Country Profile: Italy
7th Largest Economy in the
Major Trading Partners
European Union Members,
Italy is a democratic republic with a high GDP and quality of life. It is a member of OECD, EU, NATO, G8, WTO, Council of Nations Security Council and the Council of Europe. The country is a major exporter of manufactured goods including motor vehicles, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Tourism is also a very important industry in the country, and it is ranked as the 5th most visited place in the world.
A brief history of Italy
Italy, which is officially known as the Italian Republic, is a country located on the Italian Peninsula in Southern Europe and on the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia. Italy shares its northern, Alpine boundary with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The independent states of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within the Italian Peninsula, and Campione d'Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland.
Italy has been the home of many European cultures, such as the Etruscans and the Romans, and later was the birthplace of the university and of the Renaissance, which began in Tuscany and spread all over Europe. Italy's capital, Rome, was for centuries the center of Western civilization. Italy possessed a colonial empire from the second half of the nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.
Excavations throughout Italy reveal a modern human presence dating back to the Palaeolithic period, some 200,000 years ago. Ancient Rome was at first a small agricultural community founded circa the 8th century BC, that grew over the course of the centuries into a colossal empire. It encompassed the whole Mediterranean Sea, in which Ancient Greek and Roman cultures merged into one civilization. This civilization was so influential that parts of it survive in modern law, administration, philosophy and arts, forming the ground that Western civilization is based upon. In its twelve-century existence, it transformed itself from republic to monarchy and finally to autocracy. In steady decline since the 2nd century AD, the empire finally broke into two parts in 285 AD: the Western Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire in the East. The western part, under the pressure of Goths, finally dissolved, leaving the Italian peninsula divided into small independent kingdoms and feuding city states for the next 14 centuries, and leaving the eastern part sole heir to the Roman legacy.
Since Italy did not exist as a state until the country's unification in 1861, many traditions and customs that are now recognized as distinctly Italian can be identified by their regions of origin. Despite the political and social isolation of these regions, Italy's contributions to the cultural and historical heritage of Europe remain immense. Italy is home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (43) to date.
Italian painting is traditionally characterized by a warmth of colour and light and a preoccupation with religious figures and motifs. Italian painting enjoyed preeminence in Europe for hundreds of years, from the Romanesque and Gothic periods, and through the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the latter two of which saw fruition in Italy. Notable artists who fall within these periods include Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Bernini, Titian and Raphael.
Thereafter, Italy was to experience a continual subjection to foreign powers which caused a shift of focus to political matters, leading to its decline as the artistic authority in Europe. Not until 20th century Futurism, primarily through the works of Umberto Boccioni and Giacomo Balla, would Italy recapture any of its former prestige as a seminal place of artistic evolution. Futurism was succeeded by the metaphysical paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, who exerted a strong influence on the Surrealists and generations of artists to follow.
The basis of the modern Italian language was established by the Florentine poet Dante Alighieri, whose greatest work, the Divine Comedy, is considered amongst the foremost literary statements produced in Europe during the Middle Ages. There is no shortage of celebrated literary figures in Italy: Giovanni Boccaccio, Giacomo Leopardi, Alessandro Manzoni, Torquato Tasso, Ludovico Ariosto, and Petrarch, whose best-known vehicle of expression, the sonnet, was invented in Italy. Prominent philosophers include Giordano Bruno, Marsilio Ficino, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Giambattista Vico. Modern literary figures and Nobel laureates are nationalist poet Giosuè Carducci in 1906, realist writer Grazia Deledda in 1926, modern theatre author Luigi Pirandello in 1936, poets Salvatore Quasimodo in 1959 and Eugenio Montale in 1975, satirist and theatre author Dario Fo in 1997. Regarding the Italian theatre, it can be traced back to the Roman tradition which was heavily influenced by the Greek; as with many other literary genres, Roman dramatists tended to adapt and translate from the Greek.
Through the centuries, Italy give birth to some of the major world sceince geniuses. Leonardo da Vinci was the quintessential Renaissance Man. Galileo Galilei was a physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations, and support for Copernicanism. The physicist Enrico Fermi was the leader of the team that built the first nuclear reactor; the astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini made many discoveries about the Solar System; the physicist Alessandro Volta was the inventor of the electric battery; the mathematicians Lagrange and Fibonacci made fundamental advances in mathemathics; Guglielmo Marconi received the Nobel Prize in Physics for the inventor of the radio; and Antonio Meucci was the inventor of the telephone.
Popular sports include football, basketball, volleyball, waterpolo, fencing, rugby, cycling, ice hockey, roller hockey and F1 motor racing. Winter sports are most popular in the northern regions, with Italians competing in international games and Olympic venues. Turin hosted the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. Sports are incorporated into Italian festivities like Palio and the gondola race that takes place in Venice on the first Sunday of September. Sports venues have extended from the gladiatorial games of Ancient Rome in the Colosseum to the Stadio Olimpico of contemporary Rome, where football clubs compete.
The most popular sport in Italy is football, the Serie A being one of the most famous competitions in the world. Italy's national football team is the second-most-successful team in the world, with four world cup victories, the first one of which was in 1934. Italy is also and the current (2006) FIFA world champion.
The modern Italian cuisine has evolved through centuries of social and political changes, with its roots reaching back to the 4th century BC. Significant change occurred with the discovery of the New World, when vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, and maize became available. However, these central ingredients of modern Italian cuisine were not introduced in scale before the 18th century. Ingredients and dishes vary by region. However, many dishes that were once regional have proliferated in different variations across the country. Cheese and wine are major parts of the cuisine, playing different roles both regionally and nationally with their many variations. Coffee, and more specifically espresso, has become highly important to the cultural cuisine of Italy.
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