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.