Population: 58.5 milion

Capital: Roma (Rome) (2,553,873 inhabitants)

Area: 301,337 square kilometres Borders: France in the north-west, Switzerland and Austria in the north and Slovenia in the north-east.

Provinces: 109

Coastline: 7,375 km

Highest peak: Monte Bianco (4,810 m)

Longest river: Po (652 km)

Italy’s capitol Rome was the 11th-most-visited city in the world in 2007 and the most popular tourist attraction in Italy. Rome’s historic centre is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and the monuments and museums such as the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum are amongst the world’s 50 most visited tourist destination

Geography Italy’s landscape is one of variety. It is characterised by two mountain chains: the Alps and the Apennines. The Alps, 600 miles from East to West consists of great massifs in the western sector with peaks rising to over 14,000 feet, including Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc), Monte Rosa and Cervino (the Matterhorn). At the foot of the Alpine arc the vast Po Valley plain, divided down the middle by the river Po, is the longest in Italy (390 miles). The Alpine foothills are characterized by large lakes: Lake Maggiore and the lakes of Como, Iseo and Garda.

The Apennines form the backbone of the peninsula of Italy, and stretches in a wide arc concave to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Corno Grande (Gran Sasso d’Italia) is the highest peak. A large part of central Italy is characterized by a green hilly landscape, through which the rivers Arno and Tevere (Tiber) run.

Languages

Italian is the language of the majority of the population but there are minorities speaking German, French, Slovene and Ladino.

Industry and land use.

Italy,s main form of industry is tourism, machinery, iron and steel, chemicals, food processing, textiles, motor vehicles, clothing, footwear, and ceramics. Main exports are mechanical products, textiles and apparel, transportation equipment, metal products, chemical products, food and agricultural products. Italy’s natural resources are fish and natural gas. Agriculturally, the northern part of Italy produces primarily grains, sugar beets, soybeans, meat, and dairy products, while the south specialises in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, wine, and durum wheat.

Food Specialities

Italy’s cuisine varies considerably between the North and the South of the country. The Northern dishes have been influenced by their close neighbour France. There is a greater use of butter, cream and milk is used to make many cheese varieties. In addition to fresh egg pasta, rice (arborio) used in risotto and corn (for polenta) beef and veal are frequently the main focus of the dishes.

The highlight of southern Italy’s cuisine is pasta with light, olive oil-based sauces that utilize the local crop of tomatoes and other vegetables. Pork, lamb and shellfish are featured in many dishes. Cheeses such as provolone and mozzarella are frequently incorporated. Italians are known for their use of herbs in cooking, especially oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, rosemary, and sage. Cheese also plays an important role in Italian cuisine. There are more than 400 types of cheese made in Italy, with Parmesan, mozzarella, and asiago among the best known worldwide. Prosciutto ham, the most popular ingredient of the Italian antipasto (first course) was first made in Parma, a city that also gave its name to Parmesan cheese. A typical Italian meal is made up of small courses. This starts with an antipasto (appetizer) followed by two main courses primo and second usually served with a side salad. Meals end with fruit and cheese and dolce (dessert).

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