Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a
Southern European country, situated on the western side of the European
continent. It comprises the Italian peninsula, the Po River valley, and
two large islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia, and
shares its northern alpine boundary with France, Switzerland, Austria
and Slovenia. The country also shares a sea border with Croatia. The
independent countries of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves
within Italian territory.
For more than 3,000 years Italy witnessed many migrations and invasions
from Germanic, Celtic, Frankish, Byzantine Greek, Saracen, Norman, and
the French Angevin, and Lombard peoples. Italy was also home to many
well-known and influential civilisations, including the Etruscans,
Greeks and the Romans.
Italy is called Belpaese (Italian for beautiful country)
by its inhabitants, due to the beauty and variety of its landscapes and
for having the world's largest artistic patrimony; the country is home
to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (40 as of January
Presently, Italy is a highly developed country with the 6th highest GDP
in 2004, a member of the G8 and a founding member of what is now the
European Union, having signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957.
Inhabitants of Italy are referred to as Italians (Italian: Italiani).
There exist several theories concerning the origin of the name
"Italia", but the most widely accepted etymology is that it is derived
from the ancient Greek word italos (bull). It is notable that Italians
are identifying themselves using a word given to them by Greeks, and
Greeks are also identifying themselves as Greeks(Γραικοί) or
Romans(Ρωμιοί), names given to them by Italians.