Italy is a unitary parliamentary republic in Europe. Italy covers an area of 301,338 km2 (116,347 sq mi) and has a largely temperate climate; due to its shape, it is often referred to in Italy as lo Stivale (the Boot). With 61 million inhabitants, it is the 4th most populous EU member state. Located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, San Marino and Vatican City.
Since ancient times, Greek, Etruscan, Celtic, and other cultures have thrived on the Italian Peninsula. Rome ultimately emerged as the dominant power, conquering much of the ancient world and becoming the leading cultural, political, and religious centre of Western civilisation. During the Dark Ages, the region suffered sociopolitical collapse amid calamitous barbarian invasions, but by the 11th century, numerous Italian city-
After various unsuccessful attempts, the second and the third wars for Italian independence resulted in the eventual unification of most of present-
Italy has the third largest economy in the Eurozone and the eighth largest economy in the world. It has a very high level of human development and enjoys the highest life expectancy in the EU. Italy plays a prominent role in global military, cultural and diplomatic affairs and is also considered to be a major regional power in Europe. As a reflection of its vast cultural wealth, Italy is home to 51 World Heritage Sites, the most in the world, and is one of the most visited countries.
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