Italy is a country on the western side of the Mediterranean Sea, encircled by multiple islands. The country has some of the world’s most famous monuments, celebrated art and renowned cuisine. It also gave us such legendary figures as Galileo, Dante, and Da Vinci.
There is a strong emphasis on politeness in Italy. When greeting a stranger you should say hello (buongiorno or buonasera), and when leaving you should say goodbye (arrivaderci). Italians are generally very family-oriented, with children often living with their parents into their late twenties. They seek advice from their elders and rely on them to teach them about their culture and traditions.
Food is considered an art form by Italians, and meals are a time to enjoy a leisurely meal with friends or family. Aperitivos (pre-meal beverages) and antipasti dishes start the meal off, followed by primi dishes such as pasta, risottos, soups, or vegetable-based entrees. Secondi or meat-based dishes may follow. Contorni or sides are served with the main course, and dolci or desserts complete the meal. Italians drink wine with lunch and dinner, and typically savor each sip.
In the Middle Ages Italy became a major hub for trade and cultural development with the rise of cities like Venice, Florence and Milan. However, the country experienced some internal strife and when the Black Death hit the country in the 14th century it left it in turmoil. Nevertheless, the Renaissance provided a rebirth of art, literature and science with such luminaries as Dante, Michelangelo and Raphael.
Italy’s economy is primarily service-based with tourism being one of the country’s primary industries. It also has a significant manufacturing sector and is an important exporter of automobiles, fashion, and machinery.
Its natural beauty is evident throughout the country, from the snow-capped mountains of the north to the sandy beaches of the south. It is home to two of the largest Mediterranean islands, Sardinia and Sicily. Its landscape is varied and picturesque with a patchwork of farmland, mountain ranges, hilly areas, plains, and lakes.
While Italy is known for its wealth and gastronomy, there are still pockets of poverty in the country. The 1970s was a decade of political violence from both the left and right, including the kidnapping and murder of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro and the bombing of Bologna station. The economic crisis of the late 1980s left Italy struggling, but it soon recovered.