Of all the trips we have ever taken, the romantic holiday to Italy is still in my mind and heart, resonating magic in my everyday life for months, not year after the fact. Italys long and lasting past, her extraordinary history stretches back to antiquity, her volatile geology, which in turn has created its dramatic geography, combines everyone to make Italy a royal land of stories, always ready to be discovered and celebrate again at this years crop of avid tourists. If you will be among them (the eager tourists, it is) in the coming months, and because it is rude to turn out unprepared and uninformed, heres a small background and story on one of Europes most popular holiday destinations.
Probably the most recognizable feature on Europes map extends Italys ever-fancy boat from the Alps to the north, 760 miles south to the Mediterranean. Of the west coast of Italy lies the Tyrrhenian sea, while the east coast is kissed by the Adriatic Sea. With a population of over 58 million and 300,000 square kilometers of land, Italy is the fourth largest country in Western Europe and has so much to offer tourists and holidaymakers you will be spoiled for choice.
Visitors to Italy have long been awake for holidays along their dramatic coasts, to explore their picturesque Tuscan hills, or to tour her volumes of art treasures and archaeological finds. But did you know that Italy also has a lot of amazing mountain scenery? Travelers in northern Italy fall in love with the Italian lakes: Como, Maggiore, Garda and Lugano, surrounded by some of the most breathtaking landscapes of Italys Dolomites.
Apennine Range goes north-south through the vertical length of the boat. Apennins offer even more beautiful scenery for your digital camera to swallow. The Apennines are home to several of the worlds most famous volcanoes - Stromboli, Vesuvius and Etna among them. Sicily is the island just outside the wests southwest tip. Sardinia is the vast island off the west coast, in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Italys ancient past
Archaeologists tell me that the migration of early Indo-Europeans to the Italian peninsula probably began over four thousand years ago. Greeks settled the southern tip of Italy in the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. while the ancient Etruscan civilization dominated the Peninsula from the ninth century BC until the Romans swept through Gaul to the Mediterranean six hundred years later.
After the fall of Romes great empire in the fifth century AD the Italian peninsular became a foreign invasion from many sides and as a result, developed into a collection of fractious states and small kingdoms.
Within a few hundred years, the French, the Ottomans and the Holy Roman Emperors, all had war at war and fought fighting to claim Italys territories at different times. With the advent of global exploration in the Middle Ages and the subsequent rise in international trade, wealthy city states like Venice and Genoa increased to prominence and power. The Italian provinces were first united in a country of Napoleon who conquered the Italian peninsula and proclaimed the king in 1805. In 1861 Victor Emmanuel II, former king of Sardinia, had taken power and Italy now included Veneto and Pappal Rome.
Twentieth century Italy
After the First World War, Benito Mussolini organized his fascist party and became the 1922 prime minister. Italy was now a dictatorship of imperialist patterns, invading and occupying Ethiopia in 1935 and Greece in 1940. Allied with Adolf Hitler during WWII, the regime of Mussolini was judged and executed by Italian partisans in 1945. The Italian Democratic Republic was founded the following year.
In the latter half of the 20th century, the Italian government and politics were a very volatile, rotating door store, filled with corruption scandals and patronage, and despite best efforts, it is still in many ways today. In 2003, the Italian Parliament approved a law that gives immunity to prosecution of senior officials during their time. As is the case in many capitalist systems, the governments positions are still distributed as political benefits, and large companies buy lucrative government agreements with their financial support.
Italy has little in the way of natural resources, so most raw materials needed by industry, including more than three quarters of the countrys energy consumption, are imported. Agriculture has become less dominant than before, but cereals, livestock, dairy, fruit and olive groves are still prominent, which of course is vineyard production of Italys most famous export, wine. In addition, tourism is a major contributor to Italys income.