Situated in the south of Europe, Italy is the continent's fifth most populous country and has a rich cultural background, perhaps most notably the period of the Ancient Romans.
The country of Italy is situated in the south of Europe, comprising the boot like shape of the bottom of the continent. Dating back to 753BC, Italy was also a founding member of the European Community, what is now the European Union. Italy grew into an empire, stretching out to Britain, to the borders of Persia and was responsible for merging Greek and Roman cultures to create an individual civilization.
The renaissance originated in Italy, spreading to northern Europe, France and England, with many aspects being seen all around Europe. Beginning in 1420, it sparked a rich period of development in both the arts and sciences. The High Renaissance brought us some of the world's greatest artistic minds, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.
The country itself is one of the leading political and religious centres in Western civilisation, being the fifth most populous country in Europe. The highly religious country has a rich Roman Catholic culture. Italy is home to many pilgrimage sites, including the enclave of Vatican City where The Pope resides. Every Pope from 1523-1978 was Italian, demonstrating the country's religious importance.
Italy is famed for its food, with their staple dishes being renowned worldwide. The Italians rely heavily on traditional products and the country has the largest number of traditional specialities, such as cheeses, wines, cold cuts and coffee. The climate is one of the most diverse because of the longitudinal placing. Po Valley has some of the hottest summers, yet still suffers through harsh winters, lying to the very north of the country.
Tourist hotspots are namely the famed Colosseum in Rome. The 50,000 seat Colosseum was once used to stage intense gladiatorial games, all for the unruly audience. Regular tours are now run in what remains of the site. The ruins of Pompeii are another spectacular site to visit, after being buried into burning fragments of stone from Vesuvius in 79AD, the town is remarkably well preserved and you can still walk around the millennia old ruins today. To the east of Sicily lies Mount Etna, still remaining as the largest active volcano in Europe - You are able to take a cable car uphill and enjoy tours of the area.
Last updated: 30 January 2014