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Editors: Timothy L. Gall and Derek M. Gleason
Date: 2012
Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations
From: Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations(Vol. 5: Europe. 13th ed.)
Publisher: Gale, a Cengage Company
Document Type: Country overview
Pages: 19
Content Level: (Level 4)

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Italian Republic
Repubblica Italiana


CAPITAL: Rome (Roma)

FLAG: The national flag is a tricolor of green, white, and red vertical stripes.

ANTHEM: Il Canto degli Italiani (The Song of the Italians).

MONETARY UNIT: The euro replaced the lira as the official currency in 2002. The euro is divided into 100 cents. There are coins in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents and 1 euro and 2 euros. There are notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros. €1 = US$1.33750 (or US$1 = €0.74766) as of 2011.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Epiphany, 6 January; Liberation Day, 25 April; Labor Day, 1 May; Assumption, 15 August; All Saints' Day, 1 November; National Unity Day, 5 November; Immaculate Conception, 8 December; Christmas, 25 December; St. Stephen's Day, 26 December. Easter Monday is a movable holiday. In addition, each town has a holiday on its Saint's Day.

TIME: 1 p.m. = noon GMT.


Situated in southern Europe, the Italian Republic, including the major islands of Sicily (Sicilia) and Sardinia (Sardegna), covers a land area of 301,225 sq km (116,303 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Italy is slightly larger than the state of Arizona. The boot-shaped Italian mainland extends into the Mediterranean Sea with a length of 1,185 km (736 mi) SE–NW and a width of 381 km (237 mi) NE–SW. It is bordered on the N by Switzerland and Austria, on the NE by Slovenia, on the E by the Adriatic and Ionian seas, on the W by the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian seas, and on the NW by France, with a total land boundary length of 1,932 km (1,200 mi) and a coastline of 7,600 km (4,712 mi).

Situated off the toe of the Italian boot, Sicily has a surface area of 25,708 sq km (9,926 sq mi). Sardinia, which is about 320 km (200 mi) NW of Sicily, covers an area of some 24,090 sq km (9,300 sq mi). Within the frontiers of Italy are the sovereign Republic of San Marino, with an area of 61.2 sq km (23.6 sq mi), and the sovereign state of Vatican City, which covers 44 hectares (108.7 acres).

A dispute over Trieste, a 518-sq-km (200-sq-mi) area situated at the head of the Adriatic Sea, was resolved in 1954 when Italy assumed the administration of the city and harbor of Trieste, while Yugoslavia controlled the rural hinterlands of the Istrian Peninsula. A treaty of October 1975 made the partition permanent. Today Trieste lies on the Italian border with Slovenia.

Italy's capital city, Rome, is located in the west-central part of the country.


Except for the fertile Po River Valley in the north and the narrow coastal belts farther south, Italy's mainland is generally mountainous, with considerable seismic activity. During Roman times, the city of Pompeii, near present-day Naples (Napoli), was devastated first by an earthquake in AD 63 and then by the famed eruption of Mt. Vesuvius (1,277 m/4,190 ft) in AD 79. In the last century, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in the Calabrian-Sicilian region occurred in December 1908 that leveled the cities of Reggio di Calabria and Messina and left about 100,000 dead. A quake in the south on 23 November 1980 (and subsequent aftershocks) claimed at least 4,500 lives. On 5 April 2009, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck the Abruzzo region in central Italy, leaving about 55,000 people homeless and some 300 people dead.

The Alpine mountain area in the north along the French and Swiss borders includes three famous lakes—Como, Maggiore, and Garda—and gives rise to six small rivers that flow southward into the Po. Italy's highest peaks are found in the northwest in the Savoy Alps, the Pennines, and the Graian chain. They include Mont Blanc (4,807 m/15,771 ft), on the French border; Monte Rosa (Dufourspitze, 4,634 m/15,203 ft) and the Matterhorn (Monte Cervino, 4,478 m/14,692 ft), on the Swiss border; and Gran Paradiso (4,061 m/13,323 ft). Marmolada (3,342 m/10,965 ft), in northeast Italy, is the highest peak in the Dolomites. In 2009 the Dolomites were inscribed as a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mountains feature a wide variety of rock formations, glacial landforms, and karst systems. The site is home to one of the best-preserved examples of a carbonate platform (a sedimentary rock formation containing fossil records) dating back to the Mesozoic period. The highest point in the Apennines is Corno Grande (2,912 m/9,554 ft). Vesuvius is the only active volcano on the European mainland.

At the foot of the Alps, the Po River, the only large river in Italy, flows from west to east, draining plains covering about 17% of Italy's total area and forming the agricultural and industrial heartland. The Apennines, the rugged backbone of peninsular Italy, rise to form the southern border of the Po Plain. Numerous streams and a few small rivers, including the Arno and the Tiber (Tevere), flow from the Apennines to the west coast.

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While altitudes are lower in southern Italy, the Calabrian coast is still rugged. Among the narrow, fertile coastal plains, the Plain of Foggia in northern Apulia, which starts along the Adriatic, and the more extensive lowland areas near Naples, Rome, and Livorno (Leghorn) are the most important. The mountainous western coastline forms natural harbors at Naples, Livorno, La Spezia, Genoa (Genova), and Savona, and the low Adriatic coast permits natural ports at Venice (Venezia), Bari, Brindisi, and Taranto.

Sicily, separated from the mainland by the narrow Strait of Messina, has the Madonie Mountains, a continuation of the Apennines, and the Plain of Catania, the largest plain on the island. Mount Etna (3,369 m/11,053 ft) is an isolated and active volcano in the northeast.

Sardinia, in the Tyrrhenian Sea, is generally mountainous and culminates in the peak of Gennargentu (1,834 m/6,017 ft). The largest and most fertile plains are the Campidano in the south and the Ozieri in the north. The principal bay is Porto Torres in the Gulf of Asinara.


Climate varies with elevation and region. Generally, however, Italy is included between the annual isotherms of 11 and 19°C (52 and 66°F). The coldest period occurs in December and January, the hottest in July and August. In the Po Plain, the average annual temperature is about 13°C (55°F); in Sicily, about 18°C (64°F); and in the coastal lowlands, about 14°C (57°F). The climate of the Po Valley and the Alps is characterized by cold winters, warm summers, and considerable rain, falling mostly in spring and autumn, with snow accumulating heavily in the mountains. The climate of the peninsula and of the islands is Mediterranean, with cool, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. Mean annual rainfall varies from about 50 cm (20 in) per year, on the southeast coast and in Sicily and Sardinia, to over 200 cm (80 in), in the Alps and on some westerly slopes of the Apennines. Frosts are rare in the sheltered western coastal areas, but severe winters are common in the Apennine and Alpine uplands.


Plants and animals vary with area and altitude. The World Resources Institute estimates that there are 5,599 plant species in Italy. Mountain flora is found above 1,980 m (6,500 ft) in the Alps and above 2,290 m (7,500 ft) in the Apennines. The highest forest belt consists of conifers; beech, oak, and chestnut trees grow on lower mountain slopes. Poplar and willow thrive in the Po Plain. On the peninsula and on the larger islands, Mediterranean vegetation predominates: evergreens, holm oak, cork, juniper, bramble, laurel, myrtle, and dwarf palm.

In addition, Italy is home to 132 mammal, 478 bird, 55 reptile, and 45 amphibian species. This calculation reflects the total number of distinct species, not the number of endemic species. Although larger mammals are scarce, chamois, ibex, and roe deer are found in the Alps, and bears, chamois, and otters inhabit the Apennines. Ravens and swallows are characteristic birds of Italy. Abundant marine life inhabits the surrounding seas.


Italy has been slow to confront its environmental problems. Most of the burden of environmental planning and enforcement falls on regional authorities. According to the World Resources Institute, as of 2006 Italy had designated 1.94 million hectares (4.78 million acres) of land for protection. The principal antipollution statute is Law No. 319 of 1976 (the Merli Law), which controls the disposal of organic and chemical wastes; enforcement, however, has proved difficult.

Air pollution is a significant problem in Italy, especially for industrial cities in the north. The United Nations reported in 2008 that Italy's carbon dioxide emissions totaled 445,119 thousand metric tons, which was the twelfth-highest total in the world that year. Per capita emissions were 7.5 metric tons.

Water pollution is another important environmental issue in Italy. The nation's rivers and coasts have been polluted by industrial and agricultural contaminants and its lakes contaminated by acid rain. Facilities for the treatment and disposal of industrial wastes are inadequate. In 2006 the World Resources Institute reported that water resources totaled 175 cu km (41.98 cu mi), while water usage was 41.98 cu km (10.07 cu mi) per year. Agricultural water usage accounted for 45% of total use, industrial for 37%, and domestic water use for 18%. Per capita water usage totaled 723 cu m (25,533 cu ft) per year.

Long-term environmental threats were highlighted by a disastrous flood in November 1966, which damaged priceless art treasures and manuscripts in Florence (Firenze). The sinking of the island-city of Venice is another serious problem. The digging of artesian wells in the nearby mainland cities of Mestre and Marghera so lowered the water table that the Venetian islands sank at many times the normal annual rate of 4 mm (0.16 in) a year between 1900 and 1975; with the wells capped as a protective measure, Venice's normal sinkage rate was restored, although there is still danger. Rome has implemented a project designed to protect the Roman Forum and other ancient monuments from the vibration and pollution of motor vehicles.

According to a 2011 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species in Italy included 7 mammals, 7 birds, 4 reptiles, 9 amphibians, 47 fish, 72 mollusks, 47 species of other invertebrates, and 65 species of plants. Threatened species include the Sicilian fir, the black vulture, the spotted eagle, the wild goat, the great white shark, and the redbreasted goose. The Sardinian pika is extinct.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated the population of Italy in 2011 to be approximately 61,016,804, which placed it at number 23 in population among the 196 nations of the world. In 2011, approximately 20.3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 13.8% under 15 years of age. The median age in Italy was 43.5 years. There were 0.96 males for every female in the country. The population's annual growth rate was 0.42%. Population density in Italy was calculated at 202 people per sq km (525 people per sq mi).

The UN estimated in 2010 that 68% of the population lived in urban areas, and that urban populations had an annual rate of change of 0.5%. The largest urban areas, along with their respective populations, included Rome, 3.4 million; Milan, 3 million; Naples, 2.3 million; Turin, 1.7 million; and Palermo, 872,000.

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LOCATION: 4705 to 3638 N; 637 to 1831 E. BOUNDARY LENGTHS: Switzerland, 744 kilometers (462 miles); Austria, 430 kilometers LOCATION: 47°05′ to 36°38′ N; 6°37′ to 18°31′ E. BOUNDARY LENGTHS: Switzerland, 744 kilometers (462 miles); Austria, 430 kilometers (267 miles); Slovenia, 209 kilometers (130 miles); total coastline including islands of Sicily and Sardinia, 7,458 kilometers (4,634 miles); France, 514 kilometers (320 miles). TERRITORIAL SEA LIMIT: 12 miles.


Emigration, which traditionally provided relief from overpopulation and unemployment, now represents only a fraction of the millions of Italians who emigrated during the two decades prior to 1914. From 1900 to 1914, 16 of every 1,000 Italians left their homeland each year; by the late 1970s, that proportion had declined to about 1.5 per 1,000. Estimates of Italy's net migration rate, carried out by the CIA in 2011, amounted to 4.86 migrants per 1,000 citizens. The total number of emigrants living abroad was 3.48 million, and the total number of immigrants living in Italy was 4.46 million. The overall impetus to emigrate has been greatly reduced by economic expansion within Italy itself and by the shrinking job market in other countries, especially Germany.

In 2009 parliament approved a law that makes illegal immigration a criminal offense and increases the penalties imposed on those who are charged. Under the new law, illegal immigrants may be punished by a fine of up to $14,200 and may be detained

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for up to six months. Criminalizing illegal immigration allows police to make arrests more easily, which can accumulate to deportation. The most controversial measure of the law is one that allows for the organization of unarmed citizen patrols to assist police in maintaining order while tracking down illegal immigrants. People who knowingly house illegal immigrants can be sentenced to up to three years in prison. The law was passed as a response to the growing number of immigrants pouring into the country.

In early 2011, political unrest in Tunisia and Libya caused a number of North Africans to flee to the Italian island of Lampedusa. From January through March 2011, more than 6,000 refuges landed on the island.


Historically, Italy has been the home of various peoples: Lombards and Goths in the north; Greeks, Saracens, and Spaniards in Sicily and the south; Latins in and around Rome; and Etruscans and others in central Italy. For centuries, however, Italy has enjoyed a high degree of ethnic homogeneity. The chief minority groups are the German-speaking people in the Alto Adige (South Tyrol) region and the Slavs of the Trieste area.


Italian, the official language, is spoken by the vast majority of people. While each region has its own dialect, Tuscan, the dialect of Tuscany, is the standard dialect for Italian. French is spoken in parts of Piedmonte and in Valle d'Aosta, where it is the second official language; Slovene is spoken in the Trieste-Gorizia area. German is widely used in Bolzano Province, or South Tyrol (part of the Trentino-Alto Adige region), which was ceded by Austria in 1919, and under agreements reached between Italy and Austria in 1946 and 1969, the latter oversees the treatment of these German-speakers, who continue to call for greater linguistic and cultural autonomy.


An estimated 85% of native-born Italian citizens claim to be members of the Roman Catholic faith; however, only about one-third are active participants. Non-Catholic Christian groups, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Baha'is, and Buddhists each account for less than 5% of the population. The most prominent non-Catholic Christian communities include Orthodox Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Assemblies of God, the Confederation of Methodist and Waldensian Churches, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). There are also other small Protestant groups represented. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution, and that right is generally respected in practice. Roman Catholicism, confirmed as the state religion under the Lateran Treaty of 1929, lost that distinction under a concordat with the Vatican ratified in 1984. However, the Catholic Church continues to hold a privileged status within the state and receives some government subsidies. Other religious groups may apply for an intesa, which allows for some state funding for those communities through a voluntary check-off on taxpayer returns. As of 2010, the Confederation of Methodist and Waldensian Churches, Adventists, Assemblies of God, Jews, Baptists, and Lutherans all utilized this funding process. All religious groups may apply for legal recognition, which comes with tax-exempt benefits. There have been some reports of social discrimination against Jews and Muslims.


The CIA reports that Italy has a total of 487,700 km (303,043 mi) of paved roads. Italy's highway system, considered one of the world's best, has expressways that carry heavy traffic along such routes as Milan-Como-Varese, Venice-Padua, Naples-Salerno, and Milan-Bologna-Florence-Rome-Naples. A major highway runs through the Mont Blanc Tunnel, connecting France and Italy. There are 673 vehicles per 1,000 people in the country.

The government owns and operates 80% of the rail system, the Italian State Railway (Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane SpA), including the principal lines. Railroads extend for 16,959 km (10,538 mi). Connections with French railways are made at Ventimiglia, Tenda, and Mont Cenis; with the Swiss, through the Simplon and St. Gotthard passes; with the Austrian, at the Brenner Pass and Tarvisio; and with the Slovenian, through Gorizia.

Italy has approximately 2,400 km (1,491 mi) of navigable water-ways. The navigable inland waterway system is mainly in the north and consists of the Po River, the Italian lakes, and the network of Venetian and Po River Valley canals. There is regular train-ferry and automobile-ferry service between Messina and other Sicilian ports. Freight and passengers are carried by ship from Palermo to Naples. Sardinia and the smaller islands are served by regular shipping. Regular passenger service is provided by hydrofoil between Calabria and Sicily, and between Naples, Ischia, and Capri.

As of 2010, Italy had 667 merchant vessels of 1,000 gross registered tons (GRT) or more. Genoa and Savona on the northwest coast and Venice on the Adriatic handle the major share of traffic to and from the northern industrial centers. Second only to Genoa, Naples is the principal port for central and southern Italy, while Livorno is the natural outlet for Florence, Bologna, and Perugia. Messina, Palermo, and Catania are the chief Sicilian ports, and Cagliari handles most Sardinian exports.

There are 132 airports, which transported 33.19 million passengers in 2009 according to the World Bank. There are also six heliports. Italy's one national airline, Alitalia, which is almost entirely government-owned, maintains an extensive domestic and international network of air routes. Rome's Fiumicino (also known as Leonardo da Vinci) and Milan's Malpensa and Linate are among the most important airports, being served by nearly every major international air carrier.


The Italian patrimony, based on Roman antecedents—with a tradition that extends over 2,500 years—is the oldest in Europe, next to Greece's. The Ligurians, Sabines, and Umbrians were among the earliest known inhabitants of Italy, but in the 9th century BC they were largely displaced in central Italy by the Etruscans, a seafaring people probably from Asia Minor. Shortly thereafter, the Phoenicians and Greeks conquered parts of Sicily and southern Italy. By 650 BC, Italy was divided into ethnic areas, with the Umbrians in the north, Ligurians in the northwest, Latins and Etruscans in the central regions, and Greeks and Phoenicians in the south and Sicily. The Etruscan civilization, a great maritime, commercial, and artistic culture, reached its peak about the 7th century BC, but its control in Italy was in decline by 509 BC when the Romans

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overthrew their Etruscan monarchs. After a series of wars with both Greeks and Etruscans, the Latins, with Rome as their capital, gained the ascendancy by 350 BC, and they managed to unite the entire Italian peninsula by 272 BC.

This period of unification was followed by one of conquest, beginning with the First Punic War against Carthage (264–241 BC). In the course of their century-long struggle against Carthage, the Romans conquered Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. Finally, at the conclusion of the Third Punic War in 146 BC, with Carthage completely destroyed and its inhabitants enslaved, Rome became the dominant power in the Mediterranean. After overthrowing the last kings, Rome had become a republican city-state, but four famous civil conflicts destroyed the republic: Sulla against Marius and his son (88–82 BC), Julius Caesar against Pompey (49–45 BC), Brutus and Cassius against Mark Antony and Octavian (43 BC), and Mark Antony against Octavian. Octavian, the final victor (31 BC), was accorded the title of Augustus (“exalted”) by the Senate and became the first Roman emperor. Under imperial rule, Rome undertook a series of conquests that brought Roman law, administration, and the Pax Romana (“Roman Peace”) to an area extending from the Atlantic to the Rhine, from the British Isles to large parts of North Africa, and to the Middle East as far as the Euphrates.

In the 3rd century AD, after two centuries of successful rule, Rome was threatened by internal discord and menaced by Germanic and Asian invaders, commonly called barbarians (from the Latin word barbari, “foreigners”). The emperor Diocletian's administrative division of the empire into two parts in 285 provided only temporary relief. In 313 the emperor Constantine accepted Christianity, and the religion spread throughout the empire. He also moved his capital from Rome to Constantinople, greatly reducing the importance of the former. From the 4th to the 5th century, the Western Roman Empire disintegrated under the blows of barbarian invasions, finally falling in 476, and the unity of Italy came to an end. For a time, Byzantine emperors attempted to reconquer Italy but could not hold the peninsula. Continuing conflicts between the Western (Latin) and Eastern (Greek) Christian churches culminated in a schism in 1054, when the pope and eastern patriarch excommunicated one another.

From the 6th to the 13th century, Italy suffered a variety of invasions and rulers: the Lombards in the 6th century, the Franks in the 8th century, the Saracens in the 9th, and the Germans in the 10th. The German emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, the popes, and the rising Italian city-states vied for power from the 10th to the 14th century, and Italy was divided into several, often hostile, territories: in the south, the Kingdom of Naples, under Norman and Angevin rule; in the central area, the Papal States; and in the north, a welter of large and small city-states, such as Venice, Milan, Florence, and Siena.

By the 13th century, the city-states had emerged as centers of commerce and of the arts and sciences. Venice, in particular, had become a major maritime power, and many city-states acted as a conduit for goods and learning from the Byzantine and Islamic empires. In this capacity, they provided great impetus to developing the Renaissance, which between the 13th and 16th centuries led to an unparalleled flourishing of the arts, literature, music, and science. However, the emergence of Portugal and Spain as great seagoing nations at the end of the 15th century undercut Italian prosperity. After the Italian Wars (1494–1559), in which France tried unsuccessfully to extend its influence in Italy, Spain emerged as the dominant force in the region. Venice, Milan, and other city-states retained at least some of their former greatness during this period, as did Savoy-Piedmont, protected by the Alps and well defended by its vigorous rulers.

Economic hardship, waves of the plague, and religious unrest tormented the region throughout the 17th century and into the 18th. Napoleon brought the French Revolution to the Italian peninsula, and concepts such as nationalism and liberalism infiltrated everywhere. Short-lived republics and even a Kingdom of Italy (under Napoleon's stepson Eugene) were formed. But reaction set in with the Congress of Vienna (1815), and many of the old rulers and systems were restored under Austrian domination. Nationalistic sentiment remained strong, however, and sporadic outbreaks led by such inveterate reformers as Giuseppe Mazzini occurred in several parts of the peninsula until 1848–49. This Risorgimento (“resurgence”) movement was brought to a successful conclusion under the able guidance of Count Camillo Cavour, prime minister of Piedmont. Cavour managed to unite most of Italy under the headship of Victor Emmanuel II of the house of Savoy, and on 17 March 1861, the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed, with Victor Emmanuel II as king. Giuseppe Garibaldi, the popular republican hero of Italy, contributed much to this achievement and to the subsequent incorporation of the Papal States under the Italian monarch. Italian troops occupied Rome in 1870, and in July 1871, it formally became the capital of the kingdom, although Pope Pius IX, a longtime rival of Italian kings, considered himself a “prisoner of the Vatican” and refused to cooperate with the royal administration.

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The 20th Century

The new monarchy aspired to great-power status but was severely handicapped by domestic social and economic conditions, particularly in the south. Political and social reforms introduced by Premier Giovanni Giolitti in the first decade of the 20th century improved Italy's status among Western powers but failed to overcome such basic problems as poverty and illiteracy. Giolitti resigned in March 1914 and was succeeded by Antonia Salandra. During World War I, Italy initially allied with the Central Powers, then declared itself neutral in 1914 and a year later, in April 1915, joined the British and French in exchange for advantages offered by the secret Treaty of London. Although Italy had suffered heavy losses on the Alpine front, at the Versailles Peace Conference it failed to obtain all the territories it claimed and felt slighted by its Western allies.

This disappointment, coupled with the severe economic depression of the postwar period, created great social unrest and led eventually to the rise of Benito Mussolini, who, after leading his Fascist followers in a mass march on Rome, became premier in 1922. He established a Fascist dictatorship that scored early successes in social welfare, employment, and transportation. In 1929, Mussolini negotiated the Lateran Treaties, under which the Holy See became sovereign within the newly constituted state of Vatican City (Città del Vaticano), and Roman Catholicism was reaffirmed as Italy's official religion, although the latter provision was abolished in 1984. The military conquest of Ethiopia (1935–36)

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added to Italy's colonial strength and exposed the inability of the League of Nations to punish aggression or keep the peace.

Italy allied with Germany in World War II, but defeats in Greece and North Africa, plus the Allied invasion of Sicily, toppled Mussolini's regime on 25 July 1943. Soon Italy was divided into two warring zones, one controlled by the Allies in the south and the other (including Rome) held by the Germans, who had rescued Mussolini and established him as head of the puppet “Italian Social Republic.” When German power collapsed, Mussolini was captured and executed by Italian partisans.

The conclusion of the war left Italy poverty-stricken and politically disunited. In 1946, Italy became a republic by plebiscite; in the following year, a new constitution was drafted, which went into effect in 1948. Under the peace treaty of 10 February 1947, Italy was required to pay $360 million in reparations to the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Greece, Ethiopia, and Albania. By this time, the Italian economy, initially disorganized by Mussolini's dream of national self-sufficiency and later physically devastated by the war, was in a state of near collapse. By the early 1950s, however, with foreign assistance (including $1.517 billion from the United States under the Marshall Plan), Italy managed to restore its economy to prewar levels. From this point, the Italian economy experienced unprecedented development through the 1960s and 1970s.

Politically, postwar Italy was marked by a pattern of accelerating instability, with 48 different coalition governments through 15 March 1988. In May 1981, the coalition of Prime Minister Arnaldo Forlani was brought down after it was learned that many government officials, including three cabinet ministers, were members of a secret Masonic lodge, Propaganda Due (P-2), that had reportedly been involved in illegal right-wing activities. Left-wing terrorism, notably by the Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse), also plagued Italy in the 1970s and early 1980s. In January 1983, 23 Red Brigade members were sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with the kidnapping and murder of Prime Minister Aldo Moro in 1978; another 36 members received sentences of varying lengths for other crimes, including 11 murders and 11 attempted murders, committed between 1976 and 1980. By the mid-1980s, the Mafia actively engaged in extortion, government corruption, and violent crime, in addition to its central role in global heroin trafficking.

By 1986, however, internal security had improved. A major effort against organized crime was underway in the mid-1980s; over 1,000 suspects were tried and the majority convicted in trials that took place in Naples beginning in February 1985 and in Sicily beginning in February 1986.

Revelations of corruption and scandals involving senior politicians, members of the government administration, and business leaders rocked Italy in the early 1990s. Hundreds of politicians, party leaders, and industrialists were either under arrest or under investigation. The scandals discredited the major parties that had governed Italy since 1948, and the instability gave impetus to new reformist groups.

In August 1993, Italy made significant changes in its electoral system. Three-fourths of the seats in both the Chamber and the Senate would be filled by simple majority voting. The remainder would be allocated by proportional representation to those parties securing at least 4% of the vote. The first elections under the new system in March 1994 resulted in a simplification of electoral alliances and brought a center-right government to power. Silvio Berlusconi, founder of the “Go Italy” (Forza Italia) movement, emerged as prime minister. Berlusconi, a successful Italian businessman, was a newcomer to Italian politics. He was supported by the Alliance for Freedom coalition, which had received over 42% of the vote and 366 seats.

Berlusconi's government, however, became victim to charges of government corruption, and on 22 December 1994 he was forced to resign in the face of a revolt by the Northern League, one of the parties in his ruling coalition. Three weeks after Berlusconi's resignation, his treasury minister, Lamberto Dini was named prime minister. He formed a government of technocrats and set about to enact fiscal and electoral reforms. Pragmatism and a lack of viable alternatives kept him in power until supporters of Berlusconi, his main political rival, presented a motion that he step down. When Dini learned that two splinter groups in his center-left coalition (the Greens and the Communist Refounding party) would not vote in his favor, he resigned on 11 January 1996 rather than face a no-confidence vote.

The elections, held on 21 April 1996, saw a center-left coalition, dominated by the former communists (DS), take control of the country for the first time in 50 years. Romano Prodi, an economics professor with little political experience, was chosen to serve as prime minister on 16 May. His coalition government collapsed after it failed to win a vote of no-confidence over the budget. President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro asked Massimo D'Alema, the leader of the DS, to form a new administration. His cabinet retained the same members from the left and center as before. This government also continued to pursue fiscal consolidation to join European economic and monetary union in 1999. Prodi left for Brussels to take up the presidency of the European Commission in May 1999. D'Alema reshuffled his cabinet in 1999, but it finally fell in April 2000. The immediate cause was the dismal performance in regional elections. The center-left won 7 out of 15 regions while the right, under the leadership of Silvio Berlusconi, took 8 regions.

The coalition of 12 discordant political blocs backed the treasury minister, Giuliano Amato, to become the new prime minister (appointed by then-President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi). Prior to the fall of the D'Alema administration, the government had scheduled an important referendum to scrap the last remaining vestiges of direct proportional representation in the electoral system. Only one-third of the electorate bothered to vote on 21 May 2000, not enough to validate the referendum outcome.

Berlusconi's House of Liberties coalition, led by Go Italy, secured 368 seats in the Chamber of Deputies in the May 2001 parliamentary elections, to the Olive Tree coalition's 242 seats. (The House of Liberties coalition also won a majority in the senate.) After becoming Italy's 59th postwar prime minister, Berlusconi faced long-standing charges of criminal wrongdoing, including bribery; he became the first sitting Italian prime minister to appear at his own trial. It was not until December 2004 that Berlusconi was cleared of all charges.

Italy offered the use of its airspace and military bases to the U.S.-led coalition in its war with Iraq, which began on 19 March 2003, although Italy did not initially send troops to the region and did not allow coalition forces to launch a direct attack on Iraq from Italy. Some 75% of Italians opposed the use of military force against the Saddam Hussein regime, but Berlusconi adopted a position of solidarity with the U.S.-led coalition. Troops were

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later sent to Iraq. In January 2006, the Italian defense minister announced Italian troops would leave Iraq. The mission ended in September 2006.

In April 2005, Berlusconi's government coalition collapsed after suffering a crushing defeat in regional elections. Berlusconi resigned, but days later he formed a new government after receiving a presidential mandate. In April 2006, Romano Prodi, a leader of the center left, won closely-fought general elections. He was sworn in as prime minister in May. In February 2007, Prodi resigned after the government lost a senate vote on its foreign policy. The president, Giorgio Napolitano, asked Prodi to remain in office, and Prodi went on to win confidence votes in both houses of parliament. However, in January 2008 the Prodi government fell when small coalition partner UDEUR (the Union of Democrats for Europe) withdrew support. The president dissolved parliament and Berlusconi returned to power after defeating former Rome mayor Walter Veltroni in elections during April 2008. Berlusconi's winning coalition was composed of the People of Liberty (a union of Forza Italia and National Alliance), the Northern League, and the Movement for Autonomy. Berlusconi was sworn in as prime minister on 8 May 2008.

During his years in office, Berlusconi gained a reputation for his alleged involvement in numerous political and sexual scandals. Throughout his political career, he has been involved in nearly 2,500 legal hearings. While he had initially been found guilty in some cases regarding illegal party financing, corruption, bribery, tax fraud, and false accounting, he later won those cases on appeal. Other cases either ended in acquittal or were dropped as the case expired under the statute of limitations. Facing considerable political and public pressure due to Italy's burgeoning public debt, Berlusconi resigned on 12 November 2011 after the Italian parliament passed austerity measures intended to relieve the country's debt crisis. Berlusconi's replacement, Mario Monti, took office on 16 November 2011. Monti was chosen due to his considerable economic expertise and was charged with guiding the Italian economy through its fiscal crisis.


In a plebiscite on 2 June 1946, the Italian people voted (12.7 million to 10.7 million) to end the constitutional monarchy, which had existed since 1861, and establish a republic. At the same time, a constituent assembly was elected, which proceeded to draft and approve a new constitution; it came into force on 2 January 1948. Under this constitution, as amended, the head of the Italian Republic is the president, who is elected for a seven-year term by an electoral college consisting of both houses of parliament and 58 regional representatives. Elections for a new president must be held 30 days before the end of the presidential term. Presidential powers and duties include nomination of the prime minister (referred to as president of the Council of Ministers) who, in turn, chooses a Council of Ministers (cabinet) with the approval of the president; the power to dissolve parliament, except during the last six months of the presidential term of office; representation of the state on important occasions; ratification of treaties after parliamentary authorization; and the power to grant pardons and commute penalties. Although the constitution limits presidential powers, a strong president can play an important political as well as ceremonial role.

Legislative power is vested in the bicameral parliament, consisting of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Members of the 630-seat lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, must be at least 25 years old and are elected for five-year terms. The 315 elected members of the Senate must be at least 40 years old and are elected for five-year terms. Former presidents of the republic are automatically life senators, and the president may also appoint as life senators persons who have performed meritorious service. Citizens must be at least 25 years of age to vote for senators; otherwise, those over the age of 18 may vote in all other elections.

In August 1993, Italy made significant changes in its electoral system. Three-fourths of the seats in both the chamber and the senate would be filled by simple majority voting. The remainder would be allocated by proportional representation to those parties securing at least 4% of the vote. The new system simplified electoral alliances.

The constitution gives the people the right to hold referenda to abrogate laws passed by the parliament. On 21 May 2000, Italian voters were asked to decide on electoral reform by increasing the number of lower house seats filled on the basis of a non-proportional system to 100%, effectively scrapping the last remaining element of pure proportional representation. The referendum needed to secure a quorum of 50% of the electorate to gain validity. The final turnout of 32% was much lower than expected and was an alarming sign of voter fatigue and popular disaffection. In June 2006, voters in a national referendum rejected reforms intended to increase the powers of the prime minister and regions.


Italy has a complex system of political alignments in which the parties, their congresses, and their leaders often appear to wield more power than parliament or the other constitutional branches of government. Basic party policy is decided at the party congresses—generally held every second year—which are attended by locally elected party leaders. At the same time, the national party leadership is selected.

The most important political party traditionally had been the Christian Democratic Party (Partito Democrazia Cristiana—DC), which stood about midway in the political spectrum. From 1948 until 1981, the prime minister of Italy was consistently drawn from the ranks of the DC, whose religious and anti-class base constituted both its strength and its weakness. Its relationship with the Church gave it added strength but also opened it to criticism, as did its popular association with the mafia. In 1992, investigations uncovered widespread corruption, leading to many arrests and resignations of senior government officials. As a result of these scandals and corruption charges, the DC disbanded in 1994.

To the right and the left of the DC stood a wide range of parties, the most prominent of which was the Italian Communist Party (Partito Comunista Italiano—PCI), the largest Communist party in Western Europe at the time. The PCI had been second in power and influence only to the DC, but its electoral base declined in the 1980s, despite the fact that it effectively severed its ties with both the former Soviet Union and Marxism-Leninism.

Of all the parties of the mid to late 20th century, the most powerful, in addition to the DC and PCI, were the Italian Socialist Party

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(Partito Socialista Italiano—PSI), the Italian Socialist Democratic Party (Partito Socialista Democratico Italiano—PSDI), the Italian Republican Party (Partito Repubblicano Italiano—PRI), the Italian Liberal Party (Partito Liberale Italiano—PLI), the Radical Party (Partito Radicale), the Italian Social Movement, (Movimento Sociale Italiano—MSI), the Proletarian Democracy (Democrazia Proletaria—DP), and the environmentalist Greens party. The end of the Cold War and the mafia crackdown in the 1990s led to an overhaul of the political party system so significant that, although there was little actual constitutional change, the post-1992 period is often referred to as the “Second Republic.”

A rise in the number of political parties has led to the domination of coalition parties. The April 1996 election saw a resurgence of the left as the Olive Tree coalition, anchored by former communists calling themselves the Party of the Democratic Left (PDS), gained 284 seats in the 630-seat Chamber of Deputies and 157 seats in the 315-seat Senate. The domination of the center-left came to an end in the May 2001 election when Berlusconi's right-leaning coalition, Freedom House (formerly the House of Liberties), won 368 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, and 177 in the Senate. In elections held in April 2006, Berlusconi was narrowly defeated by Romano Prodi, leader of the center-left Union bloc. The Union bloc, composed of the Olive Tree coalition, the Rose in the Fist coalition, the Communist Refounding, and 11 other smaller parties, won 49.8% of the vote and secured 348 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The Prodi government fell in January 2008 when the small coalition partner UDEUR (the Union of Democrats for Europe) withdrew support. In response, Silvio Berlusconi launched a coalition composed of the People of Liberty (PdL—a union of Forza Italia and National Alliance), the Northern League (LN), and the Movement for Autonomy (MpA); the parties ran together under the People of Liberty symbol in the 13–14 April 2008 elections. Berlusconi's coalition dominated in the April 2008 elections, earning 174 seats in the senate (PdL 147, LN 25, MpA 2) and 344 seats in the chamber (PdL 276, LN 60, MpA 8). The opposition coalition led by Walter Veltroni won 132 seats in the senate and 246 seats in the chamber. The election greatly simplified parliament, dramatically reducing the numbers of parties, and, for the first time since World War II, left communist parties out of parliament.

In the summer of 2010, the speaker of parliament, Gianfranco Fini, dropped out of Berlusconi's People of Liberty Party and established his own Future and Freedom for Italy party. Berlusconi managed to survive a vote of confidence in September 2010. But in November, the deputy minister and three other ministers who had aligned with Fini resigned from their posts.

These resignations signaled a lack of support from Berlusconi's coalition partners, who scheduled a vote of confidence in both the lower and upper houses of parliament for 14 December. Berlusconi survived the vote in the senate by a clear margin, but barely won the house vote with a count of 314 to 311. Following parliamentary passage of austerity measures to mitigate Italy's debt crisis, Berlusconi resigned on 16 November 2011. He was replaced by Monti on 16 November.

Giorgio Napolitano of the Democrats of the Left was elected president in 2006 after a fourth round of voting in the electoral college. The next presidential election was scheduled for May 2013.


Under the terms of the 1948 constitution, Italy is divided into 20 regions. Five of these regions (Sicily, Sardinia, Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and the Valle d'Aosta) have been granted semiautonomous status, although the powers of self-government delegated from Rome have not been sufficient to satisfy the militant separatists, especially in Alto Adige. Legislation passed in 1968 granted the remaining 15 regions an even more limited degree of autonomy. All the regions elect a regional council. The councils and president are elected by universal franchise under a proportional system analogous to that of the parliament at Rome.

The regions are subdivided into a total of 94 provinces, which elect their own council and president, and each region is in turn subdivided into communes—townships, cities, and towns—that constitute the basic units of local administration. Communes are governed by councils elected by universal suffrage for a four-year term. The council elects a mayor and a board of aldermen to administer the commune. A commissioner in each region represents the federal government.


Minor legal matters may be brought before conciliators, while civil cases and lesser criminal cases are tried before judges called pretori. There are 159 tribunals, each with jurisdiction over its own district; 90 assize courts, where cases are heard by juries; and 26 assize courts of appeal. The Court of Cassation in Rome acts as the last instance of appeal in all cases except those involving constitutional matters, which are brought before the special Constitutional Court (consisting of 15 judges). For many years, the number of civil and criminal cases has been increasing more rapidly than judicial resources.

The Italian legal system is based on Roman law, although much is also derived from the French Napoleonic model. The law assuring criminal defendants a fair and public trial is largely observed in practice. The 1989 amendments to the criminal procedure law both streamlined the process and provided for a more adversarial (as opposed to inquisitorial) system along the American model.

By law the judiciary is autonomous and independent of the executive branch. In practice, there has been a perception that magistrates were subject to political pressures and that political bias of individual magistrates could affect outcomes. Since the start of “clean hands” investigations of the government, including the judiciary, in 1992 for kickbacks and corruption, magistrates have taken steps to distance themselves from political parties and other pressure groups.

In October 2009 the Constitutional Court issued a landmark ruling that overturned the law granting legal immunity to the prime minister while serving in office. The immunity law had been pushed through parliament in 2008, largely at the urging of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Under the law, legal immunity was granted to the president, prime minister, and two parliamentary speakers while they served in office. Supporters claimed that the law was necessary to allow these officials to govern without the distraction of the judiciary. A group of prosecutors issued an appeal to the Constitutional Court, which declared the law unconstitutional

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in a vote of nine to six, stating that it violated the constitutional principle that all citizens are equal under the law.


The International Institute for Strategic Studies reported that armed forces in Italy totaled 184,609 members in 2011. The force is comprised of 107,500 from the army, 34,000 from the navy, and 43,109 members of the air force. Armed forces represented 1.3% of the labor force in Italy. Defense spending totaled $32 billion and accounted for 1.8% of GDP. Since 1949 Italy, as a member of NATO, has maintained large and balanced modern forces. Italian armed forces were deployed among 19 countries or regions in various peacekeeping, training, or active military missions.


Italy has been a member of the United Nations since 14 December 1955 and participates in the ECE and several UN nonregional specialized agencies, such as FAO, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNHCR, IFC, WHO, and the World Bank. It is a member of the Council of Europe, the European Union, NATO, and the OECD. Italy held the EU presidency from July to December 2003. Italy also participates in the Asian, African, Caribbean, European, and the Inter-American development banks, and is a part of G-7, G-8, and G-10. The country holds observer status in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Zone, the OAS, and the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA).

Italy is a guest in the Nonaligned Movement. The country has supplied troops for UN operations and missions in Kosovo (est. 1999), Lebanon (est. 1978), India and Pakistan (est. 1949), and Ethiopia and Eritrea (est. 2000), among others. Italy belongs to the Australia Group, the Zangger Committee, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group), the Nuclear Energy Agency, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

In environmental cooperation, Italy is part of the Antarctic Treaty; the Basel Convention; Conventions on Biological Diversity, Whaling, and Air Pollution; Ramsar; CITES; the London Convention; International Tropical Timber Agreements; the Kyoto Protocol; the Montréal Protocol; MARPOL; the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change and Desertification.


As the Italian economy, one of the world's largest, has expanded since the 1950s, its structure has changed markedly. Agriculture, which in 1953 contributed 25% of the GNP and employed 35% of the labor force, contributed only 11% of the GNP and employed only 22% of the active labor force in 1968. Agriculture's contribution to the GDP further declined to only 1.8% in 2010. Conversely, the importance of industry has increased dramatically. Industrial output almost tripled between 1953 and 1968 and generally showed steady growth during the 1970s; in 2010, industry (including fuel, power, and construction) contributed 24.9% to the GDP. Precision machinery and motor vehicles have led the growth in manufacturing, and Italy has generally been a leader in European industrial design and fashion. Apart from tourism and design, Italy is not internationally competitive in most service sectors.

Despite this economic achievement, a number of basic problems remain. Natural resources are limited, landholdings often are poor and invariably too small, industrial enterprises are of minimal size and productivity, and industrial growth has not been translated into general prosperity. Italy is almost totally dependent on energy imports. In addition, because economic activity is centered predominately in the north, Italians living in the northern part of the country enjoy a substantially higher standard of living than those living in the south.

Partly because of increased energy costs, inflation increased from an annual rate of about 5% in the early 1970s to an annual average of 16.6% during 1975–81, well above the OECD average. Inflation was brought down to 14.6% in 1983 and to between 4 and 6% during most of the 1990s. The inflation rate was estimated at 1.4% in 2010.

From 1981 through 1983, Italy endured a period of recession, with rising budget deficits, interest rates above 20%, virtually no real GDP growth, and an unemployment rate approaching 10%. Unemployment hovered around the 10 to 12% range for most of the 1990s and at 9% into the 2000s. In 2010 it measured 8.4%. Between 1985 and 1995, GDP growth averaged 1.9% a year. Recessions in 2008 (GDP decline of -1.3%) and 2009 (-5.2%) gave way to modest growth in 2010 (1.3%).

Italy's large public debt, public sector deficit, low productivity growth, and burdensome and complex tax system are generally blamed for the poor state of the economy. A rigid labor market and generous pension system are also seen as responsible for a sluggish economy. The Berlusconi administration abolished an inheritance tax in 2002, a move popular among affluent Italians. Berlusconi also attempted to loosen labor laws to increase temporary work contracts and to ease hiring and firing practices.

With a reliance on export income, Italy's economy took a major hit during the 2008–09 global financial crisis. By 2010 the government had taken a number of cost-cutting measures. Cuts in public sector pay and pension plans were among the first unpopular measures taken by the government. The government approved austerity measures worth $31 billion for the 2011–12 budget.


The CIA estimated that in 2010 the GDP of Italy was $1.8 trillion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of the exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $30,500. The annual growth rate of GDP was 1.3%. The average inflation rate was 1.4%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 1.8% of GDP, industry 24.9%, and services 73.3%. According to the World Bank, remittances from citizens living abroad totaled $2.7 billion or about $44 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.1% of GDP.

The World Bank reports that in 2009, household consumption in Italy totaled $1.27 trillion or about $20,753 per capita, measured in current US dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding the

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purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that household consumption was growing at an average annual rate of 1.7%.

As of 2011 the most recent study by the World Bank reported that actual individual consumption in Italy was 70.9% of GDP and accounted for 3.09% of world consumption. By comparison, the United States accounted for 25.44% of world individual consumption. The World Bank also estimated that 10.5% of Italy's GDP was spent on food and beverages, 16.9% on housing and household furnishings, 4.7% on clothes, 8.5% on health, 8.0% on transportation, 1.7% on communications, 4.5% on recreation, 5.9% on restaurants and hotels, and 5.7% on miscellaneous goods and services and purchases from abroad.


As of 2010, Italy had a total labor force of 24.98 million people. Within that group, the CIA estimated in 2005 that 65.1% were employed in the service sector, 30.7% in industry, and 4.2% in agriculture. The law provides the right to form and join unions, and many workers exercise this right. According to union claims, between 35% and 40% of the nation's workforce was unionized as of 2010. About 47% of the labor force was covered by collective bargaining agreements. The right to strike is constitutionally protected. Employers may not discriminate against those engaged in union activity.

As of 2010, the legal workweek was set at 40 hours, with overtime not to exceed 2 hours per day or an average of 12 hours per week. However, in the industrial sector, maximum overtime was set at no more than 80 hours per quarter and 250 hours annually, unless limited by a collective bargaining agreement. Minimum wages in Italy are not set by law, but through collective labor contracts, which establish wages and salaries in every major field. In most industries these minimum rates offered a worker and family a decent standard of living. Labor contracts may also call for additional compulsory bonuses, and basic wages and salaries are adjusted quarterly to compensate for increases in the cost of living. With some limited exceptions, children under age 15 are prohibited by law from employment.


Approximately 36% of Italy's total land is dedicated to agriculture. Major crops include fruits, vegetables, grapes, potatoes, sugar beets, soybeans, grain, and olives. Small, individually owned farms predominate, with the majority 3 hectares (7.4 acres) or less. Despite government efforts, the agricultural sector has shown little growth in recent decades. In 2009 cereal production amounted to 17.4 million tons, fruit production 18.2 million tons, and vegetable production 14.2 million tons.

The land is well suited for raising fruits and vegetables, both early and late crops, and these are the principal agricultural exports. Although yields per hectare in sugar beets, tomatoes, and other vegetable crops have increased significantly, both plantings and production of wheat declined between 1974 and 1981. Thus, although Italy remains a major cereal-producing country, wheat must be imported. The government controls the supply of domestic wheat and the import of foreign wheat.


The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that Italy dedicated 3.6 million hectares (8.96 million acres) to permanent pasture or meadow in 2009. During that year, the country tended 120 million chickens, 6.4 million head of cattle, and 9.3 million pigs. The production from these animals amounted to 1.43 million tons of beef and veal, 2.66 million tons of pork, 940,279 tons of poultry, 689,002 tons of eggs, and 15.2 million tons of milk. In addition, Italy produced 121,000 tons of cattle hide and 8,535 tons of raw wool. Meat production falls short of domestic requirements, and about half of all meat consumed must be imported. Dairy farming remains comparatively undeveloped. Both dairy and beef cattle are raised mainly in the north. Both a growing need for fodder and insufficient domestic production compel Italy to import large amounts of corn.


Italy's geography provides abundant access to marine fishing. In 2008 the annual capture totaled 235,785 tons according to the UN FAO. Peninsular Italy and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia together have over 8,000 km (4,900 mi) of coastline and over 800 landing ports equipped for fishing boats. Italy had 18,779 decked commercial fishing boats in 2008. There are also 1,500 sq km (580 sq mi) of lagoons and 1,700 sq km (650 sq mi) of marine ponds.

Although coastal and deep-sea fishing in the Mediterranean engage over 50,000 fishermen, the fishing industry is unable to meet domestic needs. Since the extension of the 200-mile-limit zones and the consequent drop in the total catch, Italy's fishing industry has declined because their deep-sea vessels are not suited to Mediterranean fishing. Up to 50% of the Italian fish harvest is not officially recorded but sold directly to restaurants, wholesalers, and fishmongers. Anchovy, rainbow trout, sardine, and European hake are the main finfish species caught. Sponges and coral are also commercially important. The main commercial fishing ports are Mazara del Vallo, Palermo, San Benedetto del Tronto, Chioggia-Venezia, and Genoa.

There are over a thousand intensive production fish farms that belong to the Italian Fish Farming Association, with most located in northern Italy.


Approximately 31% of Italy is covered by forest. The major portion of the 10 million hectares (24.7 million acres) of forest is in the Alpine areas of northern Italy; few extensive forests grow in central or southern Italy or on the islands. Italy has more softwood than hardwood growth and extensive coppice (thicket and small shrub) stands. The overall forest structure consists of 42% coppice stands, 26% softwoods, and 25% hardwood high stands. The only species that are commercially important are chestnut, beech, oak, and poplar. The UN FAO estimated the 2009 value of all forest products at $4.72 billion. Roundwood production was estimated at 2.6 million cu m (91.8 million cu ft). Poplar is the only species grown using managed forestry practices. Poplar plantations account for only 1% of the total forest area but about half of domestic wood output. Virtually all of Italian forest product exports consist

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of wooden furniture, semifinished wood products, and other finished wood products.


Although Italy is relatively poor in mineral resources, it is, nevertheless, a major producer of feldspar, pumice and related materials, as well as of crude steel, cement, and a leading producer of dimension stone and marble. The country also continued to supply a significant portion of its own need for some minerals. Industrial mineral production in 2009, including construction materials, is one of the most important sectors of the economy. Italy has been a significant processor of imported raw materials, and a significant consumer and exporter of mineral and metal semi-manufactured and finished products.

Production totals for the leading minerals in 2009 were feldspar, estimated at 4,700,000 metric tons; barite, estimated at 3,500 metric tons; hydraulic cement, estimated at 36.3 million tons; pumice and pumiceous lapilli, estimated at 30,000 tons (from Lipari Island, off the northern coast of Sicily); and pozzolan, estimated at 4 million tons (from Lipari). Alumina production (calcined basis) in 2009 was estimated at 752,853 metric tons. In addition, Italy produced antimony oxides, gold (from Sardinia), mine lead, mine manganese, bromine, crude clays (including bentonite, refractory, fuller's earth, kaolin, and kaolinitic earth), diatomite, gypsum, lime, nitrogen, perlite, mineral pigments, salt (marine, rock, and brine), sand and gravel (including volcanic and silica sands), soda ash, sodium sulfate, stone (alabaster, dolomite, granite, limestone, marble, marl, quartz, quartzite, sandstone, serpentine, and slate), sulfur, and talc and related materials.

Marble and travertine quarrying from the famous mines in the Massa and Carrara areas was still significant. Marble was quarried at hundreds of locations from the Alps to Sicily. The most important white-marble-producing area was in the Apuan Alps, near Carrara, and accounted for one-third of the country's 4.6 million metric tons of white marble. Important colored-marble-producing areas included the Lazio region, Lombardy, the Po Valley, Puglia, Sicily, Venice, and Verona-Vincenza. Reserves of several types were considered to be unlimited; half of the country's output was in block form, and half was exported.


The World Bank reported that in 2008 Italy produced 313.5 billion kWh of electricity and consumed 338.7 billion kWh, or 5,551 kWh per capita. Roughly 90% of energy came from fossil fuels, while 5% came from alternative fuels. Italy must rely heavily on foreign sources to meet its energy needs.

According to the CIA, Italy has proven oil reserves estimated at 476.5 million barrels as of 2011. Oil production totaled 96,005 barrels of oil per day. However, domestic demand far outstrips production, with consumption in 2010 estimated at 1.528 billion barrels a day. Per capita oil consumption was 2,942 kg. Net imports were estimated at 1.8 million barrels a day in 2009.

Italy's National Hydrocarbon Agency (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi), or ENI, is the country's largest oil and national gas company, in which the government holds a controlling 35% stake. More than 70% of ENI's production comes from the Val d'Agri project in the south of Italy, the Villafortuna project in the north, and from the Aquila project off the Adriatic coast in the southeast. Development of the Tempa Rossa field, with an estimated 200 million barrels of oil, is being led by France's Total, with production expected to start in 2015.

Oil has been partly replaced by natural gas, whose consumption is expected to continue rising in the future, driven largely by the construction of combined-cycle, gas-fired turbines. Italy has proven natural gas reserves of 2.245 trillion cu ft, as of 2011. Natural gas production in 2010 totaled 293 billion cu ft. Combined with declining field output, Italy's reliance on natural gas imports has increased.

In 2001 Italy completely closed down its domestic coal production industry, when it shuttered its last production facility.


Characterized both by a few large industrial concerns controlling the greater part of industrial output and by thousands of small shops engaged in artisan-type production, Italian industry expanded rapidly in the postwar period. Industrial production almost tripled between 1955 and 1968 and has generally showed continued growth, although the global recession of 2001 slowed industrial production and the economy as a whole. The lack of domestic raw materials and fuels represents a serious drag on industrial expansion. Industry accounted for 24.9% of GDP in 2010, and employed 30.7% of the labor force.

Three state-holding companies have played a large role in industry: ENI, IRI (Industrial Reconstruction Institute), and EFIM (Agency for Participation and Financing of Manufacturing I-dustry). EFIM controlled armaments and metallurgy industries. Debt-ridden EFIM was liquidated, IRI became dismantled in 2002, and the state has continued to reduce its stake in ENI and Ente Nazionale per l'Energia Elettrica (Enel), the national electricity company. Major private companies are the Fiat automobile company; the Olivetti company (office computers and telecommunications); the Montedison chemical firm; and the Pirelli rubber company. The bulk of heavy industry continues to be concentrated in the northwest, in the Milan-Turin-Genoa industrial triangle, despite concerted government efforts to attract industry to the underdeveloped southeast.

Italy has become known for niche products, including fashion eye-wear, specialized machine tools, packaging, stylish furniture, kitchen equipment, and other products featuring high design. The “made in Italy” stamp is associated with quality and style. Traditional industries, still prominent in 2012, were iron and steel, machinery, chemicals, food processing (including olive oil, wine, and cheese), textiles, clothing, footwear, motor vehicles, and ceramics.


The still-standing aqueducts, bathhouses, and other public works of both ancient republic and empire testify to the engineering and architectural skills of the Romans. The rebirth of science during the Renaissance included the daring speculations of Leonardo da Vinci (including discoveries in anatomy, meteorology, geology, and hydrology, as well as a series of designs for a “flying machine”), advances in physics and astronomy by Galileo Galilei, and the development of the barometer by Evangelista Torricelli. To later Italian scientists and inventors, the world owes the electric battery

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Principal Trading Partners – Italy (2010)
(In millions of US dollars)
Country Total Exports Imports Balance
(…) data not available or not significant.
(n.s.) not specified.
SOURCE: 2011 Direction of Trade Statistics Yearbook, New York: United Nations, 2011.
World 934,063.0 447,466.0 486,597.0 −39,131.0
Germany 135,293.0 58,086.0 77,207.0 −19,121.0
France 92,101.0 51,788.0 40,313.0 11,475.0
China 49,140.0 11,174.0 37,966.0 −26,792.0
Spain 47,621.0 26,005.0 21,616.0 4,389.0
United Kingdom 40,008.0 24,010.0 15,998.0 8,012.0
United States 38,264.0 25,370.0 12,894.0 12,476.0
Netherlands 36,930.0 11,093.0 25,837.0 −14,744.0
Switzerland 34,443.0 20,185.0 14,258.0 5,927.0
Belgium 29,239.0 11,497.0 17,742.0 −6,245.0
Russia 27,021.0 10,348.0 16,673.0 −6,325.0

Principal Trading Partners  Italy (2010) Principal Trading Partners – Italy (2010) 2011 Direction of Trade Statistics Yearbook, New York: United Nations, 2011.

(1800), the electroplating process (1805), and the radiotelegraph (1895).

According to UNESCO, in 2009 there were 1,701 Italians engaged in research and development (R&D) per million inhabitants. Patent applications in science and technology totaled 8,814 in 2009, according to the World Bank. Public financing of science was 1.18% of GDP.

The National Research Council (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche—CNR), founded in 1923, is the country's principal research organization. CNR institutes and associated private and university research centers conduct scientific work in mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology, technology, engineering, medicine, biology, and agriculture. Especially noteworthy are the National Institute of Nuclear Physics, in Rome, and the Enrico Fermi Center for Nuclear Studies, in Milan.

Italy has 47 universities offering courses in basic and applied sciences. The Instituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza di Firenzo, founded in 1930, is located in Florence.

Milan is the principal commercial center, followed by Turin, Genoa, Naples, and Rome. Genoa, the chief port of entry for Milan and Turin, handles about one-third of Italy's trade; Naples is the principal entrepôt for central and southern Italy. Adriatic as well as Middle Eastern trade is carried through Ancona, Bari, and Brindisi.

Economics and geography play key roles in Italy's divided domestic trade sector. The northern part of the country has a greater number of commercial, industrial, and financial enterprises. The country's retail and wholesale distribution systems are highly fragmented, being tied to small, family-owned retail units that dominate the retail sector. In addition, there is an overly large number of point-of-sale outlets, which only adds to the system's inefficiency. This retail system has survived largely through the use of complex and protective government regulations. However this is starting to change, as department stores and supermarket operations are playing an increasing role in the retail sector. In addition, the use of franchising is increasing.

Advertising in all forms is well developed, and the usual mass media (billboards, neon signs, newspapers and magazines, radio, cinema, and television) are used extensively. Market research is handled by over 100 firms.

Usual business office hours in Italy generally are from 8:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. and from 3 to 6:30 p.m. Most firms are closed in August. In general, banking hours are 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., Monday through Friday. Store hours are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Retail establishments are generally closed on Sundays.


Trade deficits were substantial between the end of World War II and 1955, but between 1956 and 1968 the deficit gradually declined, and Italy's trade balance continued in relative equilibrium through 1972. Then, as prices of crude oil and other raw-material imports rose, Italy again began registering growing trade deficits. In 1993, however, a large surplus was recorded because of an export boom that followed the devaluation of the lira in September 1992. This surplus decreased and then vanished in the 2000s. Italy imported $459.7 billion worth of goods and services in 2008, while exporting $458.4 billion worth of goods and services.

The bulk of manufactured imports come from EU countries and the United States, which are also the leading customers for Italian exports. The big commodity exports from Italy in 2010 included industrial and automobile machinery and parts, textiles, clothing, transportation equipment, metal products, chemical products, and food and agricultural products. The textile industry has been hit hard by foreign competition, especially from China. The major imports included machinery and transportation equipment, food, metals, wool, cotton, and energy products. Major import partners in 2009 were Germany, 16.7%; France, 8.9%; China, 6.5%; Netherlands, 5.7%; Spain, 4.4%; Russia, 4.1%; and Belgium, 4%. Major export partners were Germany, 12.6%; France, 11.6%; the United States, 5.9%; Spain, 5.7%; UK, 5.1%; and Switzerland, 4.7%.


Italy did not have serious balance of payments problems after the mid-1970s. Exports soared after 1992, turning Italy's balance of payments positive. The growth in exports was extremely strong in the northeast, where small and medium-sized companies produced high-quality and low-cost products-ranging from industrial machinery to ski boots-for French, German, Japanese, and Indian customers.

Italy had current account surpluses from 1993 to 1999, but in 2000 the country registered a $5.6 billion deficit, after an $8.2 billion surplus in 1999. Italy experienced weak economic growth in the period 2001–05, and the country was hard-hit by the 2008–09 global financial crisis. In 2010 Italy had a foreign trade deficit of $11 billion, amounting to 4.9% of GDP.


The Banca d'Italia, the central bank, was the sole bank of issue and exercised credit control functions until Italy's accession to the European Central Bank, which now controls monetary policy and the euro, the EU's common currency (excepting the United Kingdom,

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Balance of Payments – Italy (2010)
(In billions of US dollars)
(…) data not available or not significant.
SOURCE: Balance of Payment Statistics Yearbook 2011, Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 2011.
Current Account     71.2
    Balance on goods   −27.3  
        Imports −475.7    
        Exports 448.4    
    Balance on services   −11.9  
    Balance on income   −10.7  
    Current transfers   −21.4  
Capital Account     0.7
Financial Account     117.7
    Direct investment abroad   −20.4  
    Direct investment in Italy   9.6  
    Portfolio investment assets   −43.2  
    Portfolio investment liabilities   94.0  
    Financial derivatives   3.0  
    Other investment assets   57.7  
    Other investment liabilities   16.9  
Net Errors and Omissions     44.4
Reserves and Related Items     1.3

Balance of Payments  Italy (2010) Balance of Payments – Italy (2010) Balance of Payment Statistics Yearbook 2011, Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 2011.

Denmark, and Sweden). La Banca d'Italia is still responsible for controlling domestic inflation and balance of payments pressures.

In March 1979, Italy became a founder member of the European Monetary System (EMS) and its Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). During the first 10 years of its membership, the lira was allowed to diverge by up to 6% against other member currencies before action had to be taken, compared with 2.25% for other ERM currencies. Uncertainty about Italy's ability to meet the convergence targets of the 1992 Treaty for European Union (Maastricht) for inflation, interest rates, and participation to stabilize the rate, the lira was withdrawn from the ERM in September 1992, after which the lira declined. At the beginning of 1996 it began to appreciate again. The introduction of the euro in 2002, however, made all that irrelevant.

The most important stock exchange, known as the Borsa Italiana, is in Milan (established in 1808). Following a June 2007 agreement, it became part of the London Stock Exchange Group. Through most of the 2000s, the exchange index hovered between 31,700 and 31,800. However, since the 2008–09 global financial crisis, the index has dropped significantly. After dropping to 13,032 in September 2009, the index hovered around 16,000 as of October 2011. A total of 291 companies were listed as of 2010.

In 2009, the discount rate was 1.75%. In 2010, the nation's gold reserves totaled 2,451 tons, the fourth largest holding in the world.


The insurance industry is government-supervised, and insurers must be authorized to do business. Automobile insurance was made compulsory in 1971, and coverage is also required for aircraft, powerboats, hunters, auditors, yachts, nuclear facilities, and insurance brokers. The insurance regulatory body is the Instituto per Viglanza sulle Assicurazioni Private di Interesse Collettivo

Public Finance – Italy (2008)
(In millions of euros, central government figures)
(…) data not available or not significant.
SOURCE: Government Finance Statistics Yearbook 2010, Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 2010.
Revenue and Grants 591,096 100.0%
    Tax revenue 352,712 59.7%
    Social contributions 214,573 36.3%
    Grants 1,396 0.2%
    Other revenue 22,415 3.8%
Expenditures 628,908 100.0%
    General public services 140,388 22.3%
    Defense 21,712 3.5%
    Public order and safety 25,263 4.0%
    Economic affairs 26,912 4.3%
    Environmental protection 2,885 0.5%
    Housing and community amenities 4,746 0.8%
    Health 58,765 9.3%
    Recreational, culture, and religion 6,566 1.0%
    Education 56,550 9.0%
    Social protection 285,121 45.3%

Public Finance  Italy (2008) Public Finance – Italy (2008) Government Finance Statistics Yearbook 2010, Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 2010.

(Institute for Control of Private Insurance Companies—ISVAP). European Union reporting and other insurance directives have been implemented.

The Italian insurance market was traditionally characterized by a relatively large number of insurers with no one organization dominating the industry. In 2010 the top insurance companies were Poste Vita, Mediolanum Vita, Assicurazioni generali, Allianz, and UGF Assicurazioni. The volume of life products has increased as consumers have become aware that the Italian Social Security System benefits will have to be supplemented by individual savings and as insurance awareness has increased through advertising campaigns and the distribution of insurance products through the extensive branch banking system. The Italian insurance market grew by 6.9% in fiscal year 2009, buoyed almost exclusively by an 11% increase in life products. The Italian government has placed additional solvency requirements on companies that require an increase in insurer assets by 2013.


Reflecting increasing economic activity and the pressures of inflation, the Italian budget has expanded continually since 1950. However, the Italian economy has traditionally run a high government debt, and the 2008–09 global financial crisis has only exacerbated the problem. In 2010 the CIA estimated that the Italian budget included $940.3 billion in public revenue and $1.042 trillion in public expenditures. The public deficit amounted to 4.6% of GDP. Public debt was 118.1% of GDP, with $2.223 trillion of the debt held by foreign entities. During 2011 Italy was embroiled in a eurozone debt crisis that, in addition to Italy, focused on the troubled public finances of both Greece and Portugal. The Italian government passed highly unpopular austerity measures in an effort to lower its budget deficit, which ultimately led to the resignation of Berlusconi. Monti, his replacement, was a technocrat and

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revered economist chosen specifically to resolve Italy's ongoing public finance concerns.


The Italian tax system is considered among the most complicated in the world. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the government used tax cuts to stimulate economic growth. On 1 January 1998 the government introduced the Dual Income Tax (DIT) system designed to encourage investment by taxing income derived from the increase in equity capital in a company at a lower rate than the standard corporate income tax rate. In 2003, the corporate income tax rate (IRPEG), at 36% in 2002, was reduced to 34%. As of 2011, the standard corporate rate was 27.5%, excluding a 3.9% regional tax (IRAP) on productive activities. Capital gains realized by companies are taxable as business income under the IRPEG and IRAP, and capital losses are deductible.

The schedule of personal income tax rates was reformed in 2003 to reduce tax rates and to increase the amount covered by the lowest income band. As of 2012, the individual tax rate progressively increases to a top rate of 43%. On 25 October 2001 Italy's gift and inheritance taxes were abolished by the legislature; they were reintroduced in 2007 and applied at rates between 4 and 8%.

Italy's main indirect tax is its value-added tax (VAT) introduced on 1 January 1973 with a standard rate of 12%, replacing a turn-over tax on goods and services. Beginning in 1997 and continuing in 2012, the standard rate was levied at 20% and is applicable to most goods and services. A reduced rate of 10% is applied to some foodstuffs, certain fuel supplies, some transport and some housing, consumers, catering services and live animals. A 4% rate is applied to some foodstuffs, books, newspapers and periodicals, agricultural inputs, and medical equipment. Basic medical and dental services, as well as financial and insurance services are exempt from VAT.


Italy's membership in the European Union has greatly influenced its tariff structure. Duties on imports from then-European-Community members and their dependencies were gradually reduced following the Rome Pact in 1957 and disappeared by 1969, more than a year ahead of schedule. Duties on goods from Greece, which entered the European Community in 1981, were reduced gradually and eliminated by 1986. Italy's adjustment of its tariff structure to that of the current European Union also has resulted in a substantial reduction of duties on products imported from areas other than the European Union, including the United States. Import duties remain on manufactured goods from non-EU countries, while raw materials enter mostly duty-free. Other import taxes include a value-added tax (VAT) that ranges from 0–20% depending on the product and excise taxes on alcoholic beverages, tobacco, sugar and petroleum products.


The government encourages foreign industrial investment, although investment has been discouraged by extensive labor laws, a heavy tax burden, and an inefficient public sector. The extent of the state's direct involvement in the economy has been greatly reduced by the privatization programs carried out by successive governments since 1993, encouraged by the EU demand that companies from member countries receive treatment equal to domestic companies. The World Bank reported that for Italy, the net inflows of FDI were approximately $9.6 billion in 2010. This is a modest number compared to inflows during the preceding decade. In 2006, net inflows of FDI totaled $39 billion, which increased to $40 billion in 2007. This was followed by a negative inflow of -$9.5 billion in 2008 and a positive $16.6 billion in 2009.


Under Mussolini, business and labor were grouped into corporations that, in theory at least, jointly determined economic policy. Also, under the Fascist regime, direct government control over the economy was increased through the creation of powerful economic bodies, such as the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction. Although the corporative system disappeared after the fall of Mussolini, the concept of economic planning remained firmly implanted among the large Marxist parties, as well as among Christian Democratic leaders, who—by different means and for different reasons—sought to create a society free from the class warfare associated with a strictly liberal economic system.

Principal government objectives following World War II were reconstruction of the economy; stabilization of the currency; and long-term, large-scale investment aimed at correcting the imbalance of the Italian economy and, in particular, the imbalance between northern and southern Italy. The first and second phases of this policy were accomplished by 1949. Then the government, supported by domestic financial and industrial groups and by foreign aid, principally from the United States, embarked on the third and most important phase, best known as the Vanoni Plan (after former finance minister Ezio Vanoni). Notable in this development effort was the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno, a government agency set up to develop southern Italy and attract private investment to the region. Between 1951 and 1978, government spending on -structure in the south was $11.5 billion; additional low-cost loans totaled $13 billion, and outright grants amounted to $3.2 billion.

Simultaneously, direct government control of the economy increased through such government agencies as ENI, whose activities expanded rapidly in the postwar era. The nationalization of the electric industry, in order to lay the industrial base for a more highly planned economy, and the creation of the National Economic Planning Board composed of leaders from government, industry, and labor, were further indications of the importance attached to the concept of a planned Italian economy.

The combined effects of inflation, increased energy prices, and political instability posed serious economic problems during the 1970s. With Italy mired in recession in the early 1980s, economic policy was directed at reducing the public sector deficit, tightening controls on credit, and maintaining a stable exchange rate, chiefly through a variety of short-term constraints. A period of recovery began in 1983, leading to expanded output and lower inflation but also to expanded unemployment. The economic policy aims in 1987 included the reduction of the public-sector deficit and unemployment. Furthermore, improvement in the external sector (due mainly to the fall of oil prices and depreciation of the dollar) led to liberalization of the foreign exchange market in 1987.

Priorities of the early 1990s were cutting government spending, fighting tax evasion to reduce public debt, and selling off state-owned enterprises. At the end of the decade, the results of

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these policies were mixed. Liberalization provided the impetus for greater foreign investment, while the funds generated from privatization eased the public debt. Italy qualified for the first round of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and entered the euro zone in 1999.

During the 2000s, the strength of the economy continued to rest on the back of small- and medium-sized family-owned companies, mostly in the north and center of the country. In 2011 the burden of Italy's public debt came to the forefront of country's economy. The focus of economic policy has been on cutting taxes, fighting unemployment, enhancing competitiveness, and reducing both the budget deficit and debt. Reform of the pension system continues to be a controversial policy issue. Balancing fiscal austerity and policies to promote growth pose a major economic policy challenge.


Social welfare legislation in Italy, begun in 1898, was redesigned by law in 1952 and has subsequently been expanded. All workers and their families are covered and receive old-age, disability, and survivor pensions, unemployment and injury benefits, health and maternity coverage. The system is primarily funded by employer contributions, along with employee payments and some government subsidies. Family allowances are paid for primarily by employer contributions, and are determined by the size and income of the family. Conditions for old age pensions have varying conditions. The first maternity coverage was initiated in 1912.

Despite full legal rights under law, women face some social discrimination in Italy. On average, women earn less than men and are underrepresented in management, the professions, and other areas. Sexual abuse and violence remain a problem, although when reported, the authorities prosecute perpetrators and assist victims. Increased public awareness of sexual harassment and violence has increased the number of reported abuses. The government is committed to protecting and promoting children's rights.

Human rights are generally respected in Italy. Lengthy pretrial detentions still occur due to the slow pace of the judicial system, and occasional cases of the mistreatment of prisoners were reported. Discrimination based on race, sex, religion, ethnicity, disability, and language is prohibited by law.


A national health plan, begun in 1980, seeks to provide free healthcare for all citizens, but certain minimum charges remain. It is financed by contributions from salaries, by employers, and by the central government. Patients are still able to choose their own healthcare providers. Reforms in 1999 sought to integrate primary care with other health care programs, including home care, social services, and health education. Consistent health reforms are hampered by frequent political changes in administration. Most private hospitals have contracts with the national plan, but healthcare services are more highly concentrated in the northern regions of Italy. The shortage of medical personnel and hospital facilities in Italy's rural areas remains serious. In 2009 healthcare expenditures were estimated at 8.7% of GDP, amounting to $3,328 per person.

As of 2009 Italy had an estimated 42 physicians, 65 nurses and midwives, and 37 hospital beds per 10,000 inhabitants. The infant mortality rate was estimated at 3 per 1,000 live births in 2011, with average life expectancy estimated at 81 years, the tenth highest in the world. The total fertility rate in 2011 was estimated at 1.4 births per woman. Maternal mortality was estimated at 5 per 100,000 live births in 2008, according to the World Bank.

In 2009 some 91% of children were vaccinated against measles. The major causes of death are circulatory system diseases, cancers, respiratory diseases, and accidents and violence. The HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate was 0.3% in 2009.


Italy's housing and public building program was a major item in the general program of postwar reconstruction. Between 1940 and 1945, almost 20% of the habitable rooms in the country were destroyed. From June 1945 to June 1953, however, of the 6,407,000 rooms destroyed or severely damaged, 354,100 were rebuilt and 4,441,000 were repaired. Under a special housing program, originally instituted with funds from UNRRA and subsequently financed by employer and employee contributions, a total of 15 million rooms were constructed between 1953 and 1961, alleviating the nation's immediate housing problems. In 2008, the World Bank reported that 100% of urban homes had access to an improved water source. According to a 2008 study by the European Central Bank, home ownership in Italy (70%) continued to outpace the EU average. Additionally, mortgage debt, which averaged 39% of GDP across the EU, was only 10% of GDP in Italy.


Education is free and compulsory for eight years (for students age 6 through 15). This includes five years of elementary school and three years of lower secondary school. Next, students may choose to attend a technical school, a vocational school, or one of several academic secondary schools, which offer a choice of specialized programs in classical, scientific, linguistic, and artistic studies. All secondary programs generally cover a five-year course of study.

In 2008 nearly all age-eligible children were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment that same year was estimated at about 98% of age-eligible students, while secondary school enrollment was about 95% of age-eligible students. Tertiary enrollment was estimated at 67%. Of those enrolled in tertiary education, there were 100 male students for every 142 female students. Overall, the CIA estimated that Italy has a literacy rate of 98.4%. Public expenditure on education represented 4.3% of GDP in 2009.

There are 55 state universities and 23 other universities, colleges, and higher learning institutes, including the University of Bologna (founded in the 11th century), the oldest in Italy, and the University of Rome, which is the country's largest.


Italy, with its rich cultural heritage, is one of the world's great storehouses of books and art. Among its many of libraries, the most important are in the national library system, which contains two central libraries, in Florence (5.3 million volumes) and Rome (5 million), and four regional libraries, in Naples (1.8 million volumes), Milan (1 million), Turin (973,000) and Venice (917,000). The existence of two national central libraries, while most nations have one, came about through the history of the country, as Rome

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was once part of the Papal States and Florence was the first capital of the unified Kingdom of Italy. While both libraries are designated as copyright libraries, Florence now serves as the site designated for conservation and cataloging of Italian publications, and the site in Rome catalogs foreign publications acquired by the state libraries. All of the national libraries are public. The Estense Library in Modena holds 425,600 volumes, including illuminated manuscripts from the 14th to 18th centuries. The university libraries in Bologna (1.1 million volumes) and Naples (750,000 volumes) each hold important collections. The Medici-Laurentian and Marucelliana (544,000) libraries in Florence and the Ambrosiana Library in Milan are also important research centers. Italy's public library system has about 84 branches and holds a total of 41 million volumes.

Italy, a world center of culture, history and art, has more than 3,000 museums. Among the more important are the Villa Giulia Museum and the National Gallery in Rome; the National Archeological Museum and the National Museum of San Martino in Naples; the National Museum in Palermo; the Galleria dell'Academia, and Uffizi, Medici, Pitti, Bargello, and St. Mark's Museums in Florence; the National Museum in Cagliari, Sardinia; the Brera Museum in Milan; the Museum of Siena; the Archaeological Museum of Syracuse (Siracusa); the National Museum of Urbino; and the Guggenheim Museum and the Academy and Libreria Sansoviniana in Venice. Venice also has the Jewish Museum, the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, a Natural History Museum, an Archeological Museum, and the Museum of Byzantine Icons. The Campidoglio Museum, the Museum of Villa Borghese, and the Palazzo Barberini Museum, all in Rome, each contain important works of art by Italian masters. Naples hosts the Museum of Ethnoprehistory of Castel Dell'ovo and museums of paleontology, mineralogy, anthropology, and astronomy. The National Museum of Science and technology in Milan has an extensive exhibit on Leonardo da Vinci, including models of some of the machines designed by the Renaissance man. A Goethe museum, with manuscripts and illustrations describing Goethe's travels in Italy, opened in 1997 in Rome. In 2012, after nine years of construction, the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari opened in Modena, featuring exhibits that detail the history of the Ferrari auto industry.


Communication systems in Italy, including telephone, telex, and data services, are generally considered to be modern, well developed, and fully automated. In 2009 there were some 21.3 million main phone lines, and mobile phone subscriptions averaged 150 per 100 people.

Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI), a government corporation, broadcasts on three channels. The other major media group is the privately held Mediaset, which has three channels. As of 2007 there were about 1,300 commercial radio stations. In 2010 the country had 23.1 million Internet hosts, with 49 Internet users per 100 citizens.

Major daily newspapers (with their political orientations and estimated circulations) are: La Repubblica (Rome), left-wing, 700,000 in 2010; Corriere della Sera (Milan), independent, 700,000 in 2010; La Stampa (Turin), liberal, 536,233 in 2010; as well as some 67 other major newspapers. Panorama is the most popular news weekly. Among the most influential periodicals are the pictorial weeklies—Oggi, L'Europeo, Epoca, L'Espresso, and Gente. Famiglia Cristiana is a Catholic weekly periodical with a wide readership.

The law provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the government is said to respect these rights in practice.


Italian society abounds with organizations of every description. Many of these are associated with or controlled by political parties, which have their ideological counterparts in labor organizations, agricultural associations, cultural groups, sports clubs, and cooperatives. Among the most important organizations are the National Confederation of Smallholders and the General Confederation of Italian Industry, which strongly influences economic policy. The General Confederation of Agriculture, the General Confederation of Trade, and the General Confederation of Master Craftsmen also are influential. There are chambers of commerce in most major cities. There are labor and trade unions and professional associations representing a wide variety of occupations. A large number of professional organizations are dedicated to research and education in specialized fields of medicine or for particular diseases and conditions.

Catholic Action and the Catholic Association of Italian Workers are the most prominent of the religious organizations. The international religious Order of St. Augustine and the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) are based in Rome.

A number of political and religious organizations sponsor youth chapters. Scouting programs and chapters of the YMCA/YWCA are also active for youth. Sports associations are plentiful. National women's organizations include the National Italian Women's Council, the Italian Association for Women in Development, and the Italian Women's Center, based in Rome.

International organizations within the country include Amnesty International, Caritas, and the Red Cross.


Among Italy's tourist attractions are the artistic and architectural treasures of Rome and Florence; the thousands of historic churches and galleries in smaller cities; the canals and palaces of Venice; the ruins of ancient Pompeii; the Shroud of Turin, reputed to be the burial cloth of Jesus; and the delicacies of northern Italian cooking, as well as the heartier fare of the south. Tourists are also lured by Italy's many beaches and by excellent Alpine skiing. Italians enjoy a wide variety of sports, including football (soccer), bowling, tennis, track and field, and swimming. Italy won the World Cup in soccer four times, in 1934 (as host), 1938, 1982, and 2006. Cortina d'Ampezzo, in the Dolomites, was the site of the 1956 Winter Olympics. Rome hosted the Summer Olympics in 1960. Turin was the host the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Tourism is a major industry in Italy. The Tourism Factbook, published by the UN World Tourism Organization, reported 71.7 million incoming tourists to Italy in 2009; they spent a total of $41.9 billion. Of those incoming tourists, there were 37.9 million from Europe. There were 2.23 million hotel beds available in Italy, which had an occupancy rate of 39%.

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The estimated daily cost to visit Rome, the capital, was $646. The cost of visiting other cities averaged $283.


The Italian peninsula has been at the heart of Western cultural development at least since Roman times. Important poets of the Roman republic and empire were Lucretius (Titus Lucretius Carus, 96?–55 BC), Gaius Valerius Catullus (84?–54 BC), Vergil (Publius Vergilius Maro, 70–19 BC), Horace (Quintius Horatius Flaccus, 65–8 BC), and Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso, 43 BC-ad 18). Also prominent in Latin literature were the orator-rhetorician Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BC); the satirists Gaius Petronius Arbiter (d.AD 66) and Juvenal (Decimus Junius Juvenalis, AD 60?–140?); the prose writers Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, AD 23–79), his nephew Pliny the Younger (Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, AD 61?–113?), and Lucius Apuleius (AD 124?–170?); and the historians Sallust (Gaius Sallustius Crispus, 86–34 BC), Livy (Titus Livius, 59 BC-ad 17), Cornelius Tacitus (AD 55?–117), and Suetonius (Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, AD 69?–140). Gaius Julius Caesar (100?–44 BC), renowned as a historian and prose stylist, is even more famous as a military and political leader. The first of the Roman emperors was Octavian (Gaius Octavianus, 63 BC-ad 14), better known by the honorific Augustus. Noteworthy among later emperors are the tyrants Caligula (Gaius Caesar Germanicus, AD 12–41) and Nero (Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, AD 37–68), the philosopher-statesman Marcus Aurelius (Marcus Annius Verius, AD 121–180), and Constantine I (the Great; Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus, b. Moesia, 280?–337), who was the first to accept Christianity. No history of the Christian Church during the medieval period would be complete without mention of such men of Italian birth as St. Benedict of Nursia (480?–543?), Pope Gregory I (St. Gregory the Great, 540?–604), St. Francis of Assisi (1182?–1226), and the philosopher-theologians St. Anselm (1033?–1109) and St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–74).

No land has made a greater contribution to the visual arts. In the 13th and 14th centuries there were the sculptors Niccolò Pisano (1220–84) and his son Giovanni (1245–1314); the painters Cimabue (Cenni di Pepo, 1240–1302?), Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255?–1319), and Giotto di Bondone (1276?–1337); and, later in the period, the sculptor Andrea Pisano (1270?–1348). Among the many great artists of the 15th century-the golden age of Florence and Venice-were the architects Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1446), Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378–1455), and Leone Battista Alberti (1404–72); the sculptors Donatello (Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi, 1386?–1466), Luca della Robbia (1400–1482), Desiderio da Settignano (1428–64), and Andrea del Verrocchio (1435–88); and the painters Fra Angelico (Giovanni de Fiesole, 1387–1455), Sassetta (Stefano di Giovanni, 1392–1450?), Uccello (Paolo di Dono, 1397–1475), Masaccio (Tomasso di Giovanni di Simone Guidi, 1401–28?), Fra Filippo Lippi (1406?–69), Piero della Francesca (Pietro de' Franceschi, 1416?–92), Giovanni Bellini (1430?–1516), Andrea Mantegna (1431–1506), Antonio dei Pollaiuolo (1433–98), Luca Signorelli (1441?–1523), Perugino (Pietro Vannucci, 1446–1524), Sandro Botticelli (Alessandro Filipepi, 1447?–1510), Ghirlandaio (Domenico Currado Bigordi, 1449–94), and Vittore Carpaccio (1450–1522).

During the 16th century, the High Renaissance, Rome shared with Florence the leading position in the world of the arts. Major masters included the architects Bramante (Donato d'Agnolo, 1444?–1514) and Andrea Palladio (1508–80); the sculptor Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571); the painter-designer-inventor Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519); the painter-sculptor-architect-poet Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564); and the painters Titian (Tiziano Vecelli, 1477–1576), Giorgione da Castelfranco (Giorgio Barbarelli, 1478?–1510), Raphael (Raffaelo Sanzio, 1483–1520), Andrea del Sarto (1486–1531), and Correggio (Antonio Allegri, 1494–1534). Among the great painters of the late Renaissance were Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti, 1518–94) and Veronese (Paolo Cagliari, 1528–88). Giorgio Vasari (1511–74) was a painter, architect, art historian, and critic.

Among the leading artists of the Baroque period were the sculptor and architect Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) and the painters Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1560?–1609), Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1690–1770), Canaletto (Antonio Canal, 1697–1768), Pietro Longhi (1702–85), and Francesco Guardi (1712–93). Leading figures in modern painting were Umberto Boccioni (1882–1916), Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920), Giorgio di Chirico (b. Greece, 1888–1978), and Giorgio Morandi (1890–1964). A noted contemporary architect was Pier Luigi Nervi (1891–1979).

Music, an integral part of Italian life, owes many of its forms as well as its language to Italy. The musical staff was either invented or established by Guido d'Arezzo (995?–1050). A leading 14th-century composer was the blind Florentine organist Francesco Landini (1325–97). Leading composers of the High Renaissance and early Baroque periods were Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525–94); the madrigalists Luca Marenzio (1533–99) and Carlo Gesualdo, prince of Venosa (1560?–1613); the Venetian organists Andrea Gabrieli (1510?–86) and Giovanni Gabrieli (1557–1612); Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643), the founder of modern opera; organist-composer Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583–1643); and Gia-como Carissimi (1605–74). Important figures of the later Baroque era were Arcangelo Corelli (1653–1713), Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1743), Alessandro Scarlatti (1660–1725), and his son Domenico Scarlatti (1683–1757). Italian-born Luigi Cherubini (1760–1842) was the central figure of French music in the Napoleonic era, while Antonio Salieri (1750–1825) and Gasparo Spontini (1774–1851) played important roles in the musical life of Vienna and Berlin, respectively. Composers of the 19th century who made their period the great age of Italian opera were Gioacchino Antonio Rossini (1792–1868), Gaetano Donizetti (1797–1848), Vincenzo Bellini (1801–35), and, above all, Giuseppe Verdi (1831–1901). Niccolò Paganini (1782–1840) was the greatest violinist of his time. More recent operatic composers include Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1853–1919), Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924), and Pietro Mascagni (1863–1945). Renowned operatic singers include Enrico Caruso (1873–1921), Luisa Tetrazzini (1874–1940), Titta Ruffo (1878–1953), Amelita Galli-Curci (1882–1963), Beniamino Gigli (1890–1957), Ezio Pinza (1892–1957), and Luciano Pavarotti (b.1935). Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924), Ottorino Respighi (1879–1936), Luigi Dallapiccola (1904–75), Luigi Nono (1924–1990), and Luciano Berio (1925–2003) are major 20th-century composers. Arturo Toscanini (1867–1957) is generally regarded

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as one of the greatest operatic and orchestral conductors of his time; two noted contemporary conductors are Claudio Abbado (b. 1933) and Riccardo Muti (b. 1941). The foremost makers of stringed instruments were Gasparo da Salò (Bertolotti, 1540–1609) of Brescia, Niccolò Amati (1596–1684), Antonius Stradivarius (Antonio Stradivari, 1644–1737), and Giuseppe Bartolommeo Guarneri (del Gesù, 1687?–1745) of Cremona. Bartolommeo Cristofori (1655–1731) invented the pianoforte.

Italian literature and literary language includes such luminaries as Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), author of The Divine Comedy, Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca, 1304–74), Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–75), Lodovico Ariosto (1474–1533), Pietro Aretino (1492–1556), and Torquato Tasso (1544–95). An outstanding writer of the Baroque period was Metastasio (Pietro Trapassi, 1698–1782), and Carlo Goldoni (1707–93) was the most prominent playwright of the 18th century. The time of Italy's rebirth was heralded by the poets Vittorio Alfieri (1749–1803), Ugo Foscolo (1778–1827), and Giacomo Leopardi (1798–1837). Alessandro Manzoni (1785–1873) was the principal Italian novelist of the 19th century, and Francesco de Sanctis (1817–83) the greatest literary critic. Among the Italian literary figures of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Giosuè Carducci (1835–1907; Nobel Prize winner, 1906), Giovanni Verga (1840–1922), Gabriele d'Annunzio (1863–1938), Luigi Pirandello (1867–1936; Nobel Prize winner, 1934), and Grazia Deledda (1875–1936; Nobel Prize winner, 1926) achieved international renown. Leading writers of the postwar era are Ignazio Silone (Secondo Tranquilli, 1900–78), Alberto Moravia (Pincherle, 1907–1990), Italo Calvino (1923–87), Umberto Eco (b.1932), and the poets Salvatore Quasimodo (1908–68; Nobel Prize winner, 1959) and Eugenio Montale (1896–1981; Nobel Prize winner, 1975). Outstanding film directors are Italian-born Frank Capra (1897–1991), Vittorio de Sica (1902–74), Luchino Visconti (1906–76), Roberto Rossellini (1906–77), Michelangelo Antonioni (1912–2007), Federico Fellini (1920–93), Sergio Leone (1929–1989), Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922–75), Franco Zeffirelli (b. 1923), Lina Wertmüller (Arcangela Felice Assunta Wertmüller von Elgg, b. 1928), and Bernardo Bertolucci (b. 1940). Famous film stars include Italian-born Rudolph Valentino (Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaele Pierre Philibert Guglielmi, 1895–1926), Marcello Mastroianni (1924–1996), and Sophia Loren (Scicoloni, b. 1934).

In philosophy, exploration, and statesmanship, Italy has produced many world-renowned figures: the traveler Marco Polo (1254?–1324); the statesman and patron of the arts Cosimo de' Medici (1389–1464); the statesman, clergyman, and artistic patron Roderigo Borgia (Lanzol y Borja, b. Spain, 1431?–1503), who became Pope Alexander VI (r.1492–1503); the soldier, statesman, and artistic patron Lorenzo de' Medici, the son of Cosimo (1449–92); the explorer John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto, 1450?–98?); the explorer Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo or Cristóbal Colón, 1451–1506); the explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1454–1512), after whom the Americas are named; the admiral and statesman Andrea Doria (1468?–1540); Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527), author of The Prince and the outstanding political theorist of the Renaissance; the statesman and clergyman Cesare Borgia (1475?–1507), the son of Rodrigo; the explorer Sebastian Cabot (1476?–1557), the son of John; Baldassare Castiglione (1478–1529), author of The Courtier; the historian Francesco Guicciardini (1483–1540); the explorer Giovanni da Verrazano (1485?–1528?); the philosopher Giordano Bruno (1548?–1600); the political philosopher Giovanni Battista Vico (1668–1744); the noted jurist Cesare Bonesana Beccaria (1735–94); Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–72), the leading spirit of the Risorgimento; Camillo Benso di Cavour (1810–61), its prime statesman; and Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807–82), its foremost soldier and man of action. Notable intellectual and political leaders of more recent times include the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1907, Ernesto Teodoro Moneta (1833–1918); the sociologist and economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848–1923); the political theorist Gaetano Mosca (1858–1941); the philosopher, critic, and historian Benedetto Croce (1866–1952); the educator Maria Montessori (1870–1952); Benito Mussolini (1883–1945), the founder of Fascism and dictator of Italy from 1922 to 1943; Carlo Sforza (1873–1952) and Alcide De Gasperi (1881–1954), famous latter-day statesmen; and the Communist leaders Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), Palmiro Togliatti (1893–1964), and Enrico Berlinguer (1922–84).

Italian scientists and mathematicians of note include Leonardo Fibonacci (1180?–1250?), Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), Evangelista Torricelli (1608–47), Francesco Redi (1626?–97), Marcello Malpighi (1628–94), Luigi Galvani (1737–98), Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729–99), Alessandro Volta (1745–1827), Amedeo Avogadro (1776–1856), Stanislao Cannizzaro (1826–1910), Camillo Golgi (1843–1926; Nobel Prize winner, 1906), Guglielmo Marconi (1874–1937; Nobel Prize winner, 1909), Enrico Fermi (1901–54; Nobel Prize winner, 1938), Giulio Natta (1903–79; Nobel Prize winner, 1963), Italian-American Emilio Gino Segrè (1905–1989; Nobel Prize winner, 1959), Daniel Bovet (1907–1992; Nobel Prize winner, 1957), Renato Dulbecco (1914–2012; Nobel Prize winner, 1975), Carlo Rubbia (b. 1934; Nobel Prize winner, 1984), and Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909–1989; Nobel Prize winner, 1986), and Italian-American Riccardo Giacconi (b. 1931; Nobel Prize winner, 2002).


Italy has no territories or colonies.


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Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX4017200265