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GENERAL

LOCATION: Western Europe. AREA: 301,323 sq km (116,341 sq miles).

POPULATION: 57,268,578 (official estimate 1994). POPULATION DENSITY: 190.1 per sq km.

CAPITAL: Rome. Population: 2,687,881 (1993).

TIME: GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in September).

ELECTRICITY: 220 volts AC, 50Hz.

GEOGRAPHY: Italy is situated in Europe and attached in the north to the European mainland. To the north the Alps separate Italy from France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.

Northern Italy: The Alpine regions, the Po Plain and the Ligurian-Etruscan Appennines. Piemonte and Val d?Aosta contain some of the highest mountains in Europe and are good areas for winter sports. Many rivers flow down from the mountains towards the Po Basin, passing through the beautiful Italian Lake District (Maggiore, Como, Garda). The Po Basin, which extends as far south as the bare slopes of the Appennines, is covered with gravel terraces and rich alluvial soil and has long been one of Italy?s most prosperous regions. To the east, where the River Po flows into the Adriatic Sea, the plains are little higher than the river itself; artificial (and occasionally natural) embankments prevent flooding.

Central Italy: The northern part of the Italian peninsula. Tuscany (Toscana) has a diverse landscape with snow-capped mountains (the Tuscan Appennines), lush countryside, hills and a long sandy coastline with offshore islands. Le Marche, lying between the Appennines and the Adriatic coast, is a region of mountains, rivers and small fertile plains. The even more mountainous regioni (administrative districts) of Abruzzo and Molise are bordered by Marche to the north and Puglia to the south, and are separated from the Tyrrhenian Sea and to the west by Lazio and Campania. Umbria is known as the ?green heart of Italy?, hilly with broad plains, olive groves and pines. Further south lies Rome, Italy?s capital and largest city. Within its precincts is the Vatican City (see separate entry on Vatican City).

Southern Italy: Campania consists of flat coastal plains and low mountains, stretching from Baia Domizia to the Bay of Naples and along a rocky coast to the Calabria border. Inland, the Appennines are lower, mellowing into the rolling countryside around Sorrento. The islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida in the Tyrrhenian Sea are also part of Campania. The south is wilder than the north, with mile upon mile of olive trees, cool forests and rolling hills. Puglia, the ?heel of the boot?, is a landscape of volcanic hills and isolated marshes. Calabria, the ?toe?, is heavily forested and thinly populated. The Calabrian hills are home to bears and wolves.

The Islands: Sicily (Sicilia), visible across a 3km (2 mile) strait from mainland Italy, is fertile but mountainous with volcanoes (including the famous landmark of Mount Etna) and lava fields, and several offshore islands. Sardinia (Sardegna) has a mountainous landscape, fine sandy beaches and rocky offshore islands.

LANGUAGE: Italian is the official language. Dialects are spoken in different regions. German and Ladin are spoken in the South Tyrol region (bordering Austria). French is spoken in all the border areas from the Riviera to the area north of Milan (border with France and Switzerland). German is spoken around the Austrian border. English, German and French are also spoken in the biggest cities and resorts by people connected with tourism.

RELIGION: Roman Catholic with Protestant minorities.

COMMUNICATIONS: Telephone: Full IDD service available. Country code: 39 (followed by 6 for Rome, 2 for Milan, 11 for Turin, 81 for Naples, 41 for Venice and 55 for Florence). Outgoing international code: 00. Telephone kiosks accept Lit100 and Lit200 coins, as well as gettoni, tokens which are available at tobacconists and bars. There are some card phones, and phonecards can be purchased at post offices, tobacconists and certain newsagents.

Telex/telegram: Telex facilities are available at the main post offices. Telex code: 43. Italcable operates services abroad, transmitting messages by cable or radio. Both internal and overseas telegrams may be dictated over the telephone.

Post: The Italian postal system tends to be subject to delays. Letters between Italy and other European countries usually take a week to ten days to arrive. Letters intended for Poste Restante collection should be addressed to Fermo Posta and the town. Stamps are sold in post offices and tobacconists. Post office hours: 0800/0830-1200/1230 and 1400/1430-1730/1800 Monday to Friday; Saturday mornings only.

Press: The main towns publish a weekly booklet with entertainment programmes, sports events, restaurants, nightclubs, etc. There are several English-language publications: monthly magazines Italy-Italy (Rome), Grapevine (on the Lucca area) and The Informer (Milan), as well as Wanted In Rome, published twice monthly, and the English-language newspaper, Daily American (Rome). Among the most important Italian dailies are La Stampa (Turin), Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), Il Messaggero (Rome), Il Giorno (Milan) and Il Giornale (Milan).

BBC World Service and Voice of America frequencies:

BBC: MHz 17.64 12.10 9.410 6.195 Voice of America: MHz 9.760 6.040 1,197 0.792

ADDRESSES:

Ente Nazionale Italiano per il Turismo (ENIT) Via Parigi 11, 00185 Rome, Italy Tel: (6) 488 991. Fax: (6) 48 89 92 50.

Embassy of the Italian Republic 14 Three Kings Yard, Davies Street, London W1Y 2EH Tel: (0171) 312 2200. Fax: (0171) 312 2230. Telex: 23520 (a/b ITADIPG).

Italian Consulate General 38 Eaton Place, London SW1 X8AN Tel: (0171) 235 9371 or (0891) 600 340 (for recorded visa information). Fax: (0171) 823 1609. Telex: 8950938. Opening hours: 0900-1200 Monday to Friday.

Italian State Tourist Office (ENIT) 1 Princes Street, London W1R 8AY Tel: (0171) 408 1254. Fax: (0171) 493 6695. Opening hours: 0900-1700 Monday to Friday.

British Embassy Via XX Settembre 80/A, 00187 Rome, Italy Tel: (6) 482 5551 or 482 5441. Fax: (6) 487 3324. Consulates in: Florence, Milan, Naples and Rome. Honorary Consulates in: Bari, Brindisi, Cagliari, Genoa, Messina, Palermo, Trieste, Turin and Venice.

Embassy of the Italian Republic 1601 Fuller Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009 Tel: (202) 328 5500. Fax: (202) 483 2187. Telex: 64122. Consulates in: Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, New Orleans, New York (tel: (212) 737 9100), Miami, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Italian State Tourist Office (ENIT) Suite 1565, 630 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10111 Tel: (212) 245 4822. Fax: (212) 586 9249.

Embassy of the United States of America Via Vittorio Veneto 119A, 00187 Rome, Italy Tel: (6) 46741. Fax: (6) 488 2672.

Embassy of the Italian Republic 21st Floor, 275 Slater Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5H9 Tel: (613) 232 2401/2/3. Fax: (613) 233 1484. Consulates in: Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Italian State Tourist Office (ENIT) Suite 1914, 1 Place de Ville Marie, Montréal, Québec H3B 2C3 Tel: (514) 866 7667. Fax: (514) 392 1429.

Canadian Embassy Via G B de Rossi 27, 00161 Rome, Italy Tel: (6) 445 9811. Fax: (6) 44 59 87 50.

HISTORY

HISTORY: Although Italy has only been unified since 1861, the rich and complex history of the peninsula has, perhaps more than that of any other country, influenced the course of European development, particularly in the fields of culture and political thought. The most important early settlers in the area were the Etruscans, who had established settlements in northern Italy by the 6th century BC. By the 3rd century BC, the city state of Rome, having subdued most of the peninsula, was intent on extending its influence elsewhere. At its greatest extent the Empire (so called after 30BC) made the Mediterranean a Roman lake and for several centuries conferred on its inhabitants the benefits of the Pax Romana: culture (mainly Hellenic in origin), law, relative peace and comparative prosperity. By the 5th century, however, internal discord and external pressures resulted in the disintegration of the empires, although the Germanic peoples who assumed the rule of Italy, at first as representatives of the Eastern Emperor in Constantinople, were more concerned with the continuity of the Roman way of life than has often been supposed. From AD493 the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Theodoric maintained the unity of Italy, but the region was reconquered by Justinian (AD535-53). By the late 6th century, however, settlers from northern Europe had established a kingdom in Lombardy and before long Italy had fragmented into a dozen or so states. For the next 1000 years the exceedingly complex history of Italy can be seen in terms of a northern region (dominated by the Holy Roman Empire, the Papacy and the growing power of the city states) and a southern region (dominated first by the vestiges of Byzantine power, and later by the Muslims and then the Normans and their successors such as the Angevins, the Aragonese and the Bourbons). Charlemagne gained control of northern Italy in the late 8th century, and for the rest of the medieval period his successors made repeated and largely unsuccessful attempts to recreate the imperial power in the region. The 11th century saw the rise of the independent city states of Florence, Genoa, Milan and particularly Venice, all of which pursued an independent policy and soon began to wield a commercial and political importance out of all proportion to their size. In the south, Sicily was taken by the Muslims in the 9th century, but then fell to the Normans in 1059 who soon established control over most of the southern part of the peninsula. In the 12th century the kingdom was one of the greatest centres of culture in Europe, particularly under Roger II. Briefly reunited by marriage to the Hohenstaufen empire of Henry VI and Frederick II between 1189 and 1268, Naples and Sicily were then ruled respectively by the houses of Anjou and Aragon until the latter reunited the region in 1442. The popes played a leading role in the tortuous diplomacy of 15th-century Italy. The period witnessed arguably the greatest ever flowering of art and culture (the Italian Renaissance), associated with writers such as Machiavelli, Aristio and Guicciardini and notable patrons such as the Medici and several popes supporting a wealth of artists including Fra Angelico, Raphael, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Politically, the 16th century represented a victory for Spanish over French influence in Italy, and the Habsburgs established themselves particularly strongly in Milan, Naples and Sicily. Many of the smaller states changed hands on numerous occasions during the following two centuries, and although the large city states maintained their independence, their power was in general on the wane. The Enlightenment of the 18th century found particularly strong expression in the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily (by now ruled by the Bourbons), but elsewhere centralised power was largely absent. Opposition to Habsburg was led by Garibaldi and the house of Savoy (also Kings of Sardinia since 1720), and by 1861 the ruling princes of northern and central Italy had been deposed and Victor Emmanuel II became the first king of Italy, with Florence as the capital. The full annexation of Venice and Rome was not completed for another ten years. Italy’s colonial conquests were limited (largely due to the failure of the Ethiopian campaigns) and the rulers enjoyed more success in their efforts to consolidate their own position at home, despite the considerable distractions of the various complex struggles in the Balkans.

GOVERNMENT: Since changes to the 1948 constitution, agreed by referendum in 1993, both houses (325-member Senate and 630-member Chamber of Deputies) of the bicameral parliament are elected under a mixed system – three-quarters by majority vote in constituencies and one-quarter by direct proportional representation. The two chambers, plus a group of 58 regional representatives comprise an electoral college which elect a President as head of state for a 7-year term. The President appoints a Prime Minister (usually, but not always, the leader of the largest party in Parliament) who leads a Council of Ministers with executive responsibilities.

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