Italy consists primarily of a large peninsula with a characteristic boot shape that extends into the Mediterranean Sea, where collectively with its two main islands Sicily and Sardinia it forms distinctive water bodies, such as the Adriatic Sea to the north-east, the Ionian Sea to the south-east, the Tyrrhenian Sea to the south-west and finally the Ligurian Sea to the north-west.
Italy is surrounded on its north-west frontier by the Alps and the Apennine Mountains. The area is drained by Po River and many of its tributaries flowing down from the Alps, Apennines and Dolomites.
Other famous rivers include the Tiber, Adige and Arno.
The highest point in Italy is Mont Blanc at 4,810 m, though Italy has gained popularity for two famous volcanoes: Vesuvius near Naples, which is presently dormant and the very active Etna on Sicily.
Total: 301,230 sq km
Land: 294,020 sq km
Water: 7,210 sq km
Italy is located in Southern Europe, northeast of Tunisia with its peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea.
Principally the country experiences a Mediterranean type of climate with Alpine in far north; and hot and dry weather conditions prevalent in south.
Environment - current issues:
There are quiet a few environmental areas of concern; such as air pollution from industrial discharges like sulfur dioxide; coastal and inland river pollution due to agricultural and industrial effluents; lake pollution due to acid rains and insufficient industrial waste management and disposal facilities.
Italian is the national language of Italy though numerous dialects have been fomed for local conversations. Such as, Milanese, spoken near the city of Milan, Neapolitan, spoken near Naples, Sicilian, spoken on Sicily, etc. Apart from Italian and its varied dialects many other languages are also spoken in Italy.
On 1 January 1999, The European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a general currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries on 1st January 1999 and on 1 January 2002, it became the singular currency for daily transactions within the member countries
Exchange rates: euros per US dollar - 0.79697 (2005), 0.8054 (2004), 0.886 (2003), 1.0626 (2002), 1.1175 (2001)
Roman Catholicism is by far the most popular religion in the country. About 87% of the Italian population is Roman Catholic, whereas around 13% falls under either other religions or none at all. Italy also has some significant pilgrimages and famous Roman Catholic churches and cathedrals.
Jehovah's Witnesses are the second largest Christian group in Italy with some 400,000 active members. There are a few Protestant denominations in Italy, generally Waldensians. Muslims, Jews and Buddhists also form a small part of Italy’s population.
Culture and Society:
Italian culture is as varied and diverse as the Italian people. Italian culture can be found in the ruins of Rome remaining in most parts of the country, the remains of the Roman Catholic Church, the spirit of the Renaissance and Enlightenment, the architecture, and on the terraces of the many football clubs.
The aroma and flavour of Italy can be cherished through its varied cuisine: Roman cuisine, for example, uses pecorino (sheep's cheese) and organ meats, while Tuscan cuisine features saltless white beans and bread; the pizzas of Rome have a very thin crust and resemble crackers, where as Neapolitan and Sicilian pizza are thicker. The most important regional difference is the choice of fats is that the northern Italians have a tendency of using rich dairy fats such as cream, butter, and mascarpone cheese where as southern Italians prefer olive oil as a ooking medium.
Italian sports are alike those played in other European countries. Popular sports include football (soccer), rugby, basketball, skiing, archery, race car driving, and skating. Italy has effectively participated in the Olympics since the second summer Olympics in 1900 and since the 1948 Winter Olympics. Italy supports a national rugby union team. The Italian Football Federation organizes all professional soccer events in Italy. Monza holds the popular Italian Grand Prix.
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