Italy

 

History of Italy

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Italy gained its present-day single political identity only in 1861 but varieties of people have lived in the region from the early ages. The Etruscans were the first people to rule the peninsula around the 8th century BC and were eventually overrun by the Roman Empire. The ancient Greeks also set up a few colonies along the southern coast.
The first Roman Republic was founded in 509 BC and driven by strong, military and dictatorial monarchs, the empire expanded into many parts of Europe and beyond and grew so large that it was eventually divided into eastern and western sectors. However, as often happens with nations driven by the politics of greed, this power proved unsustainable in the long term. Plague, famine and foreign incursions drove the Roman empire into the dark ages, a terrible time of continual invasions by the Lombards, Muslims and Normans till the tumultuous brew settled somewhat in the 12th century.

The rise of cities and a merchant class led to the Renaissance in the 15th century during which painters, architects, poets, philosophers and sculptors produced works of genius that prevail till today. In the next few centuries, Spain, Austria and France had their turns at controlling the peninsula until Italy was unified in 1861.

Industrialization and modernization increased through the 19th century but Italy's participation in WWI extracted a heavy price. Economic and political instability made it easy for Benito Mussolini to seize power and establish his dark, fascist reign over the country in 1922. The Fascist movement lasted for 21 years during which a totalitarian regime was put into place and earlier ties with France and the United Kingdom gave way to an alliance with Nazi Germany. Italy was defeated by the Allied forces in WWII and liberated from fascism by a national uprising on 25 April 1945. Italy became a Republic after the result of a popular referendum held on 2 June 1946.

Cities

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  • Rome (Roma) - the capital, both of Italy and, in the past, of the Roman Empire until 285 AD
  • Bologna - one of the world's great university cities that is filled with history, culture, technology and food
  • Florence (Firenze) - the Renaissance city known for its architecture and art that had a major impact throughout the world
  • Genoa (Genova) - an important medieval maritime republic; its port brings in tourism and trade, along with art and architecture
  • Milan (Milano) - one of the main fashion cities of the world, but also Italy's most important centre of trade and business
  • Naples (Napoli) - one of the oldest cities of the Western world, with a historic city centre that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is also the birth-place of pizza.
  • Pisa - one the medieval maritime republics, it is home to the unmistakable image of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
  • Turin (Torino) - a well-known industrial and historical city, first capital of Italy and home of FIAT and other automobiles and the aerospace industry. The city's also renowned for its large amount of baroque buildings and its "Mole Antonelliana", a former synagogue with a characteristic shape.
  • Venice (Venezia) - one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, known for its history, art, and of course its world famous canals

Culture

This little boot-shaped nation has enough historical and cultural delights to please the rest of the world. No wonder then that the concept of la dolce vita originates here. Renaissance art; magnificent opera; edgy cinema; the architectural wonders of Rome, Florence and Venice; Milan fashion houses; pasta and pizza - Italy's contributions resemble a rich and multi-hued tapestry that only grows in splendor from year to year.

Italy has played a seminal role in many important artistic and intellectual movements that spread throughout Europe and beyond, including the Renaissance and Baroque and its culture reflects the influences of many different peoples. Most significant is Italy's contributions to art and sculpture. Legendary painters and sculptors such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Bernini, Titian and Raphael explored the depths of creativity in this country. Italy is also home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (41) to date.

Modern Italian language was established by eminent Florentine poet, Dante Alighieri, who's Divina Commedia is considered the foremost literary work of the Middle Ages. Other famous writers and poets include Boccaccio, Giacomo Leopardi, Alessandro Manzoni, Tasso, Ludovico Ariosto, and Petrarch, who invented the sonnet form of verse, Luigi Pirandello and Dario Fo. In music, Italy invented both the piano and our system of musical notation, as well as producing Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Verdi, Puccini, Bellini and Rossini.

Italians are also known for their love of sports, something that can be traced back to the ancient Gladiatorial games. Sport is an important part of many Italian festivities like Palio and the Gondola race in Venice. Popular sports include football, cycling, and auto racing (Ferrari and Lamborghini both originated in Italy).

Weather and Climate

Italy Climate
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Italian climate is predominantly Mediterranean. Regions in the far north, however, experience Alpine climate with cold, wet and snowy weather. The weather gets warmer and dryer as you go south. The coastal regions, where most of the large towns are located, have a typically Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot, generally dry summers.

Public Holidays

Italy Public Holidays Year 2015
New Year's Day 1 January, 2015 Thursday
Epiphany 6 January, 2015 Tuesday
Good Friday 3 April, 2015 Friday
Easter Monday 6 April, 2015 Monday
Liberation Day 25 April, 2015 Saturday
International Workers' Day 1 May, 2015 Friday
Republic Day 2 June, 2015 Tuesday
Assumption Day 15 August, 2015 Saturday
All Saints' Day 1 November, 2015 Sunday
Immaculate Conception 8 December, 2015 Tuesday
Christmas Day 25 December, 2015 Friday
St Stephen's Day 26 December, 2015 Saturday

Travel Advisory

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Italy. Exercise normal security precautions.