Italy (or Italia) is a peninsula of over 301,230 sq km located in southern Europe. Bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, Austria, France, Switzerland, and Slovenia, its main islands in the Mediterranean Sea are Sicily and Sardinia. With a population of 57.99 million inhabitants, Italy is well known for its wonders of art and architecture, a rich culture, its diverse regions and an ease of life. Its cities are full of cafés, open-air piazzas, and people bustling about their lives amidst ancient landmarks.

Historically, Italy has been one of the cradles of Western civilization. Today, Japan’s and Brazil’s government uses modern versions of the ancient Roman legal system. Scientific terminologies as well as French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish languages are derived from Latin. 

During the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, Rome ruled much of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Roman ruins can be found from Great Britain to Morocco, Turkey and Jordan. Rome, the capital, was the offspring of Etruscan and Greek cultures. Italy, the world's 'living art gallery' has Etruscan tombs, Greek temples, Roman ruins and sculptures, Moorish architecture and statue-filled baroque fountains, Byzantine mosaics, beatific Madonnas from Giotto to Titian, gargantuan baroque tombs and Trompe l'oeil ceilings.

In 1861, Italy became a nation-state when the city-states of the peninsula were united with Sardinia and Sicily under King Victor Emmanuel. Today, it is still divided into 20 distinct regions, each with its own landscape, history, dialects, artistic styles, foods and architecture.

Besides arts and history, Italy’s landscape features the snow coned mountains of the Southern Alps, the rugged beauty of the peaks and valleys of the Apennines, and excellent ski resorts of the Dolomites. Contrasted by thousands of miles of sunny Mediterranean coastline, Sicily, Sardinia, Amalfi Coast and Italian Riviera, and Aeolian Islands are popular getaways for seekers of sand and sun.

Italy is also known for its authentic cuisines and exquisite wines. Northern Emilia-Romagna produces rich and creamy dishes, such as, spaghetti bolognese, lasagne and tortellini; plus, the best prosciutto and mortadella. The south is great with the hot and spicy specialties: pesto from Liguria, spit-roasted piglet from Sardiniais while Sicily offers delightful desserts, such as, cassata, cannoli, zabaglione, granita and marzipan.

Leather goods, ingenious kitchen accessories, silks, antiques, silver and gold jewelry, custom-made suits and Italian shoes are great buys in Italy. Many designer outlets (like Prada, Fendi, Gucci and Armani) are located just outside Florence, Rome, Como and Milan.

Italy is best visited April to mid-June and in mid-September to November when days are an average 20-32 C, nights are 10-20 C, the scenery is beautiful, and cities are less crowded. July, August and the beginning of September are very hot, humid and crowded. Plus, many shops and businesses are closed during the vacation month of August.

In Italy, you can "explore the past” while enjoying its diverse and fascinating present.




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