Italy is home to some of the world’s most famous monuments, celebrated art and renowned cuisine. The country’s culture is steeped in the past and a love of music, food and wine is born into every Italian.

With a population of 60 million people and 210 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Italy is a popular tourist destination for many reasons. The country’s economy is largely service based with tourism, education and finance being key sectors. Agriculture and mining are also important in some parts of the country.

The Romans founded cities, roads and aqueducts all over the world but most of their major work was in Italy. Their awe-inspiring amphitheaters such as the Colosseum, villas and temples are still standing today.

During the Renaissance, Italy was at the centre of art, science and literature. Some of the world’s greatest artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Botticelli hailed from Italy and their work continues to be revered the world over.

After World War II, Italy embraced modernisation and a new constitution was drawn up in 1946. However, the country remains a very provincial place where a deep connection and loyalty to one’s region, city, town or even ‘quartiere’ (a district within a town) is stronger than a feeling for the nation as a whole.

A strong emphasis is placed on ‘Made in Italy’, and this is a country where quality goods are sought after. There are designer outlet shopping malls on the outskirts of most cities. And the country is a great source for artisan crafts with each region cultivating its own speciality such as lace, rustic furniture or wooden objects.

As well as being famous for its food, the country has a wonderful wine industry and produces around 350 different types of wines. The three major areas are Veneto, Tuscany and Piedmont but there are excellent wines to be found in almost every region.

The Alps run along much of the north of the country and there are long cold winters and short warm summers. But the climate changes significantly as you move south. The area around Florence and Rome is very temperate while the south, as far inland as Sicily, has a subtropical climate with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters.

Simple words are important in Italy such as please (per favore), thank you (grazie) and you’re welcome (arrivaderci). When greeting Italians, it is customary to shake hands and say hello and goodbye. Friends will often greet each other with a kiss – first on the left then on the right cheek.

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