Italy (Italian: Italia [iˈtaːlja]), officially the Italian Republic (Italian: Repubblica italiana), is a unitary parliamentary republic in Southern Europe. To the north, Italy borders France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia, and is approximately delimited by the Alpine watershed, enclosing the Po Valley and the Venetian Plain. To the south, it consists of the entirety of the Italian Peninsula and the two biggest Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia, in addition to many other smaller islands. The sovereign states of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within Italy, while Campione d'Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland. Italy covers an area of 301,338 km2 (116,347 sq mi) and has a largely temperate climate. With 59.7 million inhabitants, it is the fifth most populous country in Europe. Italy is also the fourth-largest economy on the European Union, third in the Eurozone and ninth in the world.
Italy's capital and largest city, Rome, has for centuries been the leading political and religious centre of Western civilisation, as the capital of the Roman Empire and of Christianity. In the Dark Ages, Italy suffered continual invasions by Germanic tribes, while the Roman heritage was preserved by Christian monks. Beginning from the 11th century, Italian cities rose to great prosperity through shipping, commerce and banking (indeed, modern capitalism has its roots in Medieval Italy), while culture flourished, especially during the Renaissance, which produced notable scholars, artists and polymaths such as Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo and Machiavelli. Nonetheless, Italy remained fragmented into numerous warring states for the rest of the Middle Ages, subsequently falling prey to other large European nation-states, notably France, Spain and later Austria, thus entering a long period of decline that lasted until the beginning of the 18th century.
After many unsuccessful attempts, the second and the third wars of Italian independence resulted in the unification of most of present-day Italy in 1859-1866. Between the late 19th century and the early 1900s, The new Kingdom of Italy quickly industrialized and acquired a vast a colonial empire in Africa. However, the South and rural areas in the North remained largely excluded from industrialisation, fuelling a large diaspora. Despite victory in World War I, Italy entered a period of economic crisis and social turmoil, that favoured the establishment of a Fascist dictatorship in 1922. The subsequent participation in World War II at the side of Nazi Germany ended in military catastrophe, economic destruction and civil war. In post-war years, Italy abolished the monarchy, reinstate democracy and enjoyed a prolonged economic boom, thus becoming one of the most developed nations in the world.
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