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Italy - The Republic

Italian politics, economy, people

Italy is famous the world over for artisans like Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Tintoretto and Caravaggio, Verdi and Puccini, Federico Fellini, and its numerous romantic and historical places. Unfortunately although it is known for these, it is also infamous for its dubious political practises, soaring inflation and the numerous shortlived governments it has had since the end of World War II.

Italian politics reached rock-bottom in the 1990s when the "Clean Hands" operation exposed corruption at the highest levels - associating politicians, business and the criminal world. A number of former prime ministers were caught up in it and thousands of businessmen and politicians were also investigated.

Although the situation is now much improved, it is still not without its problems as the economy continues to face difficulties in the form of a budget deficit, low growth, rising inflation and unpopular plans for pension reform and cuts in public spending. Because of the problems Italy has historically suffered from in its bureaucracy and administrative procedures, there is a flourishing grey economy to which the only official solution seems to be the imposition of high taxation levels for the unfortunate few who cannot 'get around' the rules.

Italy was one of the six original countries which were signatories to the 1951 Paris Treaty, which, in turn, was later to give rise to the present European Union. Since then it has been a stalwart believer in a united Europe although it has not been without its vociferous right-wing eurosceptics such as Silvio Berlusconi.

The country's birth rate is now the lowest in Europe with the population forecast to fall by around 30% over the next half-century; this despite encouragement from the former pope for Italians to fall back to traditional family values.

Summary
Full name Italian Republic
Regions Abruzzo - Basilicata - Calabria - Campania - Emilia-Romagna - Friuli - Lazio - Le Marche - Liguria - Lombardy - Molise - Piedmont - Puglia - Sardinia - Sicily - Trentino - Tuscany - Umbria - Valle d'Aosta - Veneto
Population 57.2 million
Capital Rome
Physical Area 301,338 sq km (116,346 sq miles)
Major language Italian
Major religion Christianity
Life expectancy 77 years (men), 83 years (women) (UN)
Currency 1 euro = 100 cents
Principal exports Machinery, chemicals, clothes, wine
GNI per capita US $30,010
Internet domain .it
Int dialling code +39
President Giorgio Napolitano - Italy's 11th post-war president
Prime minister Romano Prodi
Foreign minister Massimo D'Alema
Economy minister Tommaso Padoa Schioppa
Interior minister Giuliano Amato
Defence minister Arturo Parisi
Newspapers Corriere della Sera - daily,La Repubblica - daily, Il Messaggero - Rome-based daily, La Stampa - daily, Il Sole 24 Ore - financial daily
Television Rai - public, stations include Rai Uno, Rai Due, Rai Tre, news channel Rai News 24 and cable/satellite services, Mediaset - private TV brodcasting Italia 1, Rete 4 and Canale 5
Radio Rai - public, national network Radio 1, entertainment-based Radio 2, cultural station Radio 3 and parliamentary station GR Parlamento
Radio 24 - business news and reports
R101 - commercial network, pop music
Radio Italia - commercial network, pop music
News agency Ansa
Major attractions Florence, Venice, Rome, Pisa, Milan, Vesuvius, Pompeii, Etna plus the popular seaside resort of Rimini on the Adriatic coast.

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All material copyright of Clive West and Damaris West 2007 - 2017 and not to be used or reproduced without written permission.

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