Italy, a long peninsula that juts deep into the Mediterranean Sea, offers some of the world’s most dramatic and scenic landscapes. The Alps loom in the north, with peaks that extend into Switzerland and France, while the Italian plain spreads south to Rome and Tuscany. The country is also home to the boot-shaped Adriatic Sea and a number of other lakes.

The Italian people are known for their love of good food and wine, their beautiful artwork, and the way they value their family. They have also influenced architecture and design on a global scale. For example, the rounded arches of Romanesque architecture that first emerged in the 11th century have become the dominant style used by cathedrals and important buildings throughout Europe—and the United States.

In addition to its rich cultural heritage, Italy is also a modern nation that takes an active role in international politics and cooperation. Italy and the United States share many common interests, including working together in NATO; in the UN and various regional organizations; in multilateral diplomacy; and in fighting drug trafficking and terrorism.

The official language of Italy is Italian, but the country has a diverse population with many different dialects. Some of these include Friulian, Lombardy, Piedmontese, Sardinian and Sicilian. Italians are also proud of their cuisine, which includes pasta, pizza and the famous bufala mozzarella cheese.

As the hub of the European economy, Italy is also a center for arts and culture. From the Renaissance period to contemporary art, Italian artists have made a lasting impact on the world. In fact, many of the most influential paintings in history were created by Italian artists.

Italy has a highly developed public transportation system that includes buses, trains and ferries. In larger cities, high-speed trains operated by Trenitalia can get you to your destination in less time than driving. However, renting a car may be the best way to explore smaller towns and vineyards.

The country’s most famous landmark is the leaning tower of Pisa, but Italy has a host of other fascinating attractions to discover. For example, the city of Naples is filled with art and culture, while Vesuvius and Sorrento offer a taste of the ancient world. The Amalfi Coast is a breathtaking view of sandy beaches and rocky crevices that stretches to the crystal clear waters of the Ionian Sea.

The wines of Puglia and Basilicata are renowned for their fruit-forward values, thanks to the region’s sunny Mediterranean climate. The long autumns and foggy winters of northwestern Italy are perfect for late-ripening Nebbiolo grapes that produce powerful yet light blends that have a fruity aroma. In Basilicata, vineyards are cultivated on volcanic soil that gives the grapes a distinctive, meaty flavor.

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