Man showing Italian map cartoon

Is Italy a country?

Italy and the EU – it’s like a pasta dish and a pesto Caesar salad (they go together but are separate entities).

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 own government and legislation.

On the other hand, the EU is like a big pizza with different toppings and flavors from all the European states, including Italy.

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 actually 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 like a giant wall separating Italians from the rest of Europe. This natural border is also the divider between Italy and the other four European countries with which Italy shares borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia.

Having said this, it is evident that Italy is not an island. But a couple of islands are part of its territory: Sicily and Sardinia.

Now, the position and geography of Italy have made it a strategic point throughout history. It’s like a shiny jewel that everyone wants to get their hands on. The beauty and fertility of Italian lands attracted invasions for years.

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. Imagine a group of Italian grandmas arguing over who makes the best lasagna.

Before that, Italy was divided for centuries, with more independent states and reigns than a Game of Thrones episode.

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

Now, trying to understand Italian history is not simple, but there are some pivotal moments that can help.

Italy’s early days

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

And speaking of history, Italy has seen it all. From invasions to colonization by different populations, thus comparable to a melting pot, except with more gladiators and togas.

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.”

And let’s not forget about the Etruscans, who fostered cultural and social development 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. I mean, the Romulus and Remus legend! Classic!

Romulus, a direct descendant of the Trojan hero Eneas, founded Rome in 753 BC. Romulus and Remus were twins. Their mother was Rea Silvia. And Mars, their father (the god of war). Talk about having some unusual ancestry!

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 mean, can you imagine being raised by 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. What a rebel! 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. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. The empire collapsed in the 5th century AC.

Italian History from the Middle Ages to Unification

Let’s talk about Italian history after the fall of the Roman Empire. And the main characteristic was invasions! We had the Byzantines, the Longobards, the Normans, the Arabs, the Spanish, the French, and even the Austrians! I mean, talk about a party, right?

And the language, oh boy! Latin stopped being the official language, and the Italian language was born.

The political situation in Italy after the fall of the Roman Empire was like Game of Thrones but with fewer dragons and more pasta. Italy wasn’t a unified country, but a bunch of states, republics, and reigns with their own legislation. It was like every city was doing its own thing, and nobody could agree on anything.

In the North, we had the Ducati, mainly governed by a duke. The Church was also a big player in all of this. The Papal States lasted until 1870 when Rome was finally annexed to Italy. And let’s not forget the Vatican City, an independent state inside the Italian territory, administered by the Catholic Church. Talk about a power move!

Now, let’s head to the South. It was a revolving door of invasions from the Normans, Arabs, French, and Spanish. I mean, who needs a tourist destination when you can just conquer Italy, right?

And then we have the Repubbliche Marinare. Genoa, Amalfi, Venice, and Pisa, all based their economy on maritime trades and relationships with the maritime towns all over the Mediterranean Sea. It was like a big game of Monopoly but with boats instead of hotels.

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 to spread ideas about independence.

And that’s when the Carboneria came onto the scene – the OG fighters for independence! They lit a wick, and before you knew it, revolts were popping up all over the country like mushrooms after a rainstorm.

In 1848, things really got spicy, and a series of revolutions erupted, 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. A dream of conquering all the various reigns and unifying 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, and 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 like a pizza fresh out of the oven, things got heated. A national referendum was held, and it proclaimed Italy a Republic – the Repubblica Italiana! And Enrico De Nicola was crowned the first president.

Italian country profile

Italy today is a Republic, which means it’s run by a Parliament that elects a President and writes the laws.

Justice is served by the Magistratura, which sounds like a fancy pasta dish but is actually 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.

And if you’re visiting this amazing place, don’t forget to bring some Euros, which is the official currency of 19 member states of the European Union, including Italy.

Italy is famous for its culture, cuisine, and art! Monuments and museums are everywhere, making this country a top destination for tourists worldwide. It’s like a big, beautiful canvas painted with the best of Italy.

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