Italy is one of the world’s most famous tourist destinations with the capital city Rome being a favourite for visitors. The country is also home to some of the best fashion houses in the world including Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino as well as being renowned for its excellent car makers such as Ferrari and Lamborghini. Its history is also entwined with the birth of Christianity and it was a powerhouse in both World Wars.

Its rich cultural heritage has helped create some of the most significant works of art, literature, music and architecture. Michelangelo’s use of stone to “free” an existing image was revolutionary; Dante forged a new language with his incomparable poems of heaven, hell and the world between; and Antonio Vivaldi, Niccolo Paganini, Claudio Monteverdi and Giuseppe Verdi all created some of the most stunning musical pieces ever written.

Italians have a strong work ethic and enjoy a fine balance between work, rest and play. They are a passionately close-knit people and family is of key importance. Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays all provide an opportunity for friends and relatives to get together over a big meal.

The food in Italy varies greatly from region to region, and even city to city within a region. However, quality ingredients are used wherever possible and only the freshest produce is bought, so you can be assured that you’ll be eating a good meal when in Italy.

The economy is based mainly on manufacturing and service industries with agriculture providing only a small part of the GDP. Its industrial strengths include precision machinery, motor vehicles and chemicals and it is a major exporter of cars and clothing.

There are few natural resources and the country relies largely on imports for energy. The north of the country is highly developed while the south remains a predominantly rural area with high levels of poverty.

Its political system is a parliamentary republic with the President (elected for seven years by Parliament and 58 electoral votes) acting as a figurehead whilst the chief executive is the Prime Minister. The legislative branch is a bi-cameral Parliament with the 630 member Chamber of Deputies and 325 member Senate.

The main political parties are Forza Italia, Northern League, Civic Party and Democratic Party of the Left. Its judicial system is independent with a constitutional court and lower magistracy. Italians love their sports and it is very popular to attend football matches and watch car racing. The country is home to some of the most prestigious clubs in Europe such as A.C. Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan as well as being a hub for skiing in the mountains. Moreover, it is famous for hosting some of the most prestigious fashion events in the world. English is not widely spoken in the country, and it is a good idea to learn some basic Italian before visiting. It will help you understand the locals better and make your stay more enjoyable.

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