the Republic of Italy occupies the 800km long boot-shaped peninsula between the Adriatic & Tyrrhenian seas in the central Mediterranean Sea, bounded in the north by France, Switzerland, Austria & the former Yugoslavia. It includes the islands of Sicily & Sardinia.
The Apennines mountain range form the backbone of the peninsula, separating the rocky west coast from the flatter, sandy east coast.
northern Italy has a more continental climate with hot, rather humid summers and much colder winters, and tends to be dominated by richly forested hills and alpine meadows of the Po valley which supports most of Italy's population - bounded to its north-east by the 65 million year old Dolomites mountain range.
southern Italy has a typically Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and warm, damp winters and tends to be dominated by arid maquis and semi-desert making life harder and more rural. Sicily is dominated by its active volcano, Mt Etna and the region frequently has earthquakes.
brief modern history:
Italy was first unified by Napoleon in 1805 but the state was suppressed by the Congress of Vienna. The country was re-united in 1870 under King Victor Emmanuel II. Lacking coal and mineral resources, never wealthy, and slow to industrialise, Italy lost population steadily throughout the late 19thC and early 20thC.
Somaliland and Eritrea were acquired as the basis of an empire in 1889-90.
Libya and Dodecanese were added in 1912, and Trieste after 1918.
became a Fascist dictatorship in 1923, becoming more organised and militaristic, conquering Ethiopia in 1936, Albania in 1939 and joining forces with Germany in World War II. With the defeat of Italian armies and the death of dictator Benito Mussolini in 1944, Italy left the war, losing all overseas territories, plus Trieste (which was returned in 1954).
the country became a republic in 1948.
Piedmont and Ligurra:
far north-western aspect of Italy on the French & Swiss borders and seaside resorts near Cannes & Monaco to the west.
the Po Valley:
this almost delta-shaped fertile plains in the north of Italy created by the Po River which arises from waters from the mountains to its north and also from the Apennines mountains along its south western border.
the apex of the valley is approximately marked by the region of Lombardy at the foot of the Italian Alps:
its north boundaries are marked by the cities of the Veneto region:
its southern boundaries are marked by the cities of the flat Emilia Romagna region:
Ravenna and Rimini on the coast
its wide eastern coastal aspect has:
north-western aspect of the peninsula
1hr train from Firenze
east of Tuscany and north of Rome.
this small landlocked region's overwhelmingly medieval character harkens one back to the mysticism and mysteries of the Dark Ages characterised by wonderful little hill towns.
the source of Rome's Tiber River.
less well known east coast region
Rome / Roma:
Castali Romani - http://www.initaly.com/regions/latium/castelli.htm
Fiuggi - hillside spa town - http://www.initaly.com/regions/hilltowns/fiuggi.htm
Cassino - Monte Cassino Abbey
see Naples - Amalfi
Naples / Napoli:
home of the pizza, spaghetti and Buffalo mozzarella.
once the 3rd largest city in Europe.
Mt Vesuvius and Pompeii
Mt Vesuvius most famous eruption was in AD 79 when it destroyed Pompeii, but it has had 20 eruptions in the 300 yrs since the great eruption of 1631 with the last being in 1944.
Sorrento coastal resort
Isle of Capri
Paestum: - the oldest, best-preserved and most beautiful Doric temple in existence today
Basilicata & Molise:
Reggio di Calabria