Last reviewed: 10 February 2009
Area: 301,318 sq km
Capital City: Rome (population: 2.7m)
People: Mostly Italian, with small populations of German, French and Slovene Italians in the north and Albanian-Italians and Greek-Italians in the south.
Life expectancy: men (78.3), women (84)
Language(s): Italian. However, German is the predominant language in the South Tyrol (Trentino-Alto Adige); French is predominant in the Valle d'Aosta region on the Swiss/French border and Slovene on the Slovene border.
Religion(s): 83% Roman Catholic; remainder Jewish and Protestant and a growing Muslim immigrant community - an estimated 825,000 of which between 140,00-160,000 are Italian born.
Parliament: Italy has a bicameral system composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. Both are directly elected and are of equal authority.
Major Political Parties:
Parties in the Centre-Right Government
- Popolo della Libertà (PdL – People of Liberty): Silvio Berlusconi
- Lega Nord (Northern League): Umberto Bossi
- Movimento per l’Autonomia (MPA – Autonomous Movement): Raffaele Lombardo
- Partito Democratico (PD - Democratic party): Walter Veltroni
- Italia dei Valori (IdV - Italy of Values): Antonio Di Pietro
- Unione di Centro (UDC - Union of the Centre): Pierferdinando Casini
Head of State: President Giorgio Napolitano (elected May 2006)
The Constitution provides for the election of the Head of State (who is not politically aligned) for a seven-year term by an electoral college, consisting of the two Houses of Parliament and delegates from each region. The President, required by the Constitution to be over 50 years old, can dissolve one or both houses of Parliament after consultation with the Speakers.
Prime Minister: Silvio Berlusconi (elected April 2008 for a 5-year mandate).
Membership of main international groups/organisations: Founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1949. Founding member of the European Community (precursor of the European Union) in 1957. Italy held the Presidency of the EU from July 2003 to December 2003. Member of United Nations and the G8. (Italy will hold the Presidency of the G8 in 2009).
DID YOU KNOW?
It rains more in Rome than in London. The annual rainfall in Rome is 744mm (30 inches), compared to 593mm (24 inches) in London.