|Italy (Italian: Italia), officially the Italian Republic (Italian: Repubblica Italiana), is a country located on the Italian Peninsula in Southern Europe and on the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia. Italy shares its northern, Alpine boundary with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The independent states of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within the Italian Peninsula, and Campione d'Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland. The land known as Italy today has been the cradle of many European cultures and peoples, such as the Etruscans and the Romans. Later it was the birthplace of the Renaissance that began in Tuscany and spread all over Europe. It also played a major role in the development of modern science and astronomy, particularly heliocentrism, as well as the University, and opera. Italy's capital, Rome, was for centuries the center of Western civilization. Italy possessed a colonial empire from the second half of the nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.
Today, the cultural significance of Italy is reflected in the fact that it boasts by far the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (44) in the world. Contemporary Italy is a democratic republic and a developed country with the eighth-highest quality of life index rating in the world. It is a founding member of what is now the European Union, having signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957, and it is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The creation of the Kingdom of Italy was the result of efforts by Italian nationalists and monarchists loyal to the House of Savoy to establish a united kingdom encompassing the entire Italian Peninsula. In the context of the 1848 liberal revolutions that swept through Europe, an unsuccessful war was declared on Austria.
Giuseppe Garibaldi, popular amongst southern Italians, led the Italian republican drive for unification in southern Italy, while the northern Italian monarchy of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia whose government was led by Camillo Benso, conte di Cavour, had the ambition of establishing a united Italian state under its rule. The kingdom successfully challenged the Austrian Empire in the Second Italian War of Independence with the help of Napoleon III, liberating the Lombardy-Venetia. It established Turin as capital of the newly formed state. In 1866, Victor Emmanuel II aligned the kingdom with Prussia during the Austro-Prussian War, waging the Third Italian War of Independence which allowed Italy to annex Venice. In 1870, as France during the disastrous Franco-Prussian War abandoned its positions in Rome, Italy rushed to fill the power gap by taking over the Papal State from French sovereignty. Italian unification finally was achieved, and shortly afterwards Italy's capital was moved to Rome.
In 1946, Vittorio Emanuele III's son, Umberto II, was forced to abdicate. Italy became a republic after a referendum held on 2 June 1946, a day celebrated since as Republic Day.
Italy is subdivided into 20 regions (regioni, singular regione). Five of these regions have a special autonomous status that enables them to enact legislation on some of their local matters; these are marked by an asterisk (*) in the table below. The country is further divided into 109 provinces (province) and 8,100 municipalities (comuni).
| ||Region||Capital||Area (km²)||Population|
|Abruzzo|| L'Aquila ||10,794||1,324,000|
|Aosta Valley *||Aosta||3,263||126,000|
|Friuli-Venezia Giulia *||Trieste||7,855||1,222,000|
|Trentino-Alto Adige *||Trento||13,607||1,007,000|