Editor: Samantha Z.

Introduction to Italy

In this Smore the reader will learn a great deal about various aspects of the beautiful European country, Italy. This Smore highlights many areas of Italy such as the geography, economics, government, and culture of this Mediterranean country. The Smore also includes some fun facts about Italy and conclusions about Italy, drawn from the data presented.


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Italy World Map

Italy is located in Western Europe. It looks like a boot kicking one of its islands, Sicily. The big island to the left of Italy is Sardinia. Italy is made up of many small islands, but the most well-known are the two biggest ones. The countries that border Italy are France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.


Italy's government is a parliamentary republic. It is a limited government. The president is Sergio Mattarella and the prime minister is Matteo Renzi of the executive branch. The legislature is bicameral, with two chambers: Senato della Repubblica (Senate) and Camera dei Deputati (Chamber of Deputies). The government is currently dealing with corruption and organized crime problems.

Italians and American citizens both get the right to vote, have a president and a bicameral legislature. In the U.S., any citizen 18 or older can vote. In Italy, however, citizens age 18 may vote for the Chamber of Deputies, but they can't vote for the Senate until they are 25 years old. Both countries also both have the freedom of religion, speech and assembly.

Italy joined the United Nations in 1955 and has good relations with most countries in the world. Italy both gives and receives foreign aid. It receives $1 million from the U.S. each year. Italy and Australia have particularly close ties and a lot of commerce.


Italy's official currency in the Euro. Currently, 1 Euro equal 1.11 in U.S. dollars. Italy's top exports are engineering products, clothing, production machinery, motor vehicles, transportation equipment, chemicals, food and wine. Italy's major imports are minerals, metals, medicine, energy products (oil), textiles, clothing and food. Italy has the world's 9th largest economy and has a central role in global trade and financial systems. Italy's GDP per capita is $35,100. Compared to the U.S., which has GDP of $54,400, the U.S. is a wealthier country. The GDP is a measure of goods and services produced in a country per person.


Ethnic & Social Groups

The ethnic group of Italy is primarily Italian, at 94% of its population. The other 6% is comprised of Germans, French, Greeks, Albanians and Slovenians. There is a big difference in wealth between the north and south in Italy. Italy has a high unemployment rate and differences between rich and poor are noticeable. Education in Italy is mandatory from ages 6-16 and is divided into stages: kindergarten, primary school, lower secondary school, upper secondary school. Education is free through lower secondary education. Upper secondary education has a small fee. Italy has 61 public universities with low tuition (mostly paid through taxes) and 15 private ones, with much higher tuition. It takes 3 years for a bachelor's degree and 2 more years for a master's. The literacy rate in Italy is high, at 99%.

Women still fight for equal rights in Italy. Italy's parliament now has more women than ever, yet Italian women still battle a daily culture of sexism, both in the workplace and at home. Children face a number of problems in Italy. These include poverty, child labor, discrimination and lack of oversight and support for children of refugees. Italy has a racism problem, especially concerning Africans and Roma in the form of hostility, prejudice and discrimination of people in these groups.

Traditional Holidays, Festivals, Clothing and Food

Traditional holidays and festivals in Italy consist of Capodanno (Jan. 1 - celebrates New Year), Befana (Epiphany - the last holy day of Christmas) on Jan. 6, Carnevale (Mardis Gras-Carnival), Pasqua (Easter), Liberation Day (April 25), Labor Day (May 1), The Festival of the Republic (June 2, celebrates the day the Italian Republic was born), Ferragosto (Aug. 15 - celebration for the Virgin Mary), Ognissanti and Giorno dei Morti (All Saints - All Souls; Day) on Nov. 1-2, and L'Immocolata Concezione (Immaculate Conception) on Dec 8. Italy's clothing varies by region.

The everyday clothing in Milan and northern Italy is very extravagant and fashionable. Rome and the southern part of the country are less fashionable. In both north and south, the people generally don't like overly-revealing clothing. Italians don't like when much skin is shown.

Traditional foods eaten in Italy are margherita pizza, gelato, tiramisu, risotto, ravioli, prosciutto and gnocchi.

Traditional Italian Tiramisu Recipe


  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup strong brewed coffee, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • 2 (3 oz) pkgs ladyfinger cookies
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder


  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Whisk in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Boil gently for 1 minute, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Cover tightly and chill in refrigerator 1 hour.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat cream with vanilla until stiff peaks form. Whisk mascarpone into yolk mixture until smooth.
  3. In a small bowl, combine coffee and rum. Split ladyfingers in half lengthwise and drizzle with coffee mixture.
  4. Arrange half of soaked ladyfingers in bottom of a 7x11 inch dish. Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers, then half of whipped cream over that. Repeat layers and sprinkle with cocoa. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours, until set.

Religions and Languages

The major religion in Italy is Christianity (primarily Catholicism), at 92%. The other 8% is comprised of people claiming Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism or no religion. Italy's official language is Italian, but there are many small minority languages.

Data Maps

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From the data presented in the above charts, one can conclude that Italy isn't very diverse. It's pretty homogeneous across language, ethnicity and religion. One major area in each of these categories predominates. There is some diversity, but it's very small, only a few percentages in each category of language, ethnicity and religion.

Another conclusion drawn from the above data is that it is most likely not easy being one of the rare minorities with a different religion, ethnicity or language in Italy. One can conclude that it might be difficult being an outsider in Italy since there is such a large majority and such relatively small minority groups.

Fun Facts

  • The full name for Italy is 'Italian Republic" but locals call it 'Italia".
  • Italy is home to Europe's only three active volcanoes.
  • The first thermometer was invented by Italian inventor Santorio Santorio in 1612.
  • Pizza was invented in Naples back in 1860.
  • Pasta in Italy can be traced back to the 4th century B. C. E.
  • Italy comes from a Greek word.
  • Lillies are the national flower.