A simple pages and pictures ensemble
to show you some of the unknow resources
of the gorgeous Chianti

Presentation of Italy PAGE 2

About Italy


The Italian people are not ethnically homogenous, reflecting a long history of foreign invasion and migration. A variety of physical types is present in the population. Nevertheless, most speak Italian or dialects or languages related to Italian. These dialects vary considerably from region to region and are considered separate languages in the case of Sardinian, spoken by about 1.2 million people in Sardinia; Friulian, a Rhaeto-Romanic language spoken by about 520,000 people in the northeastern district of Friuli; and Ladin, a Rhaeto-Romanic language spoken in the mountains of the Alto Adige. The principal non-Italian minorities are about 260,000 German-Italians, who live in the Alto Adige (formerly Austria's South TYROL) and speak the German dialects of Austria and Bavaria; and 53,000 Slavic Italians, scattered in several areas in Friuli and Venezia-Giulia. In addition, some isolated minority groups live in southern Italy, including Greek-speaking communities in parts of Apulia and Calabria; Albanian colonies in Sicily and Calabria; and Serbo-Croatian communities in parts of Molise. French is spoken in the Aosta valley. Religion Almost 90% of Italians are Roman Catholics. Roman Catholicism was established as Italy's official religion by the LATERAN TREATY between Vatican City and Italy on Feb. 11, 1929; however, this legal status was abolished in 1984. Protestants constitute a small minority of about 180,000, and Jews number about 35,000. Demography Italy has one of the highest population densities in Europe. Densities of about 200 persons per sq km (322 per sq mi) occur in most of the North Italian Plain; the Ligurian coast; the Arno Valley and northern Tuscany; the hilly Adriatic regions of Marche, Abruzzi, and Molise; most of Umbria, Latium, Calabria, and Apulia; and many coastal areas in Sicily. The sparsely populated areas are the Alpine uplands, parts of the Apennines in Liguria and Calabria; and the marshes of Tuscany and Latium. Italy's current birthrate and death rate are slightly lower than the European average. Population growth decreased from 4.4% in the 1970s to 0.5% in 1990. Even though the average growth rate in the Mezzogiorno (south) is higher than in the north, the population of central and northern Italy has generally tended to grow faster than that of the Mezzogiorno, mostly because of an internal migration pattern in which people from the less developed south move northward in search of the greater economic opportunities they expect to find in the developed areas. Just under three-quarters of the population live in urban areas, a figure close to the European average. The largest city is Rome. MILAN, NAPLES, and TURIN each have more than one million inhabitants. Other large cities include GENOA, PALERMO, BOLOGNA, FLORENCE, CATANIA, and VENICE. Emigration has long been a feature of Italy's population. Between 1861 and 1965, an estimated 26.5 million Italians emigrated, primarily to the United States, Argentina, and Brazil. Only 6 million returned. Since World War II, emigration has continued but mainly by workers leaving temporarily for employment in other European nations, particularly western Germany and Switzerland. Only about 25% of all migrants during this period emigrated permanently overseas. During the 1980s and '90s a new trend developed: Italy itself began to attract immigrants, first from North Africa, then from Albania, Yugoslavia, and other Eastern European countries. Education and Health Education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 14. Children between the ages of 11 and 14 attend middle school, and those who graduate may continue their education in a classical or scientific high school, in a teacher training school, or in one of a variety of technical schools that prepare students for specific careers. Only a small number of students go on to study at a university. The principal universities are at Rome, Naples, Milan, Bologna, Turin, and Palermo. Italian education has made great progress in the 20th century. In the 1930s more than 20% of the population was illiterate. Today illiteracy has been virtually eliminated in northern Italy; the south, however, lags behind the rest of the country educationally as well as economically, and the school system suffers generally and chronically from inadequate financing and poor facilities, especially in sparsely settled rural areas. Health costs for most Italians are covered by compulsory insurance programs, but again, a shortage of medical facilities exists in rural areas. Many of the hospitals are run by Catholic religious orders. The infant mortality rate has gone down significantly since the 1970s and is below the European average. The principal causes of death are cancer, heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease. Cultural Institutions Academies are an important feature of intellectual life in Italy. Among the more prominent are the ACCADEMIA DEI LINCEI, founded in Rome in 1603; the National Academy of Saint Luke for fine arts, founded in the 14th century; Florence's Accademia Nazionale della Crusca (1582) for philological, lexicographical, and grammatical studies; and the National Academy of Saint Cecilia for music, founded in Rome in 1566. The leading research institute for mathematics, physics, and natural sciences is the National Research Council of Italy (1923). The leading libraries are the National Central Library (1747) in Florence, containing 4 million books; Rome's Victor Emmanuel II National Central Library, with 2.8 million volumes; and the Central State Archives (1871) in Rome, containing 120,000 volumes. Museums and art galleries can be found in all the larger towns. Among the most famous are the PITTI PALACE, UFFIZI, and National Museum in Florence; the Gallerio Borghese, Villa Giulia, Capitoline Museum, and National Gallery of Modern Art, in Rome; and the Accademia in Venice. The Universita Italiana per Stranieri, founded in 1925 in Perugia, offers courses in the history of Italian civilization and the Italian language for foreign students.


Modern industry developed in Italy at the beginning of the 20th century, about 100 years later than in other parts of Western Europe. This delay resulted in part from a lack of industrial raw materials, especially coal and other fuels. Other factors retarding industrialization were the survival into the 19th century of ancient feudal social structures and the political fragmentation that hindered the development of a single national market. Early industrialization was concentrated mainly in the northwest, where industrial agglomeration in the iron and steel, shipbuilding, engineering, and textile industries continues. The rest of Italy remained industrially underdeveloped and primarily agricultural until economic growth rapidly accelerated in the 1950s. Governmental participation in industrial development continues. Through autonomous public organizations, an estimated one-third to one-half of all production by privately managed and competing companies is directed by the state. In addition, programs such as the Southern Development Fund offer special financial incentives to companies locating in the south. These programs are part of the government's efforts to lessen the socioeconomic disparity between north and south. Manufacturing and Mining In 1990 manufacturing contributed about 39% to the gross national product and employed approximately one-third of the economically active population. About 25% of all industrial workers live in Lombardy, and another 10% live in Piedmont. Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, and Tuscany also have a large share of the industrial labor force. Italy's principal industries are the steel, automotive engineering, chemical, and textile industries. The principal steel-making centers are TARANTO, Genoa, Naples-Bagnoli, and Piombino. The automobile industry is located in BRESCIA, MODENA, Milan, and Turin. Italy also exports sewing machines, typewriters, motor scooters, bicycles, mopeds, power tools, calculators, and refrigerators. Airplanes are manufactured in Turin, and ships are built at ANCONA, LA SPEZIA, Genoa, Naples, Trieste, and Venice. The production of petrochemicals such as plastics, fertilizers, and synthetic rubber is concentrated in the natural gas fields of the North Italian Plain and Sicily. The textile industry, important as early as the Middle Ages, was traditionally dependent on imported wool and cotton. Since the discovery of natural gas and petroleum, a synthetic fiber and fabric industry has developed. Florence and Milan are leading textile and garment centers. Artisans play an important role in the Italian economy and receive assistance from the government. Glass, pottery, lace, carved marble, and gold and silver filigree work are among the most famous hand-crafted products. Petroleum and natural gas are the leading minerals produced, but local output supplies only a fraction of the nation's needs. Most petroleum is extracted in the Sicilian district of Ragusa. Natural gas underlies much of the North Italian Plain and parts of Sicily. Other minerals, far less important in terms of total value, include marble, quarried as in Michelangelo's time at Carrara; lead and zinc, mined in Sardinia; sulfur, in Sicily; and bauxite, mined mainly in the south. Energy Petroleum is the principal fuel consumed, and about 84% is imported. Nearly 80% of all electricity is generated in thermal electric power plants; most of the remainder comes from hydroelectric installations. Agriculture About 9% of the labor force are employed in agriculture, which contributed some 4.3% to the gross national product in 1988. Slightly more than half of all land is used for farming, but productivity is low because only 29% of the land devoted to farming is in the fertile North Italian Plain; the rest is in the agriculturally marginal hill and mountain areas. Agricultural production is further limited by lack of investment capital for modern equipment, by a preponderance of tenant-farmed estates in the south, and by the small size of most farm units. The principal crops include wheat, which is grown throughout the nation, and corn and rice, grown mainly in the North Italian Plain where water is available in summer for irrigation of the rice crop. Olives, grapes, citrus fruits, peaches, and other tree crops are characteristic of Italian agriculture, especially in the typically Mediterranean central and southern regions. Early spring vegetables, grown near Naples and other southern areas, command high prices when shipped to northern Europe. Flowers are a specialty crop along the Ligurian coast. Livestock accounts for about 40% of all agricultural production by value, but Italy must import large quantities of meat, primarily from France and Germany. Dairy cattle dominate in the Alps and in the provinces of Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, and Tuscany, and sheep and goats are raised in the hilly, drier areas of the south and in Sardinia and Sicily. Fishing and Forestry Many small fishing ports line Italy's long coast, but the catch is insufficient to meet the nation's needs. Some fishing fleets work in the Atlantic Ocean, but most fishers use small boats and outdated equipment. Forestry is of only minor importance, and Italy must import most of its wood. Transportation Road and freeway traffic is increasing as more Italians purchase automobiles; the highway (autostrade) system in 1988 covered 6,091 km (3,785 mi) of the 303,365 km (188,502 mi) of the road network. The most important expressway is the 1,250-km (777-mi) long Autostrada del Sole (Highway of the Sun), linking Milan, Rome, Naples, and REGGIO DI CALABRIA at the southernmost tip of the boot, breaking the historic isolation of many southern communities. More than half of the 16,066 km (9,983 mi) of the railroad system is electrified. The Italian high-speed train, the Pendolino, runs from Turin and Milan down to Rome and Naples. The state-run railroad provides an alternative to highway travel. International air traffic is centered on Rome, located on international air traffic routes serving Europe and Asia. The Po River, navigable as far as CREMONA, is Italy's only natural inland water route. Small canals are used for transportation in Venice and in the North Italian Plain. Communications The Italian Radio and Television System (RAI) is state-owned; it operates three television channels and three radio stations. A number of other privately owned TV networks and hundreds of local radio stations also exist. Most of the daily newspapers published in Italy have headquarters in either Rome or Milan. Trade Italy's imports are dominated by industrial raw materials, petroleum, meat, and cereal grains. The principal exports are manufactured goods and craft items, along with fruits and vegetables. Italy usually suffers a trade deficit, but the difference is partly offset by its large and profitable tourist industry and by money sent by Italian citizens working abroad. The principal ports are Genoa, Trieste, Taranto, Venice, Savona, and Naples. Petroleum is imported primarily through Augusta.


According to Italy's constitution, executive power lies with the cabinet, and legislative powers are vested in a parliament consisting of a 630-member chamber of deputies and a 315-member senate. Except for a few life members of the senate (including former presidents and some prominent citizens nominated by the president), both houses are elected directly by universal adult suffrage for 5-year terms unless dismissed earlier. In 1993, the parliament, responding to public pressure after revelations of widespread political corruption, voted to abolish the party-oriented electoral system, replacing it with one in which most seats will be filled by candidates who have won the most votes in individual constituencies, regardless of party. The president of the republic is head of state and is elected to a renewable 7-year term by a joint session of Parliament and three delegates from each of the regional legislatures. Executive power rests with the council of ministers (cabinet) headed by the prime minister appointed by the president. The council is responsible to Parliament. Each of the 20 regions has an elected council, a president, and a "giunta regionale" that exercises executive power and is responsible to the regional council. Five of the regions (Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sardinia, Sicily, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Valle d'Aosta) are granted special autonomous status by the constitution. The principal political parties of the post-World War II era-- the Christian Democratic party, the Communist party, and the Socialist party--all lost support in the early 1990s, largely as a result of the political corruption scandals of 1992 and 1993. In national elections held under the new electoral rules in late March 1994, the old centrist parties gave way to new groupings. An alliance of Forza Italia, the Northern League, and a neo-Fascist National Alliance made heavy gains, and Forza Italia leader Silvio BERLUSCONI became premier of the unstable coalition. Centrist parties included the Pact for Italy and the Popular party composed of former Christian Democrats. Parties on the left included the Democratic Party of the Left (a renamed Communist party) and a hard-line Communist Refounding. Other political groups include the Greens and an anti-Mafia La Rete.

( That's all about Italy ! )

Previous Page (To the previous page)

Let's cut a track: (Where do you want to go)
Start point (To the first page-Index)
Introduction (To the Introduction)
Who am I (Presentation)
The Chianti Region (Secret and famous treasure)
Excursions (My excursions on the land)
Accomodations (Where you can stay)