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Italy (Italian Italia), republic in southern Europe, on the northern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Most of Italy consists of a boot-shaped peninsula that juts out from southern Europe into the Mediterranean. Italy also includes the Mediterranean islands of Sardinia and Sicily and many lesser islands. Italy is blessed with varied and splendid landscapes, and because of its location most of the country enjoys sunshine and a mild Mediterranean climate.

Italy was the heart of the ancient Roman Empire, which united the lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea and spread the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome through much of Europe. After the Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century ad, Italy’s political unity was lost. But Rome, under the Roman Catholic Church, remained the spiritual center of western Europe. In the late Middle Ages northern Italian cities such as Florence, Venice, and Milan became prosperous commercial centers. In these cities the rebirth of classical culture known as the Renaissance began in the 14th century. Italian Renaissance painters, sculptors, writers, and architects were admired and imitated all over Europe, while Italy’s many small states became pawns in power struggles between France, Spain, and Austria.

Italian nationalism emerged as a powerful force in the 19th century, and a united Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in 1861. In 1946, after World War II, the monarchy was abolished and the Italian Republic was established. Since then, Italy has had a succession of governments, dominated during most of that period by the center-right, with the left in opposition. Rome is the capital and largest city of Italy, but nearly all of Italy’s towns and cities retain artistic treasures and other reminders of Italy’s cultural heritage.


For younger readers

Foster, Leila Merrell. Italy. Lucent, 1998. History and geography, for middle school readers.

Martin, Fred. Italy. Heinemann, 1999. For middle school readers.

Winter, Jane K. Italy. Marshall Cavendish, 1995. For readers in grades 4 to 7.

Italy: History

Cannistraro, Philip, ed. Historical Dictionary of Fascist Italy. Greenwood, 1989. Personalities, events, and local developments of the Fascist period, from 1922 to 1943.

Cleugh, James. The Medici: A Tale of Fifteen Generations. Doubleday, 1975. Marboro, 1990. The story of Florence's most illustrious family.

Hartt, Frederick. History of Italian Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. Abrams, 1994. A classic work about the art of the Italian Renaissance.

Hearder, Harry. Italy in the Age of the Risorgimento, 1790-1870. Longman, 1983. A study of Italy and Italians in the 19th century, as well as the story of the Risorgimento.

Hibbert, Christopher. Garibaldi and His Enemies: The Clash of Arms and Personalities in the Making of Italy. Viking, 1989. The role of Giuseppe Garibaldi and others in the unification of Italy in the 19th century.

Holmes, George, ed. The Oxford Illustrated History of Italy. Oxford University Press, 1997. The history of Italy from the reign of Emperor Augustus to 1994.

Hoobler, Dorothy. Italian Portraits. Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1992. Includes biographical profiles of Julius Caesar, Suetonious, Saint Francis of Assisi, and Dante Alighieri. For middle school and high school readers.

Kreutz, Barbara M. Before the Normans: Southern Italy in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992. Study of medieval Italy, particularly the states of Benevento, Capua, Salerno, Naples, and Amalfi.

Mack-Smith, Denis. Modern Italy. Rev. ed. University of Michigan Press, 1997. Classic history of Italy from 1861.

Pallottino, Massimo. A History of Earliest Italy. University of Michigan Press, 1991. Ancient Italy and Italic peoples up to AD 476.

Welch, Evelyn. Art and Society in Italy, 1350-1500. Oxford University Press, 1997. A study of visual art in 14th- and 15th-century Italy.

Italy: Politics, Society, and Culture

Basehart, Jack. Italian Splendor. Rizzoli, 1990. Covers palaces, castles, and villas; beautifully illustrated.

De Grazia, Victoria. How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922-1945. University of California Press, 1993. A study of women's experiences under Italian fascism.

Duncan, Paul. Discovering the Hill Towns of Italy. Crown, 1990. Photographs of architecture, environment, and culture throughout the country.

Flower, Raymond. Chianti: The Land, the People and the Wine. Trafalgar Square, 1989. Illustrated look at the Chianti region and Italy's most popular product.

Hartt, Frederick. History of Italian Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. Abrams, 1994. A classic work on the art of the Italian Renaissance.

Nabhan, Gary Paul. Songbirds, Truffles, and Wolves: An American Naturalist in Italy. Pantheon, 1993. An account of the author's trek through Umbria and Tuscany.

Spotts, Frederic, and Thedor Wieser. Italy, a Difficult Democracy: A Survey of Italian Politics. Cambridge University Press, 1990. Examines the Italian political system since World War II.

Welch, Evelyn. Art and Society in Italy, 1350-1500. Oxford University Press, 1997. A study of visual art in 14th- and 15th-century Italy.


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