- Population 61 million
- Area 301,338 sq km (116,346 sq miles)
- Major language Italian
- Major religion Christianity
- Life expectancy 79 years (men), 85 years (women)
- Currency euro
President: Sergio Mattarella
Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Sergio Mattarella, a constitutional court judge and veteran centre-left politician, was elected president by parliament in 2015 to succeed Giorgio Napolitano, who stepped down due to old age.
Prime Minister: Paolo Gentiloni
Image copyright APImage caption
Paolo Gentiloni took over after his centre-left Democratic Party colleague Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
SOME KEY DATES IN THE ITALY’S HISTORY
1861 – Italy becomes a nation-state under King Victor Emmanuel II.
1915 – Italy enters First World War on the side of the Allies.
1922 – Fascist leader Benito Mussolini forms government, moves country towards fascist dictatorship.
1929 – Lateran Treaty creates state of Vatican City.
1935 – Italy invades Ethiopia.
1936 – Mussolini forms axis with Nazi Germany.
1940-45: Italy fights in Second World War on German side. Invaded by the Allies in 1943, signs armistice. Mussolini captured and executed by Italian partisans as the war ends.
1948 – New constitution. Christian Democrats win elections.
1951 – Italy joins European Coal and Steel Community, the forerunner of the European Community.
1955 – Italy joins United Nations.
The national flag is a tricolor of green, white, and red vertical stripes.
LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
Situated in southern Europe, the Italian Republic, including the major islands of Sicily (Sicilia) and Sardinia (Sardegna), covers a land area of 301,230 sq km (116,306 sq mi). The boot-shaped Italian mainland extends into the Mediterranean Sea with a length of 1,185 km.
Climate varies with elevation and region. Generally, howeer, Italy is included between the annual isotherms of 11°c and 19°c (52°f and 66°f). The coldest period occurs in December and January, the hottest in July and August.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Plants and animals vary with area and altitude. Mountain flora is found above 1,980 m (6,500 ft) in the Alps and above 2,290 m (7,500 ft) in the Apennines. The highest forest belt consists of conifers; beech, oak, and chestnut trees grow on lower mountain slopes. Poplar and willow thrive in the Po Plain. On the peninsula and on the larger islands, Mediterranean vegetation predominates: evergreens, holm oak, cork, juniper, bramble, laurel, myrtle, and dwarf palm.
Although larger mammals are scarce, chamois, ibex, and roe deer are found in the Alps, and bears, chamois, and otters inhabit the Apennines. Ravens and swallows are characteristic birds of Italy. Abundant marine life inhabits the surrounding seas.
The population of Italy in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 58,742,000, which placed it at number 23 in population among the 193 nations of the world.
Italy has been the home of various peoples: Lombards and Goths in the north; Greeks, Saracens, and Spaniards in Sicily and the south; Latins in and around Rome; and Etruscans and others in central Italy.
Italian, the official language, is spoken by the vast majority of people. While each region has its own dialect, Tuscan, the dialect of Tuscany, is the standard dialect for Italian.
Roman Catholicism, affirmed as the state religion under the Lateran Treaty of 1929, lost that distinction under a concordat with the Vatican ratified in 1985. However, the Catholic Church continues to hold a privileged status with the state. An estimated 87% of native-born Italian citizens claim to be members of the Roman Catholic faith; however, only about 20% are active participants.
The Italian peninsula has been at the heart of Western cultural development at least since Roman times. Important poets of the Roman republic and empire were Lucretius (Titus Lucretius Carus, 96?–55 bc), Gaius Valerius Catullus (84?–54 bc), Vergil (Publius Vergilius Maro, 70–19 bc), Horace (Quintius Horatius Flaccus, 65–8 bc), and Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso, 43 bc–ad 18). Also prominent in Latin literature were the orator-rhetorician Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 bc); the satirists Gaius Petronius Arbiter (d.ad 66) and Juvenal (Decimus Junius Juvenalis, ad 60?–140?); the prose writers Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, ad 23–79), his nephew Pliny the Younger (Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, ad 61?–113?), and Lucius Apuleius (ad 124?–170?); and the historians Sallust (Gaius Sallustius Crispus, 86–34 bc), Livy (Titus Livius, 59 bc–ad 17), Cornelius Tacitus (ad 55?–117), and Suetonius (Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, ad 69?–140). Gaius Julius Caesar (100?–44 bc), renowned as a historian and prose stylist, is even more famous as a military and political leader. The first of the Roman emperors was Octavian (Gaius Octavianus, 63 bc–ad 14), better known by the honorific Augustus. Noteworthy among later emperors are the tyrants Caligula (Gaius Caesar Germanicus, ad 12–41) and Nero (Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, ad 37–68), the philosopher-statesman Marcus Aurelius (Marcus Annius Verius, ad 121–180), and Constantine I (the Great; Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus, b. Moesia, 280?–337), who was the first to accept Christianity. No history of the Christian Church during the medieval period would be complete without mention of such men of Italian birth as St. Benedict of Nursia (480?–543?), Pope Gregory I (St. Gregory the Great, 540?–604), St. Francis of Assisi (1182?–1226), and the philosopher-theologians St. Anselm (1033?–1109) and St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–74).
No land has made a greater contribution to the visual arts. In the 13th and 14th centuries there were the sculptors Niccolò Pisano (1220–84) and his son Giovanni (1245–1314); the painters Cimabue (Cenni di Pepo, 1240–1302?), Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255?–1319), and Giotto di Bondone (1276?–1337); and, later in the period, the sculptor Andrea Pisano (1270?–1348). Among the many great artists of the 15th century—the golden age of Florence and Venice—were the architects Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1446), Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378–1455), and Leone Battista Alberti (1404–72); the sculptors Donatello (Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi, 1386?–1466), Luca della Robbia (1400–1482), Desiderio da Settignano (1428–64), and Andrea del Verrocchio (1435–88); and the painters Fra Angelico (Giovanni de Fiesole, 1387–1455), Sassetta (Stefano di Giovanni, 1392–1450?), Uccello (Paolo di Dono, 1397–1475), Masaccio (Tomasso di Giovanni di Simone Guidi, 1401–28?), Fra Filippo Lippi (1406?–69), Piero della Francesca (Pietro de’ Franceschi, 1416?–92), Giovanni Bellini (1430?–1516), Andrea Mantegna (1431–1506), Antonio dei Pollaiuolo (1433–98), Luca Signorelli (1441?–1523), Perugino (Pietro Vannucci, 1446–1524), Sandro Botticelli (Alessandro Filipepi, 1447?–1510), Ghirlandaio (Domenico Currado Bigordi, 1449–94), and Vittore Carpaccio (1450–1522).
During the 16th century, the High Renaissance, Rome shared with Florence the leading position in the world of the arts. Major masters included the architects Bramante (Donato d’Agnolo, 1444?–1514) and Andrea Palladio (1508–80); the sculptor Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571); the painter-designer-inventor Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519); the painter-sculptor-architect-poet Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564); and the painters Titian (Tiziano Vecelli, 1477–1576), Giorgione da Castelfranco (Giorgio Barbarelli, 1478?–1510), Raphael (Raffaelo Sanzio, 1483–1520), Andrea del Sarto (1486–1531), and Correggio (Antonio Allegri, 1494–1534). Among the great painters of the late Renaissance were Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti, 1518–94) and Veronese (Paolo Cagliari, 1528–88). Giorgio Vasari (1511–74) was a painter, architect, art historian, and critic.
Among the leading artists of the Baroque period were the sculptor and architect Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) and the painters Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1560?–1609), Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1690–1770), Canaletto (Antonio Canal, 1697–1768), Pietro Longhi (1702–85), and Francesco Guardi (1712–93). Leading figures in modern painting were Umberto Boccioni (1882–1916), Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920), Giorgio di Chirico (b.Greece, 1888–1978), and Giorgio Morandi (1890–1964). A noted contemporary architect was Pier Luigi Nervi (1891–1979).
Music, an integral part of Italian life, owes many of its forms as well as its language to Italy. The musical staff was either invented or established by Guido d’Arezzo (995?–1050). A leading 14th-century composer was the blind Florentine organist Francesco Landini (1325–97). Leading composers of the High Renaissance and early Baroque periods were Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525–94); the madrigalists Luca Marenzio (1533–99) and Carlo Gesualdo, prince of Venosa (1560?–1613); the Venetian organists Andrea Gabrieli (1510?–86) and Giovanni Gabrieli (1557–1612); Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643), the founder of modern opera; organist-composer Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583–1643); and Giacomo Carissimi (1605–74). Important figures of the later Baroque era were Arcangelo Corelli (1653–1713), Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1743), Alessandro Scarlatti (1660–1725), and his son Domenico Scarlatti (1683–1757). Italian-born Luigi Cherubini (1760–1842) was the central figure of French music in the Napoleonic era, while Antonio Salieri (1750–1825) and Gasparo Spontini (1774–1851) played important roles in the musical life of Vienna and Berlin, respectively. Composers of the 19th century who made their period the great age of Italian opera were Gioacchino Antonio Rossini (1792–1868), Gaetano Donizetti (1797–1848), Vincenzo Bellini (1801–35), and, above all, Giuseppe Verdi (1831–1901). Niccolò Paganini (1782–1840) was the greatest violinist of his time. More recent operatic composers include Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1853–1919), Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924), and Pietro Mascagni (1863–1945). Renowned operatic singers include Enrico Caruso (1873–1921), Luisa Tetrazzini (1874–1940), Titta Ruffo (1878–1953), Amelita Galli-Curci (1882–1963), Beniamino Gigli (1890–1957), Ezio Pinza (1892–1957), and Luciano Pavarotti (b.1935). Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924), Ottorino Respighi (1879–1936), Luigi Dallapiccola (1904–75), Luigi Nono (1924-1990), and Luciano Berio (1925–2003) are major 20th-century composers. Arturo Toscanini (1867–1957) is generally regarded as one of the greatest operatic and orchestral conductors of his time; two noted contemporary conductors are Claudio Abbado (b.1933) and Riccardo Muti (b.1941). The foremost makers of stringed instruments were Gasparo da Salò (Bertolotti, 1540–1609) of Brescia, Niccolò Amati (1596–1684), Antonius Stradivarius (Antonio Stradivari, 1644–1737), and Giuseppe Bartolommeo Guarneri (del Gesù, 1687?–1745) of Cremona. Bartolommeo Cristofori (1655–1731) invented the pianoforte.
Italian literature and literary language began with Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), author of The Divine Comedy, and subsequently included Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca, 1304–74), Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–75), Lodovico Ariosto (1474–1533), Pietro Aretino (1492–1556), and Torquato Tasso (1544–95). An outstanding writer of the Baroque period was Metastasio (Pietro Trapassi, 1698–1782), and Carlo Goldoni (1707–93) was the most prominent playwright of the 18th century. The time of Italy’s rebirth was heralded by the poets Vittorio Alfieri (1749–1803), Ugo Foscolo (1778–1827), and Giacomo Leopardi (1798–1837). Alessandro Manzoni (1785–1873) was the principal Italian novelist of the 19th century, and Francesco de Sanctis (1817–83) the greatest literary critic. Among the Italian literary figures of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Giosuè Carducci (1835–1907; Nobel Prizewinner, 1906), Giovanni Verga (1840–1922), Gabriele d’Annunzio (1863–1938), Luigi Pirandello (1867–1936; Nobel Prize winner, 1934), and Grazia Deledda (1875–1936; Nobel Prize winner, 1926) achieved international renown. Leading writers of the postwar era are Ignazio Silone (Secondo Tranquilli, 1900–78), Alberto Moravia (Pincherle, 1907–1990), Italo Calvino (1923–87), Umberto Eco (b.1932), and the poets Salvatore Quasimodo (1908–68; Nobel Prize winner, 1959) and Eugenio Montale (1896–1981; Nobel Prize winner, 1975). Outstanding film directors are Italian-born Frank Capra (1897–1991), Vittorio de Sica (1902–74), Luchino Visconti (1906–76), Roberto Rossellini (1906–77), Michelangelo Antonioni (b.1912), Federico Fellini (1920–93), Sergio Leone (1929–1989), Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922–75), Franco Zeffirelli (b.1923), Lina Wertmüller (Arcangela Felice Assunta Wertmüller von Elgg, b.1928), and Bernardo Bertolucci (b.1940). Famous film stars include Italian-born Rudolph Valentino (Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaele Pierre Philibert Guglielmi, 1895–1926), Marcello Mastroianni (1924–1996), and Sophia Loren (Scicoloni, b.1934).
In philosophy, exploration, and statesmanship, Italy has produced many world-renowned figures: the traveler Marco Polo (1254?–1324); the statesman and patron of the arts Cosimo de’ Medici (1389–1464); the statesman, clergyman, and artistic patron Roderigo Borgia (Lanzol y Borja, b. Spain, 1431?–1503), who became Pope Alexander VI (r.1492–1503); the soldier, statesman, and artistic patron Lorenzo de’ Medici, the son of Cosimo (1449–92); the explorer John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto, 1450?–98?); the explorer Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo or Cristóbal Colón, 1451–1506); the explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1454–1512), after whom the Americas are named; the admiral and statesman Andrea Doria (1468?–1540); Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527), author of The Prince and the outstanding political theorist of the Renaissance; the statesman and clergyman Cesare Borgia (1475?–1507), the son of Rodrigo; the explorer Sebastian Cabot (1476?–1557), the son of John; Baldassare Castiglione (1478–1529), author of The Courtier; the historian Francesco Guicciardini (1483–1540); the explorer Giovanni da Verrazano (1485?–1528?); the philosopher Giordano Bruno (1548?–1600); the political philosopher Giovanni Battista Vico (1668–1744); the noted jurist Cesare Bonesana Beccaria (1735–94); Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–72), the leading spirit of the Risorgimento; Camillo Benso di Cavour (1810–61), its prime statesman; and Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807–82), its foremost soldier and man of action. Notable intellectual and political leaders of more recent times include the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1907, Ernesto Teodoro Moneta (1833–1918); the sociologist and economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848–1923); the political theorist Gaetano Mosca (1858–1941); the philosopher, critic, and historian Benedetto Croce (1866–1952); the educator Maria Montessori (1870–1952); Benito Mussolini (1883–1945), the founder of Fascism and dictator of Italy from 1922 to 1943; Carlo Sforza (1873–1952) and Alcide De Gasperi (1881–1954), famous latter-day statesmen; and the Communist leaders Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), Palmiro Togliatti (1893–1964), and Enrico Berlinguer (1922–84).
Italian scientists and mathematicians of note include Leonardo Fibonacci (1180?–1250?), Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), Evangelista Torricelli (1608–47), Francesco Redi (1626?–97), Marcello Malpighi (1628–94), Luigi Galvani (1737–98), Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729–99), Alessandro Volta (1745–1827), Amedeo Avogadro (1776–1856), Stanislao Cannizzaro (1826–1910), Camillo Golgi (1843–1926; Nobel Prize winner, 1906), Guglielmo Marconi (1874–1937; Nobel Prize winner, 1909), Enrico Fermi (1901–54; Nobel Prize winner, 1938), Giulio Natta (1903–79; Nobel Prize winner, 1963), Italian-American Emilio Gino Segrè (1905–1989; Nobel Prize winner, 1959), Daniel Bovet (1907–1992; Nobel Prize winner, 1957), Renato Dulbecco (b.1914; Nobel Prize winner, 1975), Carlo Rubbia (b.1934; Nobel Prize winner, 1984), and Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909-1989; Nobel Prize winner, 1986), and Italian-American Riccardo Giacconi (b.1931; Nobel Prize winner, 2002).
Pizza and spaghetti, both associated with the Neapolitan traditions of cookery, are especially popular abroad, but the varying geographical conditions of the twenty regions of Italy.
The music of Italy ranges across a broad spectrum of opera and instrumental classical music and a body of popular music drawn from both native and imported sources. Music has traditionally been one of the cultural markers of Italian national and ethnic identity and holds an important position in society and in politics. Italian innovation in musical scales, harmony, notation, and theatre enabled the development of opera in the late 16th century, and much of modern European classical music, such as the symphony and concerto.
Italian folk musicians performing in Edinburgh
The Most Iconic Artists of the Italian Renaissance, from Masaccio to Titian
Michelangelo Buonarroti Sistine Chapel Ceiling Frescoes. 1508-1512 Art History 101
MasaccioTrinity with the Virgin, Saint John the Evangelist
Masaccio The Madonna of Humilityca. 1423/1424 National Gallery of Art
Donatello St. George Tabernacleca. 1415-17Orsanmichele, Florence
Donatello David. 1428-1432 Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence
Alessandro Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli The Birth of Venusca. 1486 Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Leonardo da Vinci Épouse de Francesco del Giocondo, dite Mona Lisa, ou la Joconde (Wife of Francesco del Giocondo)
Leonardo da Vinci Vitruvian Manca. 1409Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice
Michelangelo Buonarroti David. 1501-1504 Galleria dell’Accademia
Michelangelo Buonarroti Sistine Chapel Ceiling Frescoes.1508-1512 Sistine Chapel, Vatican
Raphael School of Athens. 1509-1511Stanza della Segnatura, Vatican
Titian Venus of Urbino. 1538 Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Agnolo Bronzino The Holy Family. 1527-1528National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Italy is one of the most fascinating countries in Europe, steeped in natural beauty, millennia of history and a combination of culture
1 – The name Italy (Italia) means ‘calf land’. It is most likely that this name derived from the fact that the bull was a symbol of the tribes of Southern Italy. It was originally spelt Vitalia, rooting from the Latin, ‘vitulus’ which is a one year old calf.
2 – Italy has more volcanoes than any other country in Europe. This large number of volcanoes is mainly due to the fact that the land lies on a fault line, which is the cause of volcanoes. A number of these volcanoes are active, or have been active in the past hundred years and are very famous, including Vesuvius, Etna and Stromboli. This is actually incredibly beneficial, offering fertile soil to grow crops such as grapes and olives.
3- Italy has introduced a number of foods to the rest of Europe. Italian food is loved and eaten all across the world, having introduced many of the staple foods that we enjoy today. This includes: coffee, ice cream (via the Chinese) and fruit pies. The Italian’s also claim to have made the first French fries (though this is also contended by both France and Belgium). Where would we be today without coffee and ice cream?
4 – The Italian flag has evolved into its modern state over hundreds of years. With its three vertical bocks of colour having been inspired by the French flag, there are multiple theories about what the three different colours stand for, with one interpretation being that the green represents the landscape, the white representing the snow-topped mountains, and the red representing the bloodshed that brought Italy independence. Another theory is that the green, white and red represents hope, faith and charity.
5 – When McDonald’s first opened in Rome in 1986, it sparked much protest. For a country which is so proud of its rich cultural heritage and foods, there is little surprise that the fast food chain caused outrage. In protest, many local establishments embarked on daily food purists, handing out free plates of spaghetti and other traditional dishes to remind people of their culinary roots.
6 – Almost four-fifths of the Italian landscape is made up of mountains or hills. In terms of landscape, Italy is the polar opposite of the Netherlands, which is very flat, with almost four-fifths of the land being mountainous or hilly. These are one of the main features of the beautiful Italian charm that is an inspiration to many stories and works of art.
7- At its peak, the Roman Empire covered 2.3 million miles. Within the 2.3 million miles was a a population of 120 million people, stretching from Portugal to Syria west to east, and Britain to the North African deserts from north to south. Incredible!
8 – Italy is considered by many to be the art capital of the world. It is said that Italy has more masterpieces per square mile than any other country in the world. The galleries, street art and museums are a real treat, certainly a must-visit on your Italian holidays.
9 – Before dinner, many Italians engage in the activity of la passeggiata. This is essentially an evening stroll; a long-standing social ritual where they wander the streets to see and be seen by others before settling down to their evening meal. This is a tradition that you might enjoy yourself, working up an appetite and engaging in the local life on your holiday, and your return home!
10. When pasta was first brought to Italy, it was served as a sweet dish! When the Arabs first brought dried pasta to Italy in the 13th century, it was served with honey and sugar, and eaten with the fingers, with the arm held high and the head tilted back. Another variation of it was simply for the pasta to be eaten plain. Tomato sauce as an accompaniment to pasta did not come about until the 17th century, and was quite revolutionary! Today, there are over 500 different types of pasta which are eaten throughout Italy.
BLUE GROTTO / ARPINGSTONE, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, PUBLIC DOMAIN.
Italy is one of the most popular destinations in world due to its unsurpassed cultural heritage – this country has got some of the finest monuments of architecture and art in world.
STROMBOLI / BLUCOLT, FLICKR, CC-BY-SA-2.0
Italy has several interesting volcanoes. Stromboli(Sicily) is on its own small island and has been erupting nearly continuously over the last 2000 years. Mount Etna (Sicily, 3329 m) is equally active and the eruptions of this volcano have caused much damage. Also of interest is the Solfatara volcanic crater (Campania) with its fumaroles and mud pools.
Cascate del Serio (Lombardy) is 315 metres high with powerful waterfalls in three cascades – the most impressive in Italy. Cascata delle Marmore (Umbria) is a man-made, powerful, 165 metre high waterfall. Grotta Cascata Varone (Trentino-Alto Adige) is a narrow gorge with a 98 metre high waterfall falling into it.
Among the most impressive caves are the Castellana Caves (Apulia) with their impressive 60 metre high vertical entrance. The second deepest known underwater sinkhole – cave system is the 392 m deep Pozzo del Merro (Lazio). Grotta Gigante (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) has the largest cave hall of the world available for tourists. The beautiful effect of sunlight in water is seen in the Blue Grotto (Capri, Campania), and the huge underwater Nereo Cave(Sardinia). Grotta Ispinigoli (Sardinia) reportedly has the highest stalagmite in Europe – 38 metres. Complesso del Monte Corchia (Tuscany) is the longest cave in Italy with a length of 53 kilometres.
Unusual and impressive biotope is (an area of uniform environmental conditions providing a living place for a specific assemblage of plants and animals) Campo Imperatore (Abruzzo) – the „Little Tibet” of Europe – an enormous mountainous grassland.
MAN MADE LANDMARKS
OSTUNI TOWN / JELLY, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS,CC-BY-SA-3.0
Italy is the birthplace of the Etruscan and Roman civilisations of which the latter has left numerous impressive monuments. But its heritage of Renaissance and Baroque architecture is especially rich, and has left many thousands of buildings and urban planning monuments which individually would serve as a central attraction in any other country of the world. Most likely no one would be able to see them all in his or her lifetime.
URBAN PLANNING MONUMENTS
Among the countless beautiful and interesting cities and towns there are several that deserve special notice:
VENICE / G.PAVILS, CC-BY-SA-3.0
- Venice – Veneto. One of the most unusual and most beautiful cities on Earth, containing an unbelievable amount of art and architecture values
- Centre of Florence – Tuscany. One of the most important centres in history for the development of art with numerous unique and beautiful monuments.
- San Gimignano – Tuscany. Medieval town with 14 defensive towers still standing.
- Crespi d’Adda – Lombardy. Fully realised idea of model factory town from the late 19th century.
- Centre of Siena – Tuscany. One of the most authentic, very impressive medieval cities.
- Urbino – Marche. Small but impressive Renaissance town, once an influential cultural centre.
- Noto – Sicily. Planned, beautiful Baroque town from the 18th century.
- Amalfi – Campania. Beautiful medieval town on beautiful, steep coast.
- Cinque Terre – Liguria. Five medieval towns set in dramatic coastal scenery.
- Pienza – Tuscany. Planned, ideal Renaissance town from the 15th century.
- Alberobello – Apulia. Picturesque town with numerous trulli – houses built in unusual technique, without mortar.
- Locorotondo and Ostuni – Apulia. White, beautiful, dense hilltop medieval towns.
SAINT MARK’S BASILICA / C.MULLER CC-BY-SA-3.0
The Byzantine style has several important representatives in Italy. The Basilica of San Vitale(Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna) is one of the best examples of this style, built in 548. One of the major architecture monuments of world is Saint Mark’s Basilica (Venezia, Veneto), built in 1094.
Castle of Sant’Aniceto (Calabria) is one of few remaining Byzantine fortifications in the world.
Sicily has buildings in a unique style, which is a mix of Norman, Italian and Arab influences. The Norman style unites some features of Byzantine and Romanesque styles and is a predecessor for the Gothic style. Palazzo dei Normanni in Palermo, Sicily (the 9th – 12th centuries) is a palace of Sicilian kings. Another unusual palace, also in Palermo, is La Cuba (1180). Powerful expressions of the beautiful Norman-Arab architecture are Monreale Cathedral (1180s) and Cefalù Cathedral (1131) – both in Sicily.
Many numerous defensive towers built by warring families have been preserved from this time period. The most impressive, besides San Gimignano, are the Two Towers of Bologna(Emilia-Romagna).
TWO TOWERS OF BOLOGNA / ONANYMOUS, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Some of the early examples of Romanesque architecture are San Pietro in Agliate (Lombardy, 875) and the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio (Milan, Lombardy), which was rebuilt in 1099. Other notable Romanesque monuments are: Pisa Cathedral, Pisa Baptistery, the Leaning Tower of Pisa (Tuscany), Santa Maria in Cosmedin Church(Rome), Florence Baptistry (Tuscany), Modena Cathedral (Modena, Emilia-Romagna).
Some of the most impressive Gothic style monuments in Italy:
- Milan Cathedral (Milan, Lombardy) – one of the most impressive buildings in world, built in 1386 – 1965
- Siena Cathedral (Siena, Tuscany) – this beautiful building unites Romanesque and Gothic styles, built in 1215 – 1263
- Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi (Assisi, Umbria) – Christian pilgrimage site of global importance, built in 1228 – 1253
- Santa Maria della Spina church (Pisa, Tuscany) – small but very beautiful church, built in 1230
- Castel del Monte (Apulia) – mysterious, impressive building resembling a fortification, built in 1240-1250
- Doge’s Palace (Venice, Veneto) – main power seat of once powerful state, unusual building built in 1309-1424
- Orvieto Cathedral (Orvieto, Umbria) – very ornate building, built in 1290 – 1591
In this time period the Ponte Vecchhio (Florence, Tuscany), was also built. It is an unusual structure consisting of a bridge covered with numerous buildings and shops.
The Renaissance style originated in Italy and this country by far has got the best examples of this style. Among the most famous ones should be mentioned:
FLORENCE CATHEDRAL / M.OBAL, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, CC-BY-SA-3.0
- Basilica di San Lorenzo (Florence, Tuscany) – one of the first Renaissance buildings, 1419 – 1480s
- Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral, Tuscany) – one of the most impressive buildings in world, mostly in Gothic style, but seen as one of the first Renaissance buildings, 1296 – 1469
- Palazzo Rucellai (Florence, Tuscany) – palace, in many respects a prototype for numerous future buildings, built in 1446-1451
- Villa Capra „La Rotonda” (Vicenza, Veneto) – prototype for many thousands of villas across the world, built in 1566-1592
- Villa d’Este (Tivoli, Lazio) – impressive villa and Renaissance garden, built in 1550-1570s
- Palazzo Farnese (Rome, Lazio) – impressive palace, built mainly in the first half of the 16th century
- Tempietto (Rome, Lazio) – small but harmonious and beautiful building inside San Pietro in Montorio church, built in 1502
- Certosa di Pavia (Lombardy) – enormous, beautiful Gothic – Renaissance monastery complex, built in 1396 – 1495
- Santa Maria delle Grazie (Milan, Lombardy) – impressive church, built after 1490
- Palazzo Medici Riccardi (Florence, Tuscany) – palace with innovative rusticated facade, built in 1445 – 1460
- Castelbrando (Veneto) – one of the most impressive Italian castles, rebuilt in the first half of the 16th century.
BASILICA OF SUPERGA / ROLLOPACK, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, CC-BY-SA-3.0
The Baroque style also originated in Italy, many of the best examples of this opulent style are found here:
- Church of the Gesu (Rome, Lazio) – one of Baroque prototype buildings replicated by Jesuits around the world, built in 1568-1580
- Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza (Rome, Lazio) – impressive church forming a single building with Palazzo della Sapienza, built in 1642-1660
- Palace of Caserta (Caserta, Campania) – the largest building built in Europe in the 18th century, built in 1752-1780
- Palazzina di caccia of Stupinigi (Stupinigi, Piedmont) – enormous royal hunting lodge, the early 18th century
- Basilica of Superga (Turin, Piedmont) – beautiful building on top of hill, built in 1717-1731
The flamboyant Sicilian Baroque style is unique. Distinctive examples are:
- „Collegiata” in Catania (1768)
- Cathedral of San Giorgio in Ragusa by Rosario Gagliardi
- Cathedral of San Giorgio in Modica (1693)
- Palazzo Villadorata in Noto (1733)
- Villa Palagonia in Bagheria (started in 1705)
- Church of San Benedetto in Catania (started in 1705)
- Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi – palace with opulent interiors in Palermo (sometimes around 1780)
BALCONIES OF PALAZZO VILLADORATA IN NOTO / SAILKO, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, CC-BY-SA-3.0
One of the most impressive buildings from the late 19th century is the 167 metres high Mole Antonelliana (Turin, Piedmont). Highly controversial and nonetheless impressive is the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II (Rome, Lazio), 1935.
PARKS AND GARDENS
The oldest academic botanical garden of world is located in Italy – Orto Botanico di Padova (Veneto, established in 1545). Also very impressive are the Parco dei Mostri and Villa Lante gardens (Lazio) – some of the most interesting Mannerist gardens from the 16th century.
One of the largest recent civilisations – the Roman Empire – rose up in Italy, leaving countless valuable artefacts. But there have been numerous other ancient cultures in Italy, each of which left behind interesting monuments.
Val Camonica valley in Lombardia has one of the richest collections of petroglyphs in the world – up to 300 000, made in the period over 9000 – 1000 BC. Paglicci Cave (Apulia) has Paleolithic cliff paintings and numerous interesting ancient artefacts, as does the remote Grotta del Genovese (Levanzo island, Sicily).
SU NURAXI DI BARUMINI / GAYGUY, WIKIPEDIA ITALIA CC-BY-SA-1.0
Sardinia has more than 8000 specific megaliths – nuraghe. The most outstanding complex of these structures is Su Nuraxi di Barumini, built sometimes around 1 500 BC and Nuraghe Sant’Antine. Somewhat similar are Sesi of Pantelleria (Pantelleria island south from Sicily).
Other unusual ancient cultural monuments are the Necropolis of Pantalica (Sicily, the 13th – 7th century BC) and the prehistoric cave dwellings which are still in use – Sassi di Matera (Basilicata).
An influential local culture was the Etruscan civilisation which left such monuments as the Tumulus of Montefortini (Tuscany, 7tc c. BC), necropolis of Cerveteri (Lazio, the 9th – 2nd century BC) and necropolis of Tarquinia (Lazio) as well as the unique Tomb of the Roaring Lions (Lazio, the 7th century BC).
Greek colonies in Sicily have left some of the best examples of Ancient Greek architecture – such as the Valle dei Templi (at Agrigento, the 5th century BC) and the ancient city of Selinunte. On the mainland some of the most interesting ancient Greek sites are Paestumand Velia (both in Campania).
The Roman civilisation has left numerous diverse monuments and it is impossible to list all of the significant ones. Here one could mention:
COLOSSEUM, INTERIOR / WKNIGHT94, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, CC-BY-SA-3.0
- Roman Forum (Rome, Lazio) – ancient centre of Roman civilisation with ruins of numerous important buildings
- Colosseum (Rome, Lazio) – the largest Roman amphitheatre ever built, 70 – 80 AD
- Trajan’s Market (Rome, Lazio) – very impressive complex of Roman ruins
- Pompeii (Campania) – the best preserved ancient Roman town eliminated by volcanic pyroclastic flows in 79 AD
- Herculaneum (Campania) – Roman town eliminated by volcanic pyroclastic flows in 79 AD and thus – well preserved
- Stabiae (Campania) – one more well preserved Roman town covered by ashes of Vesuvius
- Hadrian’s Villa (Lazio) – suburban government complex of Emperor Hadrian, the early 2nd century AD
- Baths of Caracalla (Rome, Lazio) – complex of Roman baths, area 13 ha
- Via Appia (starts in Rome, Lazio) – one of the most impressive Roman roads
- Aurelian walls (Rome, Lazio) – some of the most impressive city walls in world
- Catacombs of Rome (Rome, Lazio) – important heritage of early Christian art, the 2nd – 4th century AD