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Italy Culture, Geography and History
Culture and Customs of Italy
With the Renaissance, Vespa, slow-food movement, opera, Valentino, espresso, the Colosseum and the Sistine Chapel, the culture of Italy is as rich as its food. And with iconic cities like Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples featuring reminders of the past around every corner, it's easy to see why Italians are so very proud of their heritage. Italy drips with sensational artwork, ancient icons, ornate architecture and historic sights. The streets are filled with people and places that exude character and charisma, and the famous Italian artists, inventors and public figures that have contributed so much to the world are openly adored and celebrated.
In general, Italians place great value on family, food and the enjoyment of life. Good quality food made with the best ingredients is preferred to processed, fast food. Eating is a pleasure to be enjoyed with friends and family, not a necessary inconvenience. Respect for the family unit is paramount, with many families choosing to live close to each other for life. Community is also an important element of Italian life and this can be seen with neighbours enjoying a passeggiata (an after dinner stroll and chat).
Italians certainly live their lives with passion and this is evident in their zealous approach to driving, passionate patronage of football (soccer) matches and exuberant social life. It's common to see Italians debate politics, fashion, sport and current affairs with ferocious verve, which can sometimes be quite confronting for people from meeker cultural backgrounds. But lying underneath the bold, animated exterior of most Italians is a deep, passionate love of life itself.
Geography and Environment of Italy
Sharing borders with Switzerland, France, Slovenia and Austria, Italy also encompasses the independent territories of San Marino and Vatican City and includes the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
Home to mountains, volcanoes, islands, beaches, spectacular cliffs and expansive stretches of coastline, the natural landscapes of Italy provide dramatic scenery as well as popular places to explore and relax for locals and visitors alike.
The major cities of Italy, although industrialised, still retain buildings, churches and relics from the past. It's quite common to see modern shops housed in historic cobblestone streets and new Vespas perched in ancient piazzas. In smaller cities and more isolated areas, rural life is a whole lot slower and simpler. Permaculture remains popular, with many Italians growing fruit and vegetables in their backyards. The traffic and frenetic pace of the cities give way to idyllic olive groves, vineyards and farmhouses.
History and Government of Italy
This timeline of major events in Ancient Rome should help:
- 753 BC - Rome is founded
- 509 BC - Rome is declared a republic
- 100 BC - Julius Caesar is born
- 44 BC - Julius Caesar assassinated
- 30 BC - Antony and Cleopatra commit suicide, Egypt becomes a Roman province
- 27 BC - End of the Roman Republic, Augustus becomes sole ruler of the Roman Empire
- 14 AD - Augustus dies, Tiberius becomes Emperor
- 37 AD - Caligula becomes Emperor
- 41 AD - Caligula assassinated, Claudius becomes Emperor
- 43 AD - Britain is invaded by the Romans
- 54 AD - Claudius is poisoned, Nero becomes Emperor
- 64 AD - The Great Fire of Rome destroys a large part of the city
- 79 AD - Titus becomes Emperor, Mt Vesuvius destroys Pompeii and Herculaneum
- 117 AD - Hadrian becomes Emperor
- 161 AD - Marcus Aurelius becomes Emperor
- 313 AD - Constantine issues the Edict of Milan proclaiming religious tolerance and ending persecution of Christians
- 410 AD - Rome is sacked by the Visigoths
The rise of the Roman Empire has been the subject of much fascination, intrigue and interest from scholars, artists, travellers and students around the world, and through the ages. Dominating the world for many centuries, the modern world can pay great respect to the fruits of this mighty civilisation, with many important scientific inventions, art movements, architectural triumphs and philosophical ideas being born during Roman civilisation - most notably during the Renaissance.
Founded sometime around 750 BC, Rome endures as one of the most important cities in the world. Home to such famous citizens as Julius Caesar, Emperor Augustus, Claudius, Nero, Mark Antony and Marcus Aurelius, Rome has enjoyed the great highs of dominating the Mediterranean region and the artistic triumphs of the Renaissance, but also the lows of the Great Fire of Rome, which ended up destroying a large part of the city. Rome has survived natural disasters, political turmoil, feuding families, the plague, war and more, to be the great city that is it today. Still a cultural and political powerhouse, any visit to Italy needs to include Rome's major sites in order to understand the birth of this nation. The Colosseum, The Pantheon, Circus Maximus and Palatine Hill are all great places to start.
Lasting centuries, the amazing history of Ancient Rome is full of dramatic twists and turns, and we suggest you read up on it before visiting.
After the Renaissance, Italy was unified with Sardinia in 1861, becoming the Kingdom of Italy. After World War I, Italy came under the fascist rule of Benito Mussolini, who ruled until 1943. Siding with Nazi Germany in World War II, the Italian Army suffered many losses and ultimately surrendered in 1945. After a referendum in 1946, Italy became a Republic and flourished well during the 1950s and 1960s. The post-war period marks a time of economic progress for Italy, also largely reflected by the rest of the world's increased economic stability during this period of relative peace.
From the 1970s, Italians have lived with political upheaval and uncertainty. Corruption, organised crime, terrorism and government debt have created times of turmoil and concern. In 1994, media mogul Silvio Berlusconi was elected into office as Prime Minister but was forced to step down later in the year after losing support from his political partners. Undeterred, Berlusconi regained power in 2008 and has continued to rule Italy amid much controversy and scandal.
Italy at a glance
- Rome (population 3.8 million)
- 61 million
- (GMT+01:00) Amsterdam, Berlin, Bern, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna
- Type C (European 2-pin), Type F (German 2-pin, side clip earth), Type L (Italian 3-pin)
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