Driving Directions Italy
ITALY is a republic in southern Europe, which comprises a large peninsula and the two main islands of Sicily (Sicilia) and Sardinia (Sardegna). The huge peaks of the Alps and the Dolomites form Italy’s northern border with France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia.
Towards the mountains’ foothills lie several large lakes, of which the most famous are Maggiore, Como, and Garda. The Adriatic Sea to the east separates Italy from the countries of former Yugoslavia. The fertile Plain of Lombardy lies to the south of the Alps. Numerous rivers rise in the northern mountains, and many become tributaries of the great River Po, which flows eastwards and drains the Lombardy Plain before emptying into the Adriatic Sea.
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South of the Plain of Lombardy lies the familiar long “boot” of peninsular Italy, which comprises most of the country. The toe of the boot turns south and then southwest to “kick” the island of Sicily from which separated by the narrow distance (3 kilometers or 2 miles) of the Strait of Messina.
The Apennine Mountains extend down the peninsula’s length, the highest peak being Mount Como (2,912 meters or 9,560 feet), which is situated west of Pescara in the central region. The principal rivers of the peninsula are the Arno, which flows through Florence (Firenze) and Pisa, and the Tiber (Tevere), which runs through Rome (Roma).
Italy’s climate is exceedingly varied according to both location and altitude, but generally, the country enjoys warm, dry summers and mild winters.
In the northern mountains, coniferous trees and Alpine flora, as well as ibex, chamois, marmots, and birds of prey, can be found. In the Apennine Mountains, pine and fir trees grow at higher levels, with cypress, oaks, and chestnut trees on the lower slopes.
In lower and southern areas with a Mediterranean climate, olive, date, orange, lemon, almond, fig, and pomegranate trees are found. In the hilly, densely wooded, and sparsely populated southern part of Italy, wolves, wild boar, and (very occasionally) bears are among the animal inhabitants.
Agriculture remains important to the Italian economy employing about 12 percent of the workforce. Italy is one of the leading producers in Europe of wine and olive oil. Peaches, nectarines, oranges, lemons, pomegranates, almonds, melons, dates, figs, apples, and tomatoes are among the fruits that are grown and exported. Many cereal crops are also grown, and the dairy industry produces many famous kinds of cheese, such as Parmesan and Gorgonzola. The coastal waters are rich in marine life, and anchovy, sardine, and tuna are of commercial importance.
The Italians transformed their economy after the Second World War, embarking upon a rapid industrialization process and the development of manufacturing from an entirely agricultural base. This has been a largely successful process and has been all the more noteworthy given that the country is poor in fossil fuel reserves.
However, there is a considerable divide between the rich, developed, and urban north and the poorer agricultural south. There have been rural depopulation in the more affluent towns and cities.
Although there is a lack of natural resources, almost 60 percent of the land is under crops and pasture, and there is an abundance of building stone, particularly marble. Industrial production includes textiles and cotton, leather goods and shoes, chemicals, foodstuffs, cars, and electrical goods.
Tourism is also an important contributor to the economy.
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Although Italy has many different subregions, it can be divided into the following four major regions: the territory north of the peninsula; the peninsula as far south as Campagnia and Apulia; the southernmost part of the peninsula (commonly called the Mezzogiorno); and the islands. Traditionally, a broader distinction has been made between the more industrialized and “European” north region of Italy and the more rural, “Mediterranean” south.
Four seas surround the Italian peninsula: the Adriatic, Ionian, Ligurian, and Tyrrhenian Seas. There is almost no spot in Italy that lies farther than 120 kilometers (75 miles) from a coastline. At its deepest point, the Ionian Sea reaches 4.4 kilometers (2.75 miles), the greatest depth recorded in Mediterranean waters.
Did you know about Italy?
The currents that blow across the Strait of Messina, between the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas, were personified as the monsters Scylla and Charybdis in Homer’s Odyssey. Scylla was located on the Calabrian coast, and Charybdis was situated on the coast of Sicily.
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