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Old 04-10-2012, 01:27 AM
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Default Italy

Italy i/??t?li/ (Italian: Italia [i?ta?lja]), officially the Italian Republic[7] or the Republic of Italy[8] (Italian: Repubblica italiana[note 1]), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north, it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia along the Alps. To the south, it consists of the entirety of the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Sardinia–the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea–and many other smaller islands. The independent states of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within Italy, whilst Campione d'Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland. The territory of Italy covers some 301,338 km2 (116,347 sq mi) and is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate. With 60.6 million inhabitants, it is the fifth most populous country in Europe, and the 23rd most populous in the world.

Rome, the capital of Italy, was for centuries a political and religious centre of Western civilisation as the capital of the Roman Empire and site of the Holy See. After the decline of the Roman Empire, Italy endured numerous invasions by foreign peoples, from Germanic tribes such as the Lombards and Ostrogoths, to the Byzantines and later, the Normans, among others. Centuries later, Italy became the birthplace of Maritime republics and the Renaissance,[9] an immensely fruitful intellectual movement that would prove to be integral in shaping the subsequent course of European thought.

Through much of its post-Roman history, Italy was fragmented into numerous city and regional states (such as the Republic of Venice and the Church State), but was unified in 1861,[10] following a tumultuous period in history known as "Il Risorgimento" ("The Resurgence"). In the late 19th century, through World War I, and to World War II, Italy possessed a colonial empire, which extended its rule to Libya, Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia, Albania, the Dodecanese and a concession in Tianjin, China.[11]

Modern Italy is a democratic republic. It has been ranked as the world's 24th most-developed country[12] and its Quality-of-life index has been ranked in the world's top ten in 2005.[13] Italy enjoys a very high standard of living, and has a high nominal GDP per capita.[14][15] It is a founding member of what is now the European Union and part of the Eurozone. Italy is also a member of the G8, G20 and NATO. It has the world's third-largest gold reserves, eighth-largest nominal GDP, tenth highest GDP (PPP)[16] and the sixth highest government budget in the world.[17] It is also a member state of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Trade Organization, the Council of Europe, the Western European Union and the United Nations. Italy has the world's ninth-largest defence budget and shares NATO's nuclear weapons.

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