Culture of Italy
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From antiquity until the mid-17th century, Italy was considered as the central place of Western culture and the starting point of worldwide phenomena such as the Roman Empire, Roman Catholic Church, the Renaissance, cultural and educational reform and new beginning. During this period, Italy gave birth to a number of famous painters, sculptors, poets, musicians, mathematical and architects those created a niche of their own in history.
Both the internal and external facets of Western culture were born on the Italian peninsula, whether one looks at the history of the Christian faith, civil institutions, philosophy, law, art, science, or social customs and culture. Furthermore, the country played a leading role in the fight against the death penalty.
Italy was home to many well-known and influential civilizations, including the Etruscans, Greeks, and the Romans. For more than 2,000 years Italy experienced migrations, invasions and was divided into many independent states until 1861 when it became a nation-state. Due to this comparatively late unification, and the historical autonomy of the regions that comprise the Italian peninsula, many traditions and customs that are now recognized as distinctly Italian can be identified by their regions of origin. Despite the political and social isolation of these regions, Italy's contributions to the cultural and historical heritage of Europe and the world remain immense.
The famous elements of Italian culture are its art, music, fashion, and iconic food. Italy was the birthplace of opera, and for generations the language of opera was Italian, irrespective of the nationality of the composer. Popular tastes in drama in Italy have long favored comedy; the improvisational style known as the Commedia dell'arte began in Italy in the mid-16th century and is still performed today. Before being exported to France, the famous Ballet dance genre also originated in Italy.
The country boasts several world-famous cities. Rome was the ancient capital of the Roman Empire and seat of the pope of the Catholic Church. Florence was the home of many artists of the Renaissance, a period of great achievements in the arts. Other important cities are Turin, which used to be the capital of Italy, is now one of the world's great centers of automobile engineering. Milan is the industrial, commercial and financial center of Italy and a fashion capital. Venice, with its intricate canal system and rich cultural history, attracts tourists from all over the world.
Italy is home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (48) to date out of a total of 962 and then owns 4.99% of the world's heritage. and one estimate says that the country is home to half the world's great art treasures. According to the Court of Auditors, Italy has 3,430 museums, 409 of which are in Tuscany, 380 in Emilia-Romagna, 346 in Lombardy and 302 in Lazio. Then there are 216 archaeological sites, 10,000 churches, 1,500 monasteries, 40,000 assorted castles, towers and fortresses, 30,000 stately homes, 4,000 gardens, 1,000 major historic town centres and more besides.
Architectural ruins from antiquity throughout Italy testify to the greatness of cultures past. The history of architecture in Italy is one that begins with the ancient styles of the Etruscans and Greeks, progressing to classical Roman, then to the revival of the classical Roman era during the Renaissance and evolving into the Baroque era. During the period of the Italian Renaissance it had been customary for students of architecture to travel to Rome to study the ancient ruins and buildings as an essential part of their education.
Old St. Peter's Church (begun about A.D. 330) was probably the first significant early Christian basilica, a style of church architecture that came to dominate the early Middle Ages. Old St. Peter's stood on the site of the present St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The first significant buildings in the medieval Romanesque style were churches built in Italy during the 800's. Several outstanding examples of the Byzantine architectural style of the Middle East were also built in Italy. The most famous Byzantine structure is the Basilica of St. Mark in Venice.
The greatest flowering of Italian architecture took place during the Renaissance. Filippo Brunelleschi made great contributions to architectural design with his dome for the Cathedral of Florence. Leon Battista Alberti was another early Renaissance architect whose theories and designs had an enormous influence on later architects.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of Italian Renaissance architecture was St. Peter's Basilica, originally designed by Donato Bramante in the early 1500s. Andrea Palladio influenced architects throughout western Europe with the villas and palaces he designed in the middle and late 1500s.
The Baroque period produced several outstanding Italian architects in the 1600s especially known for their churches. The most important architects included Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini. Numerous modern Italian architects, such as Renzo Piano, are famous worldwide.
The official birth of Italian comics is December 27, 1908, when the first issue of the Corriere dei Piccoli hit the stands. Attilio Mussino has produced for this weekly, an astonishing range of characters, including a little black child, Bilbolbul, whose almost surrealist adventures took place in a fantastic Africa.
In 1932 publisher Lotario Vecchi, had already begun publication of Jumbo magazine, using exclusively North American authors. The magazine reached a circulation of 350.000 copies in Italy, sanctioning comics as a mainstream medium with broad appeal. He moved to Spain three years later, bringing the same title.
In December 1932, the first Disney comic in Italy, Mickey Mouse, or Topolino in Italian, had been launched by the Florentine publisher Nerbini. The Disney franchise was then taken over by the Mondadori subsidiary, API, in 1935.
In 1945, Hugo Pratt while attending the Venice Academy of Fine Arts, created, in collaboration with Mario Faustinelli and Alberto Ongaro, Asso di Picche. Their distinctive approach to the art form earned them the name of Venetian school of comics.
In 1948 Gian Luigi Bonelli initiated a long and successful series of Western strips, starting with the popular Tex Willer. This comics would become the model for a line of publications centered around the popular comic book format that became known as Bonelliano, from the name of the publisher.
Some of the series that followed Tex Willer were Zagor (1961), Mister No (1975), and more recently, Martin Mystère (1982) and Dylan Dog (1986). These comic books presented complete stories in 100+ black-and-white pages in a pocket book format. The subject matter was always adventure, whether western, horror, mystery or science fiction. The Bonelliani are to date the most popular form of comics in the country.
Fashion and design 
The Italian fashion industry is one of the country's most important manufacturing sectors and one of the jewels in the crown of the "Made in Italy" brand. The majority of the older Italian couturiers are based in Rome. However, Milan is seen as the fashion capital of Italy because many well-known designers are based there and it is the venue for the Italian designer collections.
Many of Italy's top fashion designers have boutiques that can be found around the world. Among the best-known and most exclusive names are Armani, Benetton, Fendi, Gucci, Versace, and Prada. Accessory and jewelry labels, such as Bulgari and Luxottica are also internationally acclaimed, and Luxottica is the world's largest eyewear company.
Currently, Milan and Rome, annually compete with other major international centres, such as Paris, New York, London, and Tokyo. Also, the fashion magazine Vogue Italia is considered the most prestigious fashion magazine in the world.
Italy is also prominent in the field of design, notably interior design, architectural design, industrial design, and urban design. The country has produced some well-known furniture designers, such as Gio Ponti and Ettore Sottsass, and Italian phrases such as Bel Disegno and Linea Italiana have entered the vocabulary of furniture design. Examples of classic pieces of Italian white goods and pieces of furniture include Zanussi's washing machines and fridges, the "New Tone" sofas by Atrium, and the post-modern bookcase by Ettore Sottsass, inspired by Bob Dylan's song "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again".
Today, Milan and Turin are the nation's leaders in architectural design and industrial design. The city of Milan hosts the FieraMilano, Europe's biggest design fair. Milan also hosts major design and architecture-related events and venues, such as the Fuori Salone and the Salone del Mobile, and has been home to the designers Bruno Munari, Lucio Fontana, Enrico Castellani, and Piero Manzoni.
Italian literature began after the founding of Rome in 753 BC. Roman, or Latin literature, was and still is highly influential in the world, with numerous writers, poets, philosophers, and historians, such as Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger, Virgil, Horace, Propertius, Ovid and Livy. The Romans were also famous for their oral tradition, poetry, drama and epigrams. Even though most of these were inspired from the Ancient Greeks, Roman epigrams were usually far more satyrical, sometimes using obscene language to give them an exciting effect. Most of the Roman epigrams were inscriptions or graffiti.
The basis of the modern Italian Literature in the Italian language, strictly speaking, begins with the early years of the 1200s. Among the influences at work in its formation must first be mentioned the religious revival wrought by St. Francis of Assisi. Therefore, it is considered the first "Italian voice" in literature.
Another Italian voice originated in Sicily. At the court of emperor Frederick II, who ruled the Sicilian kingdom during the first half of the 1200s, lyrics modeled on Provençal forms and themes were written in a refined version of the local vernacular. The most important of these poets was the notary Giacomo da Lentini, reputed to have invented the sonnet form.
Guido Guinizelli is considered the founder of the Dolce Stil Novo, a school that added a philosophical dimension to traditional love poetry. This new understanding of love, expressed in a smooth, pure style, influenced some Florentine poets, especially Guido Cavalcanti and the young Dante Alighieri. Dante's The Divine Comedy is a masterpiece of world literature, helped create the Italian literary language. Furthermore, the poet invented the difficult terza rima for his epic journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise.
The two great writers of the 1300s, Petrarch and Boccaccio, sought out and imitated the works of antiquity and cultivated their own artistic personalities. Petrarch achieved fame through his collection of poems, the Canzoniere. Petrarch's love poetry served as a model for centuries. Equally influential was Boccaccio's Decameron, one of the most popular collections of short stories ever written.
Italian Renaissance authors produced a number of important works. Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince is one of the world's most famous essays on political science. Another important work of the period, Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, is perhaps the greatest chivalry poem ever written. Baldassare Castiglione's dialogue The Book of the Courtier describes the ideal of the perfect court gentleman and of spiritual beauty. The lyric poet Torquato Tasso in Jerusalem Delivered wrote a Christian epic, making use of the ottava rima, with attention to the Aristotelian canons of unity.
In the early 17th century, some literary masterpieces were created, such as Giambattista Marino's long mythological poem, L'Adone. The Baroque period also produced the clear scientific prose of Galileo as well as Tommaso Campanella's The City of the Sun, a description of a perfect society ruled by a philosopher-priest. At the end of the 17th century, the Arcadians began a movement to restore simplicity and classical restraint to poetry, as in Metastasio's heroic melodramas. In the 18th century, playwright Carlo Goldoni replaced Commedia dell'arte with full written plays, many portraying the middle class of his day.
The Romanticism coincided with some ideas of the Risorgimento, the patriotic movement that brought Italy political unity and freedom from foreign domination. Italian writers embraced Romanticism in the early 19th century. The time of Italy's rebirth was heralded by the poets Vittorio Alfieri, Ugo Foscolo, and Giacomo Leopardi. The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni, the leading Italian Romantic, was the first Italian historical novel to glorify Christian values of justice and Providence. In the late 1800s, a realistic literary movement called Verismo played a major role in Italian literature. Giovanni Verga was the leading author in this movement.
A movement called Futurism influenced Italian literature in the early 1900s. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti wrote The Futurist Manifesto. It called for the use of language and metaphors that glorified the speed, dynamism, and violence of the machine age. Among the Italian literary figures of the early 20th century, Gabriele d'Annunzio, Luigi Pirandello, and Grazia Deledda achieved international renown. Leading writers of the postwar era are Ignazio Silone, Alberto Moravia, Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Dario Fo, and the poets Salvatore Quasimodo and Eugenio Montale.
Motion pictures 
The Italian film industry was born between 1903 and 1908 with three companies: the Roman Società Italiana Cines, the Ambrosio Film and the Itala Film in Turin. Other companies soon followed in Milan and in Naples.
The early Italian film industry became internationally known for its historical spectacles. But during the World War I, Italy like other European governments, diverted raw material from their film industries to military needs.
Few major motion pictures were produced during the 1920s and 1930s, but a renaissance of Italian filmmaking developed in the 1940s. At that time, a new generation of directors emerged. They included Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, and Luchino Visconti. The impact of the war led several of these directors to make movies that focused on society and its problems. This impulse resulted in the emergence of the first important postwar European film movement, Neorealism. Neorealist directors were concerned primarily with portraying the daily life of ordinary people. They mainly filmed on location rather than on a studio set, and they used mostly nonprofessional actors. These qualities gave Neorealist films a gritty, almost documentary look.
During the 1950s and 1960s, earthy comedies gained international success, due partly to the popularity of Italian movie stars Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren, and Marcello Mastroianni. In the same years, Sergio Leone helped create a new film genre, ironically nicknamed the "Spaghetti Western", because they were made by Italian directors, either in Italy, Spain, or even in the famous Monument Valley Studios in the United States.
At the same time, a new group of directors won praise. The most significant were Michelangelo Antonioni and Federico Fellini. Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, and Luchino Visconti also continued to film major works. During the late 1900s, the leading Italian directors included Roberto Benigni, Marco Bellocchio, Bernardo Bertolucci, and the brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani.
Music writing began in Italy. Therefore Italian words are used to tell us how music is played. Consequently all countries have adopted technical terms in their Italian form — a demonstration of the crucial role played by Italy, and in particular Florence, in the history of music.
From folk to classical, music has always played an important role in Italian culture. Having given birth to opera, for example, Italy provides many of the very foundations of the classical music tradition. Some of the instruments that are often associated with classical music, including the piano and violin, were invented in Italy, and many of the existing classical music forms can trace their roots back to innovations of 16th and 17th century Italian music (such as the symphony, concerto, and sonata).
Italian composers have played a major role in music since the Middle Ages. In the 1000s, Guido of Arezzo, an Italian monk, developed a revolutionary system of notation and method of sight-singing. The Gregorian chant, troubadour song, and the madrigal were forms in early Italian music.
During the Renaissance, Giovanni Palestrina composed masterpieces of choral music for use in church services. The first operas were composed in Florence in the 1590s. Opera emerged as an art form during the Baroque period. Claudio Monteverdi was the first great composer of Baroque opera in the early 1600s. Important composers of the late 1600s and early 1700s included Alessandro Scarlatti, his son Domenico, and Antonio Vivaldi. Alessandro became best known for his operas, Domenico for his keyboard compositions, and Vivaldi for his works for violin. During the 1800s and early 1900s, popular operas were composed by Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, and Gioacchino Rossini.
Today, the entire infrastructure that supports music as a profession is extensive in Italy, including conservatories, opera houses, radio and television stations, recording studios, music festivals, and important centers of musicological research. Musical life in Italy remains extremely active, but very Italian-centered and hardly international. The only main international Italian pop-singers include 1970s pop-diva Mina, who sold 76 million records worldwide in her lifetime, and singer Laura Pausini, who has sold 45 million albums.
La Scala opera house in Milan is renowned as one of the best in the world. There are other famous venues for opera, including San Carlo in Naples, La Fenice Theatre in Venice, and the Roman arena in Verona. Additionally, there are fifteen publicly owned theaters and numerous privately run ones in Italy. These theaters promote Italian and European plays as well as ballets. Famous Italian opera singers include Enrico Caruso, Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli, to name a few.
Science and technology 
The still-standing aqueducts, bathhouses, and other public works of both ancient republic and empire testify to the engineering and architectural skills of the Romans. The rebirth of science during the Renaissance brought the daring speculations of Leonardo da Vinci (including discoveries in anatomy, meteorology, geology and hydrology) advances in physics and astronomy by Galileo Galilei, and the development of the barometer by Evangelista Torricelli.
At the start of the 20th century, Guglielmo Marconi carried out experiments in electricity and developed the wireless, but he was preceded by Count Alessandro Volta, one of the pioneers of electricity, over 100 years earlier. By the end of the Second World War, Enrico Fermi's work in nuclear physics led to the development of both the atomic bomb and peaceful atomic applications. On September 25, 2001, US Congress passed a resolution that officially recognized the Florentine immigrant to the United States, Antonio Meucci, as the inventor of the telephone.
A brief overview of some other notable figures includes the astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini, who made many important discoveries about the Solar System; the mathematicians Lagrangia, Fibonacci, and Gerolamo Cardano, whose Ars Magna is generally recognized as the first modern treatment on mathematics, made fundamental advances to the field; Marcello Malpighi, a doctor and founder of microscopic anatomy; the biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani, who conducted important research in bodily functions, animal reproduction, and cellular theory; the physician, pathologist, scientist, and Nobel laureate Camillo Golgi, whose many achievements include the discovery of the Golgi complex, and his role in paving the way to the acceptance of the Neuron doctrine.
The Italians love of automobiles and speed has made Italy famous for its production of many of the world's most famous sports cars and the industry that flourishes there. Some of the world's most elite vehicles were developed in Italy: Lamborghini, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Maserati are but a few of the well-known luxury cars that originated in Italy.
The art of sculpture in the Italian peninsula has its roots in ancient times. In the archaic period, when Etruscan cities dominated central Italy and the adjacent sea, Etruscan sculpture flourished. The name of an individual artist, Vulca, who worked at Veii, has been identified. He has left a terracotta Apollo and other figures, and can perhaps claim the distinction of being the most ancient master in the long history of Italian art.
But a great development of this art there was between the 6th century BC and 5th century AD during the growth of the Roman Empire. The earliest Roman sculpture was influenced by the Etruscans to the north of Rome and by Greek colonists to the south. During the Empire period, the pure realism of the Republican period portrait busts was joined to Greek idealism. The result, evident in Augustus of Primaporta, was often a curious juxtaposition of individualized heads with idealized, anatomically perfect bodies in Classical poses.
During the Middle Ages, large sculpture was largely religious. Carolingian artists (named after Charlemagne's family) in northern Italy created sculpture for covers of Bibles, as decoration for parts of church altars, and for crucifixes and giant candlesticks placed on altars.
In the late 1200s, Nicola Pisano and his son Giovanni began the revolutionary changes that led up to the Renaissance in Italian sculpture, drawing influences from Roman sarcophagi and other remains. Both are noted for their reliefs and ornamentation on pulpits. The Massacre of the Innocents by Giovanni Pisano is an example.
The greatest sculptor of the early Renaissance was Donatello. In 1430, he had produced a bronze statue of David, which reestablished the classical idea of beauty in the naked human body. Conceived fully in the round and independent of any architectural surroundings, it was the first major work of Renaissance sculpture. Among the other brilliant sculptors of the 1400s were Jacopo della Quercia, Michelozzo, Bernardo and Antonio Rossellino, and Agostino di Duccio.
Michelangelo's great brooding sculptures, such as the figures of Night and Day in the Medici Chapel in Florence, dominated High Renaissance Italian sculpture. His David, is perhaps, the most famous sculpture in the world. It differs from previous representations of the subject in that David is depicted before his battle with Goliath and not after the giant's defeat. Instead of being shown victorious over a foe much larger than he, David looks tense and ready for combat.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini was the most important sculptor of the Baroque period. He combined emotional and sensual freedom with theatrical presentation and an almost photographic naturalism. Bernini's saints and other figures seem to sit, stand, and move as living people — and the viewer becomes part of the scene. This involvement of the spectator is a basic characteristic of Baroque sculpture. One of his most famous works is Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.
The Neoclassical movement arose in the late 1700s. The members of this very international school restored what they regarded as classical principles of art. They were direct imitators of ancient Greek sculptors, and emphasized classical drapery and the nude. The leading Neoclassical artist in Italy, was Antonio Canova, who like many other foreign neoclassical sculptors including Bertel Thorvaldsen was based in Rome. His ability to carve pure white Italian marble has seldom been equaled. Most of his statues are in European collections, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City owns important works, including Perseus and Cupid and Psyche.
In the 1900s, many Italians played leading roles in the development of modern art. Futurist sculptors tried to show how space, movement, and time affected form. These artists portrayed objects in motion, rather than their appearance at any particular moment. An example is Umberto Boccioni's Unique Forms of Continuity in Space.
Italian theatre can be traced back into the Roman which was heavily influenced by the Greek tradition, and, as with many other literary genres, Roman dramatists tended to adapt and translate from the Greek. For example, Seneca's Phaedra was based on that of Euripides, and many of the comedies of Plautus were direct translations of works by Menander.
Opposition from the early church was one of the reasons for the decline of the Roman theater that began in the 4th century AD. Early Christians saw a connection between theatre and pagan religions, and the church fathers argued that the evil characters portrayed onstage taught immorality. For this reason, large theatrical performances disappeared after the fall of the Roman Empire.
Ironically, the earliest recorded drama in all parts of Western Europe was the Liturgical drama of the Church. In fact, during the medieval period, the Church began to act out particular Bible passages. These dramatizations grew into staged Christmas and Easter stories so that the illiterate masses could understand the Latin liturgy. Regions in France, Germany, and England showed the most activity of Liturgical drama. The Catholic Church thus made a more concerted effort to utilize drama and theatre in the propagation of the gospel.
During the 16th century and on into the 18th century Commedia dell'arte was a form of improvisational theatre, although it is still performed today. Travelling teams of players would set up an outdoor stage and provide amusement in the form of juggling, acrobatics, and, more typically, humorous plays based on a repertoire of established characters with a rough storyline, called canovaccio.
Italian theatre has been active in producing outstanding contemporary European work and in staging important revivals, although no native playwright has produced works that can rival those of Luigi Pirandello from the early 20th century. In the late 20th century Dario Fo received international acclaim for his highly improvisational style.
Visual art 
The history and development of art in Western culture is grounded in hundreds of years of Italian history. In Ancient Rome, Italy was the centre for art and architecture. There were many Italian artists during the Gothic and Medieval periods, and the arts flourished during the Italian Renaissance. Later styles in Italy included Mannerism, Baroque, and Macchiaioli. Futurism developed in Italy in the 20th century. Florence, Venice and Rome, in particular, are brimming with art treasures in museums, churches, and public buildings.
The Italian Renaissance produced many of the greatest painters in art history. They were all influenced by the work of Giotto di Bondone in the late 1200s. One of the most influential artists who ever lived, Giotto changed the course of Western art by painting in a new realistic style.
Florence became the center of early Renaissance art. The great Florentine masters of painting included Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Andrea Mantegna, Sandro Botticelli, and Paolo Uccello. The greatest artist of the 1400s was probably Leonardo da Vinci. His portrait Mona Lisa and his religious scene The Last Supper are among the most famous paintings in history.
The later Renaissance was dominated by Raphael and Michelangelo. Raphael painted balanced, harmonious pictures that expressed a calm, noble way of life. Michelangelo achieved greatness both as a painter and sculptor. In Venice, a number of artists were painting richly colored works during the 1500s. The most famous Venetian masters included Giorgione, Titian, and Tintoretto.
In the 1900s, many Italians played leading roles in the development of modern art. Giorgio de Chirico gained fame for his haunting paintings of empty city squares. Amedeo Modigliani won renown with a series of portraits.
Italian cuisine as a national cuisine known today has evolved through centuries of social and political changes, with its roots traced back to 4th century BC. Significant change occurred with the discovery of the New World which helped shape much of what is known as Italian cuisine today with the introduction of items such as potatoes, tomatoes, bell pepper and maize, which are all central parts of the cuisine but not introduced on a large scale until the 18th century.
Ingredients and dishes vary by region. There are many significant regional dishes that have become both national and regional. Cheese and wine are also a major part of the cuisine, playing different roles both regionally and nationally with their many variations and Denominazione di origine controllata (regulated appellation) laws.
Italy's cuisine is widely regarded as amongst the most popular in the world, and is mainly made up of traditional dishes, meals and desserts, such as pasta, spaghetti, pizza, focaccia, bruschetta, arancini, granita, lasagna, risotto, gnocchi, polenta, and zampone, to name a few. Basil, mozzarella, garlic, olive oil and tomatoes are examples of ingredients which are used frequently in Italian cuisine.
Also, Italy exports and produces the highest level of wine, exporting over 1,793 tonnes. As of 2005, Italy was responsible for producing approximately one-fifth of the world's wine. Some Italian regions are home to some of the oldest wine-producing traditions in the world. Etruscans and Greek settlers produced wine in the country long before the Romans started developing their own vineyards in the 2nd century BC. Roman grape-growing and winemaking was prolific and well-organized, pioneering large-scale production and storage techniques like barrel-making and bottling.
Italy is also famous for its gelato, or traditional ice-cream often known as Italian ice cream abroad. There are gelaterias or ice-cream vendors and shops all around Italian cities, and it is a very popular dessert or snack, especially during the summer. Sicilian granitas, or a frozen dessert of flavored crushed ice, more or less similar to a sorbet or a snow cone, are popular desserts not only in Sicily or their native town of Catania, but all over Italy (even though the Northern and Central Italian equivalent, the gratta checca, commonly found in Rome or Milan is slightly different to the traditional granita Siciliana). Italy also boasts an assortment of desserts. The Christmas cakes pandoro and panettone are popular in the North (pandoro is from Verona, whilst panettone is Milanese), however, they have also become popular desserts in other parts of Italy and abroad. The Colomba Pasquale is eaten all over the country on Easter day, and is a more traditional alternative to chocolate Easter eggs. Tiramisu is a very popular and iconic Italian dessert from Veneto which has become famous worldwide. Other Italian cakes and sweets include cannoli, the cassata Siciliana, fruit-shaped marzipans and panna cotta.
Coffee, and more specifically espresso, has become highly important to the cuisine of Italy. Espresso is a highly drunk coffee-drink in Italy, and a good number of Italians drink it in the morning before going to work, or starting the day in general. Espresso is served in small cups and has a dark, almost black appearance, and a strong, sour taste. Cappucino is also a famous Italian coffee drink, which is usually sweeter and less dark than espresso, and can be served with foam or cream on top, on which chocolate powder and sugar is usually sprinkled. Cappucino is not only common in Italian cafes, or caffes, but also in restaurants and bars abroad. Caffelatte coffee is a mixture of coffee and milk (latte = milk), and is usually drunk at breakfast time (unlike most other Italian coffee-types, children and adults drink it alike, since it is lighter and more milky than normal coffee). Caffè macchiato is a stronger form of caffelatte, which, unlike caffelatte, which has an equal amount of coffee and milk, only contains a tiny portion of milk or whipped cream (latte macchiato. The Bicerin is Turin's own coffee. It is a mix between cappucino and normal hot chocolate, and is made with equal amounts of drinking chocolate, coffee and a slight addition of milk and creamy foam.
Italy's public education is free and compulsory from 6–14 years of age. It has a five-year primary stage and an eight-year secondary stage, divided into first-grade secondary school (middle school) and second-grade secondary school (or high school). Italy has both public and private education systems.
Primary school lasts five years. Until middle school, the normal educational curriculum is uniform for all: although one can attend a private or state-funded school, the subjects studied are the same, except in special schools for pupils with different care requirements.
Secondary education (Scuole medie) is further divided in two stages: Medie Inferiori, which correspond to the Middle School grades, and Medie Superiori, which correspond to the High School level. The lower tier of Scuole Medie corresponds to Middle School, lasts three years, and involves an exam at the end of the third year; Scuole Superiori usually last five years (even though Istituti Professionali might offer a diploma after only three years). Every tier involves an exam at the end of the final year required to access the following tier.
The secondary school situation varies, since there are several types of schools differentiated by subjects and activities. The main types are the Liceo, the Istituto Tecnico and the Istituto Professionale. Any kind of secondary school that lasts 5 years grants access to the final exam, called Esame di Stato conclusivo del corso di studio di Istruzione Secondaria Superiore or Esame di Maturità. This exam takes place every year in June and July and grants access to any faculty at any University.
Italy hosts a broad variety of universities, colleges and academies. Milan's Bocconi University, has been ranked among the top 20 best business schools in the world by The Wall Street Journal international rankings, especially thanks to its Master of Business Administration program, which in 2007 placed it no. 17 in the world in terms of graduate recruitment preference by major multinational companies. Also, Forbes has ranked Bocconi no. 1 worldwide in the specific category Value for Money. In May 2008, Bocconi overtook several traditionally top global business schools in the Financial Times executive education ranking, reaching no. 5 in Europe and no. 15 in the world. Other top universities and polytechnics include the Polytechnic University of Turin and Politecnico di Milano.
In 2009 an Italian research ranked it as the best in Italy (over indicators such as scientific production, attraction of foreign students, and others), the Sapienza University of Rome and the University of Milan whose research and teaching activities have developed over the years and have received important international recognitions. The University is the only Italian member of the League of European Research Universities, a prestigious group of twenty research-intensive European Universities.
Italy is the wellspring of Western civilization and has been a world crossroads for over 2,000 years.[nb 1][nb 2] Continuous learning, creativity, and technological advancement on the Italian peninsula have shaped virtually every aspect of Western culture.
Though its archaeological record stretches back tens of thousands of years, Italian history begins with the Etruscans, an ancient civilization that rose between the Arno and Tiber rivers. The Etruscans were supplanted in the 3rd century BC by the Romans, who soon became the chief power in the Mediterranean world and whose empire stretched from Iraq to Scotland by the 2nd century AD. The empire influenced the government, the arts, and the architecture of many later groups of people.
With Emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity in 312, Rome became the open and official seat of the Catholic Church, and Italy has had a profound effect on the development of Christianity and of Western concepts of faith and morality ever since. Like the other works of Christian charity, the care of the sick was from the beginning a sacred duty for each of the faithful, but it devolved in a special way upon the bishops, presbyters, and deacons. According to historian William Lecky, the hospitals were unknown before Christianity.[nb 3] After the fall of Rome in the AD 400s, the Italian peninsula was divided among many different rulers. However, the Eastern emperors, residing at Constantinople, never renounced their claim to Italy and to succession to the West.
During the Middle Ages, which lasted from about the AD 400s through the 1400s, the Roman Catholic Church replaced the Roman Empire as the unifying force in Europe. It used the Latin language and preserved the classics of Latin literature. In addition, the influence of the Church on the spread of literacy, has had a significant impact on European society. Günther S. Wegener has carefully documented the correlation between Bible translation and the spread of literacy in European languages. In fact, during the Middle Ages, the most important branch of learning was theology (the study of God). This new intellectual approach has been called Scholasticism. Italy, in virtue of this, became a seat of great formal learning in 1088 with the establishment of the University of Bologna, the first university in Europe. Other Italian universities soon followed.[nb 4] About the same time, Italy saw the rise of the Maritime Republics.
In Italy medieval communes were sworn associations of townsmen that arose during the 11th century to overthrow the rule of the local bishop or feudal magnates. The communal experience of medieval Italy was somehow salient for the origins of modern democracy.[nb 5] Many cities — especially Florence, Genoa, Pisa, Milan, and Venice — became powerful and independent city-states. An intellectual revival, stimulated in part by the freer atmosphere of the cities and in part by the rediscovery of ancient Greek and Latin writings, gave rise to the humanist attitudes and ideas that formed the basis of the Renaissance.
Renaissance period saw a rebirth of many interests, particularly in the arts. By the early 15th century, in Florence, a circle of architects, painters, and sculptors have sought to revive classical art. The leader of this group was an architect, Filippo Brunelleschi. He designed churches reflecting classical models. To him we also owe a scientific discovery of the first importance in the history of art: the rules of perspective. In painting, Leonardo da Vinci and other Italian painters used a technique called sfumato that created softness in their portraits. At the same time, Italy witnessed the revival of the fresco. In music, both the small-scale madrigal and the large-scale opera were inventions of the period with a long future. Italian cities invented the modern conservatory to train professional musicians, as they invented the art academy as a place to master the techniques and the theory of painting, sculpture, and architecture. Rome and Venice witnessed the emergence of the first art "market" where buyers and sellers exchanged artworks as commodities.
It was no accident that the origin of the European system of banks was born in Renaissance Italy. By the 1430s, the Medici family dominated the ruling class of Florence. The family controlled the largest bank in Europe and was headed by a series of talented and ambitious men. Under Medici domination, the Florentine republic in some ways resembled a signorial government.
Some of the greatest explorers of the late 1400s and early 1500s were Italians exposed to the traditions of the Renaissance. Christopher Columbus — like such other Italian explorers as John Cabot, Giovanni da Verrazzano, and Amerigo Vespucci — was willing to take enormous risks to achieve results that people had never dreamed of. In a sense, Columbus's arrival in America in 1492 was one of the greatest achievements of the Renaissance.
In general terms, the Baroque era is sometimes called the era of genius, since it was at this time in history that the scientific revolution that established the foundations of modern science was launched. In the pantheon of the scientific revolution, Galileo Galilei takes a high position because of his pioneering use of quantitative experiments with results analyzed mathematically.
The intellectual dynamism in 18th century Italy was considerable, across the gamut of genres. Italian elites became conversant with French Enlightenment principles and with English ideas, too, spread by young aristocrats on the grand tour. By the 1760s and 1770s, the Italian authors who were members of academies and contributors to philosophical and literary journals began to disseminate their ideas close to the realm of power in Milan and Turin, Parma and Modena, Florence and Naples. Inspired by Cesare Beccaria's theses — on liberal ideas and humanitarian sentiments — the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was the first state in the world to abolish the death penalty in 1786. Italy continued its leading cultural role through the Romantic period, when its dominance in painting and sculpture diminished and it reestablished a strong presence in music.
Italian artists have been quite influential in the 20th century, and some of the Italian exponents of Modernism in the 1920s and 1930s continue to have a strong presence in the international contemporary art market. Known in many circles as the father of the Atomic Age, Enrico Fermi was an Italian who bore witness to the discovery, control, and use of atomic power. Following World War II, Italian neorealism became an important force in motion pictures, and by the 1960s, Italy had established itself as one of a handful of great European film cultures. Today Italy is one of the international leaders in fashion and design.
Italian people 
The Italian peninsula has been at the heart of Western cultural development at least since Roman times. Important poets of the Roman republic and empire were Lucretius, Catullus, Virgil, Horace, and Ovid. Also prominent in Latin literature were the orator-rhetorician Cicero; the satirist Juvenal; the prose writers Pliny the Elder, his nephew Pliny the Younger; and the historians Sallust, Livy, and Suetonius. Julius Caesar, renowned as a historian and prose stylist, is even more famous as a military and political leader. The first of the Roman emperors was Octavian, better known by the honorific Augustus. Noteworthy among later emperors are the tyrants Caligula and Nero, the philosopher-statesman Marcus Aurelius, and Constantine I, who was the first to accept Christianity. No history of the Christian Church during the medieval period would be complete without mention of such men of Italian birth as St. Benedict of Nursia, Pope Gregory I, St. Francis of Assisi, and the philosopher-theologians St. Anselm of Canterbury and St. Thomas Aquinas.
No land has made a greater contribution to the visual arts. In the 13th and 14th centuries there were the sculptors Nicola Pisano and his son Giovanni; the painters Cimabue, Duccio, and Giotto; and, later in the period, the sculptor Andrea Pisano. Among the many great artists of the 15th century — the golden age of Florence and Venice — were the architects Filippo Brunelleschi, Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Leon Battista Alberti; the sculptors Donatello, Luca della Robbia, Desiderio da Settignano, and Andrea del Verrocchio; and the painters Fra Angelico, Stefano di Giovanni, Paolo Uccello, Masaccio, Frà Filippo Lippi, Piero della Francesca, Giovanni Bellini, Andrea Mantegna, Antonio del Pollaiolo, Luca Signorelli, Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Vittore Carpaccio.
During the 16th century, the High Renaissance, Rome shared with Florence the leading position in the world of the arts. Major masters included the architects Donato Bramante and Andrea Palladio; the sculptor Benvenuto Cellini; the painter-designer-inventor Leonardo da Vinci; the painter-sculptor-architect Michelangelo Buonarroti; and the painters Titian, Giorgione, Raphael, Andrea del Sarto, and Antonio da Correggio. Among the great painters of the late Renaissance were Tintoretto and Paolo Veronese. Giorgio Vasari was a painter, architect, art historian, and critic.
Among the leading artists of the Baroque period were the sculptors-architects Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and Francesco Borromini; the painters Caravaggio, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Canaletto, Pietro Longhi, and Francesco Guardi. Leading figures in modern painting were Umberto Boccioni, Amedeo Modigliani, Giorgio de Chirico, and Giorgio Morandi. A noted contemporary architect was Pier Luigi Nervi.
Music, an integral part of Italian life, owes many of its forms as well as its language to Italy. The musical staff was either invented or established by Guido of Arezzo. A leading 14th-century composer was the blind Florentine organist Francesco Landini. Leading composers of the High Renaissance and early Baroque periods were Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina; the madrigalists Luca Marenzio and Carlo Gesualdo, prince of Venosa; the Venetian organists Andrea Gabrieli and Giovanni Gabrieli; Claudio Monteverdi, one of the founders of opera; organist-composer Girolamo Frescobaldi; and Giacomo Carissimi. Important figures of the later Baroque era were Arcangelo Corelli, Antonio Vivaldi, Alessandro Scarlatti, and his son Domenico Scarlatti. Italian-born Luigi Cherubini was the central figure of French music in the Napoleonic era, while Antonio Salieri and Gaspare Spontini played important roles in the musical life of Vienna and Berlin, respectively. Composers of the 19th century who made their period the great age of Italian opera were Gioacchino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti, Vincenzo Bellini, and, above all, Giuseppe Verdi. Niccolò Paganini was the greatest violinist of his time. More recent operatic composers include Ruggiero Leoncavallo, Giacomo Puccini, and Pietro Mascagni. Renowned operatic singers include Enrico Caruso, Luisa Tetrazzini, Titta Ruffo, Amelita Galli-Curci, Beniamino Gigli, Ezio Pinza, and Luciano Pavarotti. Ferruccio Busoni, Ottorino Respighi, Luigi Dallapiccola, Luigi Nono, and Luciano Berio are major 20th-century composers. Arturo Toscanini is generally regarded as one of the greatest operatic and orchestral conductors of his time; two noted contemporary conductors are Claudio Abbado and Riccardo Muti. The foremost makers of stringed instruments were Gasparo da Salò of Brescia, Nicolò Amati, Antonio Stradivari, and Giuseppe Guarneri of Cremona. Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the piano.
Italian literature and literary language began with Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy. Literary achievements — such as the poetry of Petrarch, Torquato Tasso, and Ludovico Ariosto and the prose of Giovanni Boccaccio, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Baldassare Castiglione — exerted a tremendous and lasting influence on the subsequent development of Western culture. Outstanding film directors are Italian-born Frank Capra, Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti, Roberto Rossellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, Sergio Leone, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Franco Zeffirelli, Lina Wertmüller, and Bernardo Bertolucci. Famous film stars include Italian-born Rudolph Valentino, Marcello Mastroianni, and Sophia Loren.
In philosophy, exploration, and statesmanship, Italy has produced many world-renowned figures: the traveler Marco Polo; the statesman and patron of the arts Cosimo de' Medici; the statesman, clergyman, and artistic patron Rodrigo Borgia, who became Pope Alexander VI; the soldier, statesman, and artistic patron Lorenzo de' Medici, the son of Cosimo; the explorer John Cabot; the explorer Christopher Columbus; the explorer Amerigo Vespucci, after whom the Americas are named; the admiral and statesman Andrea Doria; Niccolò Machiavelli, author of The Prince and the outstanding political theorist of the Renaissance; the statesman and clergyman Cesare Borgia, the son of Rodrigo; the explorer Sebastian Cabot, the son of John; the historian Francesco Guicciardini; the explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano; the philosopher Giordano Bruno; the imperial field marshal and statesman Prince Eugene of Savoy; the political philosopher Giambattista Vico; the noted jurist Cesare Beccaria; Giuseppe Mazzini, the leading spirit of the Risorgimento; Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, its prime statesman; and Giuseppe Garibaldi, its foremost soldier and man of action. Notable intellectual and political leaders of more recent times include the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1907, Ernesto Teodoro Moneta; the sociologist and economist Vilfredo Pareto; the political theorist Gaetano Mosca; the philosopher, critic, and historian Benedetto Croce; the educator Maria Montessori; Benito Mussolini, the founder of Fascism and dictator of Italy from 1922 to 1943; Carlo Sforza and Alcide De Gasperi, famous latter-day statesmen; and the Communist leaders Antonio Gramsci, Palmiro Togliatti, and Enrico Berlinguer.
Italian scientists and mathematicians of note include Fibonacci, Gerolamo Cardano, Galileo Galilei, Bonaventura Cavalieri, Evangelista Torricelli, Francesco Maria Grimaldi, Marcello Malpighi, Giuseppe Luigi Lagrangia, Alessandro Volta, Amedeo Avogadro, Stanislao Cannizzaro, Giuseppe Peano, Guglielmo Marconi, Italian-American Enrico Fermi, Daniel Bovet, Rita Levi-Montalcini, and Italian-American Riccardo Giacconi.
The great Romantic English poet, Lord Byron, described Italian as a language that sounds "as if it should be writ on satin." Byron's description is not an isolated expression of poetic fancy but, in fact, a popular view of the Italian language across the world, often called the language of "love," "poetry," and "song."
Italian, like English, belongs to the Indo-European family of languages. Like French and Spanish, it is a Romance language, one of the modern languages that developed from Latin. In particular, among the Romance languages, Italian is considered to be the closest to Latin in terms of vocabulary. It is spoken by about 60 million people in Italy, 23,000 in the Republic of San Marino, 400,000 in Switzerland, another 1,3 million in other European countries, and approximately 6 million in the Americas.
Standard Italian evolved from a dialect spoken in Tuscany, given that it was the first region to produce great writers as Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio. Thanks to its cultural prestige, this dialect was adopted first in the Italian states, and then by the Kingdom of Italy after the unification in 1861. It may be considered somewhat intermediate, linguistically and geographically, between the Italo-Dalmatian languages of the South and the Gallo-Italic languages of the North, and through Corsican varieties with Sardinian, becoming the center of a dialect continuum. Its development was also influenced by the other Italian dialects and by the Germanic language of post-Roman invaders.
There are only a few communities in Italy in which Italian is not spoken as the first language, but many speakers are native bilinguals of both standardised Italian and other regional languages. These include native communities of Indo-European languages like Albanian, Croatian and Greek in southern Italy, Slovene and German varieties in Northern Italy, and dozens of various Romance languages, like Arpitan, Friulan, Ladin, Lombard, Neapolitan, Occitan, Sardinian, Sicilian, and many others.
Today, despite regional variations in the form of accents and vowel emphasis, Italian is fully comprehensible throughout the country. Many influences in Italy have helped standardize Italian. They include military service, education, and nationwide communication by means of newspapers, books, radio, and television.
Libraries and Museums 
Italy is one of the world's greatest centers of architecture, art, and books. Among its many of libraries, the most important are in the national library system, which contains two central libraries, in Florence (5.3 million volumes) and Rome (5 million), and four regional libraries, in Naples (1.8 million volumes), Milan (1 million), Turin (973,000) and Venice (917,000). The existence of two national central libraries, while most nations have one, came about through the history of the country, as Rome was once part of the Papal States and Florence was one of the first capitals of the unified Kingdom of Italy. While both libraries are designated as copyright libraries, Florence now serves as the site designated for conservation and cataloging of Italian publications and the site in Rome catalogs foreign publications acquired by the state libraries. All large Italian cities have public libraries.
Italy, a world center of culture, history and art, has more than 3,000 museums. They contain, perhaps, the most important collections of artifacts from ancient civilizations. Taranto's museum, for example, offers material enabling scholars to probe deeply into the history of Magna Graecia. The archaeological collections in the Roman National Museum in Rome and in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples are probably among the world's best. Similarly, the Etruscan collection in the National Archaeological Museum of Umbria in Perugia, the classical sculptures in the Capitoline Museums in Rome, and the Egyptian collection in the Museo Egizio in Turin are, perhaps, the best such collections in the world.
The classical age is not the only age represented in Italy's museums. The Italian Renaissance is well represented in a number of museums: the Uffizi Gallery, Bargello Museum, and Palazzo Pitti are all located in Florence. Many of these museums, are the former palaces of kings or the houses of royal families.
In 1986, the first internet connection in Italy was experimented in Pisa, the third in Europe after Norway and England. Already in the late 1970s, Pisan researchers, firstly with Luciano Lenzini, were in contact with U.S. researchers who had written the history of the Internet. Among them were Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, who were the first to invent TCP and IP, the two protocols at the heart of the internet, and are hence considered the "Fathers of the Internet".
Currently Internet access is available to businesses and home users in various forms, including dial-up, cable, DSL, and wireless. The .it is the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Italy. The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.
According to data released by the fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) Council Europe, Italy represents one of the largest FTTH markets in Europe, with more than 2,5 million homes passed by fibre at end-December 2010; at the same date the country reported around 348,000 fibre subscribers. The "Fibre for Italy" project (with the participation of providers Fastweb, Vodafone and Wind in a co-investment partnership) aims to reach 20 million people in Italy's 15 largest cities by 2015, and Telecom Italia plans to connect 138 cities by 2018. The government has also started the Italia Digitale project, which aims to provide at least 50% of Italians with high-speed internet access by 2020. The government aims to extend the fibre-optic network to rural areas.
Figures published by the National Institute of Statistics showed at end-2011 that 58,8% of Italian families had a personal computer (up slightly from 57,6% in 2010); 54,5% had access to the internet (up from 52,4%); and 45,8% had broadband access (up from 43,4%). Over one-fourth (26,3%, down slightly from 26,4% in 2010) of Italian internet users aged 14 and older made an online purchase during 2011.
Newspapers and periodicals 
As of 2002, there were about 90 daily newspapers in the country, but not all of them had national circulation. According to Audipress statistics, the major daily newspapers (with their political orientations and estimated circulations) are: la Repubblica, left-wing, 3,276,000 in 2011; Corriere della Sera, independent, 3,274,000 in 2011; La Stampa, liberal, 2,132,000 in 2011; Il Messaggero, left of center, 1,567,000 in 2011; il Resto del Carlino, right of center, 1,296,000 in 2011; Il Sole 24 Ore, a financial news paper, 1,015,000 in 2011; il Giornale, independent, 728,000 in 2011; and l'Unità, Communist, 291,000 in 2011. TV Sorrisi e Canzoni is the most popular news weekly with a circulation of 677,658 in July 2012. The periodical press is becoming increasingly important. Among the most important periodicals are the pictorial weeklies — Oggi, L'Europeo, L'espresso, and Gente. Famiglia Cristiana is a Catholic weekly periodical with a wide readership.
The majority of papers are published in northern and central Italy, and circulation is highest in these areas. Rome and Milan are the most important publication centers. A considerable number of dailies are owned by the political parties, the Roman Catholic Church, and various economic groups. In general, the journalistic level of the Italian papers is high, and two dailies, Milan's Corriere della Sera and Turin's La Stampa, enjoy international respect.
The law provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the government is said to respect these rights in practice.
Of all the claimants to the title of the "Father of Radio", the one most associated with it is the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi. He was the first person to send radio communication signals in 1895. By 1899 he flashed the first wireless signal across the English Channel and two years later received the letter "S", telegraphed from England to Newfoundland. This was the first successful transatlantic radiotelegraph message in 1902.
Today, radio waves that are broadcast from thousands of stations, along with waves from other sources, fill the air around us continuously. Italy has three state-controlled radio networks that broadcast day and evening hours on both AM and FM.[nb 6] Program content varies from popular music to lectures, panel discussions, classical music, and opera, as well as frequent newscasts and feature reports. In addition, many private radio stations mix popular and classical music. A short-wave radio, though unnecessary, aids in reception of VOA, BBC, Vatican Radio in English and the Armed Forces Network in Germany and in other European stations.
The first form of televised media in Italy was introduced in 1939, when the first experimental broadcasting began. However, this lasted for a very short time: when fascist Italy entered World War II in 1940, all the transmission were interrupted, and were resumed in earnest only nine years after the end of the conflict, in 1954.
There are two main national television organisations responsible for most viewing: state-owned RAI, funded by a yearly mandatory licence fee and Mediaset, commercial network founded by Silvio Berlusconi. Currently La7 is considered as the third major network in Italy, it is owned by Telecom Italia Media, the media branch of the telephone company Telecom Italia, which also owns 51% of MTV Italia. While many other networks are also present, both nationally and locally, RAI and Mediaset together, with their six traditional ex analogue stations[nb 7] plus a number of new free to air digital channels, reach almost 70% of the TV ratings.
The television networks offer varied programs, including news, operas, game shows, sitcoms, cartoons, plays, documentaries, musicals, and films-all in Italian. All programs are in color, except for the old black-and-white movies. Most Italians still depend on VHF/UHF reception, but both cable systems and direct satellite reception is increasingly common. Conventional satellite dishes can pick up European broadcasts, including some in English.
Italy set up its present form of government in 1946. That year, the people voted to change their nation from a monarchy ruled by a king to a republic headed by a president. King Umberto II immediately left the throne. The voters elected a group of 556 members, called a Constituent Assembly, to write a constitution. The Constitution was approved in 1947 and became effective on Jan. 1, 1948. The Constitution established a governing system made up of a president, a cabinet called the Council of Ministers headed by a prime minister, and a Parliament made up of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies.
The president of Italy is elected to a seven-year term by both houses of Parliament and a small number of regional representatives. The president must be at least 50 years old. He or she appoints the prime minister, who forms a government. The president has the power to dissolve Parliament and call new elections. The president is the commander of the Italian armed forces, and can declare war. The current President of the Italian Republic is Giorgio Napolitano.
Italy has no vice president. If the president of Italy becomes ill, the president of the Italian Senate takes over the office. If the president dies, a presidential election is held.
The prime minister determines national policy and is the most important person in the Italian government. The prime minister is selected by the president — usually from the members of Parliament — and must be approved by Parliament. The prime minister has no fixed term of office and can be voted out of office by Parliament at any time. The current Italian Prime Minister is Mario Monti.
Members of the Cabinet are chosen by the prime minister, and they are usually selected from the members of Parliament. They are then appointed by the president and must be approved by Parliament. The Italian prime minister and the cabinet are officially called the government.
Italy was a founding member of the European Community — now the European Union. Italy was admitted to the United Nations in 1955 and is a member and strong supporter of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Council of Europe. Its recent turns in the rotating Presidency of international organisations include the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the forerunner of the OSCE, in 1994; G8; and the EU in 2001 and from July to December 2003.
Roman Catholicism is by far the largest religion in the country. Although the Roman Catholic Church has been separated from the state, it still plays a role in the nation's political affairs partly due to Holy See's location in Vatican City, within Rome itself. Some 98% of Italians are Roman Catholic of which one-third are active members. Most baptisms, weddings, and funeral services are held in church.
An agreement called a concordat governs the relationship between Italy and the Roman Catholic Church. For instance, the agreement exempts priests and other members of religious orders from military service and gives tax exemptions to Catholic organizations.
Even though the main Christian denomination in Italy is Roman Catholicism, there are some minorities of Protestant, Waldensian, Eastern Orthodox and other Christian churches. In the past two decades, Italy has received several waves of immigrants and as a result, some 825,000 Muslims (1.4%) live in Italy, although other estimates indicate that there are up to one million Muslims as well as, 75,000 Hindus, 50,000 Buddhists, and a historical community of 30,000 Jewish members.
Football is a popular spectator and participation sport. The Italian national team is among the very best in the world and has won the World Cup on four different occasions: 1934, 1938, 1982, and 2006. Only Brazil has a better record. Major Italian clubs frequently compete at a high level of European competitions.
Rugby union is very popular in Italy; clubs compete domestically in the Super 10, as well as the European Heineken Cup tournament. The national team competes in the Six Nations Championship, and is a regular at the Rugby World Cup.
Cycling is also a well-represented sport in Italy. Italians are second only to Belgium in winning the most World Cycling Championships. The Giro d'Italia is a world famous long distance bicycle race held every May and constitutes one of the three Grand Tours along with the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, each of which last approximately three weeks.
Scuderia Ferrari is the oldest surviving team in Grand Prix racing, having competed since 1948, and statistically the most successful Formula One team in history with a record of 15 drivers' championships and 16 constructors' championships. Other very popular sports in Italy are basketball, volleyball, and boxing.
See also 
- "The literati taught that Italy had moral and intellectual primacy because it was the cradle of European civilization — of Roman law, of Christian thought, of the Renaissance. "Primacy" was Italy's great founding myth — the idea capable of animating and agitating, mobilizing, directing popular conscience, and sustaining action. Italy could be the spiritual empire that transforms and unites Western civilization."
- "Italy's cultural inventions provided the standards to which Europeans complied in literature, architecture, art, and music until the end of the 19th century, although the country lost some of its pilot role by 1650. The era is synonymous with the baroque aesthetic, fashioned in Rome in the late 1500s, and often closely associated with the Catholic Church."
- "Christianity for the first time made charity a rudimentary virtue, giving it a leading place in the moral type and in the exhortations of its teachers. Besides its general influence in stimulating the affections, it effected a complete revolution in this sphere, by representing the poor as the special representatives of the Christian founder, and thus making the love of Christ rather than the love of man the principle of charity."
- Outstanding examples include Padua, Naples, Siena, and Macerata.
- See also Putnam R. D. (1995), Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital, in «Journal of Democracy», 6, 65-78.
- Rai Radio 1, Rai Radio 2, and Rai Radio 3.
- Rai 1, Rai 2, and Rai 3; Canale 5, Italia 1, and Rete 4.
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