Italy is a country located on the Italian Peninsula in Southern Europe and on the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia. Italy shares its northern, Alpine boundary with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The independent states of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within the Italian Peninsula, and Campione d'Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland.
The land known as Italy today has been the cradle of many European cultures and peoples, such as the Etruscans and the Romans.
At the end of 2008, the Italian population surpassed 60 million. Italy currently has the fourth-largest population in the European Union and the 23rd-largest population worldwide. Italy's population density, at 199.2 persons per square kilometre, is the fifth highest in the European Union. The highest density is in Northern Italy, as that one-third of the country contains almost half of the total population.According to the International Monetary Fund, in 2008 Italy was the seventh-largest economy in the world and the fourth-largest in Europe. The country is divided into a developed industrial north dominated by large private companies and an agricultural, state-assisted south. During the last decade the average annual growth was 1.23% in comparison to an average EU annual growth rate of 2.28%. Italy has often been referred the sick man of Europe, characterised by economic stagnation, political instability and problems in pursuing reform programs. Italy did not exist as a state until the country's unification in 1861. Due to this comparatively late unification, and the historical autonomy of the regions that comprise the Italian Peninsula, many traditions and customs that are now recognized as distinctly Italian can be identified by their regions of origin. Despite the political and social isolation of these regions, Italy's contributions to the cultural and historical heritage of Europe remain immense.The modern Italian cuisine has evolved through centuries of social and political changes, with its roots reaching back to the 4th century BC. Significant change occurred with the discovery of the New World, when vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, and maize became available. However, these central ingredients of modern Italian cuisine were not introduced in scale before the 18th century.
Ingredients and dishes vary by region. However, many dishes that were once regional have proliferated in different variations across the country. Cheese and wine are major parts of the cuisine, playing different roles both regionally and nationally with their many variations and Denominazione di origine controllata (regulated appellation) laws. Coffee, and more specifically espresso, has become highly important to the cultural cuisine of Italy.
Wlochy. Fajny kraj i interesujacy ;)