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Official Name Republica Italiana (Italian Republic)
Capital Rome
Population 57.9 million (2001)
Area 301,278 sq km or 116,324 sq mi
Currency Euro ($1 = 1.08)
Religion Christianity
Literacy 97%
Languages Italian (official)
Major Cities Milan, Naples, Turin, Palermo, Florence, Venice
Climate Diverse climate

Italy or Repubblica Italiana: With a population of over 60.3 million, Italy is the 23rd most populous country in the world. Mass Italian diaspora and migration of Italians between 1861 and 1960’s has resulted in over 25 million Italians having relocated to different countries of the world including USA, France, Austria, Belgium and other countries in Africa. The southern fringes of the country are bound by the Adriatic Sea, the Ionian Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Ligurian Sea, while the north-east, north and west are bordered by Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland, France and Monaco. The Republic of San Marino and the Vatican City are sovereign enclaves within the territory of Italy. Rome is the capital city of this 301,225 square kilometer large country. Rome has a population of over 2.8 million inhabitants.

Over 68% of the Italian population lives in cities such as Rome, Milan, Naples, and Turin. While the northern Alps lend the country beauty beyond compare, the southern coasts impart it a warm, Mediterranean climate making the country a favorite with the locals and tourists alike. While Italian is the official and commonly spoken language other European languages such as English, German, and French are commonly heard in Italy. A romantic history of power and culture envelopes Rome and the country’s continuing bid to keep its political, economic and cultural prominence ensure Italy’s role as a major European power.

History of Italy:
Italy boasts a very colorful history. Rome, the capital of Italy, has been the seat of power struggles over the centuries. Historical records show that the Mycenaean Greeks colonized the coastal areas of Italy as far back as the 7th century BC. The earliest agrarian societies in Rome date back to the 8th century BC. This civilization fused with the Greek empire and spanned the entire Mediterranean belt. Julius and Augustus Caesar were the greatest known monarchs to have held Rome in these times.

Roman Empire to Renaissance: By the 4th century AD this culturally rich empire succumbed to the sway of the Goth invasion and a number of small city-states created the map of present-day Italy. Despite weak attempts by Emperor Justinian to unite the states, the smaller kingdoms remained firmly entrenched in conflict and warfare. With the spread of Christianity, religious crusades swept across Italy. The 15th century saw the Renaissance, a cultural revival, which is termed the 'Golden Era' predominantly due to the flourishing interest of art and architecture, thought and literature, music and culture in Italy. The 17th and the 18th centuries saw recurrent invasions by Spain and Austria and later by the French. The Napoleonic Wars, however, succeeded in uniting the northern regions of the country. In the 19th century Italy saw the movement for unification of the country.

Independent Italy: The Kingdom of Italy emerged out of the efforts by nationalists such as Guiseppe Mazini, Camillo Cavour, and Giuseppe Garibaldi. The wars of independence overthrew Austria and freed Lombardy, Venetia and Florence. In 1961, Italy united as a kingdom with King Emmanuel as the monarch. In 1871 Rome was made capital of the kingdom of Italy. Parliamentary governance was adopted and in 1913, Italy adopted universal male suffrage.

World War I and the rise of Mussolini: Italy entered the World War I with the signing of the Treaty of London in 1915. The country suffered great losses and with the economy plunging to an unprecedented low. These years saw the upsurge of the National Fascist Party, led by Benito Mussolini. In October 1922 the fascists conducted the famed March on Rome. Mussolini soon banned all political parties and styled himself dictator of the land. Mussolini allied with Hitler and the Nazi Party of Germany alienating the country internationally and resulting in the country's withdrawal from the League of Nations.

World War II and Beyond: In 1940 Italy entered World War II and supported the Axis powers. Mussolini, invaded Greece in October 1940 but this resulted in a stalemate. The Allied Powers then invaded Italy 1943, leading to the fall of Mussolini and the Fascist regime. In the same year Italy surrendered to the Allies and the country's economy virtually collapsed. In 1946, Italy shed its monarchy and donned a republican outfit. Universal adult suffrage was introduced and Italy became a member of the UN and NATO. Italy has, ever since, gone through a period of political uncertainty, torn by party politics, a struggling economy and has faced challenges such as corruption and Mafia governance.

Italy Geography:
Located in South Europe, Italy is a peninsula known for its unique boot shape. Italy also includes the southern islands of Sicily and Sardinia. While the climate is largely mild and temperate, the mountainous ranges of the north experience a long, cold winter. The Alps experience cool, breezy summers (July to September). June is mercurial with uncharacteristic snowfall forcing tourists to alter plans. Past September snowfall may be expected in the Alps, in which case traditionally cold months such as December, January and February remain relatively warm. Southern Italy enjoys a humid Mediterranean climate. Winters in this region are cool and enjoyable. The islands tend to face torrid showers in the long summer months. April through June are the months that see a major influx of visitors owing to the brilliant bio-life and colorful flowers of the valley areas that make Italy come alive. The winter months are preferred for sports tourism and skiing enthusiasts. Of the 14 volcanoes in Italy, only three are active. Vesuvius, being the only active volcano in European mainland enjoys a reputation over Etna and Stromboli. Also Italy is known to be the most earthquake-prone country of the world.

Italy - State and Polity:
Italy is made up of 15 regions and 5 autonomous regions - Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Latium, Liguria, Lombardia, Marche, Molise, Piedmont, Apulia, Tuscany, Umbria, Venetia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sardinia, Sicily, Trentino-South Tyrol, and Valle d'Aosta (Aosta Valley). These last 5 autonomous regions retain legislative authority over matters of local relevance. The polity of Italy is a parliamentary, democratic republic and elections are held based on universal adult suffrage. Hence, multiparty democracy thrives in the country.

The state is headed by the President of Italy. The President has inherited many of the roles and responsibilities held by the erstwhile Monarch. The President is currently elected by the parliament with regional representation and holds supreme executive, judiciary and military authority in the country.

Legislative authority is wielded by the two houses of Parliament and also by the Council of Ministers. Executive authority in the country rests with the Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister of Italy leads the Council of Ministers as the council's president.

The Prime Minister is nominated by the President, who also names the members of Council of Ministers pending a proposal from the Prime Minister. The Council Members need the assent of both houses of Parliament. The Constitution of Italy was passed on December 11, 1947 and executed on January 1, 1948. It has been amended many times.

Italy has only been strengthening its role in international politics as a founding member of the EU, and as a member of the G-20, G-8, NATO, UN, UNESCO, WHO, and WTO. Italy supports and assists the UN peacekeeping forces as required. Italy hosts embassies and high commissions of almost every major nation in the world and maintains harmonious diplomatic relation. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and The Corps of Carabiners form the Italian military. The Italian military had over 290,000 personnel on active duty as per 2010 statistics. Compulsory military service was abolished in 2005 and service now is voluntary.

Italian Economy- the Highs and the Lows:
Post-war Italy was a weak economy, heavily dependent on agriculture. Heavy public spending and a structured approach at industrialization paid off rich dividends and Italy soon emerged as a major capitalist economy, with a GDP of $30,700 per capita (data as of 2010). The rate of unemployment was estimated at 8.4% in 2010 (increased from 7.8 in 2009), and the welfare initiatives of the public bodies are more relevant to the southern regions than the north. While northern Italy is highly industrialized and partners with various countries to contribute significantly to the country's international trade, the south is still agrarian and dependent on welfare funded by public budgets. Italy's underground economy deserves mention here with the economy growing to an estimated size of about 15% of the GDP.

In recent years the introduction of severe economic reforms has brought immense relief to the situation. Tourism is still the most prominent foreign exchange-generating industry in the country. Italy has made a name for itself in the world of fashion and designs. As a natural corollary, the garments, footwear, textiles, automobile, ceramics and iron and steel industries are the major exporters in the country. Italian cuisine having taken the world by storm, exports of wine, cheese, processed food, etc are important revenue earners as well. Nutella, the Italian brand, remains ever popular.

At $458.4 billion, Italy’s exports were the 8th largest in world in 2010. The standard of living is high with the GDP (PPP) pegged at $1.782 trillion in 2010. The public revenues in 2009 stood at $940.3 billion while the expenditures read $1.042 trillion. The country's $2.223 trillion debt as of 2010 compares favorably with the debt reading of 2008 ($2.328 trillion). And yet the country is 8th on the list of the nations in terms of the international debt. The GDP has indeed registered a growth in 2010. Though a low 1.1%increase, this is a positive sign compared to the decline of the previous year.

It must be admitted that Italian brands have made themselves indispensable in the global economy. How many of us can imagine a world without Ferrari, Fiat, Ducati, Piaggio, Lamborghini, Vespa, Armani, Gucci, Valentino, Prada, Dolce&Gabbana, Versace, Fendi, Benetton, Bulgari, Zinetti Foods, Pastene and Nutella?

Travel and Infrastructure: Go Italy! (Forza Italia!)
Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples, Pompeii, Milan? Take your pick. Italy has long captured the imagination of travelers and tourists all over the world. Be it the beautiful landscapes of Tuscany, the stunning churches and cathedrals of Venice and Naples, the fashion festivals of Milan, the wilderness of Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso (Gran Paradiso National Park) and Parco Regionale della Maremma (Maremma Regional Park) or the historic tours of Rome, tourists from all over the world come to Italy and get caught up in the fervor of the country and attempt to capture the colorful, glorious life in the region.

Festivals and Sporting Events: Italy is the right place to soak up the festivities of the Carnival of Venice, the Opera Festivals of Puccini and Verona, Giostra Del Saracino and the Film Festivals of Rome and Venice. In the midst of such cultural medley are the exciting sports events such as the Giro, Calcio Storico Fiorentino, L'Eroica. Cheers rent the air and the locals don colorful attire to join in the spirit of the land.

Wildlife, Food and Romance - The Italian Way - The Parco Nazionale Arcipelago Toscano (Tuscan Archipelago National Park), the Majella National Park, the National Park of Pollino capture the epic beauty of Italian wilderness and wildlife. Food festivals and wine fests are probably the most attractive part of your Italian vacations.

The romantic tragedy of Romeo and Juliet resounds in the very air of Verona. Palermo, the capital of Sicily, is the promise of adventure and Trento's rich history past combines well with the city's natural beauty.

Art and History- an Enduring Italian Love: The Leonardo Museum and The Academy Gallery of Venice, Galleria Borhgese, and the Spada Gallery of Rome enshrine the superlative art and culture of the country. The Renaissance, the Golden Era of art and culture, lived its full life in Italy and splayed the country in its glorious colors.

Getting to Italy: The excellent infrastructure of Italy supports the influx of tourists, in high numbers, every year. Over 101 airports including Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport and Milan’s Malpensa airport manage the air traffic entering the country. Alitalia, Italy’s national air carrier is now owned by private investors and along with a number of prominent European airlines operates in Italy. Getting to Italy from various prominent cities in Europe is now made easy with the launch of Eurostar train services. Luxury coaches and car rentals available in many cities of France, Germany and Austria are a preferred mode of getting to Italy. The southern approach is preferred by those who wish to take ferries and cruises from countries such as Greece, the UK and Albania.

The country has a number of excellent coaches, and regional airlines and as well as extensive rail network allowing easy travel. The rail network covers over 19,729 km and may be standard or meter gauge.

MapsofWorld tips:
If the only language you know is English, do carry an English - Italian dictionary. Otherwise getting around and conversing with the locals may prove difficult. If you don't speak Italian try to talk to someone under 25 - the chances of him/her speaking English (or at least understanding it) is lot higher than someone over 25. Also, the Italian language is a lot like Spanish. If you know Spanish, in all likelihood, you’ll have a great time.

Culture of Italy: A Fascinating Study
Italy is a land that identifies itself by its unique and colorful culture, a heritage that is a blend of the cultures of the ancient Greek invaders, the Romans, and the natives of the many different regions. The rich art and music legacy of the country, its orientation towards sports and performing arts and its intricate cuisine have plotted Italy firmly oin the map of the world.

Music of the Land:
From the Evergreen Opera and classical music to the current rages such as jazz, pop and hip hop, Italy is home to some mind-blowing musicians. The popularity of opera skyrocketed in the Italian cites of Venice and Naples in the early 16th century. The operas of Claudio Monteverdi, Alessandro Scarlatti, and Gioacchino Rossini immortalized the operatic tradition of music. Other maestros such as Andrea Gabrieli, Tomaso Albinoni, Giovanni Gabrieli, Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli,and Domenico Scarlattis have popularized classical music and concertos in Italy. A rich tradition of regional music has held the history of Italy. The variance in such regional music defines the difference in historic evolution of the region. For example Piedmont regional music essentially stems from the vernacular usage in the ballads of the troubadours while Sicilian music is more rustic and was born of the masses' attempt at music.

Italy has long held a tradition of instrumental music. Why, the world recognizes the best violins to be Italian. A tradition of lutherie and archetier is practiced in Italy with the Brescian and Cremona schools of violin making which have become world famous. Other instruments made to perfection in the country are flutes, lutes, harps, accordions, tambourines and drums.

The Federation of the Italian Music Industry (FIMI) established the Italian Music Awards in 2000 to encourage the musicians and artists who promoted Italian music in Italy and abroad.

Italy’s Contributions to the World of Science:

The study of science was pioneered by many Italians. Leonardo da Vinci, better known for his contribution to art is also well known for his study of biology. Galileo Galilei was a noted physicist and astronomer whose contributions in the construction of the modern telescope and findings of the solar system have brought him much repute. Amedeo Avogadro’s molecular theories are studied as Avogardo's Law by students of science the world over. His contributions to the world of science are legendary.

Italy is also home to the physicist Enrico Fermi who won the Nobel Prize and pioneered the construction the first nuclear reactor. As a co-developer of the quantum theory, Fermi won additional acclaim. Giovanni Domenico Cassini's contribution to the world of modern astronomy is recalled with much reverence in the world of science. Alessandro Volta invented the electric battery in Italy. Ettore Majorana, the noted physicist, won repute for his Majorana equation and Evangelista Torrecelli is also noted physicist and a mathematician from the country. Marcello Malpighi founded microscopic anatomy and caused the world of medicines to move many paces ahead of his time. Other noted Nobel laureates from the country are Emilio Serhe, Carlo Rubbia, Camillo Golgi and Guglielmo Macroni. Institutions such as the Museo Galileo, the Institute and Museum of the History of Science, in Florence are keen promoters of scientific temper in the country.

Literature in Italy - From Latin to Italian
Early Italian literature is almost entirely in Latin. Cassiodorus, Symmachus and Magnus Felix Ennodius are noted writers of this era. In the 1300's Italian was used as the language to reach the masses and the courts alike with the lyrical traditions of troubadours kept alive by the likes of Rambertino Buvalelli. St Francis of Assisi's mystic verses were the earliest Italian poetry to tug the heartstrings of the masses with its poignant emotion. Italy saw the growth of Catholic religious literature and also of satire and sonnets, of ballads and operatic poetry. Growth of prose marked the advent of the 'Golden' Renaissance Ages. Dante's Divine comedy (Divina Commedia) is the world's best known piece of Italian literature through the ages. Dante ushered in an age of revival in Italian literature. A number of Italian thinkers and authors such as Nicolo Machiavelli, Giordano Bruno, Giacomo Leopardi, Alessandro Manzoni and Ugo Foscolo have made a name for themselves and for Italian literature. A number of Nobel Laureates such as Giosue Carducci, Grazia Deledda and Salavatore Quasimodo have positioned the country well in the world of literature.

Italy - A World of Fashion
Think Fashion, Think Milan. Milan, Florence and Venice have long held the center stage of the modern fashion world with premier brands such as Gucci, Armani, Prada and Valentino having become synonymous with luxury dresses and accessories. Italy has been a medley of rich, luxuriant fabrics, chic jewelry, cosmetics and accessories even as far back as the 16th century. In the 1950s, Giovanni Battista Giorgini from Florence reclaimed the fashion spotlight that had been lured away by the French designers. Fashion majors such as Gucci and Valentino have captured the spotlight in high-end dressing and celebrity outfits. With these fashion houses going international they have become the rage the world over. Here are MapsofWorld’s favorite brands in dressing and accessories from Italy, home of some of the most awesome fashion houses in the world.

Top 10 Fashion Brands in Italy
Armani, the brand fashioned by Giorgio Armani, is a leading collection range of cosmetics, leather goods, watches, accessories, and jewelry and represents high couture and ready-to-wear garments, and is a favorite of style icons across the globe. The labels of this brand include Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani, Armani Jeans, Armani Exchange, Armani Junior, Armani Casa and Armani Collezioni Active.

Dolce & Gabbana sports two lines of fashion goods and accessories, Dolce&Gabbana and D&G. While Dolce&Gabbana is a more upscale brand of luxury items and accessories such as eyewear, fragrances and watches, D&G is a pioneer in casual clothing and has ranges of mass scale apparel. Icons such as Madonna and Alexandra Burke have actively promoted the brand in recent years.

Gucci or The House of Gucci, founded by Guccio Gucci in Florence in 1921 has grown to be the best-selling Italian brand of fashion and leather goods. With patrons such as Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Jacqueline Kennedy, the brand stands for the best in women's accessories, including bags and scarves. Perfumes from Gucci are a delight to the senses.

Emilio Pucci personified bold prints and vibrant colors. Adored for his casual line of clothing and striking designs, The House of Pucci was set up by him to immortalize his fancy creations. Pucci quickly diversified into accessories, lingerie, sleepwear and perfumes. The brand celebrated 60 glorious years in the world of fashion in 2007 and is a favorite with many celebrities including Elizabeth Hurley, Jennifer Lopez, and Victoria Beckham.

Prada’s line range of travel accessories was initiated in 1913 by Mario Prada. Having introduced the Pocone, Prada quickly made the fashion world sit up and take notice by launching a simple and elegant line of garments in the 1980's. Prada boutiques across the world have stocked innovative apparel and accessories and the house has won the hearts of fashion critics across Europe and America. The Devil Wears Prada, a best-selling novel by Lauren Weisberger, captures the popularity of the brand and characterizes its clientele as fashion savvy.

Trussardi is the brand sported by the Trussardi Group. Their group's latest launch Trussardi 1911 is a range of stunning apparel, travel accessories, perfumes, candles and fashion accessories. The jeans range launched by the group has won acclaims in various fashion shows of the world. The group has involved itself actively in designing furniture and in the world of Italian food and cuisine.

Fendi, with over 10 flagship stores across the globe Fendi is a trendsetter in "fluid" designs in the world of ready-to-wear men's and women's clothing and accessories that include scarves, ties, beachwear, eyewear, bags, jewelry, shoes and leather goods. Fendi's latest ranges of perfumes, bath products, and home furnishings have become a favorite with celebrities across the world.

Ferre, or The Fashion House of Ferre, is known for its successful collections of fashion wear. Ferre Womenswear has pioneered an incredible range of fragrances and stylish accessories besides its traditional apparel. The winner of many prestigious fashion awards, Ferre, is a favorite with celebrities who like straight lines and simple contours.

Missoni, the knitwear brand patronized by Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, and Ashley Judd is one of Italy's most successful fashion houses. Missoni Menswear and Missoni Sport are the rage across Europe and America and Missoni Profumi is a much sought after fragrance label the world over.

The United Colors of Benetton, a brand set up in Ponzano Veneto, Italy, has gone global with over 5000 stores worldwide. The brand is known for its innovative use of colors and introduction of unique, vibrant colors every season as well as its use of white and off white. The social responsibility ad campaign of The United Colors of Benetton was revolutionary and championed popular causes. The B Base and UCB Kids collections are currently hot trendsetters.

Design and Architecture in Italy
Italian architecture has its origins from the Greek and Etruscan schools with the Greek colonists having built imposing structures in Italy even as far back as the 4th century BC. Ancient Roman architecture drew heavily from this Greek influence but evolved to suit the needs of the contemporary civilization and improvised on the use of curves and arches. The Byzantine Empire in Rome saw the growth of Christianity as a religion and the construction of a number of cathedrals and Basilicas of unsurpassed beauty. The following Gothic and Renaissance periods that followed were the golden years of art and culture in Italy. Architecture in Italy reached its pinnacle with cathedrals, palaces and monuments of glory being built across the country. With Baroque architecture gaining prominence in Italy in the 1600's the architectural marvels of the country that came up in this age saw the prominence of classic design, domes and complex structures. The Neoclassical era saw the revival of an interest and imitation of ancient Roman and Greek styles. With contemporary architecture in Italy having become synonymous with style, elegance, and grace the country has become the seat of architectural education of the modern world.

10 Architectural Wonders of Italy...erm, we tried.
With over 45 UNESCO World Heritage sites, we at MapsofWorld had a really tough time putting this list together. But we tried.

The Colosseum, Rome, is the largest amphitheater built during the Roman Empire and is an imposing building, previously known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. Completed in 80 AD, the Colosseum has been the setting of a number of ancient Roman cultural events including gladiatorial contests, music and performances in the old world.

The Milan Cathedral, Milan, or the Duomo di Milano is an imposing Gothic cathedral, and the largest of its kind in the world. The construction of this cathedral is believed to have lasted from 1386 to 1965, well over 500 years. As the seat of the Archbishop of Milan and the world's second-largest cathedral of the Catholic faith, the Milan Cathedral commands quite a stature.

The Florence Cathedral, Florence, also known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore was constructed between 1296 and 1436. The cathedral is located in Piazza del Duomo and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of Italy's largest cathedrals and is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Florence. The imposing dome is one of the biggest in the world.

The Leaning Tower, Pisa, or the Torre Pendente di Pisa is the bell tower of the Cathedral of Pisa. In the year 1990, the tower's high and low sides were 56.7 meters and 55.8 meters respectively and it leaned to the south at an angle of 5.5 degrees. Restoration work was again initiated and by 2008 engineers measured the tower’s lean to be 13 feet off the center. The tower has now stopped leaning and is likely to remain stable for the next 300 years. This tower is one of the architectural marvels of Italy and a definite must-see.

Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, Milan, stands as a grand church and a fine sample of the Romanesque architecture built by Saint Ambrose in memory of the many martyred saints of Rome. Damages to the basilica were inflicted in 1943 by the Anglo-American bombings. The structure now houses the Abbott's office and the tomb of Emperor Louis II.

Basilica of St. John Lateran, Rome, or the Arcibasilica Papale di San Giovanni is the seat of the Bishop of Rome and the cathedral of the Church of Rome. It is one of the four Papal Basilicas of Rome. A typical Baroque architectural marvel, it houses the sculptures of the twelve Apostles and attracts worshippers from across the world.

Temple of Neptune, Paestum, dates back to 600 BC and is known for its reflection of Greek architecture. Thirty-six limestone columns adorn this temple dedicated to Goddess Hera. The temple stands in the Campania region of Italy and is designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, the Basilica of St Mary of Health is dedicated to Our Lady of Health and was built to deliver the citizens of Venice from the plague in 1600's. The construction was commissioned in 1631 and was designed by Baldassare Longhena. This beautiful domed basilica stands on a fringe of land by the Grand Canal making it exceptionally picturesque.

St Mark's Basilica, Venice, or Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco, built on Piazza San Marco is an opulent example of the Byzantine School of architecture and is often referred to as the Chiesa d'Oro, or the Church of Gold. It is currently the seat of the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Venice.

The San Carlo Theater, Naples, or the Real Teatro di San Carlo is another UNESCO World Heritage site, a famed opera house designed by Giovanni Antonio Medrano and Angelo Carasale. The color scheme of this theater reflects the Bourbon colors of blue and gold and has hosted the best operas of Italy.

We haven’t included St. Peter's Basilica on this list as it is located in Vatican City, a sovereign state in Rome. The Church of San Lorenzo, San Biagio in Montepulciano, the Church of Sant' Andrea, Villa Rotunda, Medici-Riccardi Palace, the Church of Santa Susanna, Saint Peter's Square, the Palazzo Barberini, the Pantheon in Rome, the church of San Pietro e Paolo, and the Palazzo Castiglioni are other classic and beautiful structures that are well worth a visit.

Besides architecture Italian automobile, interior and urban designers have made a name for themselves. The automobile industry in Italy is one of the significant contributors in the country's GDP. In 2006, over 2,130 automobile firms in Italy employed nearly 250,000 persons and recorded a turnover of 38.3 billion euros. In 2009, over 661,100 cars and 182,138 commercial vehicles were produced in Italy. Italian automobiles are well known for their designs, which include the Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Fiat and Vespa.

Art and Sculpture in Italy
Art in Italy finds its origins in the ancient Roman civilization and grew to astounding heights in the Renaissance era. The Baroque art lent its quintessential style to artists in the later ages and the neoclassical and contemporary art of Italy have retained the popularity the country's art traditions have gained over the centuries. With artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello, Tintoretto and Bernini adorning the sky, Italy resounds across the globe as the center for the origin of exquisite art.

The earliest influences on Italian art and sculpture may be attributed to the Etruscan style. Roman art and sculpture draws heavily from the Etruscan style. Sculpture in this period progressed from the use of terracotta and bronze to the use of wax and marble. One of the best sculptures that reflect the Roman style is the statue of Augustus, now displayed at the Vatican Museum. Relief work was used to define posture and contours of the sculpture. Byzantine school of sculpture was marked by the use of ivory and metal. The Romanesque era did not encourage secular sculpture but kept the art confined to decorating churches and cathedrals. Gothic sculpture found many patrons in northern Italy, predominantly in Tuscany. The Renaissance saw a renewed interest in art and sculpture in Italy. Individual artists were recognized and Renaissance society's freedom of thought and expression was reflected in the spectacular artworks produced in this period. Scenes from the Old and New Testament were favorite subjects with artists and sculptors of Renaissance Italy. Bronze was a much favored metal among the sculptors and marble and stone sculptures came to be known for their finesse. Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Giorgione are Renaissance artists and sculptors from Italy who are considered to be among the best artists of all times. The late 16th century and the 17th century saw the growth of Baroque art and sculpture in Italy. Bernini was probably the best known sculpture of this age. Mannerism was a natural evolution of Renaissance art and sculpture. Bronzino, Pontormo, Rosso Fiorentino, and Giulio Romano are among the best known Mannerist painters from Italy. A revival of interest in classical art and sculpture ushered in the neoclassical art Italy. Some of the best artworks of this age such as Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss and Venus Victrix also showcase classic themes.

10 Italian Art Pieces that Captivated Global Interest:
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci is a renowned mural painting etched on the wall of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. The painting has been restored many times. The Last Supper has been a keen subject of debate among art historians and occultists who claim that it conceals many secret symbols.

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is probably the most famous painting in the world. Da Vinci started painting Mona Lisa in the city of Florence in the 16th century but took it to France where he completed working on it. Mona Lisa is well known for the enigmatic expression she wears. The painting is preserved at the Louvre in Paris.

Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano considered to be the artist's best work and is preserved in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Painted at the behest of Palla Strozzi in the 15th century, the painting is a fine example of Gothic art.

David by Michelangelo is one of the best known examples of Renaissance sculpture. Currently displayed at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence, the sculpture was completed by Michelangelo in the year 1504. The sculpture is known for its beauty, strength, and poise.

Creation of Adam by Michelangelo is a fresco in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This famous artwork depicts the creation of Adam, the first man by God. God is depicted in this paining as a man who reaches out to Adam, possibly in the act of breathing life into him. This artwork dates back to the 16th century.

Pietà by Michelangelo was completed in 1499 and the sculpture is displayed in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City. Michelangelo subsequently undertook other works based on the same theme. The sculpture depicts Mary holding Jesus in her lap after the Crucifixion.

The Last Judgment by Michelangelo is another well known masterpiece that adorns the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. The fresco depicts Jesus and the saints on the Day of Reckoning when souls rise to heaven of sink to hell. Michelangelo finished painting The Last Judgment in 1541 and depicted himself as St. Bartholomew.

Joseph in Egypt by Pontormo was executed between 15151 and 1518. This famous painting is now displayed in the National Gallery, London. Pontormo’s Joseph paintings are fine examples of mannerist influence in Renaissance art using the oil on wood technique.

The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio is a Baroque masterpiece displayed in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio undertook to paint this artwork for Ciriaco Mattei, a nobleman. The painting depicts the betrayal of Judas leading to the capture of Jesus by the soldiers.

Finding the Body of St Mark by Tintoretto is one of the four pieces of art that were commissioned to beautify Venice's Scuola Grande di San Rocco. The artwork dates back to the late 1540's and in the painting Tintoretto displays his mastery over the Venetian Renaissance style of painting.

Cinema in Italy
Italian cinema took off soon after the introduction of the Cinematographe. Italian neorealism grew in post-World War II cinema and took the world by storm. The realistic depiction of social and economic issues of Italian society was pioneered by Cesare Zavattini, Federico Fellini, Giuseppe De Santis, Luchino Visconti, Roberto Rossellini, Suso Cecchi d'Amico, and Vittorio De Sica. A number of Italian movies including the La strada, Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto, Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini, Amarcord, Nuovo cinema Paradiso, Mediterraneo, and La vita è bella, have won the Best Foreign Language at the Oscars.

Sports in Italy: Beyond Football
Italy is a sporting nation and has carved a niche for itself in the worlds of car racing, football, basketball and skiing. Besides these, Italians actively participate in sports like golf, baseball, volleyball, hockey, water polo, cycling, and rugby.

The inaugural Formula One Grand Prix in 1950 was won by Nino Farina, an Italian, driving an Alfa Romeo. The Ferrari team has made its presence known in every season and won over 200 Formula One races.

Football, the ever-popular sport of every Italian is the unparalleled national sport with Italy winning four FIFA World Cups in the years 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006.

Italy's basketball team is one of the world's best and has bagged the gold at Eurobasket twice and the silver once. The NBA is a big presence in the country and players like Gallianari, Bargnani and Marco Belinelli were are part of the Italian basketball league. The Italian Rugby League established in the 1950's represents the country in many international championships. The Italian Rugby League Championship, set up in 2010 is a showcase of the country's rugby players and their skills.

Ski resorts in Italy such as the Arabba Ski Resort and the Monterosa Ski Resort attract amateur and professional skiers from across the globe. Italy also actively promotes sports such as roller skating and figure skating. Contemporary athletes who have made a name for themselves include Denise Karbon, Enrica Fabris, Carolina Kostner, and Susanna Marchesi.

Italian Food – the way the world likes it:
Italian cuisine has truly taken the world by storm in the true sense of the words. There’s not a nook nor corner of the world where people do not crave a well-tossed pizza, delicious pasta, or even well-baked lasagna. Traditional influences that remain unaltered through the ages are the Italians’ use of breads, cheeses, herbs and wines. While the origin of spaghetti is attributed to early chefs of Sicily, macaroni seems to be more of Florentine origin.

10 Dishes You Must Sample While in Italy:
Neapolitan Pizza - The recipes for this authentic Italian pizza were developed in the 19th century Campania region of Naples. A variety of vegetables and meat toppings, herbed tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese are baked atop a coarse flat bread to create this ever-popular dish. Variations of the Neapolitan Pizza form popular meals across the world, but the Italians guard the original flavors of this dish.

Risotto alla Milanese - Also known as Saffron Rice, Risotto alla Milanese, is said to have its origin in 1574 when an apprentice named Valerius served the dish at his master's wedding. The Soffritto, a combination of onions and vegetables is sautéed, and flavors such as saffron, herbs, and condiments are introduced to the rice. The broth in which the rice is cooked is very often a chicken or a vegetable broth, depending on the desired effect. Long-grained Italian rice goes into the making of Risotto alla Milanese, and the dish is a traditional favorite from Milan.

Cheese Fondue - The Valle'dAosta region of Italy is known for the varieties of cheese produced here and cheese fondue is the inevitable result of such excellent produce. Fontina cheese is often used in the making of the fondue and is served, melted, in fondue dishes with an assortment of vegetables, fruits and crackers.

Gianduiotto - Paul Caffarel and Michele Prochet are believed to have devised the recipe of Gianduiotto in 1865 at Turin in the Piedmont region of Italy. A fine blend of the hazelnut called Tonda Gentile delle Langhe, with cocoa and sugar lent to the birth of this yummy delight.

Spinach Gnocchi - Spinach Gnocchi is a popular Italian dish from the Friuli region of the country. Tiny lump-shaped pasta made of wheat dough and spinach is cooked in an herbed sauce to produce this main course dish. Gnocchi finds its origin in Roman cuisine and nowadays the dough is often combined with mashed potatoes.

Arancini - Arancini are golden fried rice balls, often stuffed with cheese, ragu-sauce, potatoes and peas. This dish is a particular favorite of the locals of the Ragusa area in Sicily. Arancini means small oranges, and the deep-fried rice balls are reminiscent of the oranges consumed in the region.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara - Spaghetti is one of the more popular pastas consumed in Italy. The origins of Spaghetti alla Carbonara are attributed to the mid 20th century chefs of Lazio in Italy who found the dish a perfect method of combining the local guanciale meat with eggs, cheese, olive oil and pepper. Parmesan cheese is often used to garnish the dish and the vegetables used include mushrooms, peas and leeks.

Tiramisu - Treviso in Veneto, Italy, has its claim to fame as the place where the famous Tiramisu cake has its origin. Savoiardi biscuits are layered with coffee and generously coated with egg yolks, cocoa and mascarpone, a thick cheese. Tiramisu is brushed with sweet liqueur and is one of the country's most famous desserts.

Cassata - Cassata Siciliana is a traditional cake served at weddings and such ceremonies in the Palermo, Sicily region of Italy. Often topped with an assortment of colorful fruits, raisins, ricotta nuts and candies and crusted with pastel shades of icing, the Cassata looks straight out of a fairy tale.

Panforte - Panforte Di Siena is believed to be the favorite of the monks from the monasteries of Siena in the Tuscany region of Italy. It is a flavored bread made with fruits, nuts, raisins spices, and honey. Panforte recipes are seldom shared by families or confectioners in Italy and are often guarded as family secrets.

10 Coffees You Must Try in Italy:
Italian Coffee is the way the world prefers to wake up, get through the day, and dine. Top Italian coffee brands include the Illy, Lavazza, Molinari, and Segafredo Zanetti. Coffee is an indispensable part of life in Italy. Well, the same can be said of the world. But Italian coffees are possibly the most popular coffees across the globe. Espresso, the Italian coffee made from roasted coffee beans is probably the most popular. People from almost all parts of the globe treat themselves to a Cappuccino, a Corretto, a Caffe'latte, a Cafe Au Lait or a Latte Macchiato after a long day's work. Lungo, Ristretto, and Cappuccino Chiaro are other coffees you must try in Italy. Bicerin is a caffeine lover's substitute for hot chocolate. Interestingly, Italian coffee is rarely made with Italian coffee beans. Coffee is imported by Italy from Indonesia and other parts of Asia, South America and other European countries. Venice in Italy is credited with having housed the first coffeehouse in the world, as early as the 17th century.

10 Cheeses to Taste in Italy:
The various regions of Italy record the production of over 400 types of cheese. No wonder most Italian dishes use generous helpings of cheese. Cheese is served with the Appertif, used in the Primo (first course), Secondo (second course), as well as with the salad and with dessert - that makes it part of every course! Here's MapsofWorld's pick of 10 famous cheeses to try in Italy.

Ricotta - Ricotta, made commonly from sheep milk is a nutritious, low-fat cheese that originated in the Sardinia and Sicily regions of Italy. Made from whey, it is light and sweet but does not have a long shelf life. Ricotta is used best in pasta fillings and in combination with potatoes.

Parmigiano Reggiano - Parmigiano Reggiano is native to the Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy regions of Italy. Produced elsewhere, the cheese is often known as Parmesan. It is hard in texture and made from cooking cow's milk. The cheese is cured for over 12 months before it hits the store shelves. Parmigiano Reggiano is an Italian's favorite to go with fruits as dessert and is also paired with nuts and wine.

Mozzarella di Bufala- The Lazio and Campania areas of Italy raise water buffaloes for the specific purpose of making the Mozzarella di Bufala cheese from their milk. The cheese finds its origin in Aversa, Caserta and Italy exports over 16 % of the 33,000 tonnes of Mozzarella di Bufala it produces. The cheese is versatile and an important ingredient in many pasta and pizza dishes, stews and salads.

Gorgonzola - Principally from the Italian regions of Piedmont and Lombardy, Gorgonzola is a soft, crumbly cheese used in risotto and pizza dishes. It is one of Italy's principal blue-veined cheeses and is made from whole cow's milk. Gorgonzola is an institution in Italy and the demand for the cheese lies in its distinctive flavor which is a huge hit among gourmets.

Asiago - Asiago in the Veneto region of Italy produces the excellent Asiago cheese which is used in various sauces, soups and salads. It is made from cow's milk and is combined with fruit infusions and juices. As a table cheese, Asiago tastes quite like fresh cream.

Caciotta - Caciotta is a cheese produced commonly in many parts of Italy. It is a mild cheese that combines well with different dishes and is made of cow, goat and buffalo milk.

Robiola - Robiola is a soft-ripened cheese made from a blend of cow’s, goat’s, and sheep’s milk and is popular in the Cuneo, Asti and Alessandria provinces of Piedmont and in Lombardy. With an aging time of 0 to 20 days, Robiola is a cheese that spoils easily, needs to breathe and needs special care while storing. Robiola has a characteristic pungent smell and is a favored cheese for a number of risotto and pasta dishes.

Caciocavallo Silano - Manufactured in Southern Italy, Caciocavallo Silano is a tear-shaped cheese with a hard rind. Basilicata, Puglia, Calabria, and Campania are areas that are involved in the production of this cheese. Though originally believed to be made of mare's milk, Caciocavallo Silano is actually made of cow's and goat's milk.

Castelmagno - The Castelmagno cheese processed in the Cuneo province of Piedmont, at Valle Grana, and is a semi-hard cheese with an aging time of about 60 days. Made from whole cow’s milk, it is a fondue favorite but is also served with rice and charred vegetables or lean meat. Castelmagno combines well with the local fare of Piedmont and is a favorite with gourmets across Europe.

Mascarpone - Mascarpone is famous for its use in Tiramisu, a dessert of fame in Italy and now, around the world. The fantastic flavor lent by this cheese is due to the tartaric acid used in its manufacture. It is a subtle crème cheese made from soured cream and buttermilk. It makes an excellent dip and spread and is also used in many Risotto recipes.

10 Italian Wines to Choose From:
Italian fare is virtually incomplete without Italian wine to pair each course with. Incredible varieties of wine are produced in the country and wine guides such as the Gambero Rosso keep the people updated with the best wines for the season. Italy has over 20 wine-growing regions and over 2000 varieties of grapes are grown in the country, "Which wine to sample?" is but sweet confusion. Here's our pick of the 10 best you might want to take home if you are a tourist in Italy.

Aperitifs – Aperitifs are wines that are used to stimulate the appetite, usually served in small quantities or in the form of cocktails with appetizers such as fruits, cheese and crackers. Italy is home to some of the best known aperitifs such as the Cinzano, Aperol, Campari and Martini.

Martini is Vermouth produced by the slow introduction of various spices including chamomile, cardamom and cinnamon and herbs such as wormwood to wine. Martini is one of the best known Italian brands and the wine itself is the soul of many popular cocktails - the world's favorite being a mix of gin and martini, garnished with a whole olive.

Campari, the famed scarlet aperitif from Italy is a fruit infusion, predominantly of the Chinotto fruit that is grown in parts of Malta, Tuscany, and Sicily in Italy. Laced generously with herbs, Campari leaves a bitter aftertaste owing to the Chinotto. Campari is an essential in the mixing of many cocktails such as Negroni, a traditional favorite of Florence. It combines well with soda, water, fruit juices and wine. Initially produced in 1904 at Sesto San Giovanni, Campari is a popularly exported Italian alcohol and a global favorite.

Red Wines-
Chianti is probably the most popular red wine produced in Italy. Named after the Chianti wine area that produces this dry wine, it pairs well with tomato sauce-based food and beef and chicken dishes. Watch out for an aging period of 5 - 10 years before you decide to sample this wine. Made from Sangiovese grapes, Chianti is often rose, high in acidity and full-bodied.

Barbaresco, a Nebbiolo grape product is native to the Piedmont region of Italy. The wine gets lighter with vintage and a better Barbaresco is one that is aged for 7 - 12 years, probably longer. Pronounced flavors of cherry and licorice are characteristic of the younger win, and it is paired best with lamb, beef and earthy vegetable dishes.

Amarone della Valpolicella, referred to as Amarone, is made from the Molinara, Rondinella, Corvina grapes. This rich, full-bodied wine pairs well with Parmesan cheese and with rich sauce-based dishes. The flavors of this wine range from berry to cherry. Amarone is a delight to the senses and leaves a slightly sweet aftertaste.

White Wines-
Ramandolo is an eternal favorite with gourmets, and is produced in the Italian village also called Ramandolo near Nimis. The golden hues are as alluring as the fragrance, the full-bodied elegance and the alluring apricot bouquet. Ramandolo is perfect to go with smoked and charred fish, nuts, salami and cheese.

Prosecco, made from Glera grapes of the Veneto region of Italy is a sparkling white wine, dry and versatile. The crisp aroma of apples and apricots are as alluring as the light, fresh taste. Italy celebrates Prosecco as a wine as a wine for all occasions.

Frascati is a white wine from the Trebbiano, Greco and Malvasia grapes grown in the Frascati region of Italy. Frascati white is a well-balanced wine and is golden and slightly fruity.

Digestifs - Digestifs are often served after coffee. Short, bitter drafts of the digestifs are said to aid digestion. Italy has its unique digestifs that blend perfectly with the cuisine and weather conditions.

Grappa is distilled pomace that is fermented and distilled in Italy. Grappa is traditionally served in shot glasses, but these days Grappa in flute glasses are a rage. Popular brands of Grappa that you may want to bring back from Italy are Nonino, Jacopo Poli, Sibona, Brotto, Nardini, and Berta. Young Grappa is often clear and makes for the best buy. Make sure you serve Grappa with roasted nuts and crackers.

Strega, the Witch, derives its romantic name from the days of witchcraft and witch trials in Europe. Produced in the Campania region of Italy, Strega is the best know digestif and is made with over 70 herbs and condiments including saffron and mint. A pale yellow drink, Strega leaves a sweet distinct but aftertaste of mint and herbs. Sold as Liquore Strega, it has been produced and consumed since 1860.

On a lighter vein: Italy is not at all like they showed in Godfather or Sopranos. Italians hate those two.

Italy has something for everyone - beauty for the casual tourist, fashion for the stylish, music for the romantic, religion for the devout, art and culture for the erudite, cuisine for the gourmet and adventure for the explorer. ‘La Vita Italiana’ – The Italian Life, is an eternal attraction for people from all parts of the world. Romantic Venice, classic Rome, enchanting Milan, fascinating Florence, and historic Naples – each has its own charm and allure.