Location: Southern Europe, a peninsula extending into the
central Mediterranean Sea, northeast of Tunisia
Geographic coordinates: 42 50 N, 12 50 E
Map references: Europe
total: 301,230 sq km
land: 294,020 sq km
water: 7,210 sq km
note: includes Sardinia and Sicily
Area - comparative: slightly larger than Arizona
total: 1,932.2 km
border countries: Austria 430 km, France 488 km, Holy See
(Vatican City) 3.2 km, San Marino 39 km, Slovenia 232 km, Switzerland
Coastline: 7,600 km
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: predominantly Mediterranean; Alpine in far north;
hot, dry in south
Terrain: mostly rugged and mountainous; some plains, coastal
lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) 4,807 m
Natural resources: mercury, potash, marble, sulfur, dwindling
natural gas and crude oil reserves, fish, coal, arable land
arable land: 31%
permanent crops: 10%
permanent pastures: 15%
forests and woodland: 23%
other: 21% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 27,100 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: regional risks include landslides, mudflows,
avalanches, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding; land subsidence
Environment - current issues: air pollution from industrial
emissions such as sulfur dioxide; coastal and inland rivers polluted
from industrial and agricultural effluents; acid rain damaging lakes;
inadequate industrial waste treatment and disposal facilities
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air
Pollution-Sulphur 85, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile
Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty,
Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species,
Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine
Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution,
Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic
Pollutants, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography - note: strategic location dominating central
Mediterranean as well as southern sea and air approaches to Western
Italy is situated in Europe and attached in the north to the European
mainland. To the north the Alps separate Italy from France, Switzerland,
Austria and Slovenia.
The climate of Italy is highly diversified, with extremes ranging
from frigid, in the higher elevations of the Alps and Apennines,
to semitropical along the coast of the Ligurian Sea and the western
coast of the lower peninsula.
The average annual temperature, however, ranges from about 11° to
19° C (about 52° to 66° F); it is about 13° C (about 55° F) in the
Po Valley, about 18° C (about 64° F) in Sicily, and about 14.5°
C (about 58° F) in the coastal lowlands.
Climatic conditions on the peninsula are characterized by regional
variations, resulting chiefly from the configurations of the Apennines,
and are influenced by tempering winds from the adjacent seas.
In the lowlands regions and lower slopes of the Apennines bordering
the western coast from northern Tuscany (Toscana) to the vicinity
of Rome, winters are mild and sunny, and extreme temperatures are
modified by cooling Mediterranean breezes.
Temperatures in the same latitudes on the east of the peninsula
are much lower, chiefly because of the prevailing northeastern winds.
Along the upper eastern slopes of the Apennines, climatic conditions
are particularly bleak. The climate of the peninsular lowlands below
the latitude of Rome closely resembles that of southern Spain.
In contrast to the semitropical conditions prevalent in southern
Italy and along the Gulf of Genoa, the climate of the Plain of Lombardy
is continental. Warm summers and severe winters, with temperatures
as low as -15° C (5° F), prevail in this region, which is shielded
from sea breezes by the Apennines.
Heaviest precipitation occurs in Italy during the fall and winter
months, when westerly winds prevail. The lowest mean annual rainfall,
about 460 mm (about 18 in), occurs in the Apulian province of Foggia
in the south and in southern Sicily; the highest, about 1520 mm
(about 60 in), occurs in the province of Udine in the northeast.
Background: Italy became a nation-state belatedly - in 1861
when the city-states of the peninsula and Sicily were united under
King Victor EMMANUEL.
Italy failed to secure political unification until the 1860s, thus
lacking the military and imperial power of Spain, Britain, and France.
The fascist dictatorship of MUSSOLINI after World War I, led to
the disastrous alliance with HITLER's Germany and defeat in World
Italy was a founding member of the European Economic Community (EEC)
and joined in the growing political and economic unification of
Western Europe, including the introduction of the euro in January
On-going problems include illegal immigration, the ravages of organized
crime, high unemployment, and the low incomes and technical standards
of Southern Italy compared with the North.
Italy is a country in southern Europe. It is known for its cultural
heritage, which is rich and varied, and the natural beauty of its
landscape. Its cities have spectacular churches and large central
Their museums contain some of the world's best-known art. The countryside
has warm, sandy beaches; high, glacier-topped mountain peaks; and
rolling hills covered with green fields and vineyards.