A map of Italy Bordered on three sides by the Mediterranean Sea, Italy is shaped like a boot about to kick a stone—the rugged island of Sicily. Rising in the far north are the high peaks of the Alps. Just to the south, their slopes drop down to a wide, triangular plain across which flow the River Po and its tributaries. Running down the length of the Italian peninsula all the way to its "toe" are the hills and mountains of the Apennines. To either side, the land slopes down to the Mediterranean coastal plain. Across the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west lies the island of Sardinia. Northern Italy has a mild continental climate with short, cool winters and hot summers. Away from the high ground, the climate is sunny and Mediterranean. Two millennia ago, Italy lay at the centre the Roman Empire. Today, it is a major European country. Its economy is the third largest in Europe and the eighth largest in the world.
More than 60 million people live in Italy, making it Europe’s fifth most populous country. Like other Western European countries, most of its people have a high level of education and literacy (ability to read and write), life expectancy and overall quality of life.
Italians are the modern descendants of the ancient Romans, as well as of the Etruscans, Gauls and Greeks, all of whom lived in Italy before them. The Italian language, is known as a “Romance” language: it has its origins in Latin, the language of the Romans. Since the early 1990s, small populations of Romanians, Albanians and Moroccans have come to live in Italy. Some areas of Italy, such as in the Apennines or parts of Sicily or Sardinia, are very rural and empty.
Riding a scooter, Rome
Pasta is thought to have been invented by the Etruscans, a people who lived in Italy 2500 years ago. Drawings found in an Etruscan tomb show people mixing pasta dough next to a cutting machine.
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