Italy is a country in Europe
About 60 million people live in Italy.
The official language is Italian.
The capital city is Rome.
Facts in Brief
The flag of the Italian Republic since 1797
People over the age of 18 vote in elections for the members of the parliament. The head of parliament is the Prime Minister. The Head of State is the President who is elected by the parliament.
Go here to listen to Italy's National Anthem
The currency (money) used in Italy is the euro.
The climate of Italy is Mediterranean which means that the summers are warm and the winters mild. In the mountains to the north it is cold in winter and snow falls. Skiing is a popular winter sport. The summers in the south are hot.
Mountains in Italy
The mountains in the north of Italy are called the Alps and form Italy's border with France, Switzerland and Austria. The highest mountain in the Alps is Monte Bianco. It is 4807 metres high.
A road tunnel, just over 11 kilometres long, has been built through the mountain to link Italy and France. Another mountain range, the Apennines, runs almost the full length of the country.
Industries in Italy include:
Tourism 940 million people visit Italy every year) machine building, iron and steel, chemicals, food processing, textiles, motor vehicles, clothing & footwear and ceramics (eg. tiles)
Farmers in Italy grow fruits, vegetables, grapes (Italian wine is popular all over the world) potatoes, sugar beets, soybeans, grain, olives, beef and dairy products and pigs. Fishing is an important industry too.
In National parks throughout Italy, all of these animals can be found. Wolves, the Marsican brown bear, chamois , red deer, roe deer, wild boars, squirrels and foxes.
130 different kinds of birds including the rare Peregrine falcon, Golden eagle, goshawk, eagle-owl and a dotterel that nests only in this mountain in Italy.
There is a large rare butterfly called the Parnassus Apollo. Its wings are almost transparent, with spots edged in black and red. It is a protected insect because it is
Migrating birds find the Mediterranean Sea a difficult barrier so they cross it in places that are not so wide. Many leave Africa and enter Europe across the Straits of Messina into Calabria. If you look at a map of the Mediterranean you will see that it is an easy place for migrating birds to reach. Many raptors (birds of prey such as eagles and falcons) are seen in spring, as well as Honey Buzzards, Black Kites, Marsh Harriers, kestrels and hobbies.
Italian flora (plants)
It is estimated that there are 6759 species of plants growing in Italy. Plants vary from region to region because of the different climate and geography.
In Tuscany, a large and beautiful region of Italy, there are huge forests of beech, pine, fir, oak, yew, ash, maple, wild oak and other trees. These forests are home to animals such as the Apennine wolf, Marsican bear, foxes, mountain goats and the Apennine lynx.
Olive and fig trees grow in this area too, and the fruit and oil is sold throughout Italy.
The Island of Giglio in Tuscany is full of semi tropical plants such as bougainvilla (on the right), palm trees, wild orchids and tropical flowers. In all, there are about 700 different kinds of plants found on the island.
In Abruzzo, another region of Italy, the mountains have a variety of plants. Lower down on the slopes there are woods of oak, maple and ash. Further up, at about 1,000 metres, the forest becomes beech and mountain maple. Above 1700 metres, there are thick shrubs and pines. There are many wildflowers in the mountains, including Aquilegia of Majella. Forest understorey in Abruzzo is thick with anemone, ranunculi, red lilies and martagons, belladonna, raspberry bushes and different species of wild orchids.
In Calabria, which is the 'toe' on the map of Italy, the Aspromonte National Park is situated in the southern part of the Appennine mountains. This part of the mountain range is made up of crystaline granite. It is near the sea and reaches heights of 2000 metres. The park is crossed by many rivers. There are huge forests of beech, white firs, black pines and chestnuts.
Every city and town has markets where people shop for fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. There are supermarkets and many small shops specialising in one kind of food.
Food is one of Italy's main exports (things that Italy sells to other countries).
All of these are grown in Italy and made into foods
- On farms in Italy farmers grow oranges, apples, peaches, tomatoes, garlic, rice and wheat. Pigs, sheep, chickens, goats and dairy cattle are raised on farms.
- Tomatoes are grown in most parts of Italy. They are canned or made into tomato paste and pasta sauces.
- Olives are crushed to make olive oil. The oil is used for cooking and in salad dressing. Olives can also be eaten.
- Grapes are turned into wine.
- Salami and proscuitto are the names of famous Italian processed meats made from pork.
- Wheat is made into pasta and biscotti (biscuits or cookies)
- Rice is used to make risotto.
- Garlic is used in salads and is crushed into sauces for pasta and used to flavour meat dishes including salami.
- Fish and seafood is fried in olive oil, grilled over coals, or made into soups and stews.
- Milk is made into gelati and cheese
A day's meals
Breakfast (prima colazion) is coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, fresh rolls, butter, and preserves (jam) Sometimes fruit juice and cheese.
Lunch (il pranzo) is eaten from about 12.30 and can be a sandwich bought in a paninoteca, a shop selling sandwiches or slices of pizza from a pizzaria.
It can also be a meal in a restaurant.
Dinner (cena) is eaten from about 7.30 onwards but many Italians eat after 8.30 pm.
A Menu for lunch or dinner:
1st course or entree
antipasto is a plate of olives, cheese, salami, egg and tomato
minestrone, a thick vegetable soup
pasta, spaghetti with grated parmesan cheese
pasta with tomato and meat sauce or
pizza with olives, tomatoes and prociutto (ham)
a dish made with veal or chicken or fish, served with vegetables or a salad Desert
Fresh fruit or Gelati (Italian ice-cream)
History of modern Italy
Italy was not a united country until 1870. Before this time, the country was a group of separate states ruled by France, Spain, Austria and other foreign countries. There were many attempts to unify the country but all of these failed until 1860.
In 1860, Guiseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) formed an army of volunteer soldiers to drive out the foreign rulers. Garibaldi's soldiers became known as the 'red shirts' because they all wore bright red shirts. The red shirts soon took over all the states except Rome and Venetia, and in 1861, the states joined together to become one country called Italy.
Victor Emmanual 11
The new country was ruled by Victor Emmanual 11, who was the King of Sardinia. He was the first king of Italy. Nine years later Rome and Venetia joined the other states and became part of Italy.
During World War 1 Italy joined Britain and France to fight the Germans. After the war was over, many Italians were poor and hungry and were without jobs. A man called Benito Mussolini, became leader of a group of people called the fascists. The fascists wanted to change the government and promised the people that they would make things better for them. In 1922 Mussolini's army of fascists marched into Rome and seized power from the King. Mussolini became the ruler of Italy. Mussolini's army During World War 11, from 1940 to 1943, Italy fought on the side of the Germans. After Mussolini and his army had suffered many defeats, he was put into prison and the King returned to rule Italy.
After the war, elections were held in Italy and the people voted not to have a royal family but to become a republic headed by a president. Italian celebrate Republic day each year on June 2.
Read more about the history of Italy, including about Ancient Rome
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Read about Famous Italians