Type: A republic since 2 June 1946.
Constitution: 1 January 1948.
Branches: Executive - President (Chief of state), Council of Ministers (Cabinet), headed by the President of the Council (Prime Minister). Legislative -bicameral Parliament: 630-member Chamber of Deputies, 315-member Senate (plus a varying number of Senators for Life). Judicial - independent Constitutional Court and lower magistracy.
Subdivisions: 110 provinces, 20 regions.
Suffrage: Franchise for the Chamber of Deputies: universal over 18; franchise for the Senate: universal over 25.
Italy has a capitalist economy with high gross domestic product (GDP) per capital and developed infrastructure. In the post-war period, Italy was transformed from a weak, agricultural based economy into one of the world's most industrialized nations, and a leading country in world trade and exports. Italy's major industries are precision machinery, motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electric goods, fashion and clothing.
Italy joined the European Monetary Union in 1998 when signing the Stability and Growth Pact and, as a condition of this Euro Zone membership, Italy - like the other member states - must keep its budget deficit beneath a 3% ceiling. Italy's largest EU trade partners, in order of market share, are Germany, France, Spain and the United Kingdom.
People and Religion
Italy has the fifth-highest population density in Europe - about 200 persons per square kilometer (490 per square mile). Minority groups are small, the largest being the German-speaking community of the Province of Bolzano and the Slovenes near to Trieste. There are also small communities of Albanian, Greek, Ladino and French origins. Immigration has increased in recent years, while the Italian population is declining in overall terms due to low birth rates. Although Roman Catholicism is the majority religion – 87,8% of native-born citizens are nominally Catholic- all religious faiths are provided equal freedom before the law by the Constitution.
In the eighth and seventh centuries BC, Greeks settled in the southern part of the Italian Peninsula; Etruscans, Romans and other peoples inhabited the central and northern mainland. The peninsula was subsequently unified under the Roman Republic. The neighboring islands were under Roman control by the third century BC and by the first century AD the Roman Empire effectively dominated the Mediterranean world.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West in the fifth century AD, the peninsula and islands were subjected to a series of invasions, and political unity was lost. Italy became an oft-changing succession of small states, principalities, and kingdoms, which fought among themselves and were subject to the ambitions of foreign powers. The Popes of Rome ruled central Italy, and rivalries between the Popes and the Holy Roman Emperors, who claimed Italy as their domain, often made the peninsula a battleground.
The commercial prosperity of northern and central Italian cities, which began in the eleventh century, combined with the influence of the Renaissance, somewhat mitigated the effects of these medieval political rivalries. Although Italy declined after the sixteenth century, the Renaissance had strengthened the idea of Italian nationality. By the early nineteenth century, a nationalist movement had developed and this led to the reunification of Italy - except for Rome - in the 1860s. In 1861, Victor Emmanuel II of the House of Savoy, was proclaimed King of Italy. Rome was incorporated into the kingdom in 1870. From 1870 until 1922, Italy was a constitutional monarchy with a parliament elected by a limited franchise.
During the First World War, Italy abandoned its standing alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary and in 1915 entered the war on the side of the Allies (France, Russia, British Empire and, later on, the United States of America). In 1922 Benito Mussolini came to power and over the next few years eliminated political parties, curtailed personal liberties, and installed a Fascist dictatorship which was termed a corporate state. The king, with little or no effective power, remained the titular head of state.
Italy allied with Germany and declared war on the United Kingdom and France in 1940. In 1941, Italy, with the other Axis powers, Germany and Japan, declared war on the United States and the Soviet Union. After the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943, the King dismissed Mussolini and appointed Marshal Pietro Badoglio as premier. The Badoglio government declared war on Germany, which quickly occupied most of the country and freed Mussolini, who then led a brief-lived regime in the north of the country. An anti-Fascist popular resistance movement grew up during the last two years of the war and harassed German forces before they were finally driven out in April 1945. A plebiscite in 1946 ended the monarchy, a Constituent Assembly was elected to draw up plans for the Republic and the Republican Constitution was approved and came into force on 1 January 1948.
After the strong economic growth, from the late 1960s till late 1980s the country experienced a hard economic crisis and the “Years of Lead”, a period characterized by widespread social conflicts and terrorist acts carried out by extra-parliamentary movements. From 1992 to 1994, Italy faced significant challenges, as voters, disenchanted with past political paralysis, massive government debt and an extensive corruption system (collectively called Tangentopoli after being uncovered by the “Clean Hands” investigation), demanded political, economic, and ethical reforms.
Since then, new political parties emerged and centre-left and centre-right coalitions alternated under different leadership. In 2008 the “People of Freedom Party” (Popolo delle Libertà), leaded by Silvio Berlusconi , won the elections.
Due to financial crisis, on 16th November, after Berlusconi resigned, a new designated Premier, prof. Mario Monti, former European Commissioner, created an emergency government of non-political experts, with the consensus of the major political parties.
Following elections in February 2013, a new Government was voted in April 2013. Leaded by Enrico Letta (PD, Democratic Party) the new Government was a coalition including also Ministers from the People of Freedom (PDL) party.
From February 2014 Matteo Renzi succeded Enrico Letta and became prime minister of the Italian Government. List of Ministers of Renzi government. .
Did You know that...
- Italy was a founding member of the European Community?
- Italy hosts two independent states: the Vatican City and the Republic of San Marino?
- Italy hosts different ethnic groups, including groups of Albanians and Greeks?
- There have been nineteen Italian Nobel Prize winners?
- Italy is called il Belpaese (Italian for ‘beautiful country’) by its inhabitants because of the beauty and variety of its landscapes and because it has the largest artistic heritage in the world?
- The history of Italian cinema began just a few months after the Lumière brothers discovered the medium when Pope Leo XIII was filmed for a few seconds in the act of blessing a camera?