Italy

Introduction Italy 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.
History

Prehistory to Magna Graecia

Excavations throughout Italy reveal human presence dating back to the Palaeolithic period (the "Old Stone Age") some 200,000 years ago. In the 8th and 7th centuries BC, driven by unsettled conditions at home, Greek colonies were established in places as widely separated as the eastern coast of the Black Sea and Massilia (what is now Marseille, France). They included settlements in Sicily and the southern part of the Italian Peninsula. The Romans called the area of Sicily and the foot of the boot of Italy Magna Graecia (Latin, “Greater Greece”), since it was so densely inhabited by Greeks.

Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome was a civilization that grew from a small agricultural community founded on the Italian Peninsula circa the 8th century BC to a colossal empire straddling the Mediterranean Sea. In its twelve-century existence, Roman civilization shifted from a monarchy, to a republic based on a combination of oligarchy and democracy, to an autocratic empire. It came to dominate Western Europe and the entire area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea through conquest and assimilation.

Italia, under the Roman Republic and later Empire, was the name of the Italian Peninsula. During the Republic, Italia (which extended at the time from Rubicon to Calabria) was not a province, but rather the territory of the city of Rome, thus having a special status: for example, military commanders were not allowed to bring their armies within Italia, and Julius Caesar passing the Rubicon with his legions marked the start of the civil war.

From the 3rd century, the Roman Empire went into decline. The western half of the empire, including Hispania, Gaul, and Italy, broke into independent kingdoms in the 5th century. The eastern empire, governed from Constantinople, is usually referred to as the Byzantine Empire after 476, the traditional date for the "fall of Rome" and for the subsequent onset of the Early Middle Ages, also known as the Dark Ages.

Middle Ages

The Iron Crown with which Lombard rulers were crowned. They established a Kingdom of Italy which lasted until 774, when it was conquered by the Franks. Their influence on Italian political geography is plainly visible in the regional appellation Lombardy

In the sixth century AD the Byzantine Emperor Justinian reconquered Italy from the Ostrogoths. The invasion of a new wave of Germanic tribes, the Lombards, doomed his attempt to resurrect the Western Roman Empire but the repercussions of Justinian's failure resounded further still. For the next thirteen centuries, whilst new nation-states arose in the lands north of the Alps, the Italian political landscape was a patchwork of feuding city states, petty tyrannies, and foreign invaders.

For several centuries the armies and Exarchs, Justinian's successors, were a tenacious force in Italian affairs – strong enough to prevent other powers such as the Arabs, the Holy Roman Empire, or the Papacy from establishing a unified Italian Kingdom, but too weak to drive out these "interlopers" and recreate Roman Italy. Later Imperial orders such as the Carolingians, the Ottonians and Hohenstaufens also managed to impose their overlordship in Italy. But their successes were as transitory as Justinian's and a unified Italian state remained a dream until the nineteenth century.

No ultramontane Empire could succeed in unifying Italy—or in achieving more than a temporary hegemony—because its success threatened the survival of medieval Italy's other powers: the Byzantines, the Papacy, and the Normans. These—and the descendants of the Lombards, who became fused with earlier Italian ethnic groups—conspired against, fought, and eventually destroyed any attempt to create a dominant political order in Italy. It was against this vacuum of authority that one must view the rise of the institutions of the Signoria and the Comune.

Comuni and Signorie

In Italian history the rise of the Signorie (sing.: Signoria) is a phase often associated with the decline of the medieval commune system of government and the rise of the dynastic state. In this context the word Signoria (here to be understood as "Lordly Power") is used in opposition to the institution of the Commune or city republic.

Indeed, contemporary observers and modern historians see the rise of the Signoria as a reaction to the failure of the Communi to maintain law-and-order and suppress party strife and civil discord. In the anarchic conditions that often prevailed in medieval Italian city states, people looked to strong men to restore order and disarm the feuding elites. In times of anarchy or crisis, cities sometimes offered the Signoria to individuals perceived as strong enough to save the state. For example, the Tuscan state of Pisa offered the Signoria to Charles VIII of France in the hope that he would protect the independence of Pisa from its long term enemy Florence. Similarly, Siena offered the Signoria to Cesare Borgia.

Types of Signoria

The composition and specific functions of the Signoria varied from city to city. In some states (such as Verona under the Della Scala family or Florence in the days of Cosimo de Medici and Lorenzo the Magnificent) the polity was what we would term today a single party state in which the dominant party had vested the Signoria of the state in a single family or dynasty.

In Florence this arrangement was unofficial as it was not constitutionally formalized before the Medici were expelled from the city in 1494.

In other states (such as the Milan of the Visconti) the dynasty's right to the Signoria was a formally recognized part of the Commune's constitution, which had been "ratified" by the People and recognized by the Pope or the Holy Roman Empire.

Maritime Republics

Italy at this time was notable for its merchant Republics, including the Republic of Florence and the Maritime Republics. They were city-states and they were generally republics in that they were formally independent, though most of them originated from territories once belonging to the Byzantine Empire (the main exceptions being Genoa and Pisa). All these cities during the time of their independence had similar (though not identical) systems of government in which the merchant class had considerable power. Although in practice these were oligarchical, and bore little resemblance to a modern democracy, the relative political freedom they afforded was conducive to academic and artistic advancement.

The four classic Maritime Republics in Italy are Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Amalfi and they are always given in that order, reflecting the temporal sequence of their dominance. However, other towns in Italy also have a history of being Maritime Republics, though historically less prominent. These include Gaeta, Ancona, Molfetta, Trani and, in Dalmatia (under Italian cultural influence), Ragusa and Zara.

Venice and Genoa were Europe's gateway to trade with the East, and a producer of fine glass, while Florence was a capital of silk, wool, banks and jewelry. The wealth such business brought to Italy meant that large public and private artistic projects could be commissioned. The Maritime Republics were heavily involved in the Crusades, providing support but most especially taking advantage of the political and trading opportunities resulting from these wars. The Fourth Crusade, notionally intended to "liberate" Jerusalem, actually entailed the Venetian conquest of Zara and Constantinople.

Each of the Maritime Republics over time had dominion over different overseas lands, including many of the islands of the Mediterranean and especially Sardinia and Corsica, lands on the Adriatic, and lands in the Near East and North Africa.

Renaissance

The unique political structures of late Middle Ages Italy have led some to theorise that its unusual social climate allowed the emergence of a rare cultural efflorescence. Italy was divided into smaller city states and territories: the kingdom of Naples controlled the south, the Republic of Florence and the Papal States the centre, the Genoese and the Milanese the north and west, and the Venetians the east. Fifteenth-century Italy was one of the most urbanised areas in Europe. Most historians agree that the ideas that characterised the Renaissance had their origin in late 13th century Florence, in particular with the writings of Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), Francesco Petrarch (1304–1374) and Giovanni Boccaccio (c. 1313–1375), as well as the painting of Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337).

The Renaissance was so called because it was a "rebirth" of certain classical ideas that had long been lost to Europe. It has been argued that the fuel for this rebirth was the rediscovery of ancient texts that had been forgotten by Western civilisation, but were preserved in some monastic libraries and in the Islamic world, and the translations of Greek and Arabic texts into Latin.

Renaissance scholars such as Niccolò de' Niccoli and Poggio Bracciolini scoured the libraries in search of works by such classical authors as Plato, Cicero and Vitruvius. The works of ancient Greek and Hellenistic writers (such as Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, and Ptolemy) and Muslim scientists were imported into the Christian world, providing new intellectual material for European scholars.

The Black Death in 1348 inflicted a terrible blow to Italy, killing one third of the population.[10]

The recovery from the disaster led to a resurgence of cities, trade and economy which greatly stimulated the successive phase of the Humanism and Renaissance (15th-16th centuries) when Italy again returned to be the center of Western civilisation, strongly influencing the other European countries with Courts like Este in Ferrara and De Medici in Florence.

Foreign Domination (16th – 19th centuries)

After a century where the fragmented system of Italian states and principalities were able to maintain a relative independence and a balance of power in the peninsula, in 1494 the French king Charles VIII opened the first of a series of invasions, lasting half of the sixteenth century, and a competition between France and Spain for the possession of the country. Ultimately Spain prevailed (the Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis in 1559 recognised the Spanish possession of the Duchy of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples) and for almost two centuries became the hegemon in Italy. The holy alliance between Habsburg Spain and the Holy See resulted in the systematic persecution of any Protestant movement, with the result that Italy remained a Catholic country with marginal Protestant presence. During its long rule on Italy, Spain systematically spoiled the country and imposed heavy taxation. Moreover, Spanish administration was slow and inefficient.

Austria succeeded Spain as hegemon in Italy after the Peace of Utrecht (1713), having acquired the State of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples. The Austrian domination, thanks to the Enlightenment embraced by Habsburgic emperors, was a considerable improvement. The northern part of Italy, under the direct control of Vienna, gained economic dynamism and intellectual fervour.

The French Revolution and the Napoleonic War (1796-1815) introduced the ideas of equality, democracy, law and nation. The peninsula was not a main battle field as in the past but Napoleon (born in Corsica in 1769, one year after the cession of the island from Genoa to France) changed completely its political map, destroying in 1799 the Republic of Venice, which never recovered its independence. The states founded by Napoleon with the support of minority groups of Italian patriots were short-lived and did not survive the defeat of the French Emperor in 1815.

Risorgimento (1848-1870)

The creation of the Kingdom of Italy was the result of concerted efforts by Italian nationalists and monarchists loyal to the House of Savoy to establish a united kingdom encompassing the entire Italian Peninsula.

The Kingdom of Sardinia industrialised from 1830 onward. A constitution, the Statuto Albertino was enacted in the year of revolutions, 1848, under liberal pressure. Under the same pressure, the First Italian War of Independence was declared on Austria. After initial success the war took a turn for the worse and the Kingdom of Sardinia lost.

After the Revolutions of 1848, the apparent leader of the Italian unification movement was Italian nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi. He was popular amongst southern Italians.[11] Garibaldi led the Italian republican drive for unification in southern Italy, but the northern Italian monarchy of the House of Savoy in the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia whose government was led by Camillo Benso, conte di Cavour, also had the ambition of establishing a united Italian state. Though the kingdom had no physical connection to Rome (deemed the natural capital of Italy), the kingdom had successfully challenged Austria in the Second Italian War of Independence, liberating Lombardy-Venetia from Austrian rule. The kingdom also had established important alliances which helped it improve the possibility of Italian unification, such as Britain and France in the Crimean War.

In 1866 Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck offered Victor Emmanuel II an alliance with the Kingdom of Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War. In exchange Prussia would allow Italy to annex Austrian-controlled Venice. King Emmanuel agreed to the alliance and the Third Italian War of Independence began. The victory against Austria allowed Italy to annex Venice. The one major obstacle to Italian unity remained Rome.

In 1870, Prussia went to war with France starting the Franco-Prussian War. To keep the large Prussian army at bay, France abandoned its positions in Rome in order to fight the Prussians. Italy benefited from Prussia's victory against France by being able to take over the Papal State from French authority. Italian unification was completed, and shortly afterward Italy's capital was moved to Rome.

Liberalism to Fascism (1870-1922)

In Northern Italy, industrialisation and modernisation began in the last part of the nineteenth century. The south, at the same time, was overcrowded, forcing millions of people to search for a better life abroad. It is estimated that around one million Italian people moved to other European countries such as France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. Parliamentary democracy developed considerably in the twentieth century. The Sardinian Statuto Albertino of 1848, extended to the whole Kingdom of Italy in 1861, provided for basic freedoms, but the electoral laws excluded the non-propertied and uneducated classes from voting. In 1913 male universal suffrage was allowed. The Socialist Party became the main political party, outclassing the traditional liberal and conservative organisations. Starting from the last two decades of the nineteenth century, Italy developed its own colonial Empire. Italian colonies were Somalia and Eritrea. In addition, in 1911, Giovanni Giolitti's government agreed to sending forces to occupy Libya. Italy declared war on the Ottoman Empire which held Libya. The annexation of Libya and of the Dodecanese (a group of island in the Aegean Sea) caused nationalists to advocate Italy's domination of the Mediterranean Sea by occupying Greece as well as the Adriatic coastal region of Dalmatia.

The path to a modern liberal democracy was interrupted by World War I. At first Italy stayed neutral, but in 1915, under pressure from the United Kingdom and France, Italy signed the London Pact by which she became an allied belligerent. In return, the two Powers promised that, at the end of the war, Italy would receive Trento, Trieste, Istria, Dalmatia and some territories in Turkey. Italy managed to defeat the Austrian-Hungarian Empire in November 1918, but only with the considerable help of French and British army divisions and the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Army. During the war, 600,000 Italians died and the economy collapsed with high inflation and unemployment. In the Peace treaty, Italy obtained just Trento, Trieste and Istria but not other lands scheduled from the Pact of London, so this victory was defined as "mutilated". Subsequently, after the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922, Italy formally annexed the Dodecanese (Possedimenti Italiani dell'Egeo), that she had occupied during the war.

Fascism and World War II (1922-1945)

After the devastations of World War I, many Italian workers joined lengthy strikes to demand more rights and better working conditions. Some, inspired by the Russian Revolution, began taking over their factories, mills, farms and workplaces. The liberal establishment, fearing a socialist revolution, started to endorse the small National Fascist Party, led by Benito Mussolini, whose violent reaction to the strikes (by means of the "Blackshirts" party militia) was often compared to the relatively moderate reactions of the government. After several years of struggle, in October 1922 the fascists attempted a coup (the "Marcia su Roma", i.e. March on Rome); the fascist forces were largely inferior, but the king ordered the army not to intervene, formed an alliance with Mussolini, and convinced the liberal party to endorse a fascist-led government. Over the next few years, Mussolini (who became known as "Il Duce", Italian for "the leader") eliminated all political parties (including the liberals) and curtailed personal liberties under the pretext of preventing revolution.

In 1935, Mussolini declared war on Ethiopia on a territorial pretext. Ethiopia was subjugated in a few months. This resulted in the alienation of Italy from its traditional allies, France and the United Kingdom, and its support for Nazi Germany. A first pact with Germany was concluded in 1936, and in 1938 (the Pact of Steel). Italy supported Franco's revolution in the Spanish civil war and Hitler's pretensions in central Europe, accepting the annexation of Austria to Germany in 1938, although the disappearance of a buffer state between Germany and Italy was unfavourable for the country.

In October 1938 Mussolini brought together the United Kingdom, France and Germany at the expense of Czechoslovakia's integrity.

On April 7, 1939 Italy occupied Albania, a de-facto protectorate for decades, but in September 1939, after the invasion of Poland, Mussolini decided not to intervene on Germany's side, due to the poor preparation of the armed forces. Italy entered the war in 1940 when France was beaten. Mussolini hoped that Italy would be able to win in a very short time.

Italy invaded Greece in October 1940 via Albania but was forced to withdraw after a few months. After Italy conquered British Somalia in 1940, a counter-attack by the Allies led to the loss of the whole Italian empire in the Horn of Africa. Italy was also defeated by Allied forces in North Africa and was saved only by the German armed forces led by Erwin Rommel.

After several defeats, Italy was invaded in June 1943. King Vittorio Emanuele and a group of fascists set themselves against Mussolini. In July 1943, Mussolini was arrested. As the old pre-Fascist political parties resurfaced, secret peace negotiations with the Allies were started. In September 1943, Italy surrendered. Immediately Germany invaded the country and Italy was divided for almost two years and became a battlefield. The Nazi-occupied part of the country, where a fascist state under Mussolini was reconstituted, saw a savage civil war between Italian partisans ("partigiani") and Nazi and fascist troops. The country was liberated on April 25, 1945. The liberation is still celebrated on April 25.

The First Republic (1946-1992)

In 1946 Vittorio Emanuele III's son, Umberto II, was forced to abdicate. Italy became a Republic after the result of a popular referendum held on June 2, 1946, a day celebrated since as Republic Day. This was the first election in Italy allowing women to vote.[13] The Republican Constitution was approved and came into force on January 1, 1948.

Under the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947, the eastern border area was annexed by Yugoslavia. In 1954, the free territory of Trieste was divided between Italy and Yugoslavia. In 1949 Italy became an ally of the United States, which helped to revive the Italian economy through the Marshall Plan. Moreover, Italy became a member of the European Economic Community, which later transformed into the European Community (EC) and subsequently the European Union (EU). In 1950s and 1960s the country enjoyed prolonged economic growth.

Italy faced political instability in the 1970s, which ended in the 1980s. Known as the Years of Lead, this period was characterised by widespread social conflicts and terrorist acts carried out by extra-parliamentary movements. The assassination of the leader of the Christian Democracy (DC), Aldo Moro, led to the end of a "historic compromise" between the DC and the Communist Party (PCI). In the 1980s, for the first time, two governments were managed by a republican and a socialist (Bettino Craxi) rather than by a member of DC.

At the end of the Lead years, the PCI gradually increased their votes thanks to Enrico Berlinguer. The Socialist party (PSI), led by Bettino Craxi, became more and more critical of the communists and of the Soviet Union; Craxi himself pushed in favour of US president Ronald Reagan's positioning of Pershing missiles in Italy.

In 2000, a Parliament Commission report from The Olive Tree left-of-centre coalition concluded that the strategy of tension had been supported by the United States to "stop the PCI, and to a certain degree also the PSI, from reaching executive power in the country".[14][15] The report was not approved by the right-of-centre coalition. A source in the U.S. Embassy in Rome characterised the report as "allegations that have come up over the last 20 years" and have "absolutely nothing to them", while other commentators deemed it nothing more than "a manoeuvre dictated primarily by domestic political considerations".[16]

The Second Republic (1992-present)

From 1992 to 1997, Italy faced significant challenges as voters disenchanted with political paralysis, massive government debt, extensive corruption, and organized crime's considerable influence collectively called the political system Tangentopoli. As Tangentopoli was under a set of judicial investigations by the name of Mani pulite (Italian for "clean hands"), voters demanded political, economic, and ethical reforms. The Tangentopoli scandals involved all major parties, but especially those in the government coalition: between 1992 and 1994 the DC underwent a severe crisis and was dissolved, splitting up into several pieces, among whom the Italian People's Party and the Christian Democratic Center. The PSI (and the other governing minor parties) completely dissolved.

The 1994 elections also swept media magnate Silvio Berlusconi (leader of "Pole of Freedoms" coalition) into office as Prime Minister. Berlusconi, however, was forced to step down in December 1994 when the Lega Nord withdrew support. The Berlusconi government was succeeded by a technical government headed by Prime Minister Lamberto Dini, which left office in early 1996.

In April 1996, national elections led to the victory of a centre-left coalition under the leadership of Romano Prodi. Prodi's first government became the third-longest to stay in power before he narrowly lost a vote of confidence, by three votes, in October 1998. A new government was formed by Democrats of the Left leader and former communist Massimo D'Alema, but in April 2000, following poor performance by his coalition in regional elections, D'Alema resigned. The succeeding centre-left government, including most of the same parties, was headed by Giuliano Amato (social-democratic), who previously served as Prime Minister in 1992-93, from April 2000 until June 2001. In 2001 the centre-right formed the government and Silvio Berlusconi was able to remain in power for a complete five year mandate, but with two different governments. The first one (2001-2005) became the longest government in post-war Italy. Berlusconi participated in the US-led military coalition in Iraq.

The last elections in 2006 returned a centre-left majority to Italy (albeit a slim one in the Senate), allowing Prodi to form his second government. In the first year of his government, Mr. Prodi has followed a cautious policy of economic liberalization and reduction of public debt. So far Mr. Prodi has resigned because of rejection by the parliament, and President Giorgio Napolitano has dismissed the parliament. New elections will be held in April 2008.

Geography Location: Southern Europe, a peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea, northeast of Tunisia
Geographic coordinates: 42 50 N, 12 50 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 301,230 sq km
land: 294,020 sq km
water: 7,210 sq km
note: includes Sardinia and Sicily
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
Coastline: 7,600 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
Climate: predominantly Mediterranean; Alpine in far north; hot, dry in south
Terrain: 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: coal, mercury, zinc, potash, marble, barite, asbestos, pumice, fluorspar, feldspar, pyrite (sulfur), natural gas and crude oil reserves, fish, arable land
Land use: arable land: 26.41%
permanent crops: 9.09%
other: 64.5% (2005)
Irrigated land: 27,500 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 175 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 41.98 cu km/yr (18%/37%/45%)
per capita: 723 cu m/yr (1998)
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
Environment - international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: strategic location dominating central Mediterranean as well as southern sea and air approaches to Western Europe
Politics

The 1948 Constitution of Italy established a bicameral parliament (Parlamento), consisting of a Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei Deputati) and a Senate (Senato della Repubblica), a separate judiciary, and an executive branch composed of a Council of Ministers (cabinet) (Consiglio dei ministri), headed by the prime minister (Presidente del consiglio dei ministri).

The President of the Italian Republic (Presidente della Repubblica) is elected for seven years by the parliament sitting jointly with a small number of regional delegates. The president nominates the prime minister, who proposes the other ministers (formally named by the president). The Council of Ministers must obtain a confidence vote from both houses of Parliament. Legislative bills may originate in either house and must be passed by a majority in both.

The houses of parliament are popularly and directly elected through a complex electoral system (latest amendment in 2005) which combines proportional representation with a majority prize for the largest coalition (Chamber). All Italian citizens older than 18 can vote. However, to vote for the senate, the voter must be at least 25 or older. The electoral system in the Senate is based upon regional representation. During the elections in 2006, the two competing coalitions were separated by few thousand votes, and in the Chamber the centre-left coalition (L'Unione; English: The Union) got 345 Deputies against 277 for the centre-right one (Casa delle Libertà; English: House of Freedoms), while in the Senate L'Unione got only two Senators more than absolute majority. The Chamber of Deputies has 630 members and the Senate 315 elected senators; in addition, the Senate includes former presidents and appointed senators for life (no more than five) by the President of the Republic according to special constitutional provisions. As of May 15, 2006 there are seven life senators (of which three are former Presidents). Both houses are elected for a maximum of five years, but both may be dissolved by the President before the expiration of their normal term if the Parliament is unable to elect a stable government. In the post war history, this has happened in 1972, 1976, 1979, 1983, 1994, 1996 and 2008.

A peculiarity of the Italian Parliament is the representation given to Italian citizens permanently living abroad (about 2.7 million people). Among the 630 Deputies and the 315 Senators there are respectively 12 and 6 elected in four distinct foreign constituencies. Those members of Parliament were elected for the first time in April 2006 and they have the same rights as members elected in Italy.

The Italian judicial system is based on Roman law modified by the Napoleonic code and later statutes. The Constitutional Court of Italy (Corte Costituzionale) rules on the conformity of laws with the Constitution and is a post-World War II innovation.

People Population: 58,147,733 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 13.8% (male 4,121,246/female 3,874,971)
15-64 years: 66.4% (male 19,527,203/female 19,059,897)
65 years and over: 19.9% (male 4,823,244/female 6,741,172) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 42.5 years
male: 41.1 years
female: 44.1 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.01% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 8.54 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 10.5 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 2.06 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.064 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.025 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.715 male(s)/female
total population: 0.959 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 5.72 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 6.3 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.1 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.94 years
male: 77.01 years
female: 83.07 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.29 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.5% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 140,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 1,000 (2003 est.)
Nationality: 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)
Religions: Roman Catholic 90% (approximately; about one-third regularly attend services), other 10% (includes mature Protestant and Jewish communities and a growing Muslim immigrant community)
Languages: 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)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98.4%
male: 98.8%
female: 98% (2001 census)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Italian Republic
conventional short form: Italy
local long form: Repubblica Italiana
local short form: Italia
former: Kingdom of Italy
Government type: republic
Capital: name: Rome
geographic coordinates: 41 54 N, 12 29 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions: 15 regions (regioni, singular - regione) and 5 autonomous regions* (regioni autonome, singular - regione autonoma); Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia*, Lazio (Latium), Liguria, Lombardia, Marche, Molise, Piemonte (Piedmont), Puglia (Apulia), Sardegna* (Sardinia), Sicilia*, Toscana (Tuscany), Trentino-Alto Adige* (Trentino-South Tyrol), Umbria, Valle d'Aosta* (Aosta Valley), Veneto
Independence: 17 March 1861 (Kingdom of Italy proclaimed; Italy was not finally unified until 1870)
National holiday: Republic Day, 2 June (1946)
Constitution: passed 11 December 1947, effective 1 January 1948; amended many times
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
Suffrage: 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 (referred to in Italy as the president of the Council of Ministers) Romano PRODI (since 17 May 2006) note - PRODI resigns after no confidence vote in the Senate on 24 January 2008, but retains his office until new prime minister is named; when men named by President NAPOLITANO cannot form a government acceptable to Parliament, NAPOLITANO dissolves parliament and calls for new elections on April 13
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
election results: Giorgio NAPOLITANO elected president on the fourth round of voting; electoral college vote - 543
Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Parlamento consists of the Senate or Senato della Repubblica (315 seats; members elected by proportional vote with the winning coalition in each region receiving 55% of seats from that region; to serve five-year terms) and the Chamber of Deputies or Camera dei Deputati (630 seats; members elected by popular vote with the winning national coalition receiving 54% of chamber seats; to serve five-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held 9-10 April 2006 (next to be held 13 April 2008); Chamber of Deputies - last held 9-10 April 2006 (next to be held in May 2011)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - The Union 159 (DS 62, DL 39, RC 27, Together with the Union 11, other 20), House of Freedoms 156 (FI 79, AN 41, UDC 21, LEGA 13, other 2); Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - The Union 349 (DS and DL 218, RC 41, Rose in the Fist 18, Italy of Values 20, PdCI 16, Greens Federation 16, UDEUR 14, other 6), House of Freedoms 281 (FI 134, AN 72, Union of Christian and Center Democrats 39, LEGA 23, other 13)
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)
Political parties and leaders: Center-Left Union Coalition [Romano PRODI]: Ulivo Alliance (including Democrats of the Left or DS [Piero FASSINO] (along with the DL merged into the Democratic Party or PD); Daisy-Democracy is Freedom or DL [Francesco RUTELLI] (along with the DS merged into the Democratic Party or PD)); Rose in the Fist (including Italian Social Democrats or SDI [Enrico BOSELLI]; Italian Radical Party [Emma BONINO]); Together with the Union (including Italian Communist Party or PdCI [Oliviero DILIBERTO]; Green Federation [Alfonso PECORARO SCANIO]; United Consumers); Communist Renewal or RC [Fausto BERTINOTTI]; Italy of Values or IdV [Antonio DI PIETRO]; Union of Democrats for Europe or UDEUR [Clemente MASTELLA]; Republican European Movement or MRE [Luciana SBARBATI]
Center-Right Freedom House Coalition [Silvio BERLUSCONI]: Forza Italia or FI [Silvio BERLUSCONI]; National Alliance or AN [Gianfranco FINI]; Union of Christian Democrats and Centrist Democrats or UDC [Pier Ferdinando CASINI]; Northern League or LEGA [Umberto BOSSI]; Christian Democracy (Per la Autonomie) [Gianfranco ROTONDI]
other non-allied parties: New Italian Socialist Party or New PSI [Gianni DE MICHELIS]; Italian Republican Party or PRI [Giorgio LA MALFA]; Social Alternative [Alessandra MUSSOLINI]; Social Movement-Tricolor Flame or MSI-Fiamma [Luca ROMAGNOLI]; Social Idea Movement with Rauti or MIS [Pino RAUTI]; South Tyrol People's Party or SVP (German speakers) [Elmar Pichler ROLLE]; Union of Valley Aosta Region or UV [Guido CESAL]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Italian manufacturers and merchants associations (Confindustria, Confcommercio); organized farm groups (Confcoltivatori, Confagricoltura); Roman Catholic Church; three major trade union confederations (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro or CGIL [Guglielmo EPIFANI] which is left wing, Confederazione Italiana dei Sindacati Lavoratori or CISL [Raffaele BONANNO], which is Roman Catholic centrist, and Unione Italiana del Lavoro or UIL [Luigi ANGELETTI] which is lay centrist)
International organization participation: ADB (nonregional members), AfDB, Arctic Council (observer), Australia Group, BIS, BSEC (observer), CBSS (observer), CDB, CE, CEI, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, EIB, EMU, ESA, EU, FAO, G- 7, G- 8, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAIA (observer), MIGA, MINURSO, NAM (guest), NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, Schengen Convention, SECI (observer), UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, Union Latina, UNMOGIP, UNRWA, UNTSO, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WEU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Giovanni CASTELLANETA
chancery: 3000 Whitehaven Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 612-4400
FAX: [1] (202) 518-2151
consulate(s) general: Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco
consulate(s): Detroit
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Ronald P. SPOGLI
embassy: Via Vittorio Veneto 121, 00187-Rome
mailing address: PSC 59, Box 100, APO AE 09624
telephone: [39] (06) 46741
FAX: [39] (06) 488-2672, 4674-2356
consulate(s) general: Florence, Milan, Naples
Flag description: three equal vertical bands of green (hoist side), white, and red; similar to the flag of Ireland, which is longer and is green (hoist side), white, and orange; also similar to the flag of the Cote d'Ivoire, which has the colors reversed - orange (hoist side), white, and green; inspired by the French flag brought to Italy by Napoleon in 1797
Culture

Italy, as a state, did not exist until the unification of the country in 1861. Due to this comparatively late unification, and the historical autonomy of the regions that comprise the Italian Peninsula, many traditions and customs that we now recognise as distinctly Italian can be identified by their regions of origin. Despite the political and social isolation of these regions, Italy's contributions to the cultural and historical heritage of Europe remain immense. Italy is home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (41) to date.

Visual Art

Italy has been a seminal place for many important artistic and intellectual movements that spread throughout Europe and beyond, including the Renaissance and Baroque. Italy's vast artistic heritage includes the achievements of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Bernini, Titian and Raphael, among many others.

Literature

With the basis of the modern Italian language established through the Florentine poet, Dante Alighieri, whose greatest work, the Divina Commedia, is considered amongst the foremost literary statements produced in Europe during the Middle Ages, there is no shortage of celebrated literary figures; the writers and poets Giovanni Boccaccio, Giacomo Leopardi, Alessandro Manzoni, Torquato Tasso, Ludovico Ariosto, and Petrarch, whose best known vehicle of expression, the sonnet, was invented in Italy. Prominent philosophers include Giordano Bruno, Marsilio Ficino, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Giambattista Vico. Modern literary figures and Nobel laureates are nationalist poet Giosuè Carducci in 1906, realist writer Grazia Deledda in 1926, modern theatre author Luigi Pirandello in 1936, poets Salvatore Quasimodo in 1959 and Eugenio Montale in 1975, satiryst and theatre author Dario Fo in 1997.[26]

Science

In science, Galileo Galilei made advancements toward the scientific revolution, and Leonardo da Vinci was the quintessential Renaissance Man. Italy has been the home of scientists and inventors: the physicist Enrico Fermi, leader of the team that built the first nuclear reactor; the astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini; the physicist Alessandro Volta, inventor of the electric battery; the mathematicians Lagrange and Fibonacci; Nobel Prize in Physics laureate Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the radio; and Antonio Meucci, candidate for inventor of the telephone.

Giacomo Puccini

From folk music to classical, music has played an important role in Italian culture. Having given birth to opera, Italy provides many of the foundations of the classical music tradition. Instruments associated with classical music, including the piano and violin, were invented in Italy, and many of the existing classical music forms can trace their roots back to innovations of sixteenth and seventeenth century Italian music (such as the symphony, concerto, and sonata). Italy's most famous composers include the Renaissance composers Palestrina and Monteverdi, the Baroque composers Alessandro Scarlatti, Corelli and Vivaldi, the Classical composers Paganini and Rossini, and the Romantic composers Verdi and Puccini. Modern Italian composers such as Berio and Nono proved significant in the development of experimental and electronic music.

Sport

Popular sports include football, basketball (2nd national team sport since the '50s), volleyball, waterpolo, fencing, rugby, cycling, ice hockey (mainly in Milan, Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto), roller hockey and F1 motor racing.

Winter sports are most popular in the Northern regions, with Italians competing in international games and Olympic venues. Sports are incorporated into Italian festivities like Palio (see also Palio di Siena), and the Gondola race (regatta) that takes place in Venice on the first Sunday of September.

Sports venues have extended from the Gladiatorial games of Ancient Rome in the Colosseum to the Stadio Olimpico of contemporary Rome, where football clubs compete.

The most popular sport in Italy is football, the Serie A being one of the most famous competitions in the world.

Economy Economy - overview: 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.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $1.8 trillion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $2.068 trillion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 1.9% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $31,000 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 1.9%
industry: 28.8%
services: 69.3% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 24.86 million (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 5%
industry: 32%
services: 63% (2001)
Unemployment rate: 6.7% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.3%
highest 10%: 26.8% (2000)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 33 (2005)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1.7% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 20.6% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $976 billion
expenditures: $1.029 trillion (2007 est.)
Public debt: 105.6% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: fruits, vegetables, grapes, potatoes, sugar beets, soybeans, grain, olives; beef, dairy products; fish
Industries: tourism, machinery, iron and steel, chemicals, food processing, textiles, motor vehicles, clothing, footwear, ceramics
Industrial production growth rate: 1.3% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 278.5 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 78.6%
hydro: 18.4%
nuclear: 0%
other: 3% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 307.1 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 1.109 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 50.26 billion kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 164,800 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption: 1.732 million bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 521,400 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 2.182 million bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 621.7 million bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 11.49 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 82.64 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 379.8 million cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 70.45 billion cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 217.3 billion cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$57.94 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $474.8 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: engineering products, textiles and clothing, production machinery, motor vehicles, transport equipment, chemicals; food, beverages and tobacco; minerals, and nonferrous metals
Exports - partners: Germany 13.2%, France 11.7%, US 7.6%, Spain 7.3%, UK 6.1% (2006)
Imports: $483.6 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: engineering products, chemicals, transport equipment, energy products, minerals and nonferrous metals, textiles and clothing; food, beverages, and tobacco
Imports - partners: Germany 16.7%, France 9.2%, Netherlands 5.6%, China 5.2%, Belgium 4.2%, Spain 4.1% (2006)
Economic aid - donor: ODA, $1 billion (2002 est.)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $69 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external: $2.345 trillion (30 June 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $294.8 billion (2006 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad: $375.8 billion (2006 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $798.2 billion (2005)
Currency (code): 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
Currency code: EUR
Exchange rates: euros per US dollar - 0.7345 (2007), 0.7964 (2006), 0.8041 (2005), 0.8054 (2004), 0.886 (2003)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 25.049 million (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 71.5 million (2005)
Telephone system: general assessment: modern, well developed, fast; fully automated telephone, telex, and data services
domestic: high-capacity cable and microwave radio relay trunks
international: country code - 39; a series of submarine cables provide links to Asia, Middle East, Europe, North Africa, and US; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (with a total of 5 antennas - 3 for Atlantic Ocean and 2 for Indian Ocean), 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic Ocean region), and NA Eutelsat
Radio broadcast stations: AM about 100, FM about 4,600, shortwave 9 (1998)
Radios: 50.5 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 358 (plus 4,728 repeaters) (1995)
Televisions: 30.3 million (1997)
Internet country code: .it
Internet hosts: 4.117 million (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 93 (Italy and Holy See) (2000)
Internet users: 28.855 million (2006)
Transportation Airports: 132 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 101
over 3,047 m: 7
2,438 to 3,047 m: 32
1,524 to 2,437 m: 15
914 to 1,523 m: 34
under 914 m: 13 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 31
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 11
under 914 m: 19 (2007)
Heliports: 5 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 18,863 km; oil 1,258 km (2007)
Railways: total: 19,460 km
standard gauge: 18,038 km 1.435-m gauge (11,354 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 123 km 1.000-m gauge (123 km electrified); 1,299 km 0.950-m gauge (161 km electrified) (2006)
Roadways: total: 484,688 km
paved: 484,688 km (includes 6,621 km of expressways) (2004)
Waterways: 2,400 km
note: used for commercial traffic; of limited overall value compared to road and rail (2006)
Merchant marine: total: 604 ships (1000 GRT or over) 12,529,192 GRT/13,150,989 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 53, cargo 46, carrier 1, chemical tanker 141, combination ore/oil 1, container 32, liquefied gas 33, livestock carrier 3, passenger 17, passenger/cargo 156, petroleum tanker 40, refrigerated cargo 4, roll on/roll off 35, specialized tanker 14, vehicle carrier 28
foreign-owned: 62 (Denmark 2, France 5, Germany 1, Greece 13, Sweden 1, Switzerland 5, Taiwan 11, Turkey 1, UK 7, US 16)
registered in other countries: 169 (Bahamas 1, Belize 4, Bolivia 1, Cayman Islands 10, Cyprus 5, France 2, Gibraltar 1, Greece 1, Isle of Man 1, Liberia 31, Malta 45, Marshall Islands 3, Norway 4, Panama 10, Portugal 11, Singapore 4, Slovakia 1, Spain 1, St Vincent and The Grenadines 19, Sweden 7, Turkey 3, UK 4) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Augusta, Genoa, Livorno, Ravenna, Sarroch, Taranto, Trieste, Venice
Military Military branches: Army (Esercito Italiano, EI), Navy (Marina Militare Italiana, MMI), Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana, AMI), Carabinieri Corps (Corpo dei Carabinieri, CC) (2005)
Military service age and obligation: 18-27 year of age for voluntary military service; conscription abolished January 2005; women may serve in any military branch; 10-month service obligation, with a reserve obligation to age 45 (Army and Air Force) or 39 (Navy) (2006)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 13,491,260
females age 18-49: 12,886,033 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 10,963,513
females age 18-49: 10,452,189 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 286,344
females age 18-49: 270,099 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 1.8% (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: Italy's long coastline and developed economy entices tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from southeastern Europe and northern Africa
Illicit drugs: important gateway for and consumer of Latin American cocaine and Southwest Asian heroin entering the European market; money laundering by organized crime and from smuggling