Friday, February 17, 2012

Italian Republic

Tomorrow I've got a day trip planned to Venice, Italy.  So here's a little bit about the Italian Republic.  Italy is easy to find on the map because it looks like a boot.  It also includes the islands of Sardinia and Sicily.  The population is over 61.25 million people and the country is slightly larger than Arizona.

Italia is also home to two independent countries.  San Marino is in the north and the Vatican is located within Rome, Italy's capital city.  There are no border checks, everyone speaks Italian and uses the Euro.

In 1861, the regional states on the peninsula, plus Sardinia and Sicily, became a nation under King Victor Emmanuel II.  In the early 1920s, Mussolini's Fascist dictatorship ended parliamentary government and eventually placed Italy as an Axis power.  Italy was defeated in WWII and a democratic republic replaced the monarchy in 1946.  Italy was a founding member of NATO and the European Union.

There is a big difference between the north and the south.  On average, people in the north earn more than the EU average while people in the south earn less.  The north is more industrial with lots of private companies driving the economy.  The south is less developed, is more agricultural, has higher unemployment and a larger dependency on government welfare.

Way cool that the Italian €1 coin features an image from Da Vinci.
Italy is part of the Schengen zone so there is open travel with the rest of the EU.  However, the country's long coastline makes it a target for illegal immigration from southeast Europe and northern Africa.  Other persistent problems for the country include organized crime, corruption, a large underground economy and a public debt that is ~120% of its GDP.  The current government is rolling out various austerity measures in an effort to turn things around.

But for all of its problems, Italy is still a major player.  It has the fourth-largest economy in Europe behind Germany, France and the United Kingdom (3rd in the Eurozone because the UK still uses the £).  Globally it is the seventh-largest economy and it holds the world's third-largest gold reserves.

The country is absolutely beautiful!  The food is amazing.  And how can you not love a country that produces the most wine in the world?  So far, I've made it to Milan, Florence, Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano and Rome.  But there are still so many more places to visit on the mainland, in addition to Sardinia and Sicily.  Naples, Bologna, Verona, Turin, Bari, and Padua are all on my list.  The country is rich in history and it is home to the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't been to Italy yet either. I just learned though how young it was when I moved to Europe, I didn't realize it wasn't united before 1861. The creativity of the Italians is awe-inspiring!