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Italy Government - History

Italy Government - History

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Italy has a bicameral Parliament (Chamber of Deputies and Senate), a separate judiciary, and an executive branch composed of a Council of Ministers (cabinet) which is headed by the president of the council (prime minister). The president of the republic is elected for 7 years by the Parliament sitting jointly with a small number of regional delegates. The president nominates the prime minister, who chooses the other ministers. The Council of Ministers--in practice composed mostly of members of Parliament--must retain the confidence of both houses.
PresidentCiampi, Carlo Azeglio
Prime MinisterBerlusconi, Silvio
Dep. Prime MinisterFini, Gianfranco
Under Sec. for the CabinetLetta, Gianni
Min. of AgricultureAlemanno, Giovanni
Min. of CommunicationsGasparri, Maurizio
Min. of Cultural HeritageUrbani, Giuliano
Min. of DefenseMartino, Antonio
Min. of EconomyTremonti, Giulio
Min. of EducationMoratti, Letizia
Min. of EnvironmentMatteoli, Altero
Min. of Equal OpportunityPrestigiacomo, Stefania
Min. of European Union PolicyButtiglione, Rocco
Min. of Foreign AffairsFrattini, Franco
Min. of HealthSirchia, Gerolamo
Min. of Infrastructure & TransportationLunardi, Pietro
Min. of Innovation & TechnologyStanca, Lucio
Min. of InteriorPisanu, Giuseppe
Min. of Italians AbroadTremaglia, Mirko
Min. of JusticeCastelli., Roberto
Min. of Labor & WelfareMaroni, Roberto
Min. of Productive ActivitiesMarzano, Antonio
Min. of Public Administration & SecurityMazzella, Luigi
Min. of Reform & DevolutionBossi, Umberto
Min. of Regional AffairsLa Loggia, Enrico
Min. of Relations with ParliamentGiovanardi, Carlo Amedeo
Pres. of the Chamber of DeputiesCasini, Pier Ferdinando
Pres. of the SenatePera, Marcello
Governor, Bank of ItalyFazio, Antonio
Ambassador to the USVento, Sergio
Permanent Representative to the UN, New YorkSpatafora, Marcello


Languages: Italian (official), German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German-speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d'Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area)

Ethnicity/race: Italian (includes small clusters of German-, French-, and Slovene-Italians in the north and Albanian- and Greek-Italians in the south)

Religions: Christian 80% (overwhelming Roman Catholic with very small groups of Jehova Witnesses and Protestants), Muslims NEGL (about 700,000 but growing), Atheists and Agnostics 20%

Literacy rate: 99% (2011 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2013 est.): $1.805 trillion per capita $29,600. Real growth rate: -1.8%. Inflation: 1.2%. Unemployment: 12.4%. Arable land: 22.57%. Agriculture: fruits, vegetables, grapes, potatoes, sugar beets, soybeans, grain, olives beef, dairy products fish. Labor force: 25.74 million services 67.8%, industry 28.3%, agriculture 3.9% (2011). Industries: tourism, machinery, iron and steel, chemicals, food processing, textiles, motor vehicles, clothing, footwear, ceramics. Natural resources: coal, mercury, zinc, potash, marble, barite, asbestos, pumice, fluorospar, feldspar, pyrite (sulfur), natural gas and crude oil reserves, fish, arable land. Exports: $474 billion (2013 est.): engineering products, textiles and clothing, production machinery, motor vehicles, transport equipment, chemicals food, beverages and tobacco minerals, and nonferrous metals. Imports: $435.8 billion (2013 est.): engineering products, chemicals, transport equipment, energy products, minerals and nonferrous metals, textiles and clothing food, beverages, and tobacco. Major trading partners: Germany, France, U.S., Spain, UK, Switzerland, Netherlands, China, Russia, Belgium (2011).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 21.656 million (2012) mobile cellular: 97.225 million (2012). Broadcast media: two Italian media giants dominate - the publicly-owned Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI) with 3 national terrestrial stations and privately-owned Mediaset with 3 national terrestrial stations a large number of private stations and Sky Italia - a satellite TV network RAI operates 3 AM/FM nationwide radio stations some 1,300 commercial radio stations (2007). Internet hosts: 25.662 million (2010). Internet users: 29.235 million (2009).

Transportation: Railways: total: 20,255 km (2008). Roadways: total: 487,700 km paved: 487,700 km (including 6,700 km of expressways) (2007). Waterways: 2,400 km note: used for commercial traffic of limited overall value compared to road and rail (2012). Ports and terminals: Augusta, Cagliari, Genoa, Livorno, Taranto, Trieste, Venice oil terminals: Melilli (Santa Panagia) oil terminal, Sarroch oil terminal. Airports: 129 (2013).

International disputes: Italy's long coastline and developed economy entices tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from southeastern Europe and northern Africa.

Italy Government, History, Population & Geography

Environment—current issues: air pollution from industrial emissions such as sulfur dioxide coastal and inland rivers polluted from industrial and agricultural effluents acid rain damaging lakes inadequate industrial waste treatment and disposal facilities

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Tropical Timber 94

Geography—note: strategic location dominating central Mediterranean as well as southern sea and air approaches to Western Europe

Population: 56,782,748 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 14% (male 4,192,662 female 3,955,857)
15-64 years: 68% (male 19,265,714 female 19,369,554)
65 years and over: 18% (male 4,098,526 female 5,900,435) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: -0.08% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 9.13 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 10.18 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: 0.21 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 6.4 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.38 years
male: 75.26 years
female: 81.7 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.19 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: Italian(s)
adjective: Italian

Ethnic groups: Italian (includes small clusters of German-, French-, and Slovene-Italians in the north and Albanian-Italians and Greek-Italians in the south)

Religions: Roman Catholic 98%, other 2%

Languages: Italian, German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d'Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97%
male: 98%
female: 96% (1990 est.)

Country name:
conventional long form: Italian Republic
conventional short form: Italy
local long form: Repubblica Italiana
local short form: Italia
former: Kingdom of Italy

Government type: republic

National capital: Rome

Administrative divisions: 20 regions (regioni, singular—regione) Abruzzi, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardia, Marche, Molise, Piemonte, Puglia, Sardegna, Sicilia, Toscana, Trentino-Alto Adige, Umbria, Valle d'Aosta, Veneto

Independence: 17 March 1861 (Kingdom of Italy proclaimed)

National holiday: Anniversary of the Republic, 2 June (1946)

Constitution: 1 January 1948

Legal system: based on civil law system, with ecclesiastical law influence appeals treated as trials de novo judicial review under certain conditions in Constitutional Court has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 18 years of age universal (except in senatorial elections, where minimum age is 25)

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Oscar Luigi SCALFARO (since 28 May 1992)
head of government: Prime Minister (referred to in Italy as the president of the Council of Ministers) Romano PRODI (since 18 May 1996)
cabinet: Council of Ministers nominated by the prime minister and approved by the president
elections: president elected by an electoral college consisting of both houses of Parliament and 58 regional representatives for a seven-year term election last held 25 May 1992 (next to be held NA 1999) prime minister appointed by the president
election results: Oscar Luigi SCALFARO elected president percent of electoral college vote—NA

Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Parlamento consists of the Senate or Senato della Repubblica (326 seats, 315 popularly elected of which 232 are directly elected and 83 by regional proportional representation, 11 appointed senators-for-life members serve five-year terms) and the Chamber of Deputies or Camera dei Deputati (630 seats 475 are directly elected, 155 by regional proportional representation members serve five-year terms)
elections: Senate—last held 21 April 1996 (next to be held by NA April 2001) Chamber of Deputies—last held 21 April 1996 (next to be held by NA April 2001)
election results: Senate—percent of vote by party—NA seats by party—Olive Tree 157, Freedom Alliance 116, Northern League 27, Refounded Communists 10, regional lists 3, Social Movement-Tricolor Flames 1, Panella Reformers 1 Chamber of Deputies—percent of vote by party—NA seats by party—Olive Tree 284, Freedom Alliance 246, Northern League 59, Refounded Communists 35, Southern Tyrol List 3, Autonomous List 2, other 1

Judicial branch: Constitutional Court or Corte Costituzionale, composed of 15 judges (one-third appointed by the president, one-third elected by Parliament, one-third elected by the ordinary and administrative supreme courts)

Political parties and leaders:
Olive Tree (Ulivo): Democratic Party of the Left or PDS [Massimo D'ALEMA] Greens (Verdi) [Luigi MANCONI] Italian Renewal or RI [Lamberto DINI] Italian Popular Party or PPI [Franco MARINI—elected 12 January 1997]
Freedom Pole: Forza Italia or FI [Silvio BERLUSCONI] National Alliance or AN [Gianfranco FINI] Christian Democratic Center or CCD [Clemente MASTELLA] Christian Democratic Union or CDU [Rocco BUTTIGLIONE]
other: Northern League or NL [Umberto BOSSI] Communism Refoundation or RC [Fausto BERTINOTTI] Italian Social Movement-Tricolor Flame or MSI-Fiamma Tricolore [Pino RAUTI] Pannella-Sgarbi's List (Lista Pannella-Sgarbi) [Marco PANNELLA] Italian Socialists or SI (also called Radical Party or PR) [Ottaviano DEL TURCO] Autonomous List (a group of minor parties) Southern Tyrols List or SVP (German speakers)

Political pressure groups and leaders: the Roman Catholic Church three major trade union confederations (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro or CGIL which is PDS-dominated, Confederazione Italiana dei Sindacati Lavoratori or CISL which is centrist, and Unione Italiana del Lavoro or UIL which is center-right) Italian manufacturers and merchants associations (Confindustria, Confcommercio) organized farm groups (Confcoltivatori, Confagricoltura)

International organization participation: AfDB, AG (observer), AsDB, Australia Group, BIS, BSEC (observer), CCC, CDB (non-regional), CE, CE (observer), CEI, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, ECLAC, EIB, ESA, EU, FAO, G- 7, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, LAIA (observer), MINUGUA, MINURSO, MTCR, NAM (guest), NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OSCE, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNIKOM, UNITAR, UNMIBH, UNMOGIP, UNTSO, UPU, WCL, WEU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Ferdinando SALLEO
chancery: 1601 Fuller Street NW, Washington, DC 20009 and 2700 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
telephone: [1] (202) 328-5500
FAX: [1] (202) 483-2187
consulate(s) general: Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco
consulate(s): Detroit and New Orleans

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Thomas M. FOGLIETTA
embassy: Via Veneto 119/A, 00187-Rome
mailing address: PSC 59, Box 100, APO AE 09624
telephone: [39] (6) 46741
FAX: [39] (6) 488-2672
consulate(s) general: Florence, Milan, Naples

Flag description: three equal vertical bands of green (hoist side), white, and red similar to the flag of Ireland, which is longer and is green (hoist side), white, and orange also similar to the flag of the Cote d'Ivoire, which has the colors reversed—orange (hoist side), white, and green

Economy—overview: Since World War II, the Italian economy has changed from one based on agriculture into a ranking industrial economy, with approximately the same total and per capita output as France and the UK. This basically capitalistic economy is still divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less developed agricultural south, with large public enterprises and more than 20% unemployment. Most raw materials needed by industry and over 75% of energy requirements must be imported. In the second half of 1992, Rome became unsettled by the prospect of not qualifying to participate in EU plans for economic and monetary union later in the decade thus, it finally began to address its huge fiscal imbalances. Subsequently, the government has adopted fairly stringent budgets, abandoned its inflationary wage indexation system, and started to scale back its generous social welfare programs, including pension and health care benefits. In November 1996 the lire rejoined the European monetary system, which it had left in September 1992 when under extreme pressure in currency markets. Italy faces the problem of restructuring its economy to meet Maastricht criteria for inclusion in the EMU, together with other problems of refurbishing a tottering communications system, curbing industrial pollution, and adjusting to new EU and global competitive forces.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$1.24 trillion (1997 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 1.5% (1997 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$21,500 (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 3.3%
industry: 33%
services: 63.7% (1994)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 1.9% (1997 est.)

Labor force:
total: 22.851 million
by occupation: services 61%, industry 32%, agriculture 7% (1996)

Unemployment rate: 12.2% (December 1997 est.)

revenues: $416 billion
expenditures: $506 billion, including capital expenditures of $47 billion (1996 est.)

Industries: tourism, machinery, iron and steel, chemicals, food processing, textiles, motor vehicles, clothing, footwear, ceramics

Industrial production growth rate: 0.5% (1996 est.)

Electricity—capacity: 57.186 million kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 225.179 billion kWh (1995)

Electricity—consumption per capita: 4,509 kWh (1995)

Agriculture—products: fruits, vegetables, grapes, potatoes, sugar beets, soybeans, grain, olives meat and dairy products fish catch of 525,000 metric tons in 1990

total value: $250.8 billion (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities: metals, textiles and clothing, production machinery, motor vehicles, transportation equipment, chemicals
partners: EU 53.4%, US 7.8%, OPEC 3.8%

total value: $190 billion (c.i.f., 1996)
commodities: industrial machinery, chemicals, transport equipment, petroleum, metals, food, agricultural products
partners: EU 45.5%, OPEC 4.8%, US 4.3%

Debt—external: $45 billion (1996 est.)

Economic aid:
donor: ODA, $3.043 billion (1993)

Currency: 1 Italian lira (Lit) = 100 centesimi

Exchange rates: Italian lire (Lit) per US$1ק,787.7 (January 1998), 1,703.1 (1997), 1,542.9 (1996), 1,628.9 (1995), 1,612.4 (1994), 1,573.7 (1993)

Fiscal year: calendar year

Telephones: 25.6 million (1996 est.)

Telephone system: modern, well-developed, fast fully automated telephone, telex, and data services
domestic: high-capacity cable and microwave radio relay trunks
international: satellite earth stationsש Intelsat (with a total of 5 antennas - 3 for Atlantic Ocean and 2 for Indian Ocean), 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic Ocean region), and NA Eutelsat 21 submarine cables

Radio broadcast stations: AM 135, FM 28 (repeaters 1,840), shortwave 0

Radios: 45.7 million (1996 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 83 (repeaters 1,000)

Televisions: 17 million (1996 est.)

total: 19,437 km
standard gauge: 18,103 km 1.435-m gauge Italian Railways (FS) operates 15,942 km of the total standard gauge routes (11,299 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 56 km 1.000-m gauge (56 km electrified) 1,278 km 0.950-m gauge (19 km electrified) (1996)

total: 317,000 km
paved: 317,000 km (including 9,500 km of expressways)
unpaved: 0 km (1996 est.)

Waterways: 2,400 km for various types of commercial traffic, although of limited overall value

Pipelines: crude oil 1,703 km petroleum products 2,148 km natural gas 19,400 km

Ports and harbors: Ancona, Augusta (Sicily), Bari, Cagliari (Sardinia), Catania (Sicily), Gaeta, Genoa, La Spezia, Livorno, Naples, Oristano (Sardinia), Palermo (Sicily), Piombino, Porto Torres (Sardinia), Ravenna, Savona, Trieste, Venice

Merchant marine:
total: 365 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 5,032,728 GRT/7,076,307 DWT
ships by type: bulk 29, cargo 47, chemical tanker 39, combination ore/oil 2, container 15, liquefied gas tanker 30, multifunction large-load carrier 1, oil tanker 98, passenger 5, roll-on/roll-off cargo 51, short-sea passenger 30, specialized tanker 11, vehicle carrier 7 (1997 est.)

Airports: 136 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 96
over 3,047 m: 5
2,438 to 3,047 m: 33
1,524 to 2,437 m: 16
914 to 1,523 m: 30
under 914 m: 12 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 40
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 20
under 914 m: 18 (1997 est.)

Heliports: 3 (1997 est.)

Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, Carabinieri

Military manpower—military age: 18 years of age

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 14,249,145 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 12,314,086 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—reaching military age annually:
males: 324,437 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $20.4 billion (1995)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 1.9% (1995)

Disputes—international: Italy is negotiating with Slovenia over property and minority rights issues dating from World War II Croatia and Italy made progress toward resolving a bilateral issue dating from WWII over property and ethnic minority rights

Illicit drugs: important gateway for and consumer of Latin American cocaine and Southwest Asian heroin entering the European market


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Italy, country of south-central Europe, occupying a peninsula that juts deep into the Mediterranean Sea. Italy comprises some of the most varied and scenic landscapes on Earth and is often described as a country shaped like a boot. At its broad top stand the Alps, which are among the world’s most rugged mountains. Italy’s highest points are along Monte Rosa, which peaks in Switzerland, and along Mont Blanc, which peaks in France. The western Alps overlook a landscape of Alpine lakes and glacier-carved valleys that stretch down to the Po River and the Piedmont. Tuscany, to the south of the cisalpine region, is perhaps the country’s best-known region. From the central Alps, running down the length of the country, radiates the tall Apennine Range, which widens near Rome to cover nearly the entire width of the Italian peninsula. South of Rome the Apennines narrow and are flanked by two wide coastal plains, one facing the Tyrrhenian Sea and the other the Adriatic Sea. Much of the lower Apennine chain is near-wilderness, hosting a wide range of species rarely seen elsewhere in western Europe, such as wild boars, wolves, asps, and bears. The southern Apennines are also tectonically unstable, with several active volcanoes, including Vesuvius, which from time to time belches ash and steam into the air above Naples and its island-strewn bay. At the bottom of the country, in the Mediterranean Sea, lie the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.

Italy’s political geography has been conditioned by this rugged landscape. With few direct roads between them, and with passage from one point to another traditionally difficult, Italy’s towns and cities have a history of self-sufficiency, independence, and mutual mistrust. Visitors today remark on how unlike one town is from the next, on the marked differences in cuisine and dialect, and on the many subtle divergences that make Italy seem less a single nation than a collection of culturally related points in an uncommonly pleasing setting.

Across a span of more than 3,000 years, Italian history has been marked by episodes of temporary unification and long separation, of intercommunal strife and failed empires. At peace for more than half a century now, Italy’s inhabitants enjoy a high standard of living and a highly developed culture.

Though its archaeological record stretches back tens of thousands of years, Italian history begins with the Etruscans, an ancient civilization that rose between the Arno and Tiber rivers. The Etruscans were supplanted in the 3rd century bce by the Romans, who soon became the chief power in the Mediterranean world and whose empire stretched from India to Scotland by the 2nd century ce . That empire was rarely secure, not only because of the unwillingness of conquered peoples to stay conquered but also because of power struggles between competing Roman political factions, military leaders, families, ethnic groups, and religions. The Roman Empire fell in the 5th century ce after a succession of barbarian invasions through which Huns, Lombards, Ostrogoths, and Franks—mostly previous subjects of Rome—seized portions of Italy. Rule devolved to the level of the city-state, although the Normans succeeded in establishing a modest empire in southern Italy and Sicily in the 11th century. Many of those city-states flourished during the Renaissance era, a time marked by significant intellectual, artistic, and technological advances but also by savage warfare between states loyal to the pope and those loyal to the Holy Roman Empire.

Italian unification came in the 19th century, when a liberal revolution installed Victor Emmanuel II as king. In World War I, Italy fought on the side of the Allies, but, under the rule of the fascist leader Benito Mussolini, it waged war against the Allied powers in World War II. From the end of World War II to the early 1990s, Italy had a multiparty system dominated by two large parties: the Christian Democratic Party (Partito della Democrazia Cristiana DC) and the Italian Communist Party (Partito Comunista Italiano PCI). In the early 1990s the Italian party system underwent a radical transformation, and the political centre collapsed, leaving a right-left polarization of the party spectrum that threw the north-south divide into sharper contrast and gave rise to such political leaders as media magnate Silvio Berlusconi.

The whole country is relatively prosperous, certainly as compared with the early years of the 20th century, when the economy was predominantly agricultural. Much of that prosperity has to do with tourism, for in good years nearly as many visitors as citizens can be found in the country. Italy is part of the European Union and the Council of Europe, and, with its strategic geographic position on the southern flank of Europe, it has played a fairly important role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The capital is Rome, one of the oldest of the world’s great cities and a favourite of visitors, who go there to see its great monuments and works of art as well as to enjoy the city’s famed dolce vita, or "sweet life." Other major cities include the industrial and fashion centre of Milan Genoa, a handsome port on the Ligurian Gulf the sprawling southern metropolis of Naples and Venice, one of the world’s oldest tourist destinations. Surrounded by Rome is an independent state, Vatican City, which is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and the spiritual home of Italy’s overwhelmingly Catholic population. Each of those cities, and countless smaller cities and towns, has retained its differences against the leveling effect of the mass media and standardized education. Thus, many Italians, particularly older ones, are inclined to think of themselves as belonging to families, then neighbourhoods, then towns or cities, then regions, and then, last, as members of a nation.

The intellectual and moral faculties of humankind have found a welcome home in Italy, one of the world’s most important centres of religion, visual arts, literature, music, philosophy, culinary arts, and sciences. Michelangelo, the painter and sculptor, believed that his work was to free an already existing image Giuseppe Verdi heard the voices of the ancients and of angels in music that came to him in his dreams Dante forged a new language with his incomparable poems of heaven, hell, and the world between. Those and many other Italian artists, writers, designers, musicians, chefs, actors, and filmmakers have brought extraordinary gifts to the world.

This article treats the physical and human geography and history of Italy. For discussion of Classical history, see the articles ancient Italic people and ancient Rome.

Public and private sectors

The Italian economy is mixed, and until the beginning of the 1990s the state owned a substantial number of enterprises. At that time the economy was organized as a pyramid, with a holding company at the top, a middle layer of financial holding companies divided according to sector of activity, and below them a mass of companies operating in diverse sectors, ranging from banking, expressway construction, media, and telecommunications to manufacturing, engineering, and shipbuilding. One example, the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale IRI), set up in 1933 and closed in 2000, was a holding company that regulated public industries and banking. Many of those companies were partly owned by private shareholders and listed on the stock exchange. By the 1980s moves had already been made to increase private participation in some companies. The most notable examples were Mediobanca SpA, Italy’s foremost merchant bank, with shareholdings in major industrial concerns Alitalia, the national airline, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008 before being sold to a private investment group and the telecommunications company Telecom Italia SpA, which was created in 1994 through the merger of five state-run telecommunications concerns. Many other banks were also partially privatized under the Banking Act of 1990.

In 1992 a wide privatization program began when four of the main state-controlled holding companies were converted into public limited corporations. The four were the IRI, the National Hydrocarbons Agency (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi ENI), the National Electrical Energy Fund (Ente Nazionale per l’Energia Elettrica ENEL), and the State Insurance Fund (Istituto Nazionale delle Assicurazioni INA). Other principal agencies include the Azienda Nazionale Autonoma delle Strade Statali (ANAS), responsible for some 190,000 miles (350,000 km) of the road network, and the Ente Ferrovie dello Stato (FS “State Railways”), which controls the majority of the rail network.

The private sector was once characterized by a multitude of small companies, many of which were family-run and employed few or no workers outside the family. In the early 21st century, businesses with fewer than 50 employees still represented more than half of total firms, reflecting a trend that showed a decline in large production units and an increase of smaller, more-specialized ones. This trend was especially pronounced in the automobile industry, textiles, electrical goods, and agricultural, industrial, and office equipment.

Following World War II, the economy in the south was mainly dominated by the interests of the government and the public sector. The Southern Development Fund (Cassa per il Mezzogiorno), a state-financed fund set up to stimulate economic and industrial development between 1950 and 1984, met with limited success. It supported early land reform—including land reclamation, irrigation work, infrastructure building, and provision of electricity and water to rural areas—but did little to stimulate the economy. Later the fund financed development of heavy industry in selected areas, hoping that major industrial concerns might attract satellite industries and lay the foundation for sustained economic activity. Yet these projects became known as “cathedrals in the desert” not only did they fail to attract other smaller industries, they also suffered from high absenteeism among workers. The most successful project was undertaken by Finsider, which in 1964 opened what was Europe’s most modern steelworks, in Taranto.

Italian Government 'History' as 'Virus' Spreads: Grillo

Traditional parties that make up Italy's coalition government will become history in less than four months, Beppe Grillo, the leader of the anti-establishment "Five Star Movement" told CNBC, likening the support for his movement to a fast-spreading "virus."

Italy, which has a history of short-lived governments, formed a coalition government in April after inconclusive elections in February led to a two month political impasse. During the deadlock, Grillo was courted by the major political parties to form a parliamentary alliance but refused to form a coalition with them.

After 87-year-old President Giorgio Napolitano was re-elected to the role as desperation over Italian politics increased, a coalition government was finally created, made up of the center-left bloc of the Democratic Party and its allies with some central roles, such as deputy prime minister, belonging to members of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party.

"Traditional parties in Italy have become history in less than four months. The People of Freedom Party is all about Berlusconi, while the Democratic Party, well, we don't even know what it is anymore,"" Grillo told CNBC on Thursday."Italians need to understand we need to move on from Berlusconi. Berlusconi is just a promise, a marketing exercise, an advertisement. We need to rebuild this country from its roots," he added.

Using social media and touring Italy in a camper van to hold rallies and meet the Italian public, Grillo was able to easily connect to voters tired of the traditional political establishment. His "Five Star Movement", which has vowed to oust Italy's old guard of politicians, won one in four votes in elections in February - the largest ever vote share for a party entering their first election.

"Our movement is like a virus which is expanding exponentially. It's not controlled from above – it's a fast-moving movement,""Grillo said.

"I say we will win the next elections, and then we will create a transparent market made of good people," he added.

Italy's economy, the euro zone's third biggest, contracted by more than expected in the first three months of this year, extending the country's recession to seven straight quarters. The new government led by Prime Minister Enrico Letta is also grappling with high levels of unemployment and a need to boost the economy while keeping a check on public finances.

Grillo denied that there had ever been a deal to form a government with Pier Luigi Bersani's center-left Democratic Party, a leader he had called a "dead man talking" before Bersani's ultimate resignation over disagreements within his party during the presidential elections.

"There never was a deal. They snubbed our movement. We are the first political force in the country," he said. "Bersani didn't come to me to ask me to create a joint government against Berlusconi. No, he said 'Give us some of your votes, some of your senators so that we can govern without you.' Then they used the trick of asking, 'Come on, let's get together, but they knew we would have said no because our statute states clearly we don't make alliances."

Italy 101 | Italian History 101, Brief History of Italy, Italy Government History, A Short History of Italy, History of Modern Italy

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This overview intends to give a framework snapshot of Italy's history.

1500 to 800 BC: the Bronze Age
800 BC: the first 'Italians' are called Etruscans
800 to 500 BC: the Iron Age
500 BC to 500 AD (circa): The Roman Empire
500 AD to 1400 AD (circa): The Middle Ages
15th and 16th Centuries AD: The Italian Renaissance
1559 to 1814: Period of Foreign Domination and wars
1814 to 1861: Risorgimento working towards a unified Italy
1861 to 1922: Italian Monarchy
1922 to 1945: Mussolini, fascism and WW2
1945 to today: Italian republic

Top ten dates in Italian History (in chronological order)
1. 753 BC: Foundation of Rome (not of the Roman Empire)
2. 327 BC: Empire of Alexander the Great attacks India
3. 202 BC: Hannibal is beaten by Rome
4. 27 BC: Foundation of the Roman Empire
5. 312 AD: Roman Emperor Constantine converts to Christianity - spreads across Europe
6. 476 AD: The Roman Empire falls in the West and modern Europe begins.
7. 1088: First university founded in Bologna
8. 1492: Christopher Columbus discovers the New World
9. 1861: Italy becomes a unified country
10. 1948: The Italian Republic is born with the signing of the Constitution

A Brief History of Italian Communism

After World War II, the Italian Communist Party (ICP) became one of the largest of its kind in Western Europe. At first, ICP maintained close ties with the Soviet Union, but a series of events transformed their relations in the following decades. Khrushchev's revelations of Stalin's crimes and Soviet military intervention in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Afghanistan led to the gradual estrangement of Italian communists from the Soviet Union. In the 1970s, ICP adopted a theory of Eurocommunism.

The concept of communism in Italy may be associated with a variety of things. On one hand, Italian communist leaders, such as Enrico Berlinguer, are still today praised for their political skills and contributions to society even by those who support more right-wing lines of thought. On the other, some events remain controversial, like the murder of Christian Democracy leader, Aldo Moro, at the hands of the Red Brigades, a terrorist organization of communist inspiration.

The Italian Communist Party, widely known as PCI, was founded in 1921 in the Tuscanian town of Livorno following the secession from the Italian Socialist Party, and it eventually became the stronghold of Western communism. At the beginning of its history, the influence coming from the Bolsheviks – who had conquered power just a few years prior – was inevitably strong. The PCI was obviously part of the Comintern (and later of Cominform), and as such, aimed at implementing Lenin’s point of view on communism by trying to appeal to the local working class.

However, the two factions that caused the split in the Socialist Party stayed even within the PCI: the Ordine Nuovo (“New Order”), led by Antonio Gramsci and closer to the Bolshevik ideology, and the Massimalisti (“Maximalists”), led by Nicola Bombacci, amongst whose supporters we could once find Benito Mussolini – many of them, in fact, just a few years later joined the Fascist ranks.

However, while the Soviet influence was great and without the 1917 revolution, the PCI would not have existed in the first place, communism in Italy from the beginning acquired a more democratic face. Even from a dialectic point of view, Antonio Gramsci always avoided the phrase “dictatorship of the proletariat”, and preferred the arguably more peaceful “hegemony of the working class”, a gradual, non-violent process that would bring the working class – including professionals and technicians – to power.

The PCI, at least at first, maintained the “democratic centralism” advocated by Lenin, but never dwelt too much in ideology, and preferred to try and answer to the real needs of Italians, such as improving public services and strengthening the economy, as well as protecting the “fundamental freedoms of the citizens” who should have lived in a “democratic republic of workers [supported by] a representative parliamentary regime”, as the official Party program of 1946 stated.

World War II and ‘La Resistenza’

With Mussolini’s Fascist government, every other opposition party was outlawed – pretty significant in this aspect is the political assassination of Giacomo Matteotti, the socialist leader who, after a passionate speech denouncing Mussolini’s dictatorship in June 1924, was found dead just a few weeks later – and so was the PCI in 1926. However, its members continued to work underground. During these years, Antonio Gramsci ensured its position of power within the party, and after his arrest, this role passed on to Palmiro Togliatti.

The Italian Communist Party played a significant role in the Resistance Movement, whose activity intensified after the fall of Mussolini in 1943. At first, partisan formations were mostly comprised of a disorganized network of former officers of the Royal Italian Army, but later the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale (CLN, “Committee of National Liberation”) was created as a cooperation between the Italian Communist Party, the Italian Socialist Party, the Partito d’Azione (“Party of Action”, a republican liberal socialist party), and Democrazia Cristiana (“Christian Democracy”, a more conservative party which later became the biggest antagonist of the PCI).

Partisan formations were very heterogeneous, and even if communists and socialists made up for the majority, as shown by the CLN composition, in the end, anyone who identified as anti-fascist – and thus even catholics, young students, and a minority of monarchists – actually joined the Resistance.

These children are from Melissa in Calabria, one of the poorer region in southern Italy. The fathers of these children were farmhands belonging to the CPI and they taught their children to greet with a clenched fist. Source: histclo.com.

The PCI managed the so-called Brigate Garibaldi (“Garibaldi Brigades”), which made up for 41% of the total partisan forces (as of May 1944, between 70,000 and 80,000 individuals – by the end of the war, in April 1945, the number had increased to over 250,000 people), and they mostly operated in Northern Italy. Although most partisans were Italians, there was a strong component of international aid, especially of escaped prisoners of war from Yugoslavia and the Soviet republics, but also from other European countries like Spain and Greece, and from German deserters who became disillusioned with Nazism.

The partisans’ – and in a certain way, communists’ – contribution to the liberation of Italy is of undiscussed importance. The Italian constitution itself, which came into force in 1948, was written for a part by Italian communists, and, as aforementioned, it states that “Italy is a democracy based on work” (art. 1), and that “every reorganization, in any form, of the now-dissolved Fascist Party, is forbidden” (art. 13). We can also include the Legge Scelba, issued in 1952:

“there is a reorganization of the now-dissolved Fascist Party when an association or a movement pursuits anti-democratic goals inherent to the Fascist Party, exalting, menacing, or using violence as a political instrument, or advocating the suppression of the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, or denigrating democracy, its institutions, and the values of the Resistance, or carrying out racist propaganda, that is it directs its activities at the exaltation of representatives, principles, facts and methods inherent to the aforementioned Party, or makes external displays of fascist character.”

In any case, while without the support of the communists, the war would have probably had a very different ending, the relationship between partisans and civilians may not always have been positive. The so-called ‘Foibe Massacres’ are an emblematic example of this, and to this day, remain a controversial topic. It refers to the mass killings of Italian civilians living in the regions of Friuli, Istria and Dalmatia, committed mostly by Yugoslav partisans, who later threw the bodies into natural sinkholes in the ground – the titular “foibas”. The motives of these killings are still unclear, but not surprising if put into the context of the war: many of the victims were Fascist sympathizers, while others were most likely just anti-communists or anti-Tito, or, according to some Italian historians, victims of ethnic cleansing as a revenge against the Italianization of Yugoslavia.

These events have been mostly instrumentalized by the Italian Right, by politicians like Silvio Berlusconi. However, after years of covering up, the Left too has recognized its culpability, first and foremost thanks to former President and Prime Minister Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, and Democratic leader Walter Veltroni in the 2000s.

After the War: A Communist Italy on the rise

If communist ideology was slightly put apart for a while during the war years in favor of a broader coalition that could defy Nazi-Fascism, soon enough, the Italian Communist Party continued to gain popularity amongst the people – mostly workers and farmers – and governmental power, and contributed in laying the foundations for the values of the newly-born Italian Republic.

Christian Democratic Prime Minister Alcide de Gasperi sent the PCI off into the opposition in 1947, fearing that the Left might surpass him, under the advice of US Secretary George Marshall, who supported even economically anti-communist sentiments in Italy, claiming anti-communism as a necessary pre-condition for receiving the aid of the Marshall Plan.

In the following years, after the “Marshall ban” ended, the Communist Party gained more and more success, especially in the regions of Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, and Umbria, and became the only Western communist party, together with France, to join the Cominform. Under the guidance of communist hardline leader Palmiro Togliatti, its relations with foreign communist parties, especially with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, intensified: after the Tito-Stalin split of 1948, in fact, the Italian Communist Party sided with the USSR and its relations with Yugoslavia loosened. It seems quite relevant to remember that AvtoVAZ, or the Lada factory, was set up in collaboration with the Italian FIAT in 1966, and the Russian town of Stavropol-on-Volga was renamed Tolyatti in honor of Togliatti after his death in 1964.

However, despite the ideological vicinity to Soviet communism, the Italian Communist Party maintained the capacity to operate efficiently, even if on a municipal level. In fact, as of 1975, the PCI was the leading force in the majority of Italy’s biggest cities, most importantly Bologna, called “The Red One” because of its uninterrupted history of communist leadership.

The 1950s, though, represented a turning point for Italian communism. First and foremost, the exposure of Stalin’s crimes by Khrushchev was a tough blow to all Party members and sympathizers. Communist Bruno Corbi stated that he and his comrades felt betrayed and wondered in what they had believed all along, when Stalin was just presented as the “father of the oppressed and defender of the humbles”, and no one – but maybe, it can be argued, Togliatti, who frequently visited the USSR and was very close with Stalin – knew about what he did.

Later, and probably most importantly, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 created another split inside the PCI between those, like Togliatti, who saw the insurgents as “counter-revolutionaries”, and the others, like Giuseppe Di Vittorio and socialist ally of the PCI Pietro Nenni, who disagreed with the Soviet’s violent suppression of the revolt. This was but the first of a series of events that marked the gradual estrangement of Italian communists from the Soviet Union.

A huge statue of Stalin that was demolished in Budapest during the revolution of 1956. Source: corriere.it.

The Berlinguer-Brezhnev split

When the Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968, the then PCI national secretary and later secretary general Enrico Berlinguer strongly condemned the actions undertaken by Moscow. In direct contrast with the perpetual filo-soviet view of Togliatti’s communism, Berlinguer set the start to a new era in Italian politics, decisively shifting the newly independent character of Italian communism towards a more moderate and ‘Italian’ line of thought.

Berlinguer himself explained his new approach as a Terza Via (“Third Way”), an alternative type of socialism far both from the Soviet-type and from Western capitalism, a “socialism that we believe necessary and possible only in Italy", as he stated in 1976 in front of 5,000 communist delegates in Moscow, ultimately underlining the PCI’s autonomy with regards to the CPSU. Moving towards Eurocommunism and Socialist International, Berlinguer chose to trust NATO, and eventually negotiated the Compromesso Storico (“Historic Compromise”) with the long-time opponent of the PCI, the Christian Democrats, towards the end of the 1970s.

This was a particularly clever move which made of Berlinguer the most popular politician of its time, and increased, even more, the social support of the Italian Communist Party. In fact, the 1970s and 1980s in Italy are known as Anni di Piombo (“Years of Lead”), because of the numerous terrorist attacks that inundated the peninsula, both by far-right and far-left groups and a “united front” of the two leading Italian parties would have given more stability to the people. However, the aforementioned murder of Aldo Moro at the hands of the ultra-left terrorist group Red Brigades (who were supported by the Czechoslovak State Security) stopped the negotiations, and from this point onwards, the PCI’s influence started to decrease.

Enrico Berlinguer (1922-1984). He is considered the most popular leader of the Italian Communist Party. Source: berlinguervitavivente.it

The End of the PCI

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Martial Law that was instituted in Poland were two other factors that made the gap between the PCI and the CPSU even deeper. In fact, even if Moscow kept sending finances to Italian communists even during the progressive estrangement initiated by Berlinguer, in 1984 it stopped altogether.

In 1989, when Eastern European communisms were all on the verge of the collapse, the PCI acknowledged the failure of international communism during the new leader Achille Occhetto’s speech known as the Svolta della Bolognina (“Bolognina Turning Point”). Eurocommunism had come to a halt, and the Communist Party of Italy was dissolved and then refounded under the name of the Democratic Party of the Left, a progressive left-wing democratic socialist party. From that moment, more and more splits and divisions happened within the former PCI members, with more and more leftist or center-leftist parties coming out. However, not one of these parties could get a grasp on the Italian population, as the Italian Communist Party did.

Italy tried its experiment with communism, and it is not sure whether it was a success or a failure. What can be noted, though, is that the Party did a good job on the municipal level, gaining a great deal of popularity among the people, especially thanks to the role it played in the Resistance and during the era of Enrico Berlinguer.

It is though important to understand two things: first, the magnitude of the events that happened in the Soviet area of influence (the Hungarian Revolution, the Prague Spring, and so on) was never apparent to the outside countries, and maybe people never fully understood what happened inside what they thought was the greatest anti-capitalist power second, Italian communists, even under the more orthodox guidance of Antonio Gramsci and Palmiro Togliatti, always emphasized the need for democracy and “polycentrism”, that is, the need for each country to find one’s own way to socialism.

Of course, this was possible because communism in Italy was not ideologically pervasive and imposed from the top, as it happened in the USSR, but was just one of the alternatives proposed to Italians. However, there is a question that Italians of any political view ask themselves: what would have happened if Italy could not distance itself from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union?

Sources and literature

Alvin, Shuster, Communism, Italian Style. New York Times Magazine. May 9, 1976.

Partito Comunista Italiano, Wikipedia, October 9, 2020.

Partito Comunista Italiano PCI - Il sito ufficiale del Partito Comunista Italiano. October 9, 2020.

Resistenza italiana, Wikipedia, October 9, 2020.

Andrea Varriale, The myth of the Italian resistance movement (1943-1945): the case of Naples. In: Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte, 27, 2/2014, pp. 383-393

Pci e Urss legami pericolosi - - la Repubblica.it. October 9, 2020.

Silvio Pons, L'Italia e il Pci nella politica estera dell'Urss di Breznev, in “Studi Storici”, a. 42,. 2001, n. 4, pp. 929-951

Il Partito Comunista Italiano e l'Unione Sovietica, brianzapopolare.it. October 9, 2020.

The aim of the CommunistCrimes portal is to raise international awareness about the crimes against humanity, committed by communist regimes worldwide. We cooperate with independent historians and researchers. The website is managed by the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory, an international non-governmental and academic research institution with over 20 years of experience.

The Legislative Branch Of The Government Of Italy

Italy has a bicameral parliamentary system that is comprised of two houses of parliament. 630 members represent constituencies in the Chamber of Deputies while 315 members represent regions in the Senate. Both houses have similar powers and approve bills into legislation. Deputies are required by law to be between 18 and 25 years while Senators are between 25 to 40 years. The Deputies and Senators are elected for five-year terms. The Parliament can warrant the government to resign if they give a vote of no confidence.

President Sergio Mattarella (2015–Present)

A long-term member of the Italian parliament, Sergio Mattarella also previously served in a number of ministerial positions, including Minister of Defense and Minister of Relations for Parliamentary Relations. Mattarella was at one point a professor who taught parliamentary law at the Law School of the University of Palermo. As president, Mattarella is focused on economic reform and recovery for Italy in tandem with a European Union economic recovery plan.

Watch the video: Italien und die Populisten Eine Gefahr für Europa? GERMAN DOKU (July 2022).


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