Italy Country Facts

Capital city Roma
Surface 301,338 kmĀ²
Population 60,484,000
Road network length 815,254 km
Length of highway network 10,334 km
First highway 1923
Motorway name Highway
Traffic drives Right
License plate code I

Italy (Italian: Italia), formally the Italian Republic (Italian: Repubblica Italiana) is a country in southern Europe. The country has 60 million inhabitants and has an area that is more than 8 times the size of the Netherlands. The capital is Roma (Rome), the largest conurbation is that of Milano (Milan).


Italy is located in the south of Europe and is a large peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea. The shape is also called the ‘boot of Italy’. The country borders on other countries only to the north, namely France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. In addition, it includes two dwarf states: San Marino and Vatican City. Italy also has two large islands, Sicilia (Sicily) and Sardegna (Sardinia), plus numerous smaller islands. The country measures a maximum of 1,200 kilometers from north to south as the crow flies and a maximum of 540 kilometers from west to east. The southernmost point of Sicilia is on the same latitude as Tunisia. Maltais 80 kilometers south of Sicilia. The Italian island of Lampedusa is located halfway between Sicilia and Libya.


Many parts of Italy are mountainous, dominated in the north by the Alps, in the middle by the Apennines, and in the south the mountain ranges of Calabria. The Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc) is the highest mountain in Italy at 4,810 meters. The 2,912 meter high Corno Grande is the highest mountain of the Apennines. The more than 3,300 meter high volcano Etna is the highest mountain in Sicily. The 4,061 meter high Gran Paradiso in the Alps is the highest mountain in Italy that is not on or near a national border.

Although Italy is largely mountainous, it also has large plains. Prominent is the densely populated Po Valley in northern Italy, through which flows the country’s longest river, the Po. The Po has a large delta. To the north of it are the lagoons around the city of Venezia. The region of Puglia in southeastern Italy is also relatively flat.

The shape of Italy gives the country a lot of coastline, it juts into the Mediterranean Sea, which in turn is subdivided into the Adriatic Sea and Ionian Sea to the east and the Tyrrhenian Sea and Ligurian Sea to the west. The island of Sardegna is separated from Corsica by the Strait of Bonifacio. Another important strait is the Strait of Messina, which separates Sicilia from the mainland.

There are many large lakes in Italy, especially on the edge of the Alps. Some of them are on the border with Switzerland. Lago di Garda, Lago d’Iseo, Lago di Como, Lago di Lugano and Lake Maggiore are well-known holiday destinations. Two larger lakes can be found in the middle of the Toscana and Umbria region: Lago di Trasimeno and Lago di Bolsena. Italy has relatively few long rivers, besides the Po the only other rivers of any importance are the Adige, Ticino and Tevere (Tiber). The 16 km long Reno di Lei is the only river in Italy that flows to the North Sea.


Italy has a large number of large cities, several of which are of great historical importance. The capital Roma (Rome) is historically one of the most important cities in Europe. Roma is also the largest city in Italy within the municipal boundaries. The largest urban area is around the northern city of Milano (Milan). Other major cities in the north are Torino (Turin), Venezia (Venice), Verona, Bologna and Padova (Padua). Important cities such as Genova (Genoa) and Firenze (Florence) are located in the Apennines. Along the Adriatic coast are larger cities such as Rimini, Ancona, Pescara, Foggia, Bari and Brindisi. In the south, cities such as Napoli (Naples), Salerno, Reggio Calabria, Messina, Palermo and Catania are important.

Due to a low birth rate and outdated housing in major cities, many cities in Italy are shrinking and aging. Venezia lost about 100,000 inhabitants between 1971 and 2011, about a third of the population. Milano even lost 500,000 inhabitants between 1971 and 2011. Genova is the most aging city in Italy and has the lowest birth rate. It has more residents over 65 than under 30.


Italy is a developed country, with large regional differences. In general, the north is prosperous, and the south is underdeveloped, especially south of Roma. Italy is one of the largest economies in the world. Industrialization in Italy started later than in other major European economies. In the 1920s, Italy was the first country in the world to build toll roads for motorized express traffic, the autostrada. In the 1920s and 1930s hundreds of kilometers of highways were built in the north of Italy and around some other cities. These were not highways as we know them today, no autostrada had 2×2 lanes until after the Second World War.

Italy has relatively few raw materials. There is hardly any mining or oil or gas extraction. The country has always had to import energy. In recent years, more natural gas has been found in the Po Valley and the Adriatic Sea. Well-known Italian products are cars (FIAT, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Iveco, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati), clothing (Armani, Benetton, Bulgari, Dolce & Gabanna, Gucci, Kappa, Prada) and technology and household products (Finmeccanica, AnsaldoBreda, Indesit, Pirelli).

Problems for the Italian economy are high public debt, unstable governments, mafia, an aging population, illegal immigration, tax evasion and low employment opportunities for young people and young adults. Unemployment is structurally high in the south of Italy.


Rome was founded in 753 BC and the gradually emerging empire grew into one of the most powerful empires in the world. The Roman Empire eventually stretched from Britain to Persia and much of the Mediterranean. After Emperor Traianus, the importance of the Roman Empire gradually declined, especially in the western part. In the Middle Ages, Italy was made up of city-states that fell under the loose Holy Roman Empire, which covered much of Central Europe, including the Netherlands and Germany.

Italy was formed as a kingdom in 1861. Italy allied with the German Empire and Austria-Hungary in 1882, but sided with the Allies in 1915 during World War I. In 1922 Mussolini became the prime minister of Italy and he invaded Ethiopia in 1935. In 1939, the country occupied Albania and sided with Nazi Germany during World War II. It invaded Greece in 1940, but Italy proved ill-suited to war, losing relatively early on its fronts in East Africa, Egypt and Greece. In 1943, the Allies advanced north from Sicilia, deposing Mussolini in 1943. In 1945 he was shot dead near Lago di Como.

After World War II, Italy became a republic in 1946 and became a member of NATO in 1949. During the Cold War, Italy was considered a problem because of the strong position of the Communist Party, which received between 20 and 30% of the vote in many elections between the 1950s and 1980s. Thanks to the Marshall Plan, the Italian economy grew strongly after World War II until the oil crises that hit Italy hard because it has to import almost all energy. In the 1970s and 1980s, Italy had the largest budget deficit of industrialized countries and built up a huge public debt, which became particularly problematic after 2000. The country entered a period of stagnation and recession. Problems for the country are high taxes, corruption and bureaucracy.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *