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Location of Italy within Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern and Western Europe. It is located on a peninsula that extends into the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, with the Alps on its northern land border, as well as islands, notably Sicily and Sardinia. Italy shares its borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and two enclaves: Vatican City and San Marino. It is the tenth-largest country in Europe, covering an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi), and third-most populous member state of the European Union, with a population of nearly 60 million. Its capital and largest city is Rome; other major urban areas include Milan, Naples, Turin, Florence, and Venice.

In antiquity, the Italian Peninsula was home to numerous peoples; the Latin city of Rome, founded as a Kingdom, became a Republic that conquered the Mediterranean world and ruled it for centuries as an Empire. With the spread of Christianity, Rome became the seat of the Catholic Church and the Papacy. During the Early Middle Ages, Italy experienced the fall of the Western Roman Empire and inward migration from Germanic tribes. By the 11th century, Italian city-states and maritime republics expanded, bringing renewed prosperity through commerce and laying the groundwork for modern capitalism. The Italian Renaissance flourished during the 15th and 16th centuries and spread to the rest of Europe. Italian explorers discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, leading the European Age of Discovery. However, centuries of rivalry and infighting between city-states left the peninsula divided. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Italian economic importance waned significantly. (Full article...)

The siege of Nice by a Franco-Ottoman fleet in 1543 (drawing by Toselli, after an engraving by Aeneas Vico)

The Italian War of 1542–1546 was a conflict late in the Italian Wars, pitting Francis I of France and Suleiman I of the Ottoman Empire against the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Henry VIII of England. The course of the war saw extensive fighting in Italy, France, and the Low Countries, as well as attempted invasions of Spain and England. The conflict was inconclusive and ruinously expensive for the major participants.

The war arose from the failure of the Truce of Nice, which ended the Italian War of 1536–1538, to resolve the long-standing conflict between Charles and Francis—particularly their conflicting claims to the Duchy of Milan. Having found a suitable pretext, Francis once again declared war against his perpetual enemy in 1542. Fighting began at once throughout the Low Countries; the following year saw the Franco-Ottoman alliance's attack on Nice, as well as a series of maneuvers in Northern Italy which culminated in the bloody Battle of Ceresole. Charles and Henry then proceeded to invade France, but the long sieges of Boulogne-sur-Mer and Saint-Dizier prevented a decisive offensive against the French. (Full article...)
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Clockwise from top left; some of the most popular Italian foods: Neapolitan pizza, carbonara, espresso, and gelato

Italian cuisine is a Mediterranean cuisine consisting of the ingredients, recipes, and cooking techniques developed in Italy since Roman times and later spread around the world together with waves of Italian diaspora. Significant changes occurred with the colonization of the Americas and the introduction of potatoes, tomatoes, capsicums, maize, and sugar beet—the latter introduced in quantity in the 18th century. It is one of the best-known and most appreciated gastronomies worldwide.

Italian cuisine includes deeply rooted traditions common to the whole country, as well as all the regional gastronomies, different from each other, especially between the north, the centre, and the south of Italy, which are in continuous exchange. Many dishes that were once regional have proliferated with variations throughout the country. Italian cuisine offers an abundance of taste, and is one of the most popular and copied around the world. The cuisine has influenced several other cuisines around the world, chiefly that of the United States in the form of Italian-American cuisine. (Full article...)

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