Panoramic landscape of the plains of Romagna, seen from the terrace of Bertinoro

Italy (officially: La Repubblica Italiana), is a republic in Southern Europe. The total area of ​​Italy is 301.323 square kilometers, making the country more than seven times the size of the Netherlands. The distance from north to south is about 1.200 kilometers. From east to west, on the other hand, the distances are only between 54 and 170 kilometers, except in the northernmost part of the boot. Italy has nearly 60 million inhabitants, most of whom live in coastal areas.

In the northwest Italy borders on France (488 km), in the north with Switzerland (740 km) and Austria (430 km) and in the northeast with Slovenia (232 km). The Mediterranean Sea basins that encircle the country are called the Ligurian Sea (near the Riviera) and Tyrrhenian Sea (between Italy and Sardinia) on the western side, the Ionian Sea (east of Sicily) on the south, and the Adriatic Sea on the eastern side.

Also watch: Where is Italy?

The Mezzogiorno

Halfway between Rome and Naples is the border between the south, also known as the 'Mezzogiorno', and the center and north of Italy. Italy has about 7.600 kilometers of coastline, including the large and small islands that belong to Italy. The southernmost part of the country is the islet of Lampedusa (notorious for its refugee flows from Africa), which is closer to Tunisia in North Africa than to mainland Italy.

Tourist map of San Marino
A tourist map of San Marino, the oldest republic in the world (click to enlarge)

Vatican City and San Marino

Within the geographical borders of Italy lie the independent republic of San Marino and the sovereign state of Vatican City. Located in the eastern part of the peninsula near Rimini, San Marino is the oldest republic in the world, founded in the fourth century. The total area is less than 62 square kilometers and the population is about 30.000. The mini country has its own license plates, stamps and even an 'army' of 1.000 strong.

Today, not much is left of the once vast and powerful papal territories. Vatican City, from which the Roman Catholic Church is governed, has a total area of ​​only 44 hectares. This makes it by far the smallest state in the world. There are about 200 permanent residents and about 800 more people come to work every day.

Map Vatican City
Map Vatican City (click to enlarge)

The tiny state has its own legal system, shops, bank, currency, post office, radio station and newspaper, the 'Roman Observer'. The official language is Latin, but in daily practice Italian is mainly spoken.

In this article you will read all about the Vatican and its sights.

Climates of Italy

Due to its location and shape, Italy has no fewer than 3 climate zones. Most of Italy enjoys a Mediterranean climate, also known as a Mediterranean climate. That's what we all go on holiday to Italy for, right?

The Mediterranean climate is mainly found in central and southern Italy. However, in the north of the country a maritime climate predominates, except in the northernmost part bordering the Alps, where we find a high mountain climate.

You can find out more about Italy's climates and weather here.

Photo above: Roberto GRAMELLINI/Unsplash