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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.


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

Geographic coordinates
42 50 N, 12 50 E

Map references

Area World Ranking: 72
Total 301,340 sq km
Land 294,140 sq km
Water 7,200 sq km
Note Includes Sardinia and Sicily

Area - comparative
Slightly larger than Arizona

Land boundaries
Total 1,899.2 km
Border countries
Austria 430 km, France 488 km, Holy See (Vatican City) 3.2 km, San Marino 39 km, Slovenia 199 km, Switzerland 740 km

7,600 km

Maritime claims
Territorial sea 12 nm
Continental shelf
200 m depth or to the depth of exploitation

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

Mostly rugged and mountainous; some plains, coastal lowlands

Elevation extremes
Lowest point Mediterranean Sea 0 m
Highest point
Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) de Courmayeur 4,748 m (a secondary peak of Mont Blanc)

Natural resources
Coal, mercury, zinc, potash, marble, barite, asbestos, pumice, fluorspar, feldspar, pyrite (sulfur), natural gas and crude oil reserves, fish, arable land

Land use
Arable land 26.41%
Permanent crops 9.09%
Other 64.5% (2005)

Irrigated land
39,500 sq km (2003)

Total renewable water resources
175 cu km (2005)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Total 41.98 cu km/yr (18%/37%/45%)
Per capita 723 cu m/yr (1998)

Natural hazards
Regional risks include landslides, mudflows, avalanches, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding; land subsidence in Venice
Significant volcanic activity; Etna (elev. 3,330 m), which is in eruption as of 2010, is Europe's most active volcano; flank eruptions pose a threat to nearby Sicilian villages; Etna, along with the famous Vesuvius, which remains a threat to the millions of nearby residents in the Bay of Naples area, have both been deemed "Decade Volcanoes" by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, worthy of study due to their explosive history and close proximity to human populations; Stromboli, on its namesake island, has also been continuously active with moderate volcanic activity; other historically active volcanoes include Campi Flegrei, Ischia, Larderello, Pantelleria, Vulcano, and Vulsini

Environment - current issues
Air pollution from industrial emissions such as sulfur dioxide; coastal and inland rivers polluted from industrial and agricultural effluents; acid rain damaging lakes; inadequate industrial waste treatment and disposal facilities

Environment - international agreements
Party to
Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
Signed, but not ratified
None of the selected agreements

Geography - note
Strategic location dominating central Mediterranean as well as southern sea and air approaches to Western Europe


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  Italy (Rome):

  GPS points from Italy (Rome)

Veniera Veneto

Barni Italy (general)

Chitarra Veneto

Bruncu Cinus Sardinia

Nervi Liguria

Montesanto Di Lussari Friuli Venezia Giulia

Torrente Valige Abruzzo
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