Man showing Italian map cartoon

Is Italy a country?

Traveling around many European states without a visa or passport check at the frontier is now possible thanks to the EU. However, all this travel and association can cause some confusion, especially for those who live far away from the European continent.

Is Italy a country? Yes, Italy is a country with its government and legislation.

On the other hand, the EU is a big umbrella, and many European countries (such as Italy) are under it.

The EU is a pizza with different toppings. Each flavor represents a European state.

Pizza

Where is Italy on the world map?

Italy is in the Northern Hemisphere in the European continent. It’s one of Europe’s Southern states. Italy is a peninsula surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea.

Now, if you’re considering hiking through Europe, you might want to pack some good hiking boots because Italy is divided from the rest of the continent by the vast mountain range of the Alps. It’s a giant wall separating Italians from the rest of Europe. The four European countries with which Italy shares borders are France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia.

A few islands are part of Italy’s territory. The biggest are Sicily and Sardinia.

Italy’s position and geography have made it a strategic point throughout history. Thus, it became a land that attracted invasions for centuries.

Man presenting Italian map cartoon

When did Italy become a country?

Did you know that it didn’t become a country until 1861? That’s right, it took them a while to get their act together.

Before that, what today is Italy was a bunch of independent states and reigns.

This division created social and political instability and inner tensions. It all came to a head in the XIX century with the independence movements.

Understanding Italian history is not simple, but some pivotal moments can help.

Italy’s early days

Did you know that the name “Italy” comes from the Italics, an Indo-European population from Eastern Europe?

Now that we’re starting to explore Italian history, we can say that Italy has experienced everything, from invasions to colonization by various groups. But perhaps the most famous stage in Italian history is the rise of the Roman Empire. Before that, Celts in the North founded the first nucleus of modern Milano.

Meanwhile, the Greeks were busy establishing colonies in the South, which became so flourishing that they were known as “Big Greece.”

The Etruscans fostered cultural and social development in the peninsula before coming face-to-face with the early days of the Roman Empire.

Today, you can still visit some well-preserved remains from the Etruscan time, especially in the Northern part of the Lazio region.

And, of course, we can’t talk about Italian history without mentioning the foundation of Rome in 753 BC. It’s the ultimate birth story, but instead of a baby, it’s a city that would go on to shape the entire Western world.

The foundation of Rome: the legend of Romulus and Remus

The foundation of Rome was an epic event that spawned ancient legends.

Romulus, a direct descendant of the Trojan hero Eneas, founded Rome in 753 BC. Romulus had a twin brother called Remus. Their mother was Rea Silvia. And Mars, their father (the god of war).

Romulus and Remus were left in a basket in a river after their birth. Luckily, a female wolf came to the rescue. Yes, you heard that right, a wolf! I bet they had some pretty interesting stories to tell at parties.

Later, a shepherd named Faustolo found the twins and adopted them. When they became adults, they learned about their royal ancestors and felt the need to establish a new city.

But here’s where things get interesting. The twins couldn’t decide who would rule the city they founded. They were twins, after all, and both had the same rights. So, they built a wall to divide their reign.

However, Remus climbed over the wall. And Romulus wasn’t having any of it, so he killed him and became the city’s ruler. What did they name this new city, you ask? Roma, in honor of Romulus, of course!

Fast forward a bit, and the Roman Empire lasted around five centuries. They even made it to Asia, Eastern Europe, and Northern Europe.

Italian History from the Middle Ages to Unification

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Italian history bores marks from a series of invasions. The Byzantines, Longobards, Normans, Arabs, Spanish, French, and Austrians all had a hand in shaping the country’s fate. During this time, Latin ceased being the official language, paving the way for the birth of the Italian language and giving rise to many regional languages.

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Italy fragmented into numerous states, republics, and territories, each with its independent legislation. The Ducati governed the northern region (mainly led by a duke). The Church was also a big player in all of this. The Papal States lasted until 1870 (when Rome became part of Italy). However, to this day, the Vatican City exists (an independent state inside the Italian territory). The Catholic Church administers the Vatican City.

In the southern part of the country, there were repeated invasions by the Normans, Arabs, French, and Spanish. The maritime republics, including Genoa, Amalfi, Venice, and Pisa, developed strong economies based on maritime trade and relationships with other Mediterranean towns. It was akin to a large-scale maritime trading game, with these cities utilizing their resources similarly to the properties in Monopoly.

The unification of Italy

The Italians were sick of all the invasions and foreign oppression! So, they decided to band together like a bunch of hungry Italians at a buffet.

And that’s when the Carboneria came onto the scene! They lit a wick, and in 1848, revolts started popping up all over the country as mushrooms after a rainstorm, leading to the First Italian War of Independence. But that wasn’t enough for these passionate pasta-eaters. They had a second war a few years later, and then the expeditions of the Mille came along, led by the one and only Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Garibaldi had a dream. He wanted to conquer all the various reigns and unify them under a monarch. In 1861, that dream became a reality as Italy became a unified country under the reign of the Savoy dynasty.

But wait a minute! Rome was still under the Pope’s control as part of the Papal States. So, the Italians decided to do what any good Italian would do – they conquered it! In 1870, the Italian troops marched into Rome. It became the new capital of Italy in 1871.

After all of that, Italy was a monarchy under the Savoy dynasty. But then, World War II came along, and things got heated. A national referendum resulted in the proclamation of Italy a Republic – the Repubblica Italiana! And Enrico De Nicola was crowned the first president.

Italian country profile

Today, Italy is a Republic. Thus, Parliament runs the country, elects a President, and makes the laws.

The Magistratura, which sounds like a fancy pasta dish, enforces justice. It is responsible for keeping things fair and square in the country.

The President of the Republic is like a representative figure (one that guarantees the country stays unified).

And where do they all hang out? In the capital, of course! Rome is the city of love, the largest city in Italy, and the political and administrative center of the country.

Italy is famous for its culture, cuisine, and art! Monuments and museums are everywhere, making this country a top destination for tourists worldwide. Would you like to learn more about Italian culture? Click here.

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