Italy is a unitary parliamentary republic in Europe, covering an area of 301,338 km2 and has a largely temperate climate. Due to its shape, it is often referred to in Italy as Lo Stivale (the Boot). With 61 million inhabitants, it is the 5th most populous country in Europe and a very highly developed country, having the third largest economy in the Eurozone and the eighth-largest in the world.
Since ancient times, Etruscan, Magna Graecia and other cultures have flourished in the territory of present-day Italy, being eventually absorbed by Rome, that has for centuries remained the leading political and religious centre of Western civilisation, capital of the Roman Empire and Christianity. During the Dark Ages, the Italian Peninsula faced calamitous invasions by barbarian tribes, but beginning around the 11th century, numerous Italian city-states rose to great prosperity through shipping, commerce and banking (indeed, modern capitalism has its roots in Medieval Italy).
Especially during The Renaissance, Italian culture thrived, producing scholars, artists, and polymaths such as Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo and Machiavelli. Italian explorers such as Polo, Columbus, Vespucci, and Verrazzano discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, helping to usher in the European Age of Discovery. Nevertheless, Italy would remain fragmented into many warring states for the rest of the Middle Ages, subsequently falling prey to larger European powers such as France, Spain, and later Austria.
Italy would thus enter a long period of decline that lasted until the mid 19th century. After various unsuccessful attempts, the second and the third wars of Italian Independence resulted in the unification of most of present-day Italy between 1859-66. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, the new Kingdom of Italy rapidly industrialised and acquired a colonial empire becoming a Great Power. However, Southern and rural Italy remained largely excluded from industrialisation, fuelling a large and influential diaspora.
Despite victory in World War I, Italy entered a period of economic crisis and social turmoil, which favoured the establishment of a Fascist dictatorship in 1922. The subsequent participation in World War II at the side the Axis ended in military defeat, economic destruction and civil war. In the years that followed, Italy abolished the monarchy, reinstated democracy, and enjoyed a prolonged economic boom, thus becoming one of the most developed nations and the 5th largest economy in the world by 1990.
This post is part of the Wordless Wednesday meme,
and also part of the ABC Wednesday meme.