Italy (Italian: Italia), officially known as the Italian Republic (Italian: Repubblica italiana), is the Southern European country which gave us two popular foodstuffs (pasta and pizza), the Latin alphabet (used by Romance, Germanic, Celtic, and many other languages), opera, ballet, The Renaissance, the Republic (the form of government, not the book), musical notation, the university system (started in Bologna in 1088 A.D.), eyeglasses, Humanism, Roman Catholicism, the world's oldest active firearms manufacturing company (Beretta), Fascism and The Mafia. Despite importing its two major religious influences (the Greek gods influenced the pre-existing Roman religion in classical times and Christianity was imported from Israel), Italy has been a major center of theological thought. The country is a member of both The European Union and NATO. Now has the Euro, so Ridiculous Exchange Rates jokes no longer work. One of the top 8 largest economies in the world by GDP and easily in the top 20 by any economic measurement, despite corruption, few natural resources, a backwards South, an archaic political structure and incompetent (at best) politicians.
The earliest known instance of the word Italy applied as a political entity was during the Socii War against The Roman Republic. The latter had started abusing and mistreating many of its client republics, including the ones who had loyally sided with the Republic against Hannibal Barca during the Punic Wars. Reformers who tried to bring their grievances and extend citizenship outside the city-state, such as the populare Gracchi and the optimate-moderate Marcus Livius Drussus were rebuffed and brutally murdered. The latter's mysterious death was the spark that led to the brutal war between an alliance of tribes from the south who called themselves Italia, and minted coins showing a bull (a heraldic symbol for the South) goring a wolf (a symbol of Rome). The war resulted in 300,000 deaths but by the end of it, even if the Romans won, citizenship was extended across Italy (though not universally to all classes and peoples). When The Roman Empire was erected, Augustus described the entire peninsula as Italia more or less under its current territorial and geographical extent, but when the empire fell, the geographical factors that hampered and prevented its unity reasserted themselves and the Peninsula returned to what it had been in the pre-Roman era, a bunch of city-states, small towns and isolated countryside divided by geography, dialect, wealth, class and ideology. Unity under Rome was a hard-won tragic struggle, for both the Romans and the non-Romans. But it was even harder after the Empire fell and the various regional powers asserted themselves, taking much advantage of the geographical isolation (the many mountains that divide the peninsula) which on the other hand did allow for an astonishing regional and linguistic diversity to develop and flourish, that was a major aspect of the glories of The Renaissance.
Regionalism is still quite strong in Italy, a reflection of a weaker and more fragmented national identity compared to people in other countries. This is directly tied to the fact that it has a much smaller history as a single unified state than other European powers. It had unity under the Roman Republic and Empire for some 500-odd years, but it spent the next 1300-odd years in The City State Era. The modern unified Italy dates to the Risorgimento of 1861, making its history as a unified state younger than the United States, England, France, Spain and Russia.
There were many attempts at unification until the 19th Century with individual city-states like the Florentine Republic, the Venetian Republic, and the Genoan Republic and several other Duchies becoming great powers and expanding their reach and territory. However, their oligarchical and merchant origins clashed with national consciousness and led them to depend on mercenaries as well as alliance with neighboring kingdoms during the Italian Wars. The Catholic Church should have unified the Peninsula under The Papal States, and they came close a few times. But the Church became a major institution and N.G.O. Superpower by legitimizing and recognizing the Kingdoms of neighboring powers, who naturally saw the advantage of one of their own countrymen or favored candidates becoming The Pope, or failing that, neuter the papacy from interfering in their secular power. Likewise, a unified Italy under the Church was not in the interests of most, let alone all, Italians. This led to the Guelph-Ghibelline Wars, the Avignon Papacy, The Protestant Reformation and the Wars of Religion, which naturally made Italy prey to neighboring powers. Parts of Central, North and South Italy were at various times governed by Arabs, Normans, Franks, the Holy Roman Empire, the French Kingdom, the Spanish Empire, Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Eastern Roman Empire also made an attempt of Putting the Band Back Together, but their conflict with the Ostrogoths was devastating enough to the region to end nostalgia for the days of antiquity, and the Venetians and Normans later crippled the Byzantines during The Crusades.
Such charming experiences tend to make Italians quite cynical about nationalism, to the extent of seeing the Risorgimento and the succeeding Italian Republic not as a truly national entity but merely another hegemonic entity out to exploit them. Economically, there is major imbalance and difference, with the North being wealthier than the South, with Milan's GDP exceeding that of many countries, and this and the other experiences outlined above led to mass emigration of Italians to other countries, including South America (Argentina), the United Kingdom, Australia, France and of course the United States. It is also reflected in the culture of the Italians who tend to sarcastically mock anything and anyone if given a chance — even themselves (an ancient tradition dating back to antiquitynote . Another national quirk is complaining: Italians definitely have a love-hate relationship with their own country, and will quickly point out all its flaws and passionately complain about all the things that don't work (politics, infrastructures, bureaucracy, the long list goes on), often joking that these things could only happen in Italy because we can't manage anythingnote . While there's definitely some Truth in Television—as this page explains — to many people it's just a normal conversational topic, kinda like Brits talking about the weather. It's a land of snark indeed (which might be why the Brits and Italians have historically gotten on rather well—particularly as regards Italians moving to Britain).
The so-called "dialects" are not variations of standard Italian, but real languages with their own grammar and pronunciation: the differences between them can be so huge that, ironically, an Italian living in Frascati would have an easier time understanding, let's say, a Spaniard than another Italian living in Rome if both Italians spoke their respective dialect — and Frascati is in the Metropolitan City of Rome Capital.note However, all Italians learn Standard Italian (based on the Florence variety of the Tuscan dialect, as the Tuscans will proudly tell you) in school and since the rise of television and RAI and the private owned media companies that followed, the regional dialect has given way to greater standardization. All these languages reflect the different local cultures: in fact, every Italian region has its own unique traditions and foods, and it's not rare to notice a bit of rivalry between regions, each one of them claiming to have the best people, or the best dishes. Hollywood Italy erroneously tends to portray all Italians as dark haired, olive-skinned folksnote either living in Rome, Tuscany, Milan, Venice, Naples or Sicily, but real Italy is actually a diverse country with radically different people everywhere you go. This has often led to stereotypes even between Italians themselves, especially during the 1950s and 1960s, when many southern Italians emigrated to northern Italy; northern Italians weren't pleased and (very) often looked down on them, labeling them as lazy and poor; in turn, southern Italians considered their northern fellows stuck-up and boring. Luckily, it got better with time and nowadays these stereotypes are usually Played for Laughs, as no one really takes them seriously anymore (mostly). Italians identify both by region and by nationality, distinguishing between Central, Northwest, Northeast, South and Insular Italy, which is more or less how it worked even in the Roman era, where Roman citizenship sat side-by-side with their regional and provincial identity and label. Since it was the Kingdom of Piedmont (ruled by the House of Savoy) that ended up uniting the Italians, the colour of the House of Savoy being blue, is why Italian sports teams play in blue to this day.
It wasn't until the 1920s that the majority of Italians started speaking standard Italian — the biggest contributions being the advent of mandatory schooling (1859), radio (1924) and television (1954). This means that only older generations can really speak their local dialect, which is used mostly at home or in informal contexts anyway; dialect usage among younger generations is very rare, although it's still extremely easy to figure out where anyone is from just by how they pronounce standard Italian, as the accents vary tremendously across the peninsula — it often takes as little as few kilometers to hear a noticeable difference. Speaking any local dialect is nowadays considered a quite provincial and (at times) gross habit. Despite all of the Self-Deprecation, if there's one thing Italians are proud of, it's their cuisine, everything related to pasta, and messing with their traditional food is a huge Berserk Button (Like pasta with ketchup or pizza with pineapplenote ). They also drink coffee in tons of different ways.
Europeans and people in other countries are often jealous of the Italian lifestyle, and especially their climate, which the media presents as sunny, pleasant Mediterranean weather everywhere; while this is mostly true for the coastal regions of peninsular Italy, the landlocked central and northern regions tend to have duller and colder weather (for example the Po Valley, Italy's largest plain, is infamous for its thick fog banks, and while snow is a relatively rare sight in southern Italy, mostly only being seen in the mountains, the central and northern part always gets snow in the winter).
Italy was a late-comer to the scramble for Africa, but it eventually managed to acquire some hard-scrabble colonies (Libya, Somalia, Eritrea) between 1882 and 1911; World War I brought a chance for the new country to shine on the world stage, and Italy was persuaded to leave its previous alliance with Germany and Austria (it should be noted, however, that said alliance was purely defensive in nature and that the majority of Italians despised the Austrians, who had been their long-time enemies) and join the Allies (1915) in exchange for some territorial gains at Austria's expense. They got it, but still felt short-changed. The rise of Red October inspired a major revolutionary wave in Italy, further polarizing the regional and class divide and fracturing the pre-war constitutional monarchy. This paved the way for the rise of Benito Mussolini and Fascist Italy. During The '30s, Mussolini at times seemed like he could tilt towards an anti-Nazi side (similar to the Greek dictators, who were friendly with England) despite fighting alongside Hitler during the fascist intervention of the Spanish Civil War, but he eventually decided to fight on Hitler's side.
During World War II, Mussolini's main contribution was the disastrous invasion of Greece and sundry other blunders which led to the Allied Invasion of Italy. This eventually led to him being toppled first by his fellow fascists. King Victor Emmanuel III then appointed Marshal Pietro Badoglio as his replacement and in 1943 and, under his rule, Italy signed on with the Allies, while the Nazis busted Mussolini out from prison, made him one of their puppets and invaded and occupied parts of Italy alongside collaborators and fascists. Eventually, the partigiani (the Italian guerrillas fighting the occupying German forces and their fascist collaborators) caught Mussolini and he became the only major European dictator of the pre-war era to be toppled and executed by his own people (complete with a proverbial ritualistic mocking of his corpse), a fact that quite a few Italians are still proud of, especially when they note that Hitler stayed in power till the Red Army marched in Berlin (committing suicide in part because of what happened to Mussolini), while Stalin and Franco died in their sleep. The Constitutional Monarchy under Victor Emmanuel III did not survive the war, while his successor King Umberto II only reigned for one month, later to abdicate. For the first time since before 27 BCE, Italy came to be governed under a unified Republican state.
Modern Italy manages to be one of the world's leading economies, despite the country having all the political stability of a pyramid of cards in front of an active fan (seriously, since the birth of republican Italy, the government lasted less than a year in average!) and an (ex, for now) Prime Minister convicted and still under investigation for all manner of corruption, white-collar crimes and rather more interesting crimes. The main Italian car company is Turin-based Fiat Translation , which owned Chrysler (marking the second time a European car company owned Chrysler, the first being German Daimler corporation), until Dutch conglomerate Stellantis acquired both of them; ENI and ENEL are two major players in the oil industry and electricity, respectively, and Italy's Unicredit is one of Europe's largest banks. It is no surprise that just about every major Italian company is headquartered in or north of Rome.
Italy is also the only country in the world whose territory completely surrounds two other, distinct countries as landlocked enclaves. They are San Marino, sandwiched between the Emilia-Romagna and Marche Regions in the centre-north of Italy, and Vatican City, fully contained within the city of Rome.
- Etruscan Civilization
- Ancient Rome
- The Migration Period (or Barbarian Invasions for them)
- The City State Era
- Wars of Italian Independence
- Fascist Italy
- Republican Italy
- Culture of Italy
- Giffoni Honorees
- Italian Media
- Leone d'Oro
The Italian Flag
Emblem of Italy
The Italian national anthem
The official title of the anthem is Il Canto degli Italiani ("The Song of the Italians"), though it's commonly known as "Fratelli d'Italia" ("Brothers of Italy") or "Inno di Mameli" ("Mameli's Anthem"), from its lyricist Goffredo Mameli, who composed it in 1847 along with musician Vincenzo Novaro.
Some fun facts: the song became the official national anthem only in 2017. The anthem for the Kingdom of Italy (1861-1948) was the Marcia Reale ("Royal March"), because the lyrics of Il Canto degli Italiani were seen as "too republican" for the current regime. After Italy became a republic in 1948, the Song was a de facto anthem for almost 70 years; this has led to embarassing moments during certain events held in other countries, when foreign orchestras played the Royal March in front of Republican Italian authorities because it was the last known official anthem.
The song has always been (and still is) quite controversial among the populace, and there have been many proposals to replace it with a better piece of music, the most known of which is the chorus "Va, pensiero" from the opera Nabucco (which, albeit Awesome Music, as a national anthem would be a major case of Lyrical Dissonance since it's the lament of the Hebrew slaves in Babylon).
The yes at the end of the anthem is always heard during popular events like soccer games, but it might not be present if the anthem is played in more official occasions: some people say this is due to the fact that the yes was added under Mussolini's dictatorship, but this claim is disputed, and many others just think that that yes at the end is just unclassy and unfit for formal occasions.
The first verse and the chorus is usually sung by many Italians.
- Unitary parliamentary republic
- President of the Republic: Sergio Mattarella
- President of the Council of Ministers: Giorgia Meloni
- President of the Senate: Ignazio La Russa
- President of the Chamber of Deputies: Lorenzo Fontana
- Capital and largest city: Rome
- Population: 60,317,116
- Area: 301,340 km² (116,350 sq mi) (71st)
- Currency: Euro (€) (EUR)
- ISO-3166-1 Code: IT
- Country calling code: 39
- Highest point: Monte Bianco (4810 m/15,781 ft) (28thnote )
- Lowest point: Jolanda di Savoia (−3 m/−10 ft) (33rd)