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Italy

Background

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 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.

Location

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

Italy borders Austria, France, Vatican City, San Marino, Slovenia, and Switzerland.

Climate

Predominantly Mediterranean; Alpine in far north; hot, dry in south.

Language

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).

Classification

Italian is a member of the Italo-Dalmatian group of languages, which is part of the Italo-Western grouping of the Romance languages, which are a subgroup of the Italic branch of Indo-European.

History

The origins of the  Italian language are very complex and mostly formalized by Dante Alighieri mixing south Italian dialects, especially from Sicilian, with his native Tuscan (“supposed” to be derived from Etruscan and Oscan). Those older Italian dialects were hardly influenced by the Occitan bring by the Bard escaping from France centuries before under the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. Of the major Romance languages, which were derived from Latin language, Italian is the closest to Latin, although there are other langauges spoken in Italy which are even closer to Latin, for example Sardo logudorese language.

Today’s modern Italian language originated in the region of Tuscany.

Interesting facts about Italy:

  • Before adopting the euro, Italy’s currency was known as the lira.
  • Italy’s biggest trading partners are Germany, France, the United States, and Great Britain.
  • Most of Italy’s industry is centred around the northern cities of Turin and Genoa
  • Agriculture used to make up over a third of Italy’s economy. It now makes up less than three percent.
  • The name Italy comes from the word Italia, meaning “calf land,” perhaps because the bull was a symbol of the Southern Italian tribes.
  • Italian is a Romance language descended from Vulgar Latin, the dialect spoken by the people living during the last years of the Roman Empire. Italian has more Latin words than any other Romance languages, and its grammatical system remains similar to Latin. Latin is still the official language of the Vatican City in Rome.
  • Influenced in part by the French flag, the Italian flag has evolved over several hundred years. The flag is vertically divided into three equal sections of green, white, and red, representing hope, faith, and charity. Another interpretation is that the green represents the Italian landscape, white represents the snow-capped Alps, and red represents the bloodshed that brought about the independence of Italy.