Italy: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, history, size, population, and government of the country Italy.



Location--Described as a "boot kicking a 3-cornered hat," Italy is comprised of a 700-mi.-long peninsula (the boot) extending southeast from continental Europe into the heart of the Mediterranean; 2 large islands, Sardinia and Sicily (the hat); and numerous small islands. The Alps separate northern Italy from France, Switzerland, Austria, and Yugoslavia.

How Created--Italy was proclaimed a nation on March 17, 1861, after a long struggle for unity. Although her ancient history shows there were inhabitants before 1500 B.C., the geographic entity of Italy had never been successfully united. Greek, Carthaginian, and Etruscan civilizations existed there even before the rise of Rome, but they were continually at war among themselves and with tribes of Gauls and Celts from the north. Even under the rule of the Roman Empire the provinces were not completely subjugated.

Size--116,314 sq. mi. (310,258 sq. km.), about the size of Florida and Georgia combined.

Population--56,500,000: Italian, 98.1%; Romansh, 0.7%; Austrian, 0.4%; other, 0.8%. 98.8% Roman Catholic.

Who Rules--A parliamentary republic with 2 houses: a Senate and Chamber of Deputies. The President, a figurehead, is elected every 7 years. He nominates the Premier who, in turn, selects the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) from among members of Parliament. Both houses are elected by popular vote for a maximum of 5 years.

A separate judiciary branch, based largely on Roman law, has partial judicial review of legislation. A Constitutional Court is roughly equivalent but not as strong as the U.S. Supreme Court. The highly centralized Government appoints executives for the 93 provinces and 20 regions which have limited governing powers.

Who REALLY Rules--The Premier and his Cabinet, the top vote-getters from major parties, plan policy and make major decisions. Neither the Government nor the bureaucracy has efficient means of gathering and assessing information so the decision makers rely on data and ideas furnished by pressure groups. Often, major industrialists furnish the economic reports which are the basis for major economic policy decisions.

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