On a map Italy looks like a long boot stretching from southern Europe into the Mediterranean Sea. The Alps form a natural frontier across the north of the peninsula and separate Italy from France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.

 The sea on Italy's east coast is called the Adriatic. The Ionian Sea is to the south of the peninsula. The Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia, the two largest islands in the Mediterranean, are off Italy's west coast. Between these islands and the mainland is the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Ligurian Sea is off Italy's northwest coast.

More than three-quarters of the Italian countryside is hilly or mountainous. The Apennine mountains, which run down the middle of the peninsula, are not as high as the Alps. In the south of Italy there are active volcanoes. These include Vesuvius (which destroyed Pompeii, near Naples in the 1st century A.D.), Etna in Sicily and Stromboli, an island between Sicily and the mainland.

 The Po, Italy's longest river, rises in the Alps and runs east through the fertile northern plains to the Adriatic Sea. The Tiber River rises in the Apennines and flows through the city of Rome to the Mediterranean. Italy has 1,500 lakes. Lake Garda, Lake Maggiore and Lake Como in northern Italy are the largest.

The Italian climate is varied. The Alpine area in the north has short, cool summers and long, cold winters. The Alps block the intense cold winds from Northern Europe. South of the lakes, in the Po River Valley, the climate is more continental with hot summers and cold winters. Along the Italian coastline the climate is Mediterranean, with mild winters and hot, dry summers. The heaviest rains fall in the spring and autumn. In the central Apennines, winter snowfalls can be very heavy but the summers are hot and dry. Farther south the climate is similar to that of North Africa, with intense summer heat and mild, often rainy, winters.
Summary Fact Sheet

Official Name: Republic of Italy
Capital:  Rome
Type of Government: Parliamentary Democracy
Population:  58 million
Area:  301,225 sq. km
Major Ethnic Group:  Italians
Language:  Italian
Religions:  Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Islam
Unit of Currency:  Lira
National Flag:  Vertical stripes of green, white and red
Republic Established: June 18, 2021