Known for its iconic sloping hilltops, ancient and medieval churches and cities with stunning art, architecture and cuisine, Italy is a country with a rich history that continues to shape modern life. The Roman and Renaissance periods gave rise to a powerful culture that still exerts influence today, including its fashion, art, music and cuisine. The Italian language is one of the most widely spoken in Europe, and the Italian people are known for their friendliness and easy rapport. The family is a central value and meals are often long and leisurely, with conversations flowing freely.

A country that juts deep into the Mediterranean Sea, Italy is surrounded by some of the most diverse landscapes on earth. Its rugged Alps are the highest in the world and overlook lakes, rivers, glaciers, villages and towns that spill down to its Mediterranean coastline.

The beauty of Italy’s countryside has inspired artists and writers for centuries, and the culture influenced many of the great icons of Western civilization. The Roman Empire, the emergence of Christianity and the birth of Humanism are all linked to Italy.

Italians are more provincial than other Europeans, with strong ties to their region, city, town or even a ‘quartiere’ (district within a town). This can result in some Italians feeling a stronger connection to the specific areas they travel through than with their nation as a whole.

As a result of this, Italians tend to feel strong loyalty to their communities and families. They also value a well-rounded education, resulting in highly ranked public schools. Private schooling is also an option for Italians.

The official language is Italian, and nearly 93 percent of the population speaks the language natively, according to the BBC. There are a variety of different dialects, including Sardinian, Friulian, Neapolitan, Sicilian and Ligurian. Those interested in learning more about the language can visit the official website of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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