliament, one-third elected by the ordinary and administrative Supreme Courts)


Italy has a diversified industrial economy with roughly the same total and per capita output as France and the UK. This capitalistic economy remains divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less-developed, welfare-dependent, agricultural south, with 20% unemployment. Most raw materials needed by industry and more than 75% of energy requirements are imported. Over the past decade, Italy has pursued a tight fiscal policy in order to meet the requirements of the Economic and Monetary Unions and has benefited from lower interest and inflation rates. The current government has enacted numerous short-term reforms aimed at improving competitiveness and long-term growth. Italy has moved slowly, however, on implementing needed structural reforms, such as lightening the high tax burden and overhauling Italy's rigid labor market and over-generous pension system, because of the current economic slowdown and opposition from labor unions. But the leadership faces a severe economic constraint: Italy's official debt remains above 100% of GDP, and the government has found it difficult to bring the budget deficit down to a level that would allow a rapid decrease in that debt. The economy continues to grow by less than the euro-zone average and growth is expected to decelerate from 1.9% in 2006 and 2007 to under 1.5% in 2008 as the euro-zone and world economies slow.

$1.8 trillion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 2.1%
industry: 29.1%
services: 68.8%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
24.49 million
Labor force - by occupation:
services 63%, industry 32%, agriculture 5% 
revenues: $785.7 billion
expenditures: $861.5 billion
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 78.6%
hydro: 18.4%
other: 3%
nuclear: 0%
tourism, machinery, iron and steel, chemicals, food processing, textiles, motor vehicles, clothing, footwear, ceramics
fruits, vegetables, grapes, potatoes, sugar beets, soybeans, grain, olives; beef, dairy products; fish
engineering products, textiles and clothing, production machinery, motor vehicles, transport equipment, chemicals; food, beverages and tobacco; minerals and nonferrous metals
Export partners:
Germany 13.2%, France 12.1%, US 8%, Spain 7.3%, UK 6.5%, Switzerland 4% 
engineering products, chemicals, transport equipment, energy products, minerals and nonferrous metals, textiles and clothing; food, beverages, and tobacco
Import partners:
Germany 17.1%, France 9.9%, Netherlands 5.7%, China 4.6%, Belgium 4.5%, Spain 4.2%, UK 4%
euro (EUR)
note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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