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Grand Canal, Venice

Europe

 
Italy
Italy (Italian: Repubblica Italiana or Italia) is a country in southern Europe. It comprises the boot-shaped Italian peninsula, the Po River valley, and two large islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia, and shares its northern alpine boundary with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The independent countries of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within Italian territory.

For more than 3,000 years Italy witnessed many migrations and invasions from Germanic, Greek, Celtic, Franks, Byzantines, Normans, and the French Angevins, and Lombard peoples. Italy was also home to many well-known and influential civilisations, including the Etruscans and the Romans.
Background Information
Italy has shaped the cultural and social development of the whole Mediterranean area, deeply influencing European culture as well. Important cultures and civilizations have existed there since prehistoric times. After Magna Graecia, the Etruscan civilization and especially the Roman Republic and Empire that dominated this part of the world for many centuries, Italy was central to European philosophy, science and art during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Modern Italy became a nation-state belatedly - on March 17, 1861, when most of the states of the peninsula were united under king Victor Emmanuel II of the Savoy dynasty, which ruled over Sardinia and Piedmont. The architects of Italian unification were Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, the Chief Minister of Victor Emmanuel, and Giuseppe Garibaldi, a general and national hero. Rome itself remained for a decade under the Papacy, and became part of the Kingdom of Italy only on September 20, 1870. The Vatican is now an independent enclave surrounded by Rome.
Climate
Italy has a largely temperate climate with regional variations. In summer the Northern parts of Italy are warm with occasional rainfall, the central region is somewhat stifled by humidity and the south scorches under the dry heat. In winter, conditions in Milan, Turin and Venice are dominated by cold, damp and fog and Tuscany's winter temperatures approach freezing, while temperatures in the south of the country are more favourable averaging 50-60F (10-20C). Most people visit Italy between June and August, however the best time to visit is in Spring (April-May) and Autumn (September-October) when the weather is good and the tourists are few. The sea is warm enough for swimming between June and September. Most Italians take their vacation in August and many shops and restaurants are closed during this period. The ski season runs between December and April and the best time to walk in the Alps is between June and September.
Vatican City
Grand Canal, Venice
Map of Italy