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Italy became a nation-state in 1861 when the regional states of the peninsula, along with Sardinia and Sicily, were united under King Victor EMMANUEL II. An era of parliamentary government came to a close in the early 1920s when Benito MUSSOLINI established a Fascist dictatorship. His disastrous alliance with Nazi Germany led to Italy's defeat in World War II. A democratic republic replaced the monarchy in 1946 and economic revival followed. Italy was a charter member of NATO and the European Economic Community (EEC). It has been at the forefront of European economic and political unification, joining the Economic and Monetary Union in 1999. Persistent problems include illegal immigration, organized crime, corruption, high unemployment, sluggish economic growth, and the low incomes and technical standards of southern Italy compared with the prosperous north.


Southern Europe, a peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea, northeast of Tunisia

Geographic coordinates:

42 50 N, 12 50 E


total: 301,230 sq km
land: 294,020 sq km
water: 7,210 sq km
note: includes Sardinia and Sicily

Land boundaries:

total: 1,932.2 km
border countries: Austria 430 km, France 488 km, Holy See (Vatican City) 3.2 km, San Marino 39 km, Slovenia 232 km, Switzerland 740 km


7,600 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation


predominantly Mediterranean; Alpine in far north; hot, dry in south


mostly rugged and mountainous; some plains, coastal lowlands

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) de Courmayeur 4,748 m (a secondary peak of Mont Blanc)

Natural resources:

coal, mercury, zinc, potash, marble, barite, asbestos, pumice, fluorospar, feldspar, pyrite (sulphur), natural gas and crude oil reserves, fish, arable land

Land use:

arable land: 26.41%
permanent crops: 9.09%
other: 64.5% (2005)

Irrigated land:

27,500 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

regional risks include landslides, mudflows, avalanches, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding; land subsidence in Venice

Environment - current issues:

air pollution from industrial emissions such as sulfur dioxide; coastal and inland rivers polluted from industrial and agricultural effluents; acid rain damaging lakes; inadequate industrial waste treatment and disposal facilities

Geography - note:

strategic location dominating central Mediterranean as well as southern sea and air approaches to Western Europe


58,133,509 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 13.8% (male 4,147,149/female 3,899,980)
15-64 years: 66.5% (male 19,530,512/female 19,105,841)
65 years and over: 19.7% (male 4,771,858/female 6,678,169) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 42.2 years
male: 40.7 years
female: 43.7 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

0.04% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

8.72 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

10.4 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

2.06 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 5.83 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 6.42 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.19 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 79.81 years
male: 76.88 years
female: 82.94 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

1.28 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.5% (2001 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

140,000 (2001 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

less than 1,000 (2003 est.)


noun: Italian(s)
adjective: Italian

Ethnic groups:

Italian (includes small clusters of German-, French-, and Slovene-Italians in the north and Albanian-Italians and Greek-Italians in the south)


approximately 90% Roman Catholic (about one-third regularly attend services); mature Protestant and Jewish communities and a growing Muslim immigrant community


Italian (official), German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d'Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98.6%
male: 99%
female: 98.3% (2003 est.)

Country name:

conventional long form: Italian Republic
conventional short form: Italy
local long form: Repubblica Italiana
local short form: Italia
former: Kingdom of Italy

Government type:




Administrative divisions:

15 regions (regioni, singular - regione) and 5 autonomous regions* (regioni autonome, singular - regione autonoma); Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia*, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardia, Marche, Molise, Piemonte, Puglia, Sardegna*, Sicilia*, Toscana, Trentino-Alto Adige*, Umbria, Valle d'Aosta*, Veneto


17 March 1861 (Kingdom of Italy proclaimed; Italy was not finally unified until 1870)

National holiday:

Republic Day, 2 June (1946)


passed 11 December 1947, effective 1 January 1948; amended many times

Legal system:

based on civil law system; appeals treated as new trials; judicial review under certain conditions in Constitutional Court; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal (except in senatorial elections, where minimum age is 25)

Legislative branch:

bicameral Parliament or Parlamento consists of the Senate or Senato della Repubblica (315 seats; elected by proportional vote with the winning coalition in each region receiving 55% of seats from that region; members serve five-year terms) and the Chamber of Deputies or Camera dei Deputati (630 seats; elected by popular vote with the winning national coalition receiving 54% of chamber seats; members serve five-year terms); note - electoral vote reform passed in December 2005
elections: Senate - last held 10 April 2006 (next to be held in 2011); Chamber of Deputies - last held 10 April 2006 (next to be held May 2011)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - The Union 158 (DS 62, DL 39, RC 27, Together with the Union 11, other 19), House of Freedoms 154 (FI 79, AN 41, UDC 21, LEGA 13), other 3; Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - The Union 348 (DS 220, RC 41, Rose in the Fist 18, Italy of Values 17, PdCI 16, Greens Federation 15, UDEUR 10, other 11), House of Freedoms 276 (FI 140, AN 71, Union of Christian and Center Democrats 39, LEGA 26), other 6

Judicial branch:

Constitutional Court or Corte Costituzionale (composed of 15 judges: one-third appointed by the president, one-third elected by parliament, one-third elected by the ordinary and administrative Supreme Courts)

Economy - overview:

Italy has a diversified industrial economy with roughly the same total and per capita output as France and the UK. This capitalistic economy remains divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less-developed, welfare-dependent, agricultural south, with 20% unemployment. Most raw materials needed by industry and more than 75% of energy requirements are imported. Over the past decade, Italy has pursued a tight fiscal policy in order to meet the requirements of the Economic and Monetary Unions and has benefited from lower interest and inflation rates. The current government has enacted numerous short-term reforms aimed at improving competitiveness and long-term growth. Italy has moved slowly, however, on implementing needed structural reforms, such as lightening the high tax burden and overhauling Italy's rigid labor market and over-generous pension system, because of the current economic slowdown and opposition from labor unions. But the leadership faces a severe economic constraint: the budget deficit has breached the 3% EU ceiling. The economy experienced almost no growth in 2005, and unemployment remained at a high level.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$1.651 trillion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$1.694 trillion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

0.2% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$28,400 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 2.1%
industry: 28.8%
services: 69.1% (2005 est.)

Labour force:

24.49 million (2005 est.)

Labour force - by occupation:

agriculture: 5%
industry: 32%
services: 63% (2001)

Unemployment rate:

7.9% (2005 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 2.1%
highest 10%: 26.6% (2000)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

36 (2000)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

1.9% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

19.3% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $785.7 billion
expenditures: $861.5 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2005 est.)

Public debt:

107.3% of GDP (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

fruits, vegetables, grapes, potatoes, sugar beets, soybeans, grain, olives; beef, dairy products; fish


tourism, machinery, iron and steel, chemicals, food processing, textiles, motor vehicles, clothing, footwear, ceramics

Industrial production growth rate:

-1.5% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

270.1 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

302.2 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - exports:

500 million kWh (2003)

Electricity - imports:

51.5 billion kWh (2003)

Oil - production:

136,200 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - consumption:

1.874 million bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - exports:

456,600 bbl/day (2001)

Oil - imports:

2.158 million bbl/day (2001)

Oil - proved reserves:

586.6 million bbl (1 January 2002)

Natural gas - production:

13.55 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:

76.88 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - exports:

61 million cu m (2001 est.)

Natural gas - imports:

54.78 billion cu m (2001 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:

226.5 billion cu m (1 January 2002)

Current account balance:

-$27.62 billion (2005 est.)


$371.9 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

engineering products, textiles and clothing, production machinery, motor vehicles, transport equipment, chemicals; food, beverages and tobacco; minerals, and nonferrous metals

Exports - partners:

Germany 13.6%, France 12.4%, US 7.9%, Spain 7.3%, UK 7.1%, Switzerland 4.2% (2004)


$369.2 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

engineering products, chemicals, transport equipment, energy products, minerals and nonferrous metals, textiles and clothing; food, beverages, and tobacco

Imports - partners:

Germany 18%, France 11%, Netherlands 5.9%, Spain 4.7%, Belgium 4.5%, UK 4.3%, China 4.1% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$60 billion (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$1.682 trillion (30 June 2005 est.)

Economic aid - donor:

ODA, $1 billion (2002 est.)

Currency (code):

euro (EUR)
note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

25.957 million (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

62.75 million (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: modern, well developed, fast; fully automated telephone, telex, and data services
domestic: high-capacity cable and microwave radio relay trunks
international: country code - 39; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (with a total of 5 antennas - 3 for Atlantic Ocean and 2 for Indian Ocean), 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic Ocean region), and NA Eutelsat; 21 submarine cables

Radio broadcast stations:

AM about 100, FM about 4,600, shortwave 9 (1998)

Television broadcast stations:

358 (plus 4,728 repeaters) (1995)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

1,246,253 (2005)

Internet users:

28.87 million (2005)


135 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 98
over 3,047 m: 7
2,438 to 3,047 m: 30
1,524 to 2,437 m: 16
914 to 1,523 m: 31
under 914 m: 14 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 37
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 16
under 914 m: 19 (2005)


3 (2005)


gas 17,335 km; oil 1,136 km (2004)


total: 19,319 km (11,613 km electrified)
standard gauge: 18,001 km 1.435-m gauge (11,333 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 123 km 1.000-m gauge (122 km electrified); 1,195 km 0.950-m gauge (158 km electrified) (2004)


total: 479,688 km
paved: 479,688 km (including 6,620 km of expressways) (1999)


2,400 km
note: used for commercial traffic; of limited overall value compared to road and rail (2004)

Merchant marine:

total: 571 ships (1000 GRT or over) 10,781,338 GRT/11,194,627 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 40, cargo 48, chemical tanker 122, combination ore/oil 1, container 22, liquefied gas 37, livestock carrier 2, passenger 17, passenger/cargo 155, petroleum tanker 50, refrigerated cargo 4, roll on/roll off 33, specialized tanker 13, vehicle carrier 27
foreign-owned: 53 (France 3, Greece 6, Monaco 6, Switzerland 7, Taiwan 10, UK 6, US 15)
registered in other countries: 149 (The Bahamas 6, Belgium 1, Belize 4, Cayman Islands 11, Gibraltar 5, Ireland 2, Isle of Man 7, North Korea 1, Liberia 20, Malta 25, Marshall Islands 1, Norway 4, Panama 16, Portugal 10, Romania 2, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 17, Spain 2, Sweden 7, Turkey 3, UK 5) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Augusta, Genoa, Livorno, Melilli Oil Terminal, Ravenna, Taranto, Trieste, Venice

Military branches:

Army (Esercito Italiano, EI), Navy (Marina Militare Italiana, MMI), Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana, AMI), Carabinieri Corps (Corpo dei Carabinieri, CC) (2005)

Disputes - international:

Italy's long coastline and developed economy entices tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from southeastern Europe and northern Africa

Illicit drugs:

important gateway for and consumer of Latin American cocaine and Southwest Asian heroin entering the European market; money laundering by organized crime and from smuggling