Italy

Italy (Italian Italia), republic in southern Europe, bounded on the north by Switzerland and Austria; on the east by Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea; on the south by the Ionian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea; on the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Ligurian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea; and on the northwest by France. It comprises, in addition to the Italian mainland, the Mediterranean islands of Elba, Sardinia, and Sicily and many lesser islands. Enclaves within mainland Italy are the independent countries of San Marino and Vatican City; the latter is a papal state mostly enclosed by Rome, the capital and largest city of Italy. The area of Italy is 301,323 sq km (sq mi).

LAND AND RESOURCES More than half of Italy consists of the Italian Peninsula, a long projection of the continental mainland. Shaped much like a boot, the Italian Peninsula extends generally southeast into the Mediterranean Sea. From northwest to southeast, the country is about 1km (about 710 mi) long; with the addition of the southern peninsular extremity, which extends north to south, it is about 1360 km (about 845 mi) long. The maximum width of the mainland portion of Italy is about 610 km (about 380 mi) in the north; the maximum width of the peninsula is about 240 km (about 150 mi). On the northern frontiers are the Alps, which extend in a wide arc from Ventimiglia on the west to Gorizia on the east, and include such high peaks as Monte Cervino (m/ 14,688 and Monte Rosa, which rises to its highest point (m/ 15,203 in Switzerland just west of the border. The highest point in Italy is near the summit of Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco), on the border of Italy, France, and Switzerland; the peak, located in France, is 4807 m (15,771 Between the Alps and the Apennines, which form the backbone of the Italian Peninsula, spreads the broad Plain of Lombardy, comprising the valley of the Po River. The northern Apennines project from the Maritime Alps along the Gulf of Genoa to the sources of the Tiber River. Monte Cimone (2163 m/7097 is the highest summit of the northern Apennines. The central Apennines, beginning at the source of the Tiber, consist of several chains. In the eastern portion of this rugged mountain district is Monte Corno (m/ 9554 the highest Apennine peak. The southern Apennines stretch southeast from the valley of the Sangro River to the coast of the Gulf of Taranto, where they assume a more southerly direction. High peaks of the Apennine ranges of the Calabrian Peninsula, as the southern extremity of the Italian Peninsula is known, include Botte Donato (1929 m/6329 and Montalto (m/6422 The Apennines form the watershed of the Italian Peninsula. The main upliare bordered by less elevated districts, known collectively as the sub-Apennine region. Only about one-third of the total land surface of Italy is made of plains, of which the greatest single tract is the Plain of Lombardy. The coast of Italy along the northern Adriatic Sea is low and sandy, bordered by shallow waters and, except at Venice, not readily accessible to oceangoing vessels. From a point near Rimini southward, the eastern coast of the peninsula is fringed by spurs of the Apennines. Along the middle of the western coast, however, are three stretches of low and marshy land, the Campagna di Roma, the Pontine Marshes, and the Maremma. The western coast of Italy is broken up by bays, gulfs, and other indentations, which provide a number of natural anchorages. In the northwest is the Gulf of Genoa, the harbor of the important commercial city of Genoa. Naples, another leading western coast port, is situated on the beautiful Bay of Naples, dominated by the volcano Mount Vesuvius. A little farther south is the Gulf of Salerno, at the head of which stands the port of Salerno. The southeastern end of the peninsula is deeply indented by the Gulf of Taranto, which divides the so-called heel of Italy (ancient Calabria) from the toe (modern Calabria). The Apennine range continues beneath the narrow Strait of Messina and traverses the island of Sicily, where the volcano Mount Etna, m (10,902 high, is located. Another active volcano rises on Stromboli, one of the Lipari Islands (Isole Eolie), northwest of the Strait of Messina. In addition to volcanic activity, Italy is also plagued by frequent minor earthquakes, especially in the southern regions.

Rivers and Lakes Italy has many rivers, of which the Po and the Adige are the most important. The Po, 652 km (405 mi) long, is navigable for about 480 km (about 300 mi) and with its tributaries affords about 970 km (about 600 mi) of inland waterways. The Adige, 410 km (255 mi) long, enters Italy from the Austrian province of Tirol (Tyrol), flows east, and, like the Po, empties into the Adriatic. The beds of these rivers are slowly being elevated by alluvial deposits from the mountains.

The rivers of the Italian Peninsula are shallow, odry during the summer season, and consequently of little importance for navigation or industry. The chief peninsular rivers are the Arno and the Tiber. From its sources in the Apennines, the Arno flows west for about 240 km (about 150 mi), through a well-cultivated valley and the cities of Florence and Pisa. The Tiber rises not far from the sources of the Arno and runs through the city of Rome. Both the northern and peninsular regions of Italy have numerous lakes. The principal lakes of northern Italy are Garda, Maggiore, Como, and Lugano; the peninsular lakes, which are considerably smaller, include Trasimeno, Bolsena, and Bracciano.

Natural Resources Italy is poor in natural resources, much of the land being unsuitable for agriculture due to mountainous terrain or unfavorable climate. Italy, moreover, is seriously deficient in such basic natural resources as coal. The most important mineral resources are natural gas, petroleum, lignite, sulfur, and pyrites. Other mineral deposits include lead, manganese, zinc, mercury, and bauxite. Many of these deposits are on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. However, they had been heavily depleted by the early 1990s. Italy is rich in various types of building stone, notably marble. The coastal waters of Italy teem with fishes, of which sardine, tuna, and anchovy have the greatest commercial importance. Freshwater fishes include eels and trout.

Plants and Animals The flora of the central and southern lowlands of Italy is typically Mediterranean. Among the characteristic vegetation of these regions are such trees as the olive, orange, lemon, palm, and citron. Other common types, especially in the extreme south, are fig, date, pomegranate, and almond trees, and sugarcane and cotton. The vegetation of the Apennines closely resembles that of central Europe. Dense growths of chestnut, cypress, and oak trees occupy the lower slopes, and at higher elevations, there are extensive stands of pine and fir.

Italy has fewer varieties of animals than are found generally in comparable areas of Europe. Small numbers of marmot, chamois, and ibex live in the Alps. The bear, numerous in ancient times, is now virtually extinct, but the wolf and wild boar still flourish in the mountain regions. Another fairly common quadruped is the fAmong the predatory species of bird are the eagle hawk, vulture, bufalcon, and kite, confined for the most part to the mountains. The quail, woodcock, partridge, and various migratory species abound in many parts of Italy. Reptiles include several species of lizards and snakes and three species of the poisonous viper family. Scorpions are also found.

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