The Italian Republic is partly located on the European Continent and partly on the boot-shaped Italian Peninsula surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. It covers an area of 301.338 km² and has 60.054.511 inhabitants. Its capital is Rome. In ancient times the core region of the Roman Empire was the area of today’s Italy, also with Rome as the capital. During the Renaissance period Tuscany formed the Italian core region.
The largest islands of the Mediterranean, Sicily and Sardinia as well as the Lipari and the Aegadian Islands are part of the Italian State. Italy borders France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia as well as the enclaves of San Marino and Vatican City. Some of the biggest Italian cities are Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin, Palermo and Genoa.
The Apennine Mountains traverse the entire peninsula. The greatest part of the Alps is in Northern Italy with the highest peak at the French border (Monte Bianco/Mont Blanc, 4.810 m). The Italian east coast stretches from Trieste (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) in the north to Gargano (North Apulia) in the south and is called the Adriatic Coast.
Besides Mount Vesuvius on the Italian mainland, there are other famous volcanoes such as Mount Etna in Sicily and the Lipari Stromboli.
Italy is subdivided into 20 regions with separate governments. These regions are again made up of 109 provinces. Five regions have a special autonomous status: Sicily, Sardinia, the Aosta Valley, Trentino-South Tyrol and Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The region of Trentino-South Tyrol encompasses the most northern province of Italy, the autonomous South Tyrol/Alto Adige with the capital Bolzano. The country is characterised by three cultures: two third of the South Tyrolean people are German speaking, more than a third are Italian speaking and about 4% of the population (mostly in the Dolomite Mountains) speak Ladin. As South Tyrol is poor in natural resources, tourism is an important economic factor. In the past 100 years booming winter sports centres with fantastic ski runs, cross-country skiing tracks and modern ski-lift systems have developed in the South Tyrol Mountains. In summer spa towns are very popular due to the mild weather and the great number of hiking areas.
The autonomous region of Sardinia is another famous holiday destination. The second largest island in the Mediterranean covers an area of 24.090 km² with a population of 1,65 million. The capital is Cagliari. The coasts of Sardinia include some small offshore islands and are about 1850 km long. Sardinia is famous for its crystal-clear and emerald green sea, its gentle white beaches, romantic bays and many nature parks with thousands of rare animals and plants. And do not forget the food: specialties like the Cannonau wine, the Pecorino cheese or the Mirto, a liqueur made of myrtle berries.