(Source: CIA - The World Factbook 2003)
Country name (long form): Italian Republic (Repubblica Italiana).
Government type: Republic.
Total area: 301,230 km˛.
Coastline: 7,600 km.
Highest point: Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) de Courmayeur 4,748 m (a secondary peak of Mont Blanc).
Population: 57,998,000 (July 2003).
Religions: Predominately Roman Catholic with mature Protestant and Jewish communities and a growing Muslim immigrant community.
Languages: Italian (official), German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d'Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area).
Italy became a nation-state in 1861 when the city-states of the peninsula, along with Sardinia and Sicily, were united under King Victor Emmanuel. An era of parliamentary government came to a close in the early 1920s when Benito Mussolini established a Fascist dictatorship. His disastrous alliance with Nazi Germany led to Italy's defeat in World War II. A democratic republic replaced the monarchy in 1946 and economic revival followed. Italy was a charter member of NATO and the European Economic Community (EEC). It has been at the forefront of European economic and political unification, joining the European Monetary Union in 1999. Persistent problems include illegal immigration, organized crime, corruption, high unemployment, and the low incomes and technical standards of southern Italy compared with the prosperous north.
17 March 1861 (Kingdom of Italy proclaimed; Italy was not finally unified until 1870).
Predominantly Mediterranean; Alpine in far north; hot, dry in south.
Mostly rugged and mountainous; some plains, coastal lowlands.
Economy - overview
Italy has a diversified industrial economy with roughly the same total and per capita output as France and the UK. This capitalistic economy remains divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less developed, welfare-dependent agricultural south, with 20% unemployment. Most raw materials needed by industry and more than 75% of energy requirements are imported. Over the past decade, Italy has pursued a tight fiscal policy in order to meet the requirements of the Economic and Monetary Unions and has benefited from lower interest and inflation rates. The current government has enacted numerous short-term reforms aimed at improving competitiveness and long-term growth. Italy has moved slowly, however, on implementing needed structural reforms, such as lightening the high tax burden and overhauling Italy's rigid labor market and over-generous pension system, because of the current economic slowdown and opposition from labor unions.
San Giorgio Maggiore Benedictine Monastery, Venice.
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