Italy is a unitary parliamentary republic in Southern Europe. Italy covers an area of 301,338 km2 (116,347 sq mi) and has a largely temperate climate; due to its shape, it is often referred to in Italy as lo Stivale (the Boot). With 61 million inhabitants, it is the 5th most populous country in Europe. Italy is a very highly developed country and has the third largest economy in the Euro zone and the eighth-largest in the world.
Thanks to the great longitudinal extension of the peninsula and the mostly mountainous internal conformation, the climate of Italy is highly diverse. In most of the inland northern and central regions, the climate ranges from humid subtropical to humid continental and oceanic. In particular, the climate of the Po valley geographical region is mostly continental, with harsh winters and hot summers. The coastal areas of Liguria, Tuscany and most of the South generally fit the Mediterranean climate stereotype (Köppen climate classification Csa). Conditions on peninsular coastal areas can be very different from the interior's higher ground and valleys, particularly during the winter months when the higher altitudes tend to be cold, wet, and often snowy. The coastal regions have mild winters and warm and generally dry summers, although lowland valleys can be quite hot in summer. Average winter temperatures vary from 0 °C (32 °F) on the Alps to 12 °C (54 °F) in Sicily, like so the average summer temperatures range from 20 °C (68 °F) to over 30 °C (86 °F).
Italy's official language is Italian. It is estimated that there are about 64 million native Italian speakers while the total number of Italian speakers, including those who use it as a second language, is about 85 million. Italy has numerous regional dialects, however, the establishment of a national education system has led to decrease in variation in the languages spoken across the country during the 20th century. Standardization was further expanded in the 1950s and 1960s thanks to economic growth and the rise of mass media and television (the state broadcaster RAI helped set a standard Italian).
At the end of 2013, Italy had 60,782,668 inhabitants. The resulting population density, at 202/km² (520/sq. mile), is higher than that of most Western European countries. However, the distribution of the population is widely uneven. The most densely populated areas are the Po Valley (that accounts for almost a half of the national population) and the metropolitan areas of Rome and Naples, while vast regions such as the Alps and Apennines highlands, the plateaus of Basilicata and the island of Sardinia are very sparsely populated.
Roman Catholicism is, by far, the largest religion in the country, although Catholicism is no longer officially the state religion. In 2010, the proportion of Italians that identify themselves as Roman Catholic was 81.2%. The Holy See, the Episcopal jurisdiction of Rome, contains the central government of the entire Roman Catholic Church, including various agencies essential to administration. Diplomatically, it is recognized by other subjects of international law as a sovereign entity, headed by the Pope, who is also the Bishop of Rome, with which diplomatic relations can be maintained. Often incorrectly referred to as "the Vatican", the Holy See is not the same entity as the Vatican City State, which came into existence only in 1929; the Holy See dates back to early Christian times. Ambassadors are officially accredited not to the Vatican City State but to "the Holy See", and papal representatives to states and international organizations are recognized as representing the Holy See, not the Vatican City State.
Italian cuisine has developed through centuries of social and political changes, with roots as far back in antiquity.
Significant changes occurred with the discovery of the New World and the introduction of potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and maize, now central to the cuisine but not introduced in quantity until the 18th century. Italian cuisine is noted for its regional diversity, abundance of difference in taste, and it is probably the most popular in the world, with influences abroad.
Italian cuisine is characterized by its simplicity, with many dishes having only four to eight ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation. Ingredients and dishes vary by region. Many dishes that were once regional, however, have proliferated with variations throughout the country.
Cheese and wine are a major part of the cuisine, with many variations and Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) (regulated appellation) laws. Coffee, specifically espresso, has become important in Italian cuisine.
Italy has well developed public and private transportation options. Italian rail network is extensive, especially in the north, generally eclipsing the need for an alternative such as bus or air (both of which, however, exist to some extent). While a number of private railroads exist and provide mostly commuter-type services, the national railway, Ferrovie dello Stato, also provides sophisticated high-speed rail service that joins the major cities of Italy from Naples through northern cities such as Milan and Turin. Italy has 2507 people and 12.46 km2 (World's seventh) per km of rail track.
Italian railway system has a length of 19,394 km (12,051 mi), of which 18,071 km (11,229 mi) standard gauge and 11,322 km (7,035 mi) electrified. The active lines are 16,723 km. The network is recently growing with the construction of the new high-speed rail network. The narrow gauge tracks are:
• 112 km (70 mi) of 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) gauge (all electrified)
• 1,211 km (752 mi) of 950 mm (3 ft 1 3⁄8 in) gauge (of which 153 km (95 mi) electrified)
Thrumming with life along the Cannaregio Canal, quiet and echoing in its alleyways and understated campi, this sestiere of surprises conceals the original Jewish Ghetto and some great nightlife on the fondamenta della Misericordia.
A sestiere of many parts, Castello stretches from luxury hotels on the lagoon-side riva degli Schiavoni to glorious churches such as Santi Giovanni e Paolo in the west. Further east, beyond the monumental Arsenale, lie the quiet streets of residential workaday Venice.
Artsy Dorsoduro is home to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the new Pinault gallery at the Punta della Dogana. But there’s lots of nightlife, too, around campo Santa Margherita, plus a vibrant student scene further west in the former industrial zone.
With a character all of its own, the Giudecca has an industrious past and an alternative future: from boatyards to galleries, this island just gets trendier. Palladio’s San Giorgio is a Venetian icon.
No other city in the world can boast quite such a magnificent main street as Venice: a graceful backwards-‘S’ sweep of water, flowing between sumptuous churches and historic palazzi of breathtaking beauty. Whether you’re doing it for the first time or the 1,000th, making your water-borne way down the Grand Canal is always an extraordinary experience.
There’s a whole other world in the lagoon, from the rather fin-de-siècle beach resort on the long, sandy Lido to misty water lands dotted with characterful islands.
The eponymous piazza and basilica are the beating heart of this sestiere. Many of Venice's major attractions are situated here including Doge's Palace, Campanile and Torre dell'Orologio. In the alleys that wind from this hub towards the Rialto and Accademia bridges are snazzy shops (Ottico Fabbricatore, Daniela Ghezzo Segalin Venezia and Perle e Dintorni), a great opera house (Teatro La Fenice) and glowing Madonnas in awe-inspiring churches.
The hectic produce and fish market at the foot of the Rialto Bridge sets the tone for these busy residential sestieri, packed with the kind of intimate restaurants and cafés frequented by true Venetians. At the sestiere’s heart is the magnificent Frari basilica.
The hotel offers a snack bar/deli. A bar/lounge is on site where guests can unwind with a drink. Guests can enjoy a complimentary breakfast. An Internet point is located on site and high-speed wireless Internet access is complimentary.