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Italy

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Major Cities of Italy in the continent of Europe

RomeMilanNaplesTurinPalermoGenoaBolognaFlorenceCataniaBariVeniceVeronaMessinaPaduaPadova

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Location of Italy within the continent of Europe
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Map of Italy
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Flag Description of Italy:The flag of Italy was officially adopted on January 21, 1919.

The modern Italian flag, the famous tricolore, is derived from an original design by Napoleon. It consists of three vertical bands of equal width, displaying the national colors of Italy: green, white and red. Green was said to be Napoleon's favorite color.

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Official name Repubblica Italiana (Italian Republic)
Form of government republic with two legislative houses (Senate [3231]; Chamber of Deputies [630])
Head of state President: Giorgio Napolitano
Head of government Prime Minister: Matteo Renzi
Capital Rome
Official language Italian2
Official religion none
Monetary unit euro (€)
Population (2013 est.) 59,866,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 116,346
Total area (sq km) 301,336
Urban-rural population

Urban: (2011) 68.4%
Rural: (2011) 31.6%

Life expectancy at birth

Male: (2011) 79.4 years
Female: (2011) 84.5 years

Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate

Male: (2007) 99.1%
Female: (2007) 98.6%

GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2012) 33,840

1Includes 7 nonelective seats (5 presidential appointees and 2 former presidents serving ex officio).

2In addition, German is locally official in the region of Trentino–Alto Adige, and French is locally official in the region of Valle d’Aosta.

Background of Italy

To the north, Italy borders France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia, and its borders are largely naturally defined by the Alpine watershed. To the south, it consists of the entirety of the Italian Peninsula and the two largest Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia as well as around 68 smaller islands. There are two small independent states within Italy: the Vatican City in Rome, and the Republic of San Marino. The most important sectors of Italy’s economy in 2012 were wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (20.6 %) and industry (18.4 %) and public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (16.9 %). Italy’s main export partners are Germany, France and the US while its main import partners are Germany, France and China.


Geography of Italy

The Land

To the north the Alps separate Italy from France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia. Elsewhere Italy is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, in particular by the Adriatic Sea to the northeast, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, the Tyrrhenian Sea to the southwest, and the Ligurian Sea to the northwest. Areas of plain, which are practically limited to the great northern triangle of the Po valley, cover only about one-fifth of the total area of the country; the remainder is roughly evenly divided between hilly and mountainous land, providing variations to the generally temperate climate.

Relief

Mountain ranges higher than 2,300 ft (702 m) occupy more than one-third of Italy. There are two mountain systems: the scenic Alps, parts of which lie within the neighbouring countries of France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia; and the Apennines, which form the spine of the entire peninsula and of the island of Sicily. A third mountain system exists on the two large islands to the west, Italian Sardinia and French Corsica.


MOUNTAIN RANGES

The Alps run in a broad west-to-east arc from the Cadibona Pass, near Savona on the Gulf of Genoa, to north of Trieste, at the head of the Adriatic Sea. The section properly called Alpine is the border district that includes the highest masses, made up of weathered Hercynian rocks, dating from the Carboniferous and Permian periods (approximately 360 million to 250 million years ago). The Alps have rugged, very high peaks, reaching more than 12,800 ft (3,900 m) in various spectacular formations, characterized as pyramidal, pinnacled, rounded, or needlelike. The valleys were heavily scoured by glaciers in the Quaternary Period (the past 2.6 million years); there are still more than 1,000 glaciers left, though in a phase of retreat, more than 100 having disappeared in the past half century or so.

The Alpine mountain mass falls into three main groups. First, the Western Alps run north to south in Italy from Aosta to the Cadibona Pass, with Mount Viso (12,602 ft [3,841 m]) and Gran Paradiso (13,323 ft [4,061 m]), regarded as the highest mountain wholly within Italy, both base and peak. Second, the Central Alps run west to east from the Western Alps to the Brenner Pass, leading into Austria and the Trentino–Alto Adige valley, also with high peaks, such as Mont Blanc (with a summit just over the border in France of 15,771 ft [4,807 m]), the Matterhorn (Italian Monte Cervino; 14,692 ft [4,478 m]), Monte Rosa (with a summit just over the border in Switzerland of 15,203 ft [4,634 m]), and Mount Ortles (12,812 ft [3,905 m]). Lastly, the Eastern Alps run west to east from the Brenner Pass to Trieste and include the Dolomites (Dolomiti; see photograph) and Mount Marmolada (10,968 ft [3,343 m]). The Italian foothills of the Alps, which reach no higher than 8,200 ft (2,500 m), lie between these great ranges and the Po valley. They are composed mainly of limestone and sedimentary rocks. A notable feature is the karst system of underground caves and streams that are especially characteristic of the Carso, the limestone plateau between the Eastern Alps and southwestern Slovenia.

The Apennines are the long system of mountains and hills that run down the Italian peninsula from the Cadibona Pass to the tip of Calabria and continue on the island of Sicily. The range is about 1,245 miles (2,000 km) long; it is only about 20 miles (32 km) wide at either end but about 120 miles (190 km) wide in the Central Apennines, east of Rome, where the “Great Rock of Italy” (Gran Sasso d’Italia) provides the highest Apennine peak (9,554 ft [2,912 m]) and the only glacier on the peninsula, Calderone, the southernmost in Europe. The Apennines comprise predominantly sandstone and limestone marl (clay) in the north; limestone and dolomite (magnesium limestone) in the centre; and limestone, weathered rock, and Hercynian granite in the south. On either side of the central mass are grouped two considerably lower masses, composed in general of more recent and softer rocks, such as sandstone. These sub-Apennines run in the east from Monferrato to the Gulf of Taranto and in the west from Florence southward through Tuscany and Umbria to Rome. This latter range is separated from the main Apennines by the valleys of the Arno and the Tiber rivers. At the outer flanks of the sub-Apennines, two allied series of limestone and volcanic rocks extend to the coast. They include, to the west, the Apuane Alps, which are famous for their marbles; farther south, the Metallifere Mountains (more than 3,380 ft [1,030 m]), abundant in minerals; then various extinct volcanoes occupied by crater lakes, such as that of Bolsena; then cavernous mountains, such as Lepini and Circeo, and the partially or still fully active volcanic group of the Flegrei Plain and Vesuvius; and finally the limestone mountains of the peninsulas of Amalfi and Cilento. The extensions on the Adriatic coast are simpler, comprising only the small promontory of Mount Conero, the higher peninsula of Gargano (3,465 ft [1,056 m]), and the Salentina Peninsula in Puglia. All these are limestone.

In Sardinia there are two mountain masses, separated by the long plain of Campidano, which runs from the Gulf of Asinara southeastward across the island to the Gulf of Cagliari. The group in the southwest is small and low, formed from sediment, mostly mineralized, perhaps early in the Paleozoic Era (about 540 million to 250 million years ago). The northeastern mass reaches an elevation of more than 6,000 ft (1,830 m) at Gennargentu; the underlying foundation is basically metamorphic (heat- and pressure-altered) rock, and it is covered in the northeast by Paleozoic granite and partially covered in the northwest by Mesozoic limestones (those formed about 250 to 65 million years ago) and by sandstone and clays of the Paleogene and Neogene periods (about 65 to 2.6 million years ago). There are caves on the seacoast and inland where limestones predominate.

Present volcanic action had its origins in the Pliocene Epoch (about 5.3 to 2.6 million years ago) and the Quaternary Period (the past 2.6 million years) and is represented by the Flegrei Plain, near Naples, and by the neighbouring islands, such as Ischia; by Vesuvius; by the Eolie, or Lipari, Islands; and by Mount Etna, which is on the island of Sicily. Phenomena that are related to volcanism include thermal springs in the Euganei Hills, vulcanelli (mud springs) at Viterbo, and emissions of gas at Pozzuoli.

Seismic activity, leading to earthquakes, is rare in the Alps and the Po valley; it is infrequent but occasionally strong in the Alpine foothills; and it may be catastrophic in the central and southern Apennines (as in 1980) and on Sicily.--->>>>>Read On.<<<<

Demography of Italy

The people

  • Ethnic groups

Italians cannot be typified by any one physical characteristic, a fact that may be explained by the past domination of parts of the peninsula by different peoples. The Etruscans in Tuscany and Umbria and the Greeks in the south preceded the Romans, who “Latinized” the whole country and maintained unity until the 5th century. Jews arrived in Italy during the Roman Republic, remaining until the present day. With the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, Italy suffered invasions and colonization, which inevitably affected its ethnic composition. With some exceptions, the north was penetrated by Germanic tribes crossing the Alps, while the south was colonized by Mediterranean peoples arriving by sea. The Byzantines were dominant in the south for five centuries, coinciding with the supremacy of the Lombards (a Germanic tribe) in Benevento and other parts of the mainland. In the 9th century Sicily was invaded by the Saracens, who remained until the Norman invasion in the early 11th century. The Normans were succeeded by the Aragonese in 1282; in 1720 Sicily came under Austrian rule. This mixed ethnic heritage explains the smattering of light-eyed, blond Sicilians in a predominantly dark-eyed, dark-haired people. Except for the Saracen domination, the Kingdom of Naples, which formed the lower part of the peninsula, had a similar experience, whereas the northern part of Italy, separated from the south by the Papal States, was much more influenced by the dominant force of the Austrians. The Austrian admixture, combined with the earlier barbarian invasions, may account for the greater frequency of light-eyed, blond Italians originating in the north. The ethnic mixing continues to the present day. Since the 1970s, Italy has been receiving immigrants from a number of less-developed countries. A predominantly female migration from the Philippines and other Asian countries compares with a predominantly male influx from North Africa. With the accession of numerous former Soviet-bloc countries to the European Union in 2004 and 2007, immigration from eastern Europe soared. In the early 21st century about five million foreigners—roughly half of them from eastern Europe—resided on Italian territory.

  • Languages

Standard Italian, as a written administrative and literary language, was in existence well before the unification of Italy in the 1860s. However, in terms of spoken language, Italians were slow to adopt the parlance of the new nation-state, identifying much more strongly with their regional dialects. Emigration in the late 19th and early 20th century played an important role in spreading the standard language; many local dialects had no written form, obliging Italians to learn Italian in order to write to their relatives. The eventual supremacy of the standard language also owes much to the advent of television, which introduced it into almost every home in the country. The extremely rich and, hitherto, resilient tapestry of dialects and foreign languages upon which standard Italian has gradually been superimposed reveals much about Italy’s cultural history. Not surprisingly, the greatest divergence from standard Italian is found in border areas, in the mountains, and on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.

Only a few languages spoken in limited geographic areas enjoy any legal protection or recognition. These are French, in Valle d’Aosta; German and the Rhaetian dialect Ladino in some parts of the Trentino–Alto Adige; Slovene in the province of Trieste; Friulian (another Rhaetian dialect) and Sardinian, spoken by the two largest linguistic minorities in Italy, received official recognition in 1992. Linguistic minorities persisting in the Alps are, broadly speaking, the result of migratory movements from neighbouring countries or changes in the borderline. The French and Franco-Provençal spoken in Valle d’Aosta date from union with Savoy, but the German spoken in the same area dates from the 12th-century emigration of German sheepherders from the upper valleys of the Rhône. The German spoken in the Trentino–Alto Adige dates back to Bavarian occupation in the 5th century, whereas that spoken in the provinces of Verona and Vicenza dates from a more recent colonization in the 12th century. Some of the Alpine areas have such a complex linguistic makeup that precise measurement of linguistic communities is impossible. In Friuli–Venezia Giulia, for example, many communes are bi-, tri-, and even quadrilingual, as in the case of Canale, where Slovene, Italian, German, and Friulian coexist. In certain Occitan-speaking parts of Piedmont, Italian is the official language, Occitan is spoken at home, and the Piedmontese dialect is used in trading relations with people from lowland areas. Farther south, in Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Puglia, and Sicily, isolated linguistic communities persist against the odds. A dialect of Albanian known as Arbëresh is spoken by the descendants of 15th-century Albanian mercenaries; Croatian, the smallest minority language, spoken by some 2,000 people, has survived in splendid isolation in Campobasso province in Molise; and Greek, or “Grico” (of uncertain origin), may be heard in two areas in Calabria and Puglia. Catalan, too, has survived in the town of Alghero in the northwest of Sardinia, dating from the island’s capture by the crown of Aragon in 1354.

  • Religion

Roman Catholicism has played a historic and fundamental role in Italy. It was the official religion of the Italian state from 1929, with the signing of the Lateran Treaty, until a concordat was ratified in 1985 that ended the church’s position as the state religion, abolished compulsory religious teaching in public schools, and reduced state financial contributions to the church. More than four-fifths of the population declare themselves Roman Catholics, although the number of practicing Catholics is declining. An estimated 450,000 people worship in the Protestant church, including Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, and Waldensians. They are all members of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy (Federazione delle Chiese Evangeliche in Italia) founded in 1967. Albanian communities in two dioceses and one abbey in the Mezzogiorno practice the Eastern Orthodox rite. Migration that began in the latter third of the 20th century brought with it many people of non-Christian religious beliefs, significantly Muslims, who number more than one million. The Jewish community fluctuated between 30,000 and 47,000 throughout the 20th century. In 1987 Jews obtained special rights from the Italian state allowing them to abstain from work on the Sabbath and to observe Jewish holidays.

  • Traditional regions

Italy is divided into 20 administrative regions, which correspond generally with historical traditional regions, though not always with exactly the same boundaries. A better-known and more general way of dividing Italy is into four parts: the north, the centre, the south, and the islands. The north includes such traditional regions as Piedmont, which is characterized by some French influence and was the seat of united Italy’s former royal dynasty; Liguria, extending southward around the Gulf of Genoa; Lombardy, which has long been noted for its productive agriculture and vigorously independent city communes and now for its industrial output; and Veneto, once the territory of the far-flung Venetian empire, reaching from Brescia to Trieste at its greatest extent. The centre includes Emilia-Romagna, with its prosperous farms; the Marche, on the Adriatic side; Tuscany and Umbria, celebrated for their vestiges of Etruscan civilization and Renaissance traditions of art and culture; Latium (Lazio), which contains the Campagna, whose beautiful hills encircle the “Eternal City” of Rome; and the Abruzzo and Molise, regions of the highest central Apennines, which used to support a wild and remote people. The south, or Mezzogiorno, includes Naples and its surrounding fertile Campania; the region of Puglia, with its great plain crossed by oleander-bordered roads leading to the low Murge Salentine hills and the heel of Italy; and the poorer regions of Basilicata and Calabria. On the islands of Sicily and Sardinia are people who take pride in holding themselves apart from the inhabitants of mainland Italy. However, the south and the islands have changed a great deal since about 1960 and have become more modernized. Within these four main divisions, the variety of the much smaller traditional districts is very great and depends on history as well as on topography and economic conditions.

  • Settlement patterns
RURAL AREAS

In general, rural life is in decline. The majority of the population of Italy live in cities and villages; only a fraction live in hamlets or in isolated houses. In the long Alpine valleys the economy was always both agricultural and commercial, with towns such as Aosta and Bolzano at the outlets of the lateral valleys and agricultural settlements higher up or on the slopes of hills. The perpetual subdivision of landholdings makes a purely agricultural economy precarious in this region except in the upper Adige, where the Germanic system of primogeniture survived, producing the masi, family holdings that are passed on to the eldest son intact. These rural areas now also include an increasing number of skiing and tourist centres, such as Courmayeur and Cortina d’Ampezzo. In the band of Alpine and Apennine foothills, the villages, often situated on the knolls and flanks of the hills, are linked by roads that hold to the heights, away from the humid valley floors. Each village is usually grouped around a church, a castle, or a nobleman’s palace, with its fields on the slopes around it and woodlands lower down. There are innumerable plum and cherry orchards and, above all, vineyards; their wines (Conegliano and Monferrato) are famous. Lombardy is the only area in which the ancient rural way of life has been comprehensively displaced by the development of heavy industry. The Padano-Venetian-Emilian plain is the most important agricultural and stockbreeding region of Italy. The upland plain hosts the great industrial centres such as Turin, Milan, and Busto Arsizio, while the lowland plain remains socially as well as economically rural.

Villages high in the Apennines are less prosperous than those of similar elevation in the Alps. They are still isolated, the ground is infertile, and land is rarely owned by those who work it. Tourism and the expansion of cottage craft industries, such as the porcelain making at Gubbio, near Perugia, have helped these towns survive. The lower hills and plains of Italy are covered with agricultural villages in which a wide variety of crops and vegetables are grown, though often in low yield. In Puglia and Basilicata large farms are staffed by labourers who live in urban centres, such as Cerignola and Altamura, and travel to work in the countryside. Some fertile and well-watered plains, such as the Neapolitan countryside, have a high level of productivity, especially of market vegetables. Here there is direct ownership of land and fairly dense settlement. In Sicily, settlement is clustered in widely spaced, nucleated towns, with extensive pastureland and farming. In Sardinia the settlement is sparse and mainly inland, and most of the local fishing industry is carried on by men from the mainland.

URBAN CENTRES

Italian cities vary greatly in terms of population, economic activities, and cultural traditions. Many of them have developed close economic links with surrounding communities, forming major metropolitan areas, such as Rome, Milan, Naples, and Palermo. Slightly less populous are the urban centres of Genoa-Savona, Bologna, Catania, Messina–Reggio di Calabria, Cagliari, and Trieste-Monfalcone. The geographic pattern shows an even distribution of large metropolitan areas across the whole country, while medium-sized cities are more numerous in the north than in the south, where there is a concentration of small towns.

Historically, the location of Italian urban centres played a central role in their economic development. In the Po valley, cities such as Milan, Pavia, and Cremona were well placed for commerce, being situated at the confluence of roads or rivers. Another group of cities were those on the coast, at the mouths of rivers, or on lagoons protected by sandbars; these included Savona, Genoa, Naples, Messina, Palermo, Ancona, and Venice. At present the most economically viable urban centres are those able to engage in global trade, such as Milan, and medium-sized centres such as those in northern Tuscany that engage in light manufacturing.

Throughout the centuries, Italy’s population curve has undergone many changes, often in parallel development with population trends in other European countries. The mid-14th-century plague reduced the peninsula’s population considerably, and a long period of population growth ended at the beginning of the 17th century. From the early 18th century until unification in the 1860s, a slight, steady growth prevailed, although it was interrupted during the Napoleonic Wars. From the latter half of the 19th century to the latter half of the 20th century, the population more than doubled, despite high levels of emigration. Interestingly, the natural population increase was frequently highest during the decades of highest emigration, although there is no obvious causal relationship between the two.--->>>>>Read On.<<<<

Economy of Italy

An overview The Italian economy has progressed from being one of the weakest economies in Europe following World War II to being one of the most powerful. Its strengths are its metallurgical and engineering industries, and its weaknesses are a lack of raw materials and energy sources. More than four-fifths of Italy’s energy requirements are imported. Nonetheless, the chemical sector also flourishes, and textiles constitute one of Italy’s largest industries. A strong entrepreneurial bias, combined with liberal trade policies following the war, enabled manufacturing exports to expand at a phenomenal rate, but a cumbersome bureaucracy and insufficient planning hindered an even economic development throughout the country. Services, particularly tourism, are also very important. At the end of the 20th century, Italy, seeking balance with other EU nations, brought its high inflation under control and adopted more conservative fiscal policies, including sweeping privatization.

Although the Italian economy was a relative latecomer to the industrialization process, business in the north of the country caught up with and overtook many of its western European neighbours. Southern Italy, however, lagged behind. The percentage of the labour force working in agriculture is often taken as an indication of the rate of industrialization and wealth of a nation, and in Italy’s case the figures clearly illustrate the grave imbalances existing between north and south. Against an EU average of 4.7 percent in 2008, 3.6 percent of the Italian population worked on the land, with as many agricultural labourers from the 8 regions in the south as from the 12 regions in the north and centre. Calabria and Basilicata have the largest concentrations of farm labourers.

Although Italy is not self-sufficient agriculturally, certain commodities form an important part of the export market. Notably, the country is a world leader in olive oil production and a major exporter of rice, tomatoes, and wine. Cattle raising, however, is less advanced; meat and dairy products are imported.

PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTORS

The Italian economy is mixed, and until the beginning of the 1990s the state owned a substantial number of enterprises. At that time the economy was organized as a pyramid, with a holding company at the top, a middle layer of financial holding companies divided according to sector of activity, and below them a mass of companies operating in diverse sectors, ranging from banking, expressway construction, media, and telecommunications to manufacturing, engineering, and shipbuilding. One example, the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale; IRI), set up in 1933 and closed in 2000, was a holding company that regulated public industries and banking. Many of those companies were partly owned by private shareholders and listed on the stock exchange. By the 1980s moves had already been made to increase private participation in some companies. The most notable examples were Mediobanca SpA, Italy’s foremost merchant bank, with shareholdings in major industrial concerns; Alitalia, the national airline, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008 before being sold to a private investment group; and the telecommunications company Telecom Italia SpA, which was created in 1994 through the merger of five state-run telecommunications concerns. Many other banks were also partially privatized under the Banking Act of 1990.

In 1992 a wide privatization program began when four of the main state-controlled holding companies were converted into public limited corporations. The four were the IRI, the National Hydrocarbons Agency (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi; ENI), the National Electrical Energy Fund (Ente Nazionale per l’Energia Elettrica; ENEL), and the State Insurance Fund (Istituto Nazionale delle Assicurazioni; INA). Other principal agencies include the Azienda Nazionale Autonoma delle Strade Statali (ANAS), responsible for some 190,000 miles (350,000 km) of the road network, and the Ente Ferrovie dello Stato (FS; “State Railways”), which controls the majority of the rail network.

The private sector was once characterized by a multitude of small companies, many of which were family-run and employed few or no workers outside the family. In the early 21st century, businesses with fewer than 50 employees still represented more than half of total firms, reflecting a trend that showed a decline in large production units and an increase of smaller, more-specialized ones. This trend was especially pronounced in the automobile industry, textiles, electrical goods, and agricultural, industrial, and office equipment.

Following World War II, the economy in the south was mainly dominated by the interests of the government and the public sector. The Southern Development Fund (Cassa per il Mezzogiorno), a state-financed fund set up to stimulate economic and industrial development between 1950 and 1984, met with limited success. It supported early land reform—including land reclamation, irrigation work, infrastructure building, and provision of electricity and water to rural areas—but did little to stimulate the economy. Later the fund financed development of heavy industry in selected areas, hoping that major industrial concerns might attract satellite industries and lay the foundation for sustained economic activity. Yet these projects became known as “cathedrals in the desert”; not only did they fail to attract other smaller industries, they also suffered from high absenteeism among workers. The most successful project was undertaken by Finsider, which in 1964 opened what was Europe’s most modern steelworks, in Taranto.

POSTWAR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The development of the Italian economy after World War II was one of the country’s major success stories. Economic reconstruction was followed by unprecedented economic growth between 1950 and 1963. Gross domestic product (GDP) rose by an average of 5.9 percent annually during this time, reaching a peak of 8.3 percent in 1961. The years from 1958 to 1963 were known as Italy’s economic miracle. The growth in industrial output peaked at over 10 percent per year during this period, a rate surpassed only by Japan and West Germany. The country enjoyed practically full employment, and in 1963 investment reached 27 percent of GDP. The success was partially due to the decision to foster free market policies and to open up international trade. From the very beginning, Italy was an enthusiastic proponent of European integration, which favoured the Italian manufacturing industry, which expanded enormously during this period. Certain products, such as Olivetti typewriters and Fiat automobiles, dominated European and world markets in just a few years. The economy slowed down after 1963 and took a downturn after the 1973 increase in petroleum prices. By the late 1980s, however, it was again prospering.

LATER ECONOMIC TRENDS

The economy entered the mid-1980s with a healthy growth rate, which it maintained through the end of the century. However, there were serious battles to be waged: against inflation, a trade deficit, currency restrictions, and tax evasion.

Inflation reached nearly 22 percent in 1980. This was principally due to union strength in wage bargaining throughout the 1970s and a mechanism called the scala mobile, which adjusted wages to inflation on a quarterly basis for all wage and salary earners. The high degree of job security enjoyed by the Italian workforce raised production costs, which in turn contributed to inflation. Beginning with a decree in 1984 that imposed a ceiling on payments, the scala mobile was gradually dismantled (and abolished in 1992) under pressure from the employers’ association, the Confederation of Industries (Confindustria). This was reflected in a sharp fall in inflation to 12 percent in 1984 and down to 4.2 percent in 1986. However, a three-year contract signed in 1987 between Confindustria and trade unions representing all civil servants and some private industrial workers awarded pay raises over the rate of inflation, and by 1991 inflation was again up to 7 percent—3 percent higher than in Germany or France. In 2000 inflation in Italy was at 10 percent. Overall, however, the inflation rate was three times smaller throughout the 1990s than in the 1980s.

Italy’s public debt grew steadily throughout the 1980s despite a series of emergency measures designed to reduce public borrowing. By 1991 public debt exceeded GDP, and the cost of servicing it was more than $100 billion, accounting for the entire government budget deficit for the year. In 2010 Italy’s public debt still exceeded GDP.

Italy underwent currency reform in the 1980s and ’90s in an effort to come into line with the fiscal standards set by the EU. At the end of the century, Italy joined the single currency of the EU, adopting the euro in 1999.

From the late 20th century the Italian economy has been dogged by the government’s inefficient levying of direct taxes. Since the creation of the republic after World War II, the economy has relied on public loans to finance public works and enterprises, and many Italians did not start paying income tax until the 1970s. Italy also has a thriving underground economy that inevitably deprives the state of revenue. While indirect taxes, including VAT (value-added taxes), were raised several times throughout the 1980s, moves to enforce payment of direct taxes met with resistance. In 1985 a bill was introduced to curtail tax evasion among the self-employed, leading to a one-day national strike. The 1990 budget also included measures to reduce tax evasion. The names of the country’s top taxpayers are publicized annually in an attempt to encourage compliance with tax laws.

During the 1990s the annual GDP growth rates were very modest. In 2000, in response to a healthy international economy and to steps taken to improve the Italian finance system—including reduced public spending and increased taxation—the GDP grew 3 percent, its biggest increase since 1988, but the recovery would not be sustained indefinitely. In 2009 the global recession that began in 2007–08 arrived in Italy. The economy stagnated, GDP fell, and unemployment topped 10 percent. The chronic instability of the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi amplified concern over Italy’s public debt, and the ratings agencies Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s downgraded the country’s credit rating in 2011. Italy found itself grouped into the acronym “PIIGS” (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain), which was used to describe the countries that were at greatest risk in the euro-zone debt crisis. As Italy’s euro-zone partners constructed ever-larger financial firewalls in an effort to head off contagion, the technocratic government led by Mario Monti, who became prime minister in 2011, implemented a series of austerity measures to reduce Italy’s deficit.

Like other branches of the Italian economy, agriculture has been characterized historically by a series of inequalities, both regional and social. Until the Land Reform Acts of 1950, much of Italy’s cultivable land was owned and idly managed by a few leisured noblemen, while the majority of agricultural workers struggled under harsh conditions as wage labourers or owned derisory plots of land, too small for self-sufficiency. Agricultural workers had few rights, and unemployment ran high, especially in Calabria, where the impetus for land reform was generated. Reform entailed the redistribution of large tracts of land among the landless peasantry, thereby absorbing greater amounts of labour and encouraging more efficient land use.--->>>>>Read On.<<<<


  • Resources and power

The Italian peninsula is a geologically young land formation and therefore contains few mineral resources, especially metalliferous ones. What few exist are poor in quality, scant in quantity, and widely dispersed. The meagreness of its natural resources partially explains Italy’s slow transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy, which began only in the late 19th century. The lack of iron ore and coal especially hindered industrial progress, impeding the production of steel necessary for building machines, railways, and other essential elements of an industrial infrastructure.

IRON AND COAL

Half of Italy’s iron output comes from the island of Elba, one of the oldest geologic areas. Another important area of production is Cogne in the Alpine region of Valle d’Aosta; that deposit lies at 2,000 feet (610 metres) above sea level. Little iron-bearing ore has been produced in Italy since 1984. Coal is found in small amounts principally in Tuscany, but it is of inferior quality, and its exploitation has been almost negligible. The vast majority of Italy’s coal is imported, mostly from Russia, South Africa, the United States, and China.

MINERAL PRODUCTION

During the late 20th century, production of almost all of Italy’s minerals steadily decreased, with the exception of rock salt, petroleum, and natural gas. In the early 1970s Italy was a major producer of pyrites (from the Tuscan Maremma), asbestos (from the Balangero mines near Turin), fluorite (fluorspar; found in Sicily and northern Italy), and salt. At the same time, it was self-sufficient in aluminum (from Gargano in Puglia), sulfur (from Sicily), lead, and zinc (from Sardinia). By the beginning of the 1990s, however, it had lost all its world-ranking positions and was no longer self-sufficient in those resources.

Fuel deposits, too, were unable to keep pace with the spiraling demands of energy-hungry industries and domestic consumers. Although domestic production figures rose throughout the late 20th century, Italy remains a net energy importer. Small amounts of oil and natural gas used to be produced in the Po valley in the 1930s, and asphalt was produced in Ragusa in Sicily. This exploitation was followed by further oil discoveries in the Abruzzo and richer amounts again in Ragusa and in nearby Gela. Natural gas is the most important natural resource in the peninsula, found mainly on the northern plain but also in Basilicata, Sicily, and Puglia.

Italy is one of the world’s leading producers of pumice, pozzolana, and feldspar. Another mineral resource for which Italy is well-known is marble, especially the world-famous white marble from the Carrara and Massa quarries in Tuscany. However, the reputation of these exceptional stones is disproportionately large when compared with the percentage of gross national product (GNP) accounted for by their exploitation.

ENERGY

Italy’s lack of energy resources undoubtedly hindered the process of industrialization on the peninsula, but the limited stocks of coal, oil, and natural gas led to innovation in the development of new energy sources. It was the dearth of coal in the late 19th century that encouraged the pioneering of hydroelectricity, and in 1885 Italy became one of the first countries to transmit hydroelectricity to a large urban centre—from Tivoli to Rome, along a 5,000-volt line. Rapid expansion of the sector developed in the Alps (with water passing efficiently over nonporous rocks) and also in the Apennines (with less efficient transport over porous rocks). Though uneven precipitation on the peninsula marred continuing growth in hydroelectricity, it comprised a healthy slice of the country’s energy consumption by 1920. In the aftermath of World War II, more than half of Italy’s electric power was accounted for by hydroelectricity, but there was little room left for expansion, and the country was in need of energy to feed its rapid industrialization. By the 21st century, hydroelectric power, its output unable to keep pace with increasing demand, amounted to less than 20 percent of the country’s electricity production. This led to the development of thermal electricity generation fired by coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear power, and geothermal energy.

In 1949 oil was discovered off Sicily, but supplies were limited, and Italy began to rely heavily on imported oil, mainly from North Africa and the Middle East. With oil in such short supply, Italy was, not surprisingly, at the vanguard of nuclear research, and by 1965 three nuclear power stations were operating on Italian soil; a fourth opened in 1981. Nonetheless, by 1987, nuclear power accounted for only 0.1 percent of Italy’s total electricity production, and a public referendum of the same year led to the decommissioning of all four plants. The issue was revisited in the early 21st century, and a proposal to dramatically increase Italy’s nuclear power capacity was presented by the government. In a referendum held in June 2011, just months after the Fukushima disaster in Japan, the proposal was rejected. Italy remained a significant consumer of nuclear-generated power, with much of its imported electricity originating in France and Switzerland.

Natural gas has been the most significant discovery. It was first found in the 1920s, and its most important exploitation was in the Po valley. Later exploration focused on offshore supplies along the Adriatic coast. Increased reliance on imports began in the 1970s, and by the beginning of the 21st century about three-fourths of Italy’s natural gas was imported, primarily from Algeria, Russia, and the Netherlands. There are about 19,000 miles (30,000 km) of pipelines. The use of natural gas has risen at the expense of oil, which in the 1990s was the dominant energy source for electricity production in Italy. By the 21st century natural gas provided more than half of Italy’s total energy production. Overall, fossil fuels comprised some 90 percent of Italy’s total energy consumption.

  • Manufacturing
MINING AND QUARRYING

Mining is not an important sector of the Italian economy. Minerals are widely dispersed, and, unlike other industries, mining and quarrying traditionally have been more prevalent in the south than in the north. In the early 21st century, increased demand for construction materials and fertilizers led to the expansion of northern-based quarrying industries specializing in lime and chalk (for the production of fertilizers and cement, an important industry), along with coloured granites and marbles. Conversely, in the north, extraction of metalliferous minerals (such as iron ore, manganese, and zinc) declined. Nonmetalliferous minerals, including graphite, amianthus (a type of asbestos), and coal, shared a similar fate throughout Italy. As a primary fuel, coal satisfied just over one-tenth of the country’s energy demands in the early 21st century. Mining has fared badly on the islands, where it once prospered, with a decline in the extraction of sulfur in Sicily and of lead and zinc in Sardinia. Industrial minerals that remain significant are barite, cement, clay, fluorspar, marble, talc, feldspar, and pumice.

DEVELOPMENT OF HEAVY INDUSTRY

The most remarkable feature of Italian economic development after World War II was the spectacular increase in manufacturing and, in particular, manufacturing exports. The most significant contributory factors to this growth were the Marshall Plan (1948–51), a U.S.-sponsored program to regenerate the postwar economies of western Europe; the 1952 foundation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), later under the European Federation of Iron and Steel Industries; the start in 1958 of the EEC, which contributed to the liberalization of trade; and the abundance of manpower that fueled the growth of northern industrial concerns.

The material that transformed the Italian economy with a flourish was steel. Despite the lack of mineral resources, the Italian government opted to join the ECSC at its inception, and skeptics watched as Italian steel developed so quickly that by 1980 it accounted for 21.5 percent of production in the EEC (which by then had nine members) and in western Europe. Moreover, Italy was second to West Germany among western European steel producers. Steel formed the backbone of the metallurgical and engineering industries, known as metalmeccanica. These enjoyed their heyday between 1951 and 1975, when mechanical exports rose 20-fold and the workforce employed in the industries doubled. The number of people working in the automobile industry tripled, and metallurgical exports increased 25 times. The steel industry, which declined in the last decades of the century, was privatized in 1992–97.

The main branches of metalmeccanica included arms manufacture, textile machinery, machine tools, automobiles and other transport vehicles, and domestic appliances. The automobile industry has been dominated by Fiat since the founding of the company in Turin in 1899. Milan and Brescia became the other main auto-making centres until Alfa Romeo opened its plant near Naples, leading to a decentralization of the industry. Automobile production took off in the 1950s and soared until the mid-1970s, when it began to stagnate. In the 1980s imports from Japan and an economic recession further dampened the industry, though new markets were opened in eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. In 2011 Fiat acquired a majority stake in the American auto company Chrysler, and Fiat’s involvement saw the car maker return to profitability for the first time in years. Today Italy has one of the highest numbers of cars per capita in the world.

LIGHT MANUFACTURING

Notable large firms notwithstanding, the manufacturing sector is characterized by the presence of small and medium-size industries, which are found mainly in northeastern and north-central Italy. This area, concentrated in industrial districts within Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, and Tuscany, is referred to as the “third Italy,” to distinguish it from the “first Italy,” represented by the industrial triangle formed by the cities of Milan, Turin, and Genoa, and from the “second Italy,” which includes the Mezzogiorno. Each industrial district in the third Italy generally specializes in a particular area of light manufacturing, such as textiles or paper products, although more traditional manufacturing is also present. For instance, in Prato, Tuscany, the specialty is textile products; Sassuolo and Cento, both in Emilia-Romagna, engage in ceramic tile production and mechanical engineering, respectively; while Nogara, in Veneto, is known for wooden furniture.

Italy dominated the postwar domestic appliance market, which boomed until the first international oil crisis, in 1973, when small businesses were hard-hit by the increase in energy prices. Olivetti and Zanussi were market leaders, and Italian-produced “white goods,” such as refrigerators and washing machines, were much in demand. The textile industry has been important in Italy since the Middle Ages, when Lombardy and Tuscany were leading centres for the wool and silk industry. Other important products now include artificial and synthetic fibres, cotton, and jute yarn. Textiles and leather goods were surpassed by the metallurgical sector in the 1960s, but they remain important components of manufacturing.

The chemicals industry is one of the more recent members of the Italian industrial family. It is often categorized into primary chemicals, dominated by giant enterprises, including Edison, Eni SpA, and SNIA; secondary chemicals, made up of thousands of firms; and a third component comprising firms financed by foreign capital. From 1868 until World War I the chemical industry was restricted to products such as fertilizers and fungicides, but the oil discoveries of the 1950s opened up the vast field of petrochemicals. The discovery, too, of natural gas near Ravenna triggered the production of synthetic rubber, resins, artificial fibre, and more fertilizers. The industry boomed until the 1973 oil crisis launched a protracted slump, which rebounded somewhat in the 1980s as the sector was rationalized. During the 1990s the chemical industry was confronted with limits defined by environmental protection policies and the restructuring of small and medium-size enterprises.

The food and beverage industry is also important, in particular the traditional products olive oil, wine, fruit, and tomatoes. Additionally, the pulp and paper, printing and publishing, and pottery, glass, and ceramics industries are prominent.

CONSTRUCTION

The housing sector was affected by three main factors following World War II: the postwar economic boom, massive rural-to-urban migration, and government incentives to the private construction sector. Approximately 500,000 homes were destroyed in the war and another 250,000 severely damaged. A period of frenzied building ensued, reaching a peak during 1961–65, when an average of 380,000 houses were built each year. Much of the building was undertaken by private companies that engaged heavily in speculative construction and paid scant regard to regulations. This led to overcrowding and a severe lack of services in peripheral urban areas. The problem was exacerbated by the migration of hundreds of thousands of southern Italians to the big northern towns in search of work.

Construction slackened during the late 1960s and ’70s as a result of economic recession, although many Italians were still living in substandard dwellings and awaiting rehousing. A 1980 earthquake in the Naples area destroyed a quarter of a million homes and resulted in a localized building boom lasting almost a decade. In the late 1990s the construction sector showed signs of recovery mainly related to investments in public works and the availability of financial incentives for residential housing. As the Italian economy declined near the end of the first decade of the 2000s, the construction industry was especially hard-hit. New building of both private homes and public works contracted sharply as financing became more difficult to secure and government funding for infrastructure improvement dried up.

  • Finance

Italy’s financial and banking system has a number of unique features, although its framework is similar to that of other European countries. The Bank of Italy is the central bank and the sole bank of issue. Since the introduction of the euro in 2002, the Bank of Italy has been responsible for the production and circulation of euro notes in accordance with EU policy. Execution of monetary policy is vested in the Interministerial Committee for Credit and Savings, headed by the minister for the economy and finance. In practice, the Bank of Italy enjoys wide discretionary powers (within the constraints of the Maastricht Treaty and other agreements that govern the euro zone) and plays an important role in euro-zone economic policy making. The bank’s primary function also includes the control of credit.

There are three main types of banking and credit institutions. First, there are the commercial banks, which include three national banks, several chartered banks, popular cooperative banks—whose activities do not extend beyond the provincial level—and ordinary private banks. Second, there is a special category of savings banks organized on a provincial or regional basis. Finally, there are the investment institutions, which collect medium- and long-term funds by issuing bonds and supply medium- and long-term credit for industry, public works, and agriculture. The 1990 Banking Act reduced the level of public ownership of banks and facilitated the raising of external capital. All remaining controls on capital movements were also lifted, enabling Italians to bank unlimited amounts of foreign capital in Italy.

There are many institutes of various kinds supplying medium- and long-term credit. These special credit institutions have as their primary aim the increase of the flow and the reduction of the cost of development finance, either to preferential areas or to priority sectors (for example, agriculture or research) or to small and medium-size business. In addition to this network of special credit institutions, there is a subsystem of credit under which the government shoulders part of the interest burden.

The bond market in Italy is well-developed. Mainly as a result of the special structure of government-sponsored institutions for development finance and subsidized interest rates, the growth of the capital market and stock exchanges was far less important than in other Western industrialized countries. The development of the stock exchange in Italy was initially hampered by the archaic structure and rules of the markets and by tax problems connected with the registration of shares. More recently, however, the market was modernized; the Borsa Italiana, which manages the stock exchange, became operational in 1998.

  • Trade

Italy has a great trading tradition. Jutting out deeply into the Mediterranean Sea, the country occupies a position of strategic importance, enhancing its trading potential not only with eastern Europe but also with North Africa and the Middle East. Italy has historically maintained active relations with eastern European countries, Libya, and the Palestinian peoples. These links have been preserved even at times of great political tension, such as during the Cold War and the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Membership in the EC from 1957 increased Italy’s potential for trade still further, giving rise to rapid economic growth. However, from that time, the economy was subject to an ever-widening trade deficit. Between 1985 and 1989 the only trading partner with which Italy did not run a deficit was the United States. Italy began showing a positive balance again in the mid-1990s. Trade with other EU members accounts for more than half of Italy’s transactions. Other major trading partners include the United States, Russia, China, and members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Italy’s trading strength was traditionally built on textiles, food products, and manufactured goods. During the second half of the 20th century, however, products from Italy’s burgeoning metal and engineering sector, including automobiles, rose to account for a majority share of the total exports, which it still retains; they are followed by the textiles, clothing, and leather goods sector. The most avid customers of Italian exports are Germany, France, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Spain.

Italy’s main imports are metal and engineering products, principally from Germany, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Chemicals, vehicle, and mineral imports are also important commodities. Italy is a major importer of energy, with much of its oil supply coming from North Africa and the Middle East.

Membership in the EEC was the most beneficial economic factor in Italian trade during the post-World War II period. The later accession of Greece, Spain, and Portugal to the EEC created stiff competition for Mediterranean agricultural products, especially fruit, wine, and cooking oil. At the beginning of the 21st century, however, the expanded EU and the weakness of the new euro currency allowed for export growth in Italy. As the euro reached and ultimately surpassed parity with the U.S. dollar, this advantage was lost, and for the first decade of the 21st century Italy maintained a negative trade balance.

  • Services and tourism
BUSINESS SERVICES

The service sector is one of the most important in Italy in terms of the number of people employed. If the definition extends to cover tourism, the hotel industry, restaurants, the service trades, transport and communications, domestic workers, financial services, and public administration, well over half of the workforce operates in the sector. A fully accurate measure is impossible, however, because of the existence of a burgeoning black market.

A plentiful supply of labour has nourished the service sector, especially in the large urban areas, since the 1950s. This labour came initially from rural areas of northern Italy such as Veneto; later the Italian peasantry from the Mezzogiorno migrated north; and more recently immigrants from less-developed countries—many of whom work for low wages, without job security, and under substandard work conditions—have filled low-grade urban service jobs. High-level service jobs include those involved with information technologies, which are used by one-third of Italian business. Factors that have contributed to the growth of the service sector include the rise in the standard of living in Italy and Europe in general, leading to an increase in mobility, financial transactions, business, demand for leisure activities, and tourism.

TOURISM

Italy is renowned as a tourist destination; it attracted more than 40 million foreign visitors annually in the early 21st century. Conversely, less than one-fifth of Italians take their holidays abroad. The tourist industry in Italy experienced a decline from 1987 onward, including a slump during the Persian Gulf War and world recession, but it rebounded in the 1990s, posting gains in the number of overseas and domestic tourists. In addition, the Jubilee celebrations promoted by the Roman Catholic Church in 2000 to mark the advent of its third millennium attracted millions of tourists to Rome and its enclave, Vatican City, the seat of the church.

The tourist industry has flourished under both national and international patronage. The most popular locations, apart from the great cultural centres of Rome, Florence, Venice, and Naples, are the coastal resorts and islands or the Alpine hills and lakes of the north; the Ligurian and Amalfi rivieras; the northern Adriatic coast; the small islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea (Elba, Capri, and Ischia); the Emerald Coast of Sardinia; Sicily; Gran Paradiso National Park and the Dolomites; and Abruzzo National Park.

  • Labour and taxation

Women constitute about two-fifths of the labour force, though they are more likely to take on fixed-term and part-time employment than men. The activity rate of male employment is consistent throughout Italy, but females have a much lower rate of participation in the south.

Because of the scala mobile, which adjusted wages to inflation, Italian workers benefited from high job security for decades after World War II. Beginning in the 1980s, though, as the government moved to get inflation under control, the scala mobile came under attack and was eventually terminated in 1992.

The strength of trade unions was in decline by the end of the 20th century, but large general strikes were not uncommon. The right to strike is guaranteed by the constitution and remains a very potent weapon in the hands of the trade unions. Three major labour federations exist, each closely tied to different political factions: the General Italian Confederation of Labour (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro; CGIL), which is tied to the left; the Italian Confederation of Workers’ Unions (Confederazione Italiana di Sindicati Liberi; CISL), with ties to the Catholic movement; and the Italian Labour Union (Unione Italiana del Lavoro; UIL), related to the secular parties. A number of independent unions are also active, especially in the public service sector. They increasingly challenge the monopoly of the three confederations on national contractual negotiations and are quite militant.

The government has undertaken reforms in tax collection. Historically, it has been unsuccessful in gathering income taxes with consistency, in part because of tax evasion and a black market on goods.

  • Transportation and telecommunications
WATER TRANSPORT

Water transport was the first important means of linking Italy with its Mediterranean trading partners, even though its only navigable internal water is the Po River. At the time of unification in the 19th century, the ports of Venice, Palermo, and Naples were of great significance, and the Italian merchant fleet was preeminent in the Mediterranean Sea. The 4,600 miles (7,400 km) of Italian coastline are punctuated by many ports, and a large majority of imports and exports arrive and leave the country by sea. The principal dry-cargo ports are Venice, Cagliari, Civitavecchia, Gioia Tauro, and Piombino, while those handling chiefly petroleum products are Genoa, Augusta, Trieste, Bari, and Savona. Naples and Livorno handle both types of cargo. Half of the commercial port traffic is concentrated on only one-tenth of the coastline. The industries of Piedmont and Lombardy make heavy demands on the maritime outlets, particularly Genoa, which is the most extensive and important Italian port but which has great difficulty expanding because of the mountains surrounding it.

RAIL TRANSPORT

The main period of railway construction was about the time of unification, from 1860 until 1873. The heavy costs involved in laying down the infrastructure caused the government to sell off its stake in 1865. By this time the networks serving Milan, Genoa, and Turin in the north were well-developed. These were followed by links through the Po valley to Venice; to Bari, along the Adriatic coast; down the Tyrrhenian coast, through Naples, to Reggio di Calabria; and from Rome to the Adriatic cities of Ancona and Pescara. The Sicilian and Sardinian networks also were built. A period of rationalization and modernization followed in 1905 when the network was renationalized; building of new rail lines continued throughout the 20th century. An exceptional feature was the early electrification of the lines, many of which ran through long tunnels and were ill-suited to steam power. This modernization was due to Italy’s early development of hydroelectricity.

Although the rail network is well distributed throughout the peninsula, there are important qualitative differences between its northern and southern components. The north enjoys more frequent services, faster trains, and more double track lines than the south. Compared with other European networks, the Italian trains carry little freight but many passengers, partly because the railways failed to keep pace with the rapid rate of industrialization after World War II, while the passenger lines were made inexpensive through government subsidies. Eighty percent of the rail network was controlled by the state via Ferrovie dello Stato (“State Railways”) before it was privatized in 1992.

The Italian railways are connected with the rest of Europe by a series of mountain routes, linking Turin with Fréjus in France, Milan with Switzerland via the Simplon Tunnel, Verona to Austria and Germany via the Brenner Pass, and Venice to eastern Europe via Tarvisio. In the late 20th century routes were expanded, extended, and modernized, including the addition of high-speed lines and computerized booking and freight control systems. The railway network extends some 10,000 miles (16,000 km).

ROAD TRANSPORT

The Italian road network is subdivided into four administrative categories—express highways (autostrade) and national, provincial, and municipal roads (strade statali, strade provinciali, and strade comunali, respectively). Road construction in Italy flourished between 1955 and 1975. Between 1951 and 1980, surfaced roads, excluding highways and urban streets, increased by 72 percent to cover more than 183,000 miles (295,000 km). Automobile sales increased faster than in any other western European economy during this period. Much of this was due to mass production of cheap models by Fiat. Road construction in the south particularly benefited from funds released by the Southern Development Fund.

ROAD TRANSPORT

The Italian road network is subdivided into four administrative categories—express highways (autostrade) and national, provincial, and municipal roads (strade statali, strade provinciali, and strade comunali, respectively). Road construction in Italy flourished between 1955 and 1975. Between 1951 and 1980, surfaced roads, excluding highways and urban streets, increased by 72 percent to cover more than 183,000 miles (295,000 km). Automobile sales increased faster than in any other western European economy during this period. Much of this was due to mass production of cheap models by Fiat. Road construction in the south particularly benefited from funds released by the Southern Development Fund.

Government and Society of Italy

Constitutional framework

CONSTITUTION OF 1948

The Italian state grew out of the kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont, where in 1848 King Charles Albert introduced a constitution that remained the basic law, of his kingdom and later of Italy, for nearly 100 years. It provided for a bicameral parliament with a cabinet appointed by the king. With time, the power of the crown diminished, and ministers became responsible to parliament rather than to the king. Although the constitution remained formally in force after the fascists seized power in 1922, it was devoid of substantial value. After World War II, on June 2, 1946, the Italians voted in a referendum to replace the monarchy with a republic. A Constituent Assembly worked out a new constitution, which came into force on January 1, 1948.

The constitution of Italy has built-in guarantees against easy amendment, in order to make it virtually impossible to replace it with a dictatorial regime. It is upheld and watched over by the Constitutional Court, and the republican form of government cannot be changed. The constitution contains some preceptive principles, applicable from the moment it came into force, and some programmatic principles, which can be realized only by further enabling legislation.

The constitution is preceded by the statement of certain basic principles, including the definition of Italy as a democratic republic, in which sovereignty belongs to the people (Article 1). Other principles concern the inviolable rights of man, the equality of all citizens before the law, and the obligation of the state to abolish social and economic obstacles that limit the freedom and equality of citizens and hinder the full development of individuals (Articles 2 and 3).

Many forms of personal freedom are guaranteed by the constitution: the privacy of correspondence (Article 15); the right to travel at home and abroad (Article 16); the right of association for all purposes that are legal, except in secret or paramilitary societies (Article 18); and the right to hold public meetings, if these are consistent with security and public safety (Article 17). There is no press censorship, and freedom of speech and writing is limited only by standards of public morality (Article 21). The constitution stresses the equality of spouses in marriage and the equality of their children to each other (Articles 29 and 30). Family law has seen many reforms, including the abolition of the husband’s status as head of the household and the legalization of divorce and abortion. One special article in the constitution concerns the protection of linguistic minorities (Article 6).

The constitution establishes the liberty of all religions before the law (Article 8) but also recognizes the special status granted the Roman Catholic Church by the Lateran Treaty in 1929 (Article 7). That special status was modified and reduced in importance by a new agreement between church and state in 1985. Because of these changes and the liberal tendencies manifested by the church after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, religion is much less a cause of political and social friction in contemporary Italy than it was in the past.

The constitution is upheld by the Constitutional Court, which is composed of 15 judges, of whom 5 are nominated by the president of the republic, 5 are elected by parliament, and 5 are elected by judges from other courts. Members must have certain legal qualifications and experience. The term of office is nine years, and Constitutional Court judges are not eligible for reappointment.

The court performs four major functions. First, it judges the constitutionality of state and regional laws and of acts having the force of law. Second, the court resolves jurisdictional conflicts between ministries or administrative offices of the central government or between the state and a particular region or between two regions. Third, it judges indictments instituted by parliament. When acting as a court of indictment, the 15 Constitutional Court judges are joined by 16 additional lay judges chosen by parliament. Fourth, the court determines whether or not it is permissible to hold referenda on particular topics. The constitution specifically excludes from the field of referenda financial decisions, the granting of amnesties and pardons, and the ratification of treaties.

THE LEGISLATURE

Parliament is bicameral and comprises the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. All members of the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house) are popularly elected via a system of proportional representation, which serves to benefit minor parties. Most members of the Senate (the higher chamber) are elected in the same manner, but the Senate also includes several members appointed by the president and former presidents appearing ex officio, all of whom serve life terms.

In theory, the Senate should represent the regions and in this way differ from the lower chamber, but in practice the only real difference between them lies in the minimum age required for the electorate and the candidates: 18 and 25 years, respectively, for deputies and 25 and 40 for senators. Deputies and senators alike are elected for a term of five years, which can be extended only in case of war. Parliamentarians cannot be penalized for opinions expressed or votes cast, and deputies or senators are not obligated to vote according to the wishes of their constituents. Unless removed by parliamentary action, deputies and senators enjoy immunity from arrest, criminal trial, and search. Their salary is established by law, and they qualify for a pension.

Both houses are officially organized into parliamentary parties. Each house also is organized into standing committees, which reflect the proportions of the parliamentary groups. However, the chairmanship of parliamentary committees is not the exclusive monopoly of the majority. Besides studying bills, these committees act as legislative bodies. The parliamentary rules have followed the United States’ pattern and have given the standing committees extensive powers of control over the government and administration. All these features explain why the government has a limited ability to control the legislative agenda and why parliamentarians are often able to vote contrary to party instructions and to avoid electoral accountability. The abolition of secret voting on most parliamentary matters at the end of the 1980s did not significantly change this situation.

Special majorities are required for constitutional legislation and for the election of the president of the republic, Constitutional Court judges, and members of the Superior Council of the Magistrature. The two houses meet jointly to elect and swear in the president of the republic and to elect one-third of the members of the Superior Council of the Magistrature and one-third of the judges of the Constitutional Court. They may also convene to impeach the president of the republic, the president of the Council of Ministers, or individual ministers.

Each year, the annual budget and the account of expenditure for the past financial year are presented to parliament for approval. The budget, however, does not cover all public expenditure, nor does it include details of the budgets of many public bodies, over which, therefore, parliament has no adequate control. International treaties are ratified by means of special laws.

The most important function of parliament is ordinary legislation. Bills may be presented in parliament by the government, by individual members, or by bodies such as the National Council for Economy and Labour, various regional councils, or communes, as well as by petition of 50,000 citizens of the electorate or through a referendum. Bills are passed either by the standing committees or by parliament as a whole. In either case, the basic procedure is the same. First, there is a general debate followed by a vote; then, each of the bill’s separate articles is discussed and voted on; finally, a last vote is taken on the entire bill. All bills must be approved by both houses before they become law; thus, whenever one house introduces an amendment to the draft approved by the other house, the latter must approve the amended draft.

The law is then promulgated by the president of the republic. If the president considers it unconstitutional or inappropriate, it is remanded to parliament for reconsideration. If the bill is, nevertheless, passed a second time, the president is obliged to promulgate it. The law comes into force when published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale.

THE PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE

The president of the republic is the head of state and serves a term of seven years. The prosecutorial immunity that applies to members of the legislature does not extend to the chief executive, and the president can be impeached for high treason or offenses against the constitution, even while in office. The president is elected by a college comprising both chambers of parliament, together with three representatives from every region. The two-thirds majority required guarantees that the president is acceptable to a sufficient proportion of the populace and the political partners. The minimum age for presidential candidates is 50 years. If the president is temporarily unable to carry out his functions, the president of the Senate acts as the deputy. If the impediment is permanent or if it is a case of death or resignation, a presidential election must be held within 15 days.

Special powers and responsibilities are vested in the president of the republic, who promulgates laws and decrees having the force of law, calls special sessions of parliament, delays legislation, authorizes the presentation of government bills in parliament, and, with parliamentary authorization, ratifies treaties and declares war. However, some of these acts are duties that must be performed by the president, whereas others have no validity unless countersigned by the government. The president commands the armed forces and presides over the Supreme Council of Defense and the Superior Council of the Magistrature.

Presidents may dissolve parliament either on their own initiative (except during the last six months of their term of office), having consulted the presidents of both chambers, or at the request of the government. They may appoint 5 lifetime members of the Senate, and they appoint 5 of the 15 Constitutional Court judges. They also appoint the president of the Council of Ministers, the equivalent of a prime minister. Whenever a government is defeated or resigns, it is the duty of the president of the republic, after consulting eminent politicians and party leaders, to appoint the person most likely to win the confidence of parliament; this person is usually designated by the majority parties, and the president has limited choice.

THE GOVERNMENT

The government comprises the president of the Council of Ministers and the various other ministers responsible for particular departments. Ministerial appointments are negotiated by the parties constituting the government majority. Each new government must receive a vote of confidence in both houses of parliament within 10 days of its appointment. If at any time the government fails to maintain the confidence of either house, it must resign. Splits in the coalition of two or more parties that had united to form a government have caused most of the resignations of governments.

According to the constitution, the president of the Council of Ministers is solely responsible for directing government policies and coordinating administrative policy and activity. In reality, the president tends to function as a negotiator between government parties and factions. The government can issue emergency decree laws signed by the president of the republic, provided such laws are presented to parliament for authorization the day they are issued and receive its approval within 60 days. Without such approval, they automatically lapse. The government and, in certain cases, individual ministers issue administrative regulations and provisions, which are then promulgated by presidential decree.

  • Regional and local government

The republic is divided into regions (regioni), provinces (province), and communes (comuni). There are 15 ordinary regions and an additional 5 to which special autonomy has been granted. The regions with ordinary powers are Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, Lazio, Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, and Calabria. Italy can thus be considered a regional state. The modern regions correspond to the traditional territorial divisions. The powers of the five special regions—which are Sicily, Sardinia, Trentino–Alto Adige, Friuli–Venezia Giulia, and Valle d’Aosta—derive from special statutes adopted through constitutional laws.

The organs of regional government are the regional council, a popularly elected deliberative body with power to pass laws and issue administrative regulations; the regional committee, an executive body elected by the council from among its own members; and the president of the regional committee. The regional committee and its president are required to resign if they fail to retain the confidence of the council. Voting in the regional councils is rarely by secret ballot.

Participation in national government is a principal function of the regions: regional councils may initiate parliamentary legislation, propose referenda, and appoint three delegates to assist in presidential elections, except for the Valle d’Aosta region, which has only one delegate. With regard to regional legislation, the five special regions have exclusive competence in certain fields—such as agriculture, forestry, and town planning—while the ordinary regions have competence over them within the limits of fundamental principles established by state laws.

The legislative powers of both special and ordinary regions are subject to certain constitutional limitations, the most important of which is that regional acts may not conflict with national interests. The regions can also enact legislation necessary for the enforcement of state laws when the latter contain the necessary provisions. The regions have administrative competence in all fields in which they have legislative competence. Additional administrative functions can be delegated by state laws. The regions have the right to acquire property and the right to collect certain revenues and taxes.

The state has powers of control over the regions. The validity of regional laws that are claimed to be illegal can be tested in the Constitutional Court, while those considered inexpedient can be challenged in parliament. State supervisory committees presided over by government-appointed commissioners exercise control over administrative acts. The government has power to dissolve regional councils that have acted contrary to the constitution or have violated the law. In such an event, elections must be held within three months.

The organs of the commune, the smallest local government unit, are the popularly elected communal council, the communal committee, or executive body, and the mayor. The communes have the power to levy and collect limited local taxes, and they have their own police, although their powers are much inferior to those exercised by the national police. The communes issue ordinances and run certain public health services, and they are responsible for such services as public transportation, garbage collection, and street lighting. Regions have some control over the activity of the communes. Communal councils may be dissolved for reasons of public order or for continued neglect of their duties.

The organization of the provinces, units midway in size between regions and communes, is analogous to that of the communes; they each have councils, committees, and presidents. Since 1990 several laws that modify the organization of these local autonomies have been introduced in a trend toward greater decentralization.

There are certain central government officials whose duties lie in the sphere of local government. These include the government commissioner of each region, who supervises the administrative functions performed by the state and coordinates them with those performed by the region; the prefect, resident in each province, who is responsible for enforcing the orders of the central government and has powers of control over the organs of the province and communes; and the questore, who is the provincial chief of the state-run police.

Particular local government officials also have central government duties: among them are the president of the regional committee who, in directing the administrative functions that the state delegates to the region, performs a specific state duty; and the mayor of a commune who, in his capacity as an agent of the central government, registers births, deaths, marriages, and migrations, maintains public order (though in practice this is dealt with by the national police), and can, in cases of emergency, issue ordinances concerning public health, town planning, and the local police.

  • Justice

The Italian judicial system consists of a series of courts and a body of judges who are civil servants. Judges and prosecutors belong to the same civil service sector, and their positions are interchangeable. The judicial system is unified, with every court being part of the national network. The highest court in the central hierarchy is the Supreme Court of Cassation; it has appellate jurisdiction and gives judgments only on points of law. The 1948 constitution prohibits special courts with the exception of administrative courts and courts-martial, although a vast network of tax courts has survived from an earlier period. The administrative courts have two functions: the protection of interessi legittimi—that is, the protection of individual interests directly connected with public interests and protected only for that reason—and the supervision and control of public funds.

Administrative courts are also provided by the judicial sections of the Council of State, the oldest juridical-administrative advisory organ of government. The Court of Accounts has both an administrative and a judicial function; the latter involves primarily fiscal affairs. The Superior Council of the Magistrature, provided for by the constitution and intended to guarantee the independence and integrity of the judiciary, was formed only in 1958. It attends to the careers, assignments, and disciplining of judges. Two-thirds of its members are elected by the judges and one-third by parliament. The president and the public prosecutor of the Court of Cassation also belong to it. Elections tend to politicize the council, which has become an influential force in Italian politics.

Italian law is codified and based on Roman law, in particular as regards civil law. The codes of the kingdom of Sardinia in civil and penal affairs, derived from the Napoleonic Code, were extended to the whole of Italy when unification was achieved in the mid-19th century. In the period between World War I and II, these codes were revised. The Constitutional Court has declared a number of articles unconstitutional. The revised 1990 penal code replaced the old inquisitory system with an accusatory system akin to that of common-law countries. Besides the codes, there are innumerable statute laws that integrate the codes and regulate areas of law, such as public law, for which no codes exist.

The constitution stresses the principle that the judiciary should be independent of the legislature and the executive. For this reason, jurisdictional functions can be performed only by ordinary magistrates, and extraordinary tribunals may not be set up. Judges cannot be dismissed, they are not subject to hierarchical superiors, and their careers rest on seniority.

The organized crime group known collectively as the Mafia (though regionally recognized as the Camorra in Naples, the ’Ndrangheta in Calabria, and the Sacra Corona Unita in Puglia) has a long history in Italy, particularly in Sicily, and it has followed the Italian diaspora to foreign countries, notably the United States. Nearly eliminated by Benito Mussolini during the interwar period and revived after World War II, the Mafia resurged in the mid-20th century with the rise of international drug trafficking but faced increased homeland opposition from the Italian justice system in the later years of the century. As government prosecution of its activities increased in the 1970s, ’80s, and early ’90s, the Mafia struck back by assassinating magistrates and judges who had aggressively targeted organized crime.

Popular resistance to the Mafia increased in the early 21st century as business owners increasingly refused to pay the pizzo, a “protection” fee demanded by local crime organizations. The pizzo, which extracted an estimated €200 million per day from Italian businesses, represented a vital revenue stream for the Mafia. The Addiopizzo (“Goodbye, pizzo”) movement coalesced around consumers and businesses who rejected the Mafia’s presence in everyday life, and Italy’s most powerful business association threatened to expel any of its members who paid the pizzo.

  • Political process

ELECTORAL SYSTEM

For almost half a century after World War II, Italy’s electoral system was based on proportional representation, a system in which seats in an elected body are awarded to political parties according to the proportion of the total vote that they receive. Between 1993 and 1995, several changes were made by national legislation and popular referenda. Following these changes, on the national level the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate were elected by a combination of proportionality and plurality. Seventy-five percent of the seats in these two chambers were filled from single-member districts by individual candidates who won the largest number of votes in each district. The other 25 percent of the seats were awarded to candidates from party lists on a proportional basis. The number of votes obtained by the winner in single-member districts was fully (for senators) or partially (for deputies) subtracted before allocating proportional seats, thus introducing a further element of proportionality. A new electoral law passed in late 2005 overturned this system by restoring full proportional representation. However, the law also allocated a number of bonus seats in the Chamber of Deputies to the winning coalition—thus guaranteeing a majority for the victors.

In regional elections, voters cast two ballots. The first is cast in a contest for 80 percent of the seats in the regional council, which are awarded on a proportional basis. The second ballot is employed in a plurality vote; the regional coalition that wins a plurality is awarded all the remaining seats as well as the presidency of the regional government. Split voting is allowed.

In provincial elections, only one vote is cast. If a single provincial list wins more than 50 percent of the votes, seats are divided among all the lists according to their proportion of the vote, and the presidency goes to the head of the winning list. Otherwise, a runoff election must take place between the two most successful lists, with the winner taking 60 percent of the seats.

A similar system is employed in municipal elections in cities with more than 15,000 inhabitants. In this case, however, two ballots are cast, one for mayor and one for the council. Split voting is permitted. In smaller cities only one ballot is cast; the winning list is awarded two-thirds of the seats as well as the mayoralty.

POLITICAL PARTIES

From the end of World War II until the 1990s, Italy had a multiparty system with two dominant parties, the Christian Democratic Party (Partito della Democrazia Cristiana; DC) and the Italian Communist Party (Partito Comunista Italiano; PCI), and a number of small yet influential parties. The smaller parties ranged from the neofascist Italian Social Movement (Movimento Sociale Italiano; MSI) on the right to the Italian Socialist Party (Partito Socialista Italiano; PSI) on the left; a number of small secular parties occupied the centre. The DC, in various alliances with smaller parties of the centre and left, was the dominant governing party, and the principal opposition parties were the PCI and the MSI.

The postwar party system described above was radically altered by the fall of communism in the Soviet bloc in 1991, by a wave of judicial prosecutions of corrupt officials that involved most Italian political parties, and finally by the electoral reforms of the 1990s. The DC, riven by scandal, was replaced by a much smaller organization, the Italian Popular Party (Partito Popolare Italiano; PPI), which played a diminished role after elections in 1994. By that time three new parties had arisen to dominate the political right and centre-right: Forza Italia (FI; loosely translatable as “Go Italy”), an alliance created in 1994 by the media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi and dedicated to the principles of the market economy; the Northern League (Lega Nord; LN), formed in 1991, a federalist and fiscal-reform movement with large support in the northern regions; and the National Alliance (Alleanza Nazionale; AN), which succeeded the MSI in 1994 but whose political platform renounced its fascist past. Meanwhile, the PCI remained an important electoral force under a new name, the Democratic Party of the Left (Partito Democratico della Sinistra; PDS), later shortened to the Democrats of the Left (Democratici di Sinistra; DS). Thus, the Italian political spectrum, which had previously been dominated by parties of the centre, became polarized between parties of the right and left. The political centre was left to be divided by various short-lived multiparty alliances—for example, at the turn of the 21st century, the centre-right House of Freedoms and the centre-left Olive Tree. In 2007 a new centre-left party, known simply as the Democratic Party (Partito Democratico), emerged when the DS merged with the centrist Daisy (Margherita) party. Soon afterward the FI joined with the AN to create the new centre-right People of Freedom (Popolo della Libertà; PdL) party. AN leader Gianfranco Fini withdrew from the alliance in 2010 to form the rival centre-right Future and Freedom for Italy (Futuro e libertà per l’Italia; FLI) party.

THE PARTICIPATION OF THE CITIZEN

All citizens 18 years and older may vote. The turnout for elections in Italy is high, often reaching well over 80 percent of the electorate for parliamentary elections. Citizens may also subscribe to national referenda or petitions designed to abrogate a law or an executive order; such a petition must be signed by 500,000 members of the electorate or sponsored by five regional councils. Abrogative referenda have been used extensively since the 1970s to make possible a wide range of institutional and civic reforms. Abrogative referenda are provided for with regard to all regional legislation, and some regions have a provision for holding ordinary referenda. The constitution also provides that 50,000 members of the electorate may jointly present a draft bill to parliament.

  • Security

The armed forces are commanded by the president of the republic, who also presides over the Supreme Council of Defense, comprising the president of the Council of Ministers; the ministers of defense, the interior, foreign affairs, industry, and the treasury; and the chief of defense general staff. Military service for men was obligatory until 2005, when conscription was abolished. Women may serve in any branch of the armed forces. Although the constitution specifies that the armed forces must embody the democratic spirit of the republic, their activity is free from any political control. Italy’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) since 1949 has given the allied command a certain degree of control over the Italian forces.

There are two police forces in Italy with general duties: the Polizia de Stato (“State Police”), which is under the authority of the minister of the interior, and the Carabinieri, a corps of the armed forces that reports to both the minister of the interior and the minister of defense. The functions of the police are the prevention, suppression, and investigation of crimes. All functions are performed by both police forces. When engaged in criminal investigation, the police are placed by the constitution under the authority of the courts; however, the actual subordination of the two forces to two different government ministries is a source of conflict with regard to their technical subordination to the judiciary. In addition to these two police forces, there are special police for customs and for excise and revenue, prison guards, and a forestry corps.

  • Health and welfare

Italy possesses an extensive social security and welfare system that provides coverage for the great majority of the population. The system is run by a sprawling number of state agencies that supervise all social services, make available benefits in the case of accident, illness, disability, or unemployment, and provide assistance for the elderly. The largest of these agencies, which administers a wide range of benefits, is the National Social Insurance Institute (Istituto Nazionale della Previdenza Sociale; INPS).

A comprehensive national health service and national medical insurance were created in 1978 and based on Local Medical Units (Unità Sanitarie Locali, USL; later renamed Aziende Sanitarie Locali, ASL). In 1992–99 a radical reorganization of the national health system was carried out. Key features of the new system were the rationalization of public expenditures and the improvement of patient care services.

  • Housing

The second half of the 20th century began with a massive housing boom that slowed in the mid-1970s and then resurged again at century’s end. Overcrowding continues to be a problem, particularly in the cities of Rome, Milan, and Naples; Portici, a suburb of Naples near Mount Vesuvius, is one of the most congested towns in Italy. Although high demand continued into the 21st century, Italy’s real estate market managed to avoid the bubble effect that devastated the economies of the United States, Ireland, and Spain. On average, housing comprises about one-third of a household’s monthly expenditure.

  • Education

The constitution guarantees the freedom of art, science, and teaching. It also provides for state schools and guarantees the independence of the universities. Private schools (mainly run by religious bodies) are permitted. The constitution further states that the public schools are open to all and makes provision for scholarships and grants.

Education is compulsory only for those age 6 to 16 years. The school system begins with kindergarten for the 3- to 6-year-olds. Primary schools are attended by children between the ages of 6 and 11, at which stage most go on to secondary schools for 11- to 14-year-olds, but those wishing to study music go directly to the conservatories.

Postsecondary schooling is not compulsory and includes a wide range of technical and trade schools, art schools, teacher-training schools, and scientific and humanistic preparatory schools. Pupils from these schools can then continue their education attending either non-university- or university-level courses. University education is composed of three levels. At the first level, it takes between two and three years to gain a diploma. At the second level, between four and six years are spent to gain a university degree. At the third level, specialized courses of two to five years’ duration or doctorate courses lasting three to four years are offered.

At the beginning of the 21st century, more than one-third of the population had a high school diploma, about one-third had a junior high school diploma, and more than one-tenth had obtained a college degree. But educational attainment is higher in the younger generations. About two-thirds of people of university age attend university, and almost nine-tenths of people of high school age attend high school. Most schools and universities are run by the state, with programs that are uniform across the country. Less than one-tenth of students attend private schools. University fees are low, and enrollment is unrestricted for most students with a postsecondary school diploma.

Culture Life of Italy

Cultural milieu

The 20th century saw the transformation of Italy from a highly traditional, agricultural society to a progressive, industrialized state. Although the country was politically unified in 1861, regional identity remains strong, and the nation has developed unevenly as a cultural entity. Many regional differences are lessening with the increasing influence of television and other mass media as well as a nationally shared school curriculum. Though Italians have long tended to consider themselves citizens of their town or city first, followed by their region or province and so on, this is changing as Italy becomes more closely integrated into the European Union (EU) and as Italians come to think of themselves as part of a supranational community made up of many peoples.


Daily life and social customs

Since World War II, Italian society has profoundly changed, with a significant impact on daily life. One of the main elements of change is the more visible role women play in society outside the home, such as increased participation in higher education and the professions. One aspect of this changed role is that Italy records one of the lowest average numbers of children per woman in the world, as well as some of the lowest birth and fertility rates. The declining number of births was a subject of much concern in the first years of the 21st century, and some towns and villages, particularly in the depopulated rural south, were offering cash premiums and tax incentives for newborns. Of equal concern was the concomitant graying of Italy; in 2010 about one-fifth of the population was over age 65.

For Italian families, among the most popular daily leisure activities are watching television, listening to the radio, reading newspapers, and going to the cinema; reading books and engaging in sports are less common among the majority of people. According to surveys, Italians are very satisfied with their family relations, friendships, and health status, while their economic status and their working positions are less satisfactory. This is especially the case in southern Italy, where there are fewer job opportunities and where unemployment is high.

Though the popularity of home and wireless entertainment has grown, the use of public spaces remains important. Young Italians meet friends on a daily basis, often in the cities’ piazzas in the evenings, making frequent trips to bars, cinemas, pizzerias, and discos. Social media Web sites and mobile phones allowed Italians—especially those of younger generations—to maintain ties with friends, but online communication was generally seen as a method to facilitate, rather than replace, face-to-face interaction. Coastal areas are popular destinations in the summer. The automobile retains a strong hold on daily life as well. Ownership levels are high, and many cities and towns suffer severe congestion and pollution as a result.

Food is traditionally a primary element of Italian life. Work patterns in Italy revolve around the midday meal, though the leisurely two-hour-long lunch break is disappearing. Bars and trattorie cater cheaply and quickly to the casual diner. The culinary traditions of Italy proudly bear several ancestries, chiefly Etruscan, Greek, and Saracen: to the Etruscans is owed the heavy use of grain, to the Greeks the widespread presence of herb-cooked fish, and to the Saracens the country’s love of pastries, rice, and citrus fruits. Although there is no one style of Italian cooking, there being a wide variety of regional differences, Italians everywhere share a love of noodles, and pastas bear such euphonious names as spaghetti (“little strings”), penne (“feathers”), macaroni (“little dear things”), and orecchiette (“little ears”). In the south, noodles are often dressed with sauces made of olive oil, tomatoes, and spices. In the north, especially in Piedmont, they are coated in cream, butter, and cheese. Many foreigners have grown accustomed to these regional variations, as Italian cuisine has become a popular cultural export.

International dishes such as pasta and pizza and ingredients such as olive oil are popular back home in Italy, of course, but Italian cuisine remains characterized by strong regional traditions, local geography, way of life, and history. Northern Italian gastronomy is well known for its use of butter, rice, polenta, and cheeses. Seafood and shellfish are prevalent on the coasts. Meat dishes are popular in central Italy; for instance, wild boar is cooked in Tuscany and Umbria. The south is renowned for citrus fruits, olive groves, and vineyards. Italy is also one of the world’s largest wine producers, and every region in Italy is known for wine—to name just a few, Barbera and Barolo in Piedmont, Valpolicella and Soave in Veneto, Chianti in Tuscany, Primitivo in Puglia, Cirò in Calabria, and Marsala in Sicily.

For most Italians in the 21st century, religious activity plays a much smaller role in daily life than it did in the prior century and is usually concentrated on Sundays or on special celebrations such as Christmas and Easter. However, older generations, especially in rural settlements, tend to be more involved and may attend mass every day.

Italy: feast of the Epiphany [Credit: Contunico © ZDF Enterprises GmbH, Mainz]Regional life in Italy is typified by a diversity of customs and a great variety of festivals, even if it is their appeal to the tourist industry and to television that helps keep them alive. The majority of religious festivals are Roman Catholic, dedicated to the Madonna or to different saints. The feast of the Epiphany on January 6 exemplifies religious diversification as well as the pagan elements present in some of these celebrations. Traditionally, a witch called the Befana brings gifts to children on this day. However, in the villages of Mezzojuso and Piana degli Albanesi, both near Palermo, the Epiphany is celebrated according to the Byzantine and Albanian rites, respectively. The most notable Carnival celebrations are held at Viareggio and Venice, where in 1992 they were financed for the first time by major sponsors.

Italy’s strong agricultural tradition gives rise to a multitude of festivals celebrating the harvest, food, country, and seafaring pursuits. These festivals reflect the traditional activities of the area in which they are held. For example, the olive and bruschetta festival at Spello (near Perugia) marks the end of the olive harvest, the fish festival at Termoli reflects the fishing tradition in the port, and the hazelnut festival in Canelli (near Asti) gives testimony to the importance of that local crop. At Senale (near Bolzano) the traditional migration of sheep across the Giorgio glaciers is celebrated, while fishermen in the port of Aci Trezza (near Catania) stage a farcical swordfish hunt every June.

Some festivals are more sporting in nature, such as the historic horse race the Corsa del Palio in Siena, Florence’s “football match” in 16th-century costume, and the regattas of Venice, while others commemorate historical events, such as the Lily Festival at Nola (near Naples), recalling the return of St. Paulinus of Nola in 394 after a long imprisonment in Africa, and the festival of Piedigrotta in Naples, commemorating the battle of Velletri in 1744. The Venice Biennale, established in 1895, convenes every other year to celebrate the visual and performing arts.


The arts

Italy was at the forefront of the artistic and intellectual developments of the Renaissance, which drew their impetus from a reappraisal of the Classical Greek and Roman world. Artists and scholars in Italy were especially well placed to take the lead in such a revival, since they were surrounded by the material remains of antiquity. Earlier Romanesque and Gothic forms in both art and architecture were supplanted by the Renaissance, which escalated with a flourish into the Baroque styles of the 16th century.

  • VISUAL ARTS

“Mona Lisa” [Credit: The Bridgeman Art Library/Getty Images]The great names in Italian art through the centuries make a long list that includes, among many others, Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Bernini, and Tiepolo. Broadly characterized by a warmth of colour and light, Italian painting enjoyed preeminence in Europe for hundreds of years. Continuous subjection to foreign powers, however, eventually enfeebled Italy’s artistic contribution, which sank into provincialism. Ties with European art were renewed about 1910 by the work of the Futurists, led by the poet Filippo Marinetti and the painters Umberto Boccioni and Giacomo Balla. Futurism was succeeded by the Metaphysical paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, who influenced the Surrealists until the 1920s, when he began to produce more traditional canvases. The subtle, quietist paintings of Giorgio Morandi placed him in increasingly high regard since his death in 1964. Argentinian-born Lucio Fontana’s work exemplifies the modern artist’s quest for form, expressed, for example, by a blank canvas slashed open by a knife. Modern additions to the Italian tradition of sculpture include the works of Giacomo Manzù, Gio Pomodoro, Marino Marini, Luciano Minguzzi, Alberto Viani, Harry Bertoia, Mirko Basaldella, and Emilio Greco. (For further discussion, see Western painting; Western sculpture.)

Versace, Gianni [Credit: Slim Aarons—Hulton Archive/Getty Images]Italy is a world leader in high fashion, an industry centred in Milan, a haven for models, designers, and photographers who come to work in the houses of Versace, Gucci, Krizia, Ferragamo, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, and Armani, among many others. Italian design houses such as Modigliani and Alessi have also been strongly influential.


  • ARCHITECTURE

Venice [Credit: Dallas and John Heaton—Impact Photos/Heritage-Images]The traditional image of old Italian towns situated around piazzas adorned with fountains remains valid in a country where ruins from Classical antiquity may stand alongside modern construction marvels. The Rationalist architecture movement of 1926 produced one of the outstanding Italian architect-engineers of the 20th century, Pier Luigi Nervi, architect of the Turin exhibition complex and the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Marcello Piacentini was responsible for much of the imposing architecture of the fascist period, such as the Esposizione Universale di Roma (EUR) area in Rome. Innovative architecture is represented in Milan’s Marchiondi Spagliardi Institute, by Vittoriano Viganò. Other architects of note include Renzo Piano, known for his international museums; Aldo Rossi, whose critical writings rivaled his built works; and Paolo Portoghesi, who created public buildings from curvilinear forms. (For further discussion, see Western architecture.)

  • LITERATURE

Italian literature, and indeed standard Italian, have their origins in the 14th-century Tuscan dialect—the language of its three founding fathers, Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. The thread of literature bound these pioneers together with later practitioners, such as the scientist and philosopher Galileo, dramatist Carlo Goldoni, lyric poet Giacomo Leopardi, Romantic novelist Alessandro Manzoni, and poet Giosuè Carducci. Women writers of the Renaissance such as Veronica Gàmbara, Vittoria Colonna, and Gaspara Stampa were also influential in their time. Rediscovered and reissued in critical editions in the 1990s, their work prompted an interest in women writers of all eras within Italy.

After the unification of Italy, writers began to explore subjects theretofore considered too lowly for literary consideration, such as poverty and living conditions in the Mezzogiorno. Writers such as Giovanni Verga invented a new vocabulary to give expression to them. Among women writers was a Sardinian, Grazia Deledda, who won the 1926 Nobel Prize for Literature. However, the most prominent Italian woman writer of the 20th century was Elsa Morante.

The themes of writers in the 20th century ranged widely. The flamboyant patriotism of Gabriele d’Annunzio in the early decades of the century gave way to the existentialist concerns of Deledda and Ugo Ojetti, who focused on local aspects of Italian life. The fascist period forced many writers underground but at the same time provided inspiration for their work, as in the case of Ignazio Silone and Carlo Levi. Italo Svevo and Luigi Pirandello pioneered the psychoanalytic literary genre, prior to the revival of realism by writers such as Elio Vittorini. Alberto Moravia wrote of the corruption of the upper-middle classes and gained notoriety for the eroticism of his narrative.

By the 1960s the literary world joined the protest movement against the corruption of the state, and poetry eclipsed the novel as the primary literary genre. Pier Paolo Pasolini, a poet, critic, and filmmaker, was the dominant creative figure of the period. Eugenio Montale and Salvatore Quasimodo won Nobel Prizes for their poetry, and Giuseppe Ungaretti founded Hermeticism. A onetime disciple of that movement, the spiritual poet Mario Luzi was frequently nominated for the Nobel Prize.

Of literature in the late 20th century, the work of Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, and Primo Levi met with much success abroad; within Italy the work of Cesare Pavese, Carlo Emilio Gadda, Natalia Ginzburg, and Leonardo Sciascia was also well received. The last decades of the century saw the revival of the narrative and the historical novel, together with new forms of experimental and innovative language. In 1997 Dario Fo, a playwright known for his improvisational style, won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Writers active in the first years of the 21st century, working in a variety of genres, included Niccolò Ammaniti, Andrea Camilleri, Antonio Tabuchi, and Carlo Lucarelli. (For further discussion, see Italian literature.)

  • MUSIC

Italian music has been one of the supreme expressions of that art in Europe: the Gregorian chant, the innovation of modern musical notation in the 11th century, the troubadour song, the madrigal, and the work of Palestrina and Monteverdi all form part of Italy’s proud musical heritage, as do such composers as Vivaldi, Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti, Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, and Bellini.

Music in contemporary Italy, though less illustrious than in the past, continues to be important. Italy hosts many music festivals of all types—classical, jazz, and pop—throughout the year. In particular, Italian pop music is represented annually at the Festival of San Remo. The annual Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto has achieved world fame. The state broadcasting company, Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI), has four orchestras, and others are attached to opera houses; one of the best is at La Scala in Milan. The violinists Uto Ughi and Salvatore Accardo and the pianist Maurizio Pollini have gained international acclaim, as have the composers Luciano Berio, Luigi Dallapiccola, and Luigi Nono.

Contemporary productions maintain Italy’s eminence in opera, notably at La Scala in Milan, as well as at other opera houses such as the San Carlo in Naples and La Fenice Theatre in Venice, and the annual summer opera productions in the Roman arena in Verona. Tenors Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli were among Italy’s most acclaimed performers at the turn of the 21st century. (For further discussion, see Western music; opera.)

  • THEATRE

There are a large number of theatres in Italy, many of which are privately run. A number of publicly operated permanent theatres (teatri stabili) are funded by the state and supervised by the Ministry for Tourism. Three public organizations to promote theatrical activity in Italy are the Italian Theatre Board (Ente Teatrale Italiano; ETI), the Institute for Italian Drama (Istituto Dramma Italiano; IDI), concerned with promoting Italian repertory, and the National Institute for Ancient Drama (Istituto Nazionale del Dramma Antico; INDA). In 1990 the government tightened its legislation on eligibility for funding, which severely affected fringe and experimental theatres. Financial constraints in subsequent years led to an increasing number of international coproductions.

Italian theatre has been active in producing outstanding contemporary European work and in staging important revivals, although no native playwright has produced works that can rival those of Luigi Pirandello from the early 20th century. In the late 20th century Dario Fo received international acclaim for his highly improvisational style. (For further discussion, see Italian literature; Western theatre.)

  • FILM

The heyday of the Italian film was in the 1950s. Neorealism, best represented in the work of Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica, diverged from the escapism favoured during the interwar years to take a candid look at prevailing conditions in postwar Italy. This new style attracted world attention. Cinecittà, the complex of film studios built by Mussolini near Rome, became known as the Hollywood of Europe. Rome became the centre for the international jet set, who frequented the grand hotels and smart cafés of the Via Veneto, attracting a new breed of celebrity-hungry photographers known as paparazzi.

Fellini, Federico [Credit: David Lees—Time Life Pictures/Getty Images]Federico Fellini propagated this image of the capital in films such as Roma (1972) and La dolce vita (1960; “The Sweet Life”). Pier Paolo Pasolini, on the other hand, took a grittier look at the Italian underworld in films such as Accattone (1961; The Beggar). Other directors who made a lasting contribution to the cinema of the day were Luchino Visconti, with masterpieces such as Morte a Venezia (1971; Death in Venice); brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (La notte di San Lorenzo [1982; Night of the Shooting Stars]); and the screenwriter Cesare Zavattini. Some directors, such as Michelangelo Antonioni, Franco Zeffirelli, Sergio Leone, and Fellini, enjoyed more success abroad than at home.

Bertolucci, Bernardo [Credit: © Fabian Cevallos/Corbis]In the late 20th century, Italian cinema fell into recession. Nevertheless, Italy can still claim some major international successes, including Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor (1987), Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso (1990), Gabriele Salvatores’s Mediterraneo (1991), and Michael Radford’s Il Postino (1994; The Postman). Silvio Soldini’s Pane e tulipani (2000; Bread and Tulips), Marco Tullio Giordana’s I cento passi (2000; The Hundred Steps) and La meglio gioventù (2003, The Best of Youth), as well as Matteo Garrone’s Gomorra (2008, Gomorrah) were well received critically. Other directors of note are Gianni Amelio and Roberto Benigni, who won the Academy Award for best actor for a film he directed, La vita è bella (1997; Life Is Beautiful), which also won for best foreign movie. Italian films are increasingly coproductions of cinema and television companies. The Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI) and Fininvest are presently Italy’s largest film producers, accounting for more than half of the film output, which numbers several hundred films and television productions each year. Rome’s Cinecittà also sees many non-Italian productions each year, particularly of films treating historical themes; examples include Gangs of New York (directed by Martin Scorsese, 2002), The Passion of the Christ (directed by Mel Gibson, 2003), and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (directed by Wes Anderson, 2004). (For further discussion, see history of the motion picture.)


Cultural institutions

Italy’s cultural heritage is an inescapable presence. The south and centre abound in vestiges of Greek and Etruscan civilization, and substantial Roman remains are visible throughout the peninsula. The most notable examples are the ancient Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum near Naples and the remains in Rome itself. A wealth of monuments, churches, and palaces testify to Italy’s cultural past, and the contents of its museums and galleries number more than 35 million pieces. Italy also has more than 700 cultural institutes, over 300 theatres, and about 6,000 libraries, housing well over 100 million books.

Hera, Temple of [Credit: V.Dia—Scala/Art Resource, New York]Italy contains dozens of historic places designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as World Heritage sites. Among the places officially noted are the old city centres in Ferrara, Pienza, San Gimignano, Siena, and Urbino; archaeological sites in Agrigento, Aquileia, and Valcamonica; and the whole of the Amalfi coast and the Eolie Islands. Later additions to the World Heritage List include the Dolomites, the historic centre of Genoa, and the Rhaetian Railway.

  • USEUMS AND GALLERIES

Italy’s museums contain some of the most important collections of artifacts from ancient civilizations. The permanent collection in the National Museum in Taranto provides one of the most important insights into the history of Magna Graecia, while the archaeological collections in the Roman National Museum in Rome and in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples are considered among the best in the world. The same may be said of the Etruscan collection in the National Archaeological Museum of Umbria in Perugia, the Classical sculptures in the Capitoline Museums in Rome, and the Egyptian collection in the Egyptian Museum in Turin.

Italy’s towering artistic achievement during the Renaissance is reflected in the magnificent collections in the Uffizi Gallery, the National Museum of the Bargello, and other galleries in Florence. In addition to the Old Masters, the Uffizi, a public gallery since 1765, contains masterpieces by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Giovanni Bellini, and Titian. The Bargello holds a superb collection of Florentine sculpture, with works by Michelangelo, Cellini, Donatello, and the Della Robbia family. The Pitti Palace houses an impressive collection of paintings by Raphael, together with about 500 important works of the 16th and 17th centuries collected by the Medici and Lorraine families.

Many of Italy’s major galleries are concerned primarily with their own regional heritage. For example, the Brera Art Gallery in Milan is rich in work from the northern Italian Lombard school, and the Galleries of the Academy of Venice are the major exponent of Venetian painting, as the National Art Gallery in Siena is of the Sienese school. The Vatican Museums, in the enclave of Vatican City, are noted above all for the frescoes by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, which were restored in the 1980s and ’90s in one of the most ambitious conservation projects undertaken in Europe.

A quarter of Italy’s museums belong to the Italian state, just under half to local authorities, and a small proportion to public bodies, religious organizations, and private owners. The numbers of museum visitors are dependent on overall tourism trends, but individual museums routinely count their annual attendance totals in the millions. In the early 21st century more than 5 million people a year passed through the Vatican Museums, and more than 1.5 million visited the Uffizi Gallery.

  • LIBRARIES

Italy’s national library system is controlled by the Central Office for Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Institutes. This body oversees the work of cataloging and conserving the nation’s books and directly controls the State Record Library and some 50 state libraries. The two principal national libraries are based in Rome and Florence. Their work is supported by the main national libraries of Bari, Naples, Venice, Palermo, and Milan and their provincial branches. Each of these concentrates to a significant extent on the literary heritage of its own region. The university libraries are primarily concerned with the promotion of academic research.

  • CULTURAL INSTITUTES

Academies and societies, representing a multitude of interests, have proliferated in Italy. Indeed, academies of the fine arts had their origins in Italy. For example, the Academy of Fine Arts of Florence was founded as the Academy of Arts of Design in 1563, and the academy of Perugia dates to 1573. Rome’s Academy of San Luca was a guild of painters, founded in 1577. Italy’s most famous learned society is the National Academy of Lincei, of which Galileo was once a member. The most-distinguished literary society is the Academy of Crusca, founded in Florence in 1582. There are also many historical and scientific societies, including the Cimento Academy, which opened in Florence in 1657. Foreign schools that were established for the study of Italian art and culture contribute significantly to Italian academic life.


Sports and recreation

For a country in which only a small percentage of the population is actively involved in sports, Italy has produced an impressive number of champions in cycling, skiing, basketball, water polo, volleyball, and football (soccer). Especially popular is football, which some Italian scholars claim was invented in 16th-century Italy as calcio and introduced at the Palio festivals of Florence and Siena. Italian football teams excelled in international play in the 1930s and from the late 1960s onward. The national team has won the World Cup four times, most recently in 2006.

Automobile racing also is widely popular in Italy, and Italian engineers and drivers have contributed much to the sport. Ferrari racing cars, first manufactured in 1946, have won more than 5,000 major races and set many world records.

Italian athletes have participated in every modern Olympiad. The Alpine town of Cortina d’Ampezzo hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics; the 1960 Summer Games were held in Rome; and Turin was host of the 2006 Winter Games. Italy’s notable Olympians include fencer Edoardo Mangiarotti, diver Klaus Dibiasi, Alpine skier Alberto Tomba, and Nordic skier Stefania Belmondo. In the first decade of the 21st century, Italy typically finished among the top 10 medal winners at the Summer and Winter Games.


Media and publishing

The legalization of local, independent broadcasting stations in 1976 radically changed the media landscape. Since then the number of newspapers and magazines published has declined, while commercial television and radio channels have mushroomed. The broadcasting sector is dominated by the three state channels of RAI and by three major commercial channels—Canale 5, Italia 1, and Rete 4. The latter three are owned by Fininvest, a multimedia company controlled by Silvio Berlusconi, who built up a virtual monopoly in the private television, advertising, and publishing sectors before becoming prime minister (1994; 2001–06; 2008–11). The French channel France 2 competes for viewers in northern and central Italy. About a dozen additional private stations struggle to secure the remaining one-tenth of the national viewership. Italian television has one of the highest numbers of television broadcasts in the EU and produces the largest number of films. Well-funded game shows and cabarets proliferate on the major channels, while small local channels provide a fare dominated by films and locally produced advertising.

The commercial television sector developed in a legislative vacuum for its first decade after 1976. This had adverse effects for other sectors of the media. Because of its high viewing figures, television drew the major share of advertising revenue away from its habitual market in films and print media. The effects were especially disastrous for the cinema, but newspapers and magazines also suffered from lack of advertising revenue. As it became increasingly difficult for publishers to operate their newspapers and magazines at a profit, these were gradually taken over by larger industrial and business concerns, often with some compromising of their editorial freedom. In the 1990s legislation to reorganize the broadcasting industry—to prevent the creation of monopolies and to regulate restrictions on the press—proved highly contentious.

The major national newspapers are Corriere della Sera, La Repubblica, La Stampa, and Il Giorno. Local and regional papers are particularly vital in Italy, underlining once again the strength of regional identity in Italian culture. Among the newspapers with the largest circulation are the sports titles La Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere dello Sport.

History of Italy

Ancient Italy

Little is known of Italian history before the 5th cent. B.C., except for the regions (S Italy and Sicily) where the Greeks had established colonies (see Magna Graecia). The earliest known inhabitants seem to have been of Ligurian stock. The Etruscans, coming probably from Asia Minor, established themselves in central Italy before 800 B.C. They reduced the indigenous population to servile status and established a prosperous empire with a complex culture. In the 4th cent. B.C., the Celts (called Gauls by Roman historians) invaded Italy and drove the Etruscans from the Po valley. In the south, the Etruscan advance was checked about the same time by the Samnites (see Samnium), who had adapted the civilization of their Greek neighbors and who in the 4th cent. B.C. drove the Etruscans out of Campania.

The Latins, living along the coast of Latium, had not been fully subjected to the Etruscans; they and their neighbors, the Sabines, were the ancestors of the Romans. The history of Italy from the 5th cent. B.C. to the 5th cent. A.D. is largely that of the growth of Rome and of the Roman Empire, of which Italy was the core. Augustus divided Italy into 11 administrative regions (Latium and Campania, Apulia and Calabria, Lucania and Bruttium, Samnium, Picenum, Umbria, Etruria, Cispadane Gaul, Liguria, Venetia and Istria, Transpadane Gaul). By that time, at the beginning of the Christian era, all of Italy had been thoroughly latinized, Roman citizenship was extended to all free Italians, an excellent system of roads had been built, and Italy, made tax exempt, shared fully in the wealth of Rome. Never since has Italy known an equal degree of prosperity or as long a period of peace. Christianity spread rapidly.

  • The Barbarian Invasions

Like the rest of the Roman Empire, Italy in the early 5th cent. A.D. began to be invaded by successive waves of barbarian tribes—the Germanic Visigoths, the Huns, and the Germanic Heruli and Ostrogoths. The deposition (476) of Romulus Augustulus, the last Roman emperor of the West, and the assumption by Odoacer of the rule over Italy is commonly regarded as the end of the Roman Empire. However, the Eastern emperors, residing at Constantinople (see Byzantine Empire), never renounced their claim to Italy and to succession to the West.

On the urging of Zeno, the Eastern emperor, the Ostrogoth Theodoric the Great invaded Italy, took (493) Ravenna (which had replaced Rome as capital), killed Odoacer, and began a long and beneficent rule over Italy. Roman institutions were maintained with the help of scholars and administrators such as Boethius and Cassiodorus. After Theodoric's death (526), the murder (535) of the Gothic queen, Amalasuntha, was followed by the reconquest of Italy by Emperor Justinian I of the East and his generals, Belisarius and Narses. Except, however, in the exarchate of Ravenna, the Pentapolis (Rimini, Ancona, Fano, Pesaro, and Senigallia) on the central Adriatic coast, and the coast of S Italy, Byzantine rule was soon displaced by that of the Lombards, who under Alboin established (569) a new kingdom.

The papacy emerged as the chief bulwark of Latin civilization. Gregory I (reigned 590–604), without assistance from Byzantium, succeeded in saving Rome and the Patrimony of St. Peter from the Lombard conquest, thus laying the basis for the creation of the Papal States. At the same time, he effectively freed Rome from allegiance to the Byzantine conquerors.

The Lombards warded off Byzantine efforts at reconquest and in 751 took Ravenna; their advance on Rome resulted in the appeal of Pope Stephen II to Pepin the Short, ruler of the Franks, who expelled the Lombards from the exarchate of Ravenna and from the Pentapolis, which he donated (754) to the pope. Pepin's intervention was followed by that of his son Charlemagne, who defeated the Lombard king, Desiderius, was crowned king of the Lombards, confirmed his father's donation to the papacy, and in 800 was crowned emperor of the West at Rome. These events shaped much of the later history of Italy and of the papacy. Among the direct results were the claim of later emperors to Italy and the temporal power of the popes.

  • Medieval Italy

In the divisions (9th cent.) of the Carolingian empire (see Verdun, Treaty of; Mersen, Treaty of), Italy passed to the successive emperors Lothair I, Louis II, and Charles II; however, their control was largely nominal. Under Carloman (d. 880) and Emperor Charles III (reigned 881–87), local power became increasingly strong in Italy. Emperor Arnulf (reigned 896–99) failed to reassert authority.

From 888 to 962 Italy was nominally ruled by a series of weak kings and emperors including Guy of Spoleto, Berengar I of Friuli, Louis III of Burgundy, and Berengar II of Ivrea. The petty nobles were constantly feuding, and by the end of the period the papacy had sunk to its lowest point of degradation. The Magyars plundered N Italy, and in the south the Arabs seized (917) Sicily and raided the mainland. In 961, heeding an appeal by the pope for protection against Berengar II, the German king Otto I invaded Italy. In 962 he was crowned emperor by the pope. This union of Italy and Germany marked the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire.

Although the Alps had never prevented invaders from entering Italy, they did prevent the emperors from exercising effective control there. Again and again the emperors and German kings crossed the Alps to assert their authority; each time their authority virtually vanished when they left Italy. At best, their power was limited to the territories north of the Papal States. The popes, by exerting their influence and by arranging alliances with other powers, were important in frustrating imperial control.

Apulia and Calabria, after being briefly held again by the Byzantines, were conquered (11th cent.) by the Normans under Robert Guiscard and his successors, who also wrested Sicily from the Arabs and established the Norman kingdom of Sicily. In central and N Italy, the prevailing chaos was increased by the conflict between the emperors and the popes over investiture and by the contested succession to Tuscany after the death (1115) of Countess Matilda. Because the many petty lords were independent of imperial authority and because the cities gradually gained control over these lords, feudalism did not gain a firm foothold in central and N Italy. However, in the south the Norman kings and their successors, the Hohenstaufen and Angevin dynasties, firmly entrenched the feudal system, the worst features of which were later perpetuated by the Spanish rulers of Naples and Sicily. Thus, the great difference in social and economic structure between N and S Italy, which continued well into the 20th cent., can be traced back to the 11th cent.

  • The Rise of Cities

The characteristic development in central and N Italy was the rise of the city (see commune and city-state), beginning in the 10th cent. The rise was partly political in origin—the burghers were drawing together to protect themselves from the nobles—and partly economic—contact with the Muslim world was making the Italian merchants the middlemen and the Italian cities the entrepôts of Western Europe. The survival of Roman institutions and the example of the commune of Rome facilitated the process.

To protect their commerce and their industries (particularly the wool industry) cities grouped together in leagues, which often were at war with each other. The leagues were particularly strong in Lombardy. The attempt by Emperor Frederick I to impose imperial authority on some cities led to the formation of the Lombard League, which defeated the emperor in 1176. Rivalry among the cities, however, prevented the formation of any union strong enough to consolidate even a part of Italy. In the 13th cent. the struggle between Emperor Frederick II and the papacy divided the cities and nobles into two strong parties, the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Their fratricidal warfare continued long after the death (1250) of Frederick, which marked the virtual demise of imperial rule in Italy and the ascendancy of the papacy. In 1268, Frederick's grandson, Conradin, was executed at Naples, thus ending Hohenstaufen aspirations.

The factional strife led to the rise of despots in some cities. These despots, who were of noble or bourgeois origin, were generally factional leaders, who, having obtained the magistracy, made it hereditary. Some of them managed to restore order in the cities. In many cities, however, the republican institutions were upheld with little interruption. In other cities, dynasties were established and invested (14th and 15th cent.) with titles by the emperors, who still claimed suzerainty over N Italy. The most powerful princes (e.g., the Visconti and Sforza of Milan, the Gonzaga of Mantua, the Este of Ferrara, and the dukes of Savoy) and the most powerful republics (e.g., Florence, Venice, and Genoa) tended to increase their territories at the expense of weaker neighbors. The cities in the Papal States passed under local tyrants during the Babylonian captivity of the popes at Avignon (1309–78) and during the Great Schism (1378–1417).

By the end of the 15th cent. Italy had fallen into the following chief component parts: in the south, the kingdoms of Sicily and Naples, torn by the rival claims of the French Angevin dynasty and the Spanish house of Aragón; in central Italy, the Papal States, the republics of Siena, Florence, and Lucca, and the cities of Bologna, Forlì, Rimini, and Faenza (only nominally subject to the pope); in the north, the duchies of Ferrara and Modena, Mantua, Milan, and Savoy. The two great merchant republics, Venice and Genoa, with their far-flung possessions, colonies, and outposts, were distinct in character and outlook from the rest of Italy.

Constant warfare among these many states resulted in political turmoil, but did little to diminish their wealth or to hinder their cultural output. The wars were generally fought in a desultory manner by hired bands led by professional commanders (see condottiere). Compared to the Black Death, the plague that ravaged Italy in 1348, the local wars did little harm. Material prosperity had been furthered considerably by the Crusades; by the expanding trade with the Middle East; and by the rise of great banking firms, notably in Genoa, in Lucca, and in Florence (where the Medici rose from bankers to dukes). The prosperity facilitated the great cultural flowering of the Italian Renaissance, which permanently changed the civilization of Western Europe.

  • Political Disintegration and Rebirth

The Renaissance reached its peak in the late 15th cent. Meanwhile, Italy's political independence was threatened by the growing nations of France, Spain, and Austria. Quarrels among Italian states invited foreign intervention. The invasion (1494) of Italy by Charles VIII of France marked the beginning of the Italian Wars, which ended in 1559 with most of Italy subjected to Spanish rule or influence. Early in the wars, in which France and Spain were the main contenders for supremacy in Italy, several Italian statesmen, notably Machiavelli, came to the belief that only unity could save Italy from foreign domination. Pope Julius II consolidated the Papal States, but his Holy League, devised (1510) to drive out the French, failed to create a wider Italian unity.

After 1519 the Italian Wars became part of the European struggle between Francis I of France and Emperor Charles V. By the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559), Spain gained the kingdoms of Sicily and Naples and the duchy of Milan. Foreign domination continued with the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14; see also Utrecht, Peace of) and the War of the Polish Succession (1733–35). By 1748, Naples, Sicily, and the duchies of Parma and Piacenza had passed to branches of the Spanish Bourbons, and the duchies of Milan, Mantua, Tuscany, and Modena to Austria. Remaining independent were the Papal States, the declining republics of Venice, Genoa, and Lucca, and the kingdom of Sardinia (see Sardinia, kingdom of), created in 1720 by the union of Piedmont, Savoy, and Sardinia under the house of Savoy.

These centuries of political weakness were also a period of economic decline. The center of European trade shifted away from the Mediterranean, and commerce and industry suffered from the mercantilist policies of the European states. Taxes rose under Spanish rule, the amount of land under cultivation declined, the population decreased, and brigandage increased. Nevertheless, Italy continued to have considerable influence on European culture, especially in architecture and music. Yet to subsequent generations in Italy (especially in the 19th cent.), preoccupied with the concepts of national independence and political power, the political condition of 18th-century Italy represented national degradation. The French Revolution rekindled Italian national aspirations, and the French Revolutionary Wars swept away the political institutions of 18th-century Italy.

  • Napoleonic Triumph and the Rebirth of Italy

General Bonaparte (later Napoleon I), who defeated Sardinian and Austrian armies in his Italian campaign of 1796–97, was at first acclaimed by most Italians. Napoleon redrew the Italian map several times. Extensive land reforms were carried out, especially in N Italy. The Cispadane and Transpadane republics, established in 1796, were united (1797) as the Cisalpine Republic, recognized in the Treaty of Campo Formio (1797). In 1802 the Cisalpine Republic, comprising Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna, was renamed the Italian Republic; in 1805 it became the kingdom of Italy (enlarged by the addition of Venetia), with Napoleon as king and Eugène de Beauharnais as viceroy.

From 1795 to 1812, Savoy, Piedmont, Liguria, Tuscany, Parma, and the Papal States were annexed by France. In 1806, Joseph Bonaparte was made king of Naples; he was replaced in 1808 by Joachim Murat, Napoleon's brother-in-law. Sardinia remained under the house of Savoy and Sicily under the Bourbons. Napoleon's failure to unite Italy and to give it self-government disappointed Italian patriots, some of whom formed secret revolutionary societies such as the Carbonari, which later played a vital role in Italian unification.

The Congress of Vienna (1814–15) generally restored the pre-Napoleonic status quo and the old ruling families. However, Venetia was united with Lombardy as the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom under the Austrian crown, and Liguria passed to Sardinia. Naples and Sicily were united (1816) as the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Austrian influence became paramount in Italy. Nevertheless, the efforts of Metternich and of the Holy Alliance (e.g., in quelling insurrections in Naples and in Palermo) could not suppress the nationalist movement. The Risorgimento, as the movement for unification was called, included three groups: the radicals, led by Mazzini, who sought to create a republic; the moderate liberals, who regarded the house of Savoy as the agency for unification; and the Roman Catholic conservatives, who desired a confederation under the presidency of the pope. In 1848–49, there were several short-lived revolutionary outbreaks, notably in Naples, Venice, Tuscany, Rome, and the kingdom of Sardinia (whose new liberal constitution survived).

Unification was ultimately achieved under the house of Savoy, largely through the efforts of Cavour, Garibaldi, and Victor Emmanuel II, who became king of Italy in 1861. At that time, the kingdom of Italy did not include Venetia, Rome, and part of the Papal States. By siding against Austria in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Italy obtained Venetia. To Napoleon III of France, who had helped Sardinia defeat Austria in 1859, Sardinia had ceded Nice and Savoy. The protectorate of Napoleon III over the Papal States delayed the Italian annexation of the city of Rome until 1870. Relations between the Italian government and the papacy, which refused to concede the loss of its temporal power, remained a major problem until 1929, when the Lateran Treaty made the pope sovereign within Vatican City. After 1870, Austria still retained areas with largely Italian populations (e.g., S Tyrol and Trieste); Italian agitation for their annexation (see irredentism) went unfulfilled until World War I.

  • 1861 to the Rise of Fascism

From 1861 until the Fascist dictatorship (1922–43) of Benito Mussolini, Italy was governed under the liberal constitution adopted by Sardinia in 1848. The reigns of Victor Emmanuel II (1861–78) and Humbert I (1878–1900), and the first half of the reign of Victor Emmanuel III (1900–1946) were marked by moderate social and political reforms and by some industrial expansion in N Italy (mainly in the 20th cent.). Periodic social unrest was caused by the dislocations attending industrialization and by occasional economic depression. In the underdeveloped south, rapid population growth led to mass emigration, both to the industrial centers of N Italy and to the Americas.

The outstanding statesmen of the pre-Fascist period were Agostino Depretis, Francesco Crispi, and Giovanni Giolitti. Colonial expansion was emphasized under Crispi, but was otherwise sporadic. A severe setback to Italian colonial aspirations was the establishment (1881) of a French protectorate over Tunisia; it was an important motive for the conclusion (1882) of Italy's alliance with Germany and Austria (see Triple Alliance and Triple Entente). Later, Italy acquired part of Somaliland in 1889 and Eritrea in 1890, but further advances in NE Africa were checked by the Ethiopian victory (1896) at Adwa. Libya and the Dodecanese were conquered in the Italo-Turkish War (1911–12).

In World War I, Italy at first remained neutral. After the Allies offered substantial territorial rewards, Italy denounced the Triple Alliance and entered (1915) the war on the Allied side. Although the Italians initially suffered serious reverses, they won (1918) a great victory at Vittorio Veneto, which was followed by the surrender of Austria-Hungary. At the Paris Peace Conference, Italy obtained S Tyrol, Trieste, Istria, part of Carniola, and several of the Dalmatian islands. Italian possession of the Dodecanese was confirmed. However, these terms granted far less than the Allies had secretly promised in 1915. Italian discontent was evident in the seizure (1919) of Fiume (see Rijeka) by a nationalist band led by Gabriele D'Annunzio.

Within Italy, political and social unrest increased, furthering the growth of Fascism. The Fascist leader (Ital. Il Duce) Mussolini, promising the restoration of social order and of political greatness, directed (Oct. 27, 1922) a successful march on Rome and was made premier by the king. Granted dictatorial powers, Mussolini quashed opposition to the state (especially that of socialists and Communists), regimented the press and the schools, imposed controls on industry and labor, and created a corporative state controlled by the Fascist party and the militia. The Fascist economic program as a whole was a failure, but some programs of lasting value (e.g., the draining of the Pontine marshes and the construction of a network of superhighways) were undertaken. The problems caused by an increasing population were aggravated by drastic immigration restrictions in the United States and by the economic depression of the 1930s.

  • World War II

Mussolini followed an aggressive foreign policy, and after 1935 he turned increasingly to militarist and imperialist solutions to Italy's problems. Italy conquered Ethiopia in 1935–36, easily overcoming the ineffective sanctions imposed by the League of Nations (from which Italy withdrew in 1937). At the same time, Italy drew closer to Nazi Germany and to Japan; in 1936, Italy formed an entente with Germany (see Axis). Italy intervened on the Insurgent side in the Spanish civil war (1936–39), and in 1939 it seized Albania.

At the outbreak of World War II, Italy assumed a neutral stance friendly to Germany, but in June, 1940, it declared war on collapsing France and on Great Britain. In 1940, Italian forces were active in North Africa (see North Africa, campaigns in) and attacked Greece; however, they were unsuccessful until German troops came to their aid in early 1941. Later in 1941, Italy declared war on the Soviet Union and on the United States. Soon Italy suffered major reverses, and by July, 1943, it had lost its African possessions, its army was shattered, Sicily was falling to U.S. troops, and Italian cities (especially ports) were being bombed by the Allies.

In July, 1943, discontent among Italians culminated in the rebellion of the Fascist grand council against Mussolini, Mussolini's dismissal by Victor Emmanuel III, the appointment of Badoglio as premier, and the dissolution of the Fascist party. In Sept., 1943, Italy surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, while German forces quickly occupied N and central Italy. Aided by the Germans, Mussolini escaped from prison and established a puppet republic in N Italy. Meanwhile, the Badoglio government declared war on Germany, and Italy was recognized by the Allies as a cobelligerent. The Allied Italian campaign was a slow, grueling, and costly struggle (see Cassino; Anzio). The fall of Rome (July, 1944) was followed by a stalemate. In Apr., 1945, partisans captured and summarily executed Mussolini. In May, 1945, the Germans surrendered.

After the war, Italy's borders were established by the peace treaty of 1947, which assigned several small Alpine districts (see Brigue and Tende) to France; the Dodecanese to Greece; and Trieste, Istria, part of Venezia Giulia, and several Adriatic islands to Yugoslavia (now in Slovenia and Croatia) and to the Free Territory of Trieste. In 1954, Trieste and its environs were returned to Italy. As a result of the war, Italy also lost its colonies of Libya, Eritrea, and Italian Somaliland.

  • Postwar Italy

In 1944 the unpopular Badoglio cabinet had resigned, and thereafter various coalition cabinets followed each other until Dec., 1945, when Alcide De Gasperi, a Christian Democrat, became premier. De Gasperi remained an important influence on Italian politics until his death in 1954. In May, 1946, Victor Emmanuel abdicated, having previously transferred his powers to his son, Humbert II. After a month's rule, Humbert was exiled when the Italians in a plebiscite voted by a small majority to make the country a republic. A new republican constitution went into effect on Jan. 1, 1948.

Following the war, Italy became firmly tied to the West, joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949 and the European Economic Community (now the European Union) in 1958. It was admitted to the United Nations in 1955. In internal politics, Italy's Christian Democrats, Communists, and Socialists emerged from the war as the chief parties. The split of the Socialists into the majority Socialists (the left wing) and the minority Social Democrats (the right wing) enabled the Christian Democrats to maintain power at the head of successive coalition governments with the Social Democrats (until 1959) and other center parties and to exclude the Communists from the government. However, in the postwar years the Communists dominated the local politics of Tuscany, Umbria, and Emilia-Romagna. In 1962, Premier Amintore Fanfani, a Christian Democrat, formed a center-left coalition with a cabinet that again included the Social Democrats, as well as the parliamentary support of the Socialist party, led by Pietro Nenni. However, Fanfani's government fell after general elections in 1963 and there was considerable uncertainty before Aldo Moro, also a Christian Democrat, was able to form a center-left coalition in late 1963. The Moro government fell in 1964 and in 1966, but on each occasion was re-formed after a brief hiatus. In late 1966, N and central Italy suffered severe flooding, with resulting damage to art treasures and libraries, especially in Florence.

  • The Continuing Political Seesaw

Beginning in the late 1960s, there was considerable industrial unrest in the country as workers demanded higher wages and better social services. Following the general elections of May, 1968, the Moro government fell again and a government crisis began that was only ended in Dec., 1968, when Mariano Rumor, a Christian Democrat, formed a coalition government with Socialist support. After Rumor's coalition fell for a third time in July, 1970, he was replaced as premier by Emilio Colombo, also a Christian Democrat.

Colombo resigned in Jan., 1972. After a long period of crisis, Giulio Andreotti, also a Christian Democrat, formed a new coalition government in June, 1972; for the first time in 10 years, the government had a center-right, rather than a center-left, character. But this combination also did not last long and was replaced (July, 1973) by a slightly left-of-center coalition headed by Rumor. In Mar., 1974, Rumor resigned, but he soon formed another center-left cabinet, the 36th government since the fall of Mussolini in 1943. In mid-1974, Italy faced an economic crisis; an austerity program was initiated in an attempt to reduce the soaring inflation rate and the overwhelming foreign trade deficit. Rumor's administration resigned again in October and was replaced by Moro.

Many other governments followed but had little success dealing with economic decline, corruption, and lawlessness. Growing popular dissatisfaction with Italy's chaotic political situation helped the Communists achieve a measure of participation in the government coalition in 1977. The extreme left and right, excluded by the coalition between Christian Democrats and Communists, accounted for a steady increase in political violence that terrorized politicians, businessmen, intellectuals, and members of the judiciary. In 1978 former premier Moro was kidnapped and murdered by the Red Brigade, a left-wing terrorist group.

Center-left coalitions dominated by the Christian Democrats continued to hold power until 1983, when the republic's first Socialist-led coalition took power under Premier Bettino Craxi. The continuing sluggishness of the economy caused Craxi to institute another austerity budget, which included tax increases, service cuts, and wage adjustments. Craxi led the government for four years, until he resigned in 1987 and was replaced by Christian Democrat Giovanni Goria. Ciriaco De Mita succeeded Goria in 1988, and was himself succeeded in 1989 by Giulio Andreotti, who at the age of 70 became premier for the sixth time. In 1991 the Italian Communist party changed its name to the Democratic Party of the Left. In the 1992 elections the Christian Democrats barely maintained their coalition with the Socialists, the Liberals, and the Social Democrats. Socialist Giuliano Amato was named premier.

Corruption probes, begun in 1992 and headed by Amato, led to the arrest of hundreds of business and political figures and the investigation of many others, including several party leaders and former premiers. In 1993 Premier Amato resigned and Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, head of Italy's central bank, succeeded him. In addition, legislation largely ending proportional representation in parliament was passed. The Christian Democratic party changed its name to the Italian Popular party in 1994, but after a split in 1995, the center-right faction became the United Christian Democratic party.

In new elections in Mar., 1994, a coalition of conservatives and neofascists won a majority in parliament. Billionaire industrialist Silvio Berlusconi of the fledgling conservative party Forza Italia became premier, but his coalition government disintegrated in Dec. It was succeeded by a "nonpolitical" center-left government under Lamberto Dini, and then, after elections in Apr., 1996, by a center-left government under Romano Prodi that included the Democratic Party of the Left. Following a series of upheavals over austerity measures put in place to prepare for European economic union, Prodi's government collapsed in Oct., 1997.

Massimo D'Alema, of the Democrats of the Left (the former Democratic Party of the Left), became premier (1998) as head of a new coalition government that included several political parties. Parliament named former premier Ciampi as president in May, 1999, replacing Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, who had held the office since 1992. In Apr., 2000, D'Alema resigned after his coalition suffered loses in regional elections. Socialist Giuliano Amato, D'Alema's finance minister and a former premier, formed a new center-left government that was substantially similar to D'Alema's.

Parliamentary elections in 2001 gave Berlusconi's conservative coalition a solid victory, and he became premier of a center-right government for a second time, ending six years of liberal rule. In 2003 parliament passed a law making the premier and other top Italian officials immune from prosecution while in office. The law was seen as a heavy-handed move to end Berlusconi's trial for bribery, and provoked an outcry from many in Italy. The constitutional court overturned the law, however, allowing the trial to proceed, and he was acquitted (2004) of bribery; other charges were dismissed.

Losses by the governing coalition in local elections forced Berlusconi to resign in Apr., 2005, and re-form his government. Later in the year Berlusconi secured passage of electoral changes that reestablished proportional representation as a basis for electing national legislators; the changes were designed to minimize his coalition's losses in the 2006 elections. In the Apr., 2006, elections Berlusoni's coalition narrowly lost to a center-left coalition led by Romano Prodi. Berlusconi challenged the results, alleging irregularities, but Italy' supreme court confirmed them later in the month. In May, Giorgio Napolitano, of the Democrats of the Left, was elected to succeed Ciampi as Italy's president, and Prodi subsequently formed a government. A government reorganization plan that would have increased the premier's powers and the autonomy of Italy's regions was defeated in a referendum in June, 2006; the plan had been proposed by Berlusconi's coalition.

In Feb., 2007, Prodi's government lost a foreign policy vote in Italy's senate and resigned, but the following week he re-formed his government and won a confidence vote. Later in the year the Democratic party was formed through the merger of the Democrats of the Left and center-left former Christian Democrats. Prodi's coalition unraveled in Jan., 2008, and he resigned after losing a confidence vote. Parliamentary elections were held in April, and resulted in a solid victory for Berlusconi's coalition; Berlusconi again became premier. In Sept., 2008, years of negotiation with Libya over compensation for three decades of Italian colonial rule ended with Italy agreeing to pay for 20-year, $5 billion compensation package.

Several hundred people died in Apr., 2009, in a earthquake whose epicenter was near L'Aquila, Abruzzi; damage was estimated at €12 million ($15.9 billion). In 2010, Italy, like many eurozone nations, was forced to adopt austerity measures to reduce government deficits that had increased as a result of the 2008–9 global downturn, but the proposed legislation provoked strong oppostion. A number of financial scandals involving government ministers as well as personal scandals involving Berlusconi also led to a loss of popularity for his government. There were increasing tensions and ultimately splits within the governing coalition during 2010; the government narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in December, and again in Oct., 2011.

In 2011 the government suffered losses in local elections (May) and in referendums on several pieces of legislation (June). As concerns over the country's financial situation increased in mid-2011, the government adopted an austerity budget in July, which was subsequently revised as Italy's difficulties with the bond markets continued and the European Central Bank made aid contingent on increased austerities. Berlusconi struggled to hold his splintering coalition together, and was finally forced from office (Nov., 2011) by the erosion of market and EU confidence in his economic and financial policies.

Mario Monti, an economist and former member of the European Commission, became premier of a nonpartisan government consisting of technocrats, and subsequently won passage of austerities and economic reforms. Italy continued to face recurring pressures in the bond markets during 2012, which led to the adoption of additional measures. In Dec., 2012, Monti's government lost the support of Berlusconi's party, and he submitted his resignation; the president dissolved parliament and called new elections for Feb., 2013.

The Democratic party–led center-left coalition won a lower house majority, but only a plurality in the senate. The popular vote was closer, however, with Berlusconi's coalition narrowly behind, followed by comedian Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement (the largest party in terms of votes); Monti's coalition was fourth. A new government proved difficult to form, with the Democratic leader, Luigi Bersani, resisting a coalition with Berlusconi, and the Five Star Movement refusing to take a secondary role in a coalition. The election of a new president also proved contentious. Napolitano was reelected (April) after party leaders appealed to him to become a candidate for a second term; he became the first Italian president to be reelected. Party disagreements led Bersani to step down as Democratic leader, and Napolitano appointed the deputy leader, Enrico Letta, as prime minister. Letta quickly formed a broad coalition that included the Democrats and Berlusconi's and Monti's parties. In the subsequent local elections (May–June) the center-left coalition did well while the Berlusconi's party and the Five Star Movement did poorly. In September Berlusconi withdrew support for the government over an impending vote that removed (November) him from the senate (because of his criminal convictions), but a revolt in his party forced him to support the government in a confidence vote in October. Berlsuconi's party subsequently withdrew (November) from the government, but his party split and the government survived a confidence vote.

Disclaimer

This is not the official site of this country. Most of the information in this site were taken from the U.S. Department of State, The Central Intelligence Agency, The United Nations, [1],[2], [3], [4], [5],[6], [7], [8], [9], [10], [11], [12], [13], [14],[15], [16], [17], [18], [19], [20], [21], [22], [23], [24],[25], [26], [27], [28], [29], [30],[31], [32], [33], [34], and the [35].

Other sources of information will be mentioned as they are posted.