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Italy

General characteristics

Italy is a state in southern Europe which is located in the heart of the Mediterranean. It occupies the Apennine peninsula, the Po Valley, the southern slopes of the Alps, Sicily, Sardinia and a range of small islands. It shares borders with France in the north-west (border length – 488 km), with Switzerland (740 km) and Austria (430 km) in the north, and with Slovenia in the north-east (232 km). It also has internal borders with Vatican (3.2 km) and San Marino (39 km) (Buckley 10-12).

Italy is mostly a mountainous country. It has the southern slopes of the Alps in the north with the highest point in Western Europe Mont Blanc (4808 m), the Po Valley in the south, the Apennines on the peninsula (with the highest point Corno Grande, 2914 m). In the eastern part of the peninsula lies the peninsula of Gargano, in the south-east and south-west there are peninsulas Salentina and Calabria, respectively. There are two active volcanoes Vesuvius and Etna causing frequent earthquakes. Most of the small islands are divided into archipelagos, such as the Tuscan Archipelago, which includes the island of Elba to which Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled (Buckley 15-19).

Italy is a highly developed industrial-agrarian country. The north is predominantly industrial and highly developed, while the south is mainly agrarian and poor. GNP per capita makes $ 30,000 per year. The leading industries are machine building, metallurgy, chemical and petrochemical, textile and food industries. Italy is one of the world’s largest manufacturers and suppliers of cars, bicycles and mopeds, tractors, washing machines and refrigerators, typewriters and adding machines, electronic products, industrial equipment, steel pipes, plastics and chemical fiber, car tires, as well as clothing and leather shoes, pasta, cheese, olive oil, wine, fruit and canned tomatoes. Italy also locates large-scale production of cement, natural essences and essential oils of flowers and fruit, art glass and pottery, jewelry, pyrites mining, mercury ores, natural gas, potash salt, dolomite, and asbestos (Buckley 34-48; Wolff).

Crop growing dominates in agricultural sector. The main crops are wheat, corn, rice (the largest rice producer in Europe with over 1 million tons per year), sugar beet. Italy is also one of the world’s largest and Europe’s leading producer of citrus fruits (more than 3.3 million tons per year), tomatoes (more than 5.5 million tons), grapes (about 10 million tons per year, over 90% being processed in wine), and olives. Floriculture and poultry are highly developed as well (Buckley 49-52).

Italy is the largest area of international tourism (over 50 million people per year). Tourism here is one of the leading sectors of the economy and accounts for 12% of GDP. Italy occupies 5.6% of the world tourism market. In this regard, the country ranks third in the EU yielding only to France and Spain (Buckley 72-75).

Current Events

One of the most well-covered current events is the collapse of the cruise ship Costa Concordia on January 14, 2012 near the Italian island of Giglio by the coast of Tuscany, which was carrying 3216 passengers from 62 countries. During the interrogation, the captain of the liner stated that the ship had obtained a large hole in the bottom through bumping into rocks which had not been marked on the map. According to official data, 11 people died, 79 people received injuries, and 24 people are still missing. An event of this scale is equaled to the collapse of the Titanic, which stroke aground exactly 100 years ago (Allen 21-23).

In 2011 the era of the most influential Italian of the last few decades was over: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who had been the prime minister of Italy since 2008 (and before that headed the government in 1994 and 2001-2006) resigned. Berlusconi decided to leave the chair of the Premier after he lost the majority in the lower house of the national parliament of Italy on November 8. Not only the opposition, but also some of the members of his own party voted against the prime minister (Wolff).

Also in 2011 the new Italian government approved an austerity program which includes raising the retirement age, abolition of tax privileges and reduction of the state apparatus. Thus, the Prime Minister Mario Monti set an example to others and refused from his salary; and the Italian Minister for Welfare, Elsa Forner, burst into tears at the disclosure of the anti-crisis measures on raising the retirement age. Through tears, she said that the government was forced to take such steps to avoid the collective impoverishment (Wolff).

One of the top issues is also that the police in Rome have arrested the famous Italian gangster of the Gambino clan, Mafia boss Rosario Gambino who is known as the creator of the multimillion-dollar drug cartel in the 1970s and 1980s together with the American Mafia. At the end of November 2011, the Court in Italy recognized more than 100 people convicted in connection with major mafia clan and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 4 to 15 years. The process has become the largest in the history of Italian justice by the number of the accused and convicted (Buckley 112-15).

In 2011, scientists recorded 18 eruptions of Etna (Buckley 21-22). January 5, the volcano renewed its activity in the new year: experts recorded the emission of lava from the new crater. It is reported to be located in the south-eastern part of the volcano. However, the vigorous activity of Etna has not yet made any adjustments to the schedule of the airport in Sicily: it is still dispatching and receiving plains in the usual time-table.

Entertainment

Castellamare di Stabia, a town on the coast of Italy, is located in Campania region subject to the administrative center of Naples. Staying in Castellamare di Stabia, one should know that the city is located on the site of ancient settlement of Stabia, which was destroyed (along with Pompeii and Herculaneum) in 79 AD by the eruption of Vesuvius. After a few centuries the city was reborn due to the popularity of its thermal waters (Lancaster 38-42).

In Castellamare di Stabia, the Archaeological Museum “Antiquarium Stabiano” its offers visitors a rich exhibition of archaeological findings of ancient Stabiae: frescoes, sculptures and bas-reliefs are of particular interest here. In the city center, i.e. at Piazza Giovanni the XXIII, the Cathedral is located which was founded in the 17th century and rebuilt according to the project of Rispoli in the 19th century. It has three naves interior, high dome and decorated with frescoes of the 19th century. Among its main attractions is the Roman statue of the Archangel Michael (6th century) (Jepson and Soriano 74-76).

Another interesting church to visit is the Church del Gesu (Church of Jesus), erected by the Jesuit Fathers in 1615. Next to it, Villa Comunale is located, an urban garden with lots of sculptured busts and palm trees, giving it an exotic look. Straight from the garden, there is a stunning view of the bay. In addition, the archaeological site of ancient Stabiae near the city borders should be inspected as now it contains Villa Arianna and the other Roman villas entrenched in 1950 out of a volcanic rock, but still preserving the magnificent samples of antique sculptures, paintings, and decorative arts (Lancaster 64-65). And finally, just as in Roman times, 28 sources of new and old therms (Nuove and Antiche Terme Stabiane) are popular here and should be visited (Jepson and Soriano 75-79).

In nearby Pompeii, in the town there are the ruins of the forum with a colonnade, the so called basilica, a temple of Apollo (2 cent. BC), the temple of Jupiter, the building of the priestesses Eumachia (cloth market), Macellum (meat market), therms (1 cent. BC), as well as the remains of Triangular Forum with Doric temple (6 cent. BC), theater (3-1 cc. BC), the Odeon and the amphitheater (both of 1 cent. BC). A small resort town in Italy, Sorrento, perched on the steep cliffs of volcanic tuff falling in the Gulf of Naples. Tasso square can be called the heart of Sorrento: it is the place of dates and business meetings, the starting point of the evening promenade around the city. Tasso square is decorated with two monuments, one of which is a statue of Torquato Tasso, the famous poet who was born in Sorrento in 1544. Another statue depicts blessing St. Antoninus, a Benedictine monk, the patron saint of the city (Jepson and Soriano 89-93).

One of the most interesting monuments of old Sorrento, Zedillo Dominova (15th century), on the outskirts of the historic center, closer to the sea there stands the monastery church of St. Francis of Assisi (18th century). On summer nights, the cool courtyard transforms into a showplace of the festival “Sorrento Musical Summer” (Jepson and Soriano 131-32).

The closest major city is Naples. One can travel by the local railway lines Circumvesuviana from the Castellammare di Stabia station to the central station of Naples for 3.5 euros. Also, for about 3 euros one can take a bus of Curreri line to the international airport of Naples Capodichino.

Naples is the third largest city in Italy (after Rome and Milan) and the largest city of Southern Italy. First of all, Naples is famous for being the birthplace of pizza; and the oldest pizzeria in the city called Antica Pizzeria Port Alba was founded in 1830. The most famous pizza in Naples and the surrounding areas is “Margarita” (Jepson and Soriano 35-36). It is also interesting that the Central Line № 1 of Naples subway is an example of the public underground museum of contemporary art. The decoration of 25 stations was finished in 2005 (Buckley 97).

The city itself is also rich in historical monuments and landmarks, among which are: the National Museum, Archaeological Museum and Capodimonte Gallery, the San Martino Monastery and San Martino Museum, New Castle (Castel Nuovo), Royal Palace, St. Januarius Chapel (San Gennaro), etc. (Jepson and Soriano 21-26). At the same time, Naples is Italy’s most controversial city, and one can either love or hate it. Life in Naples is noisier, more intense, and much brighter than in other cities: visitors of the city typically meet a truly exotic picture: revelers prevail in the streets, sprightly “bambini” and “ragazzi” are everywhere, hissing sounds of the local dialect are heard, it’s the city of corruption and mafia, vice and holiness go side by side. Still, historic Naples is the only city where the spirit of the Golden Age is still alive (Jepson and Soriano 49). It is also considered that even the Italians from the North come here to feel the spirit of genuine, former Italy.

 

Works Cited:

Allen, Craig H. “The Captain’s Duty on a Sinking Ship”, Professional Mariner 4 (2012): 21-28. Print.
Buckley, A. M. Italy. Essential Library, 2011. Print.
Jepson, Tim, and Tino Soriano. National Geographic Traveler: Naples and Southern Italy, 2nd ed. National Geographic, 2011. Print.
Lancaster, Jordan. In the Shadow of Vesuvius. Tauris Parke, 2009. Print.
Wolff, Guntram B. “The Euro Area Crisis: Policy Options Ahead”, Peterson institute of international economics, 2011. PDF.
http://www.iie.com/publications/papers/wolff20110913.pdf.