July 11-17 & July 21-Aug 1, 2012
We were excited to finally make it to Italy - one of the places on Nita's 'bucket list'.
There was a Neanderthal presence in the land that now comprises Italy dating back to the Paleolithic era – some 200,000 years ago. The first modern man inhabitants were Ligurians and Illyrians. Archeological evidence indicates that an Etruscan civilization arose in the 9th century BC, and Greek and Gaul civilizations followed in the 8th to 7th centuries BC.
Rome was a small agricultural community when it was founded in the 8th century BC. By the 4th century BC, the Romans ruled the land. Rome grew to a massive empire encompassing the entire Mediterranean Sea, and ancient Greek and Roman cultures merged in to one civilization under this empire. This empire is considered the basis of western civilization.
The empire went in to a slow decline in the 2nd century AD, and it broke apart in to Eastern and Western empires in 395 AD. The Western empire dissolved in 476 AD.
The 8th to 18th centuries were characterized by rule of France, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, and Austria. During these years, the Black Death killed one third of the population in 1348. However, the recovery from that pandemic stimulated a resurgence that was followed by the Renaissance. Italy lived in relative peace in the 16th through 19th centuries. The mainland, Sicily, and Sardinia became a united kingdom in 1861.
Italy was aligned with the Allied Forces during World War I. However, following the war, social unrest in the 1920s enabled the fascist movement which brought Benito Mussolini to power. Mussolini was a Nazi ally at the onset of World War II, and Italy was defeated by the Allies in 1943. Italy was proclaimed a republic in 1946.
Italy made a strong economic recovery in the 1950s, but they experienced political instability from the late 1960s onward. The 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s are sometimes referred to ‘Years of Lead’ – a period of frequent economic crises and social conflict. During these years, Italy’s national debt skyrocketed.
Italy today is struggling under its massive foreign debt. Its economic future remains uncertain.
Italy is comprised of 116,346 square miles. Italy includes the mainland peninsula, two large islands – Sicily and Sardinia – and many small islands. Italy shares land borders with Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, and France, and it wholly contains the independent San Marino and Vatican City. Italy has more than 5,000 miles of coastline bordering on five seas: the Tyrrhenian, Adriatic, Ligurian, Ionian, and Mediterranean.
Italy is a republic with two legislative houses. Their president is the head of state, and the prime minister is the head of the government. The capital is in Rome.
Italy was a founding member of the European Union. They are also a member of the G8, G20, NATO, and WTO. They play a prominent role in Europe.
Italy is in a grave economic situation at present. They, like a few other EU countries, have amassed an unsustainable national debt. Although they have not reached the point of defaulting, they also have not found a way to resolve this. Their economic future is uncertain.
Italy’s population is approximately 60 million. They are 98.8% literate, and they enjoy a good quality of life. Although there is no official religion, the population is 83% Catholic. The national language is Italian.
Our time in Italy
We arrived in Italy planning to make landfall on the southwest tip of the mainland at Reggio de Calabria; however, the winds and seas dictated otherwise. We diverted to the northeast coast of Sicily.
We left Italy without seeing a few places that we really want to see – Tuscany, Rome, and Venice. But we will return another time and visit those places by land.