Italy Travel Information

Photo Italy (Italian Italia), republic in southern Europe, bounded on the north by Switzerland and Austria; on the east by Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea; on the south by the Ionian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea; on the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Ligurian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea; and on the northwest by France. It comprises, in addition to the Italian mainland, the Mediterranean islands of Elba, Sardinia, and Sicily, and many lesser islands. Enclaves within mainland Italy are the independent countries of San Marino and Vatican City; the latter is a papal state mostly enclosed by Rome, the capital and largest city of Italy. The area of Italy is 301,323 sq km (116,341 sq mi).

The climate of Italy is highly diversified, with extremes ranging from frigid in the higher elevations of the Alps and Apennines, to semitropical along the coast of the Ligurian Sea and the western coast of the lower peninsula. The average annual temperature, however, ranges from about 11° to 19°C (about 52° to 66°F); it is about 13°C (about 55°F) in the Po Valley, about 18°C (about 64°F) in Sicily, and about 14.5°C (about 58°F) in the coastal lowlands. Climatic conditions on the peninsula are characterized by regional variations, resulting chiefly from the configurations of the Apennines, and are influenced by tempering winds from the adjacent seas. In the lowlands regions and lower slopes of the Apennines bordering the western coast from northern Tuscany (Toscana) to the vicinity of Rome, winters are mild and sunny, and extreme temperatures are modified by cooling Mediterranean breezes. Temperatures in the same latitudes on the east of the peninsula are much lower, chiefly because of the prevailing northeastern winds. Along the upper eastern slopes of the Apennines, climatic conditions are particularly bleak. The climate of the peninsular lowlands below the latitude of Rome closely resembles that of southern Spain. In contrast to the semitropical conditions prevalent in southern Italy and along the Gulf of Genoa, the climate of the Plain of Lombardy is continental. Warm summers and severe winters, with temperatures as low as -15°C (5°F), prevail in this region, which is shielded from sea breezes by the Apennines. Heaviest precipitation occurs in Italy during the fall and winter months, when westerly winds prevail. The lowest mean annual rainfall, about 460 mm (about 18 in), occurs in the Apulian province of Foggia in the south and in southern Sicily; the highest, about 1,520 mm (about 60 in), occurs in the province of Udine in the northeast.

The Italian population consists almost entirely of native-born people, many of whom identify themselves closely with a particular region of Italy. The country can be generally divided into the more urban north (the area from the northern border and the port of Ancona to the southern part of Rome) and the mostly rural south (everything below this line, which is called the “Ancona Wall” by Italians). The more prosperous north contains most of Italy’s larger cities and about two-thirds of the country’s population; the primarily agricultural south has a smaller population base and a more limited economy. In recent decades the population has generally migrated from rural to urban areas; the population was 67 percent urban in 2000. The overwhelming majority of the people speak Italian (see Italian Language), one of the Romance group of languages of the Indo-European family of languages (see Italic Languages). German is spoken around Bolzano, in the north near the Austrian border. Other minority languages include French (spoken in the Valle d’Aosta region), Ladin, Albanian, Slovenian, Catalan, Friulian, Sardinian, Croatian, and Greek.

A largely agricultural country before World War II (1939-1945), Italy has developed a diversified industrial base in the north, which contributes significantly to the economy. In 2000 the gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $1.07 trillion, or about $18,620 per capita; industry contributed 30 percent to the value of domestic output, services 68 percent, and agriculture (including forestry and fishing) 3 percent. Italy essentially has a private-enterprise economy, although the government formerly held a controlling interest in a number of large commercial and manufacturing enterprises, such as the oil industry (through the Italian state petroleum company) and the principal transportation and telecommunication systems. In the mid-1990s Italy was transferring government interest in many enterprises to private ownership. An ongoing problem of the Italian economy has been the slow growth of industrialization in the south, which lags behind the north in most aspects of economic development. Government efforts to foster industrialization in the south have met with mixed results, as problems with the workforce and the overriding influence of the criminal groups known collectively as the Mafia have discouraged many large corporations from opening operations there. Many southerners have migrated to northern Italy in search of employment. Unemployment remains a problem throughout the country, however; the unemployment rate remains at about 11 percent of the working-age population. The large national debt has also plagued Italy’s economy: The national budget of Italy in 1999 included revenue of $488 billion and expenditure of $495 billion. In keeping with provisions of the Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union (EU), Italy is attempting to reduce its budget deficit. Progress was evident by 1996, with the debt reduced to 7 percent of GDP, although still far from the goal of 3 percent.

Important: Travel to Italy may require a travel visa. Whether a visa is required for travel depends on citizenship and purpose of journey. Please be sure to review Travisa's Italy visa instructions for details. Visa instructions for other countries are available on our do I need a visa page.

Country Statistics

Full country name: Italian Republic
Capital city: Rome
Area: 301,340 sq km
Population: 61,261,254
Ethnic groups: Italian
Languages: Italian
Religions: Christian 80%
Government: republic
Chief of State: President Giorgio NAPOLITANO
Head of Government: Prime Minister Mario MONTI
GDP: 1.847 trillion
GDP per captia: 30,500
Annual growth rate: 0.4%
Inflation: 2.9%
Agriculture: fruits, vegetables, grapes, potatoes, sugar beets, soybeans, grain, olives
Major industries: tourism, machinery, iron and steel, chemicals, food processing, textiles, motor vehicles, clothing, footwear, ceramics
Natural resources: coal, mercury, zinc, potash, marble, barite, asbestos, pumice, fluorspar, feldspar, pyrite
Location: Southern Europe, a peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea, northeast of Tunisia
Trade Partners - exports: Germany 13.3%, France 11.8%, US 5.9%, Spain 5.4%, Switzerland 5.4%, UK 4.7%
Trade Partners - imports: Germany 16.5%, France 8.8%, China 7.7%, Netherlands 5.5%, Spain 4.7%