Total population: 58,812,890. The rural population represents approximately 45 per cent of the total. Roma 3,916,300; Milan, 2,121,500; Naples 1,480,000; Turin, 1,390,800; Genoa, 885,550; Florence, 610,900; Venice, 393,400; Bologna, 491,700; Palermo, 895,450; Cagliari, 293,420.

Italy's boot-shaped peninsula stretches from the Alps to Sicily, 1210 km long and 170 to 240 km wide for a total area of 300.000 km2.

Italy is surrounded on three sides by the Ligurian, Tyrrhenian, Ionian and Adriatic Seas, all part of the Mediterranean, approx 7400 km of coastline. It is separated from its northern neighbors - France, Switzerland and Austria - by the great bulwark of the Alps. The Apennine Mountains form the backbone of the country and run down into the island of Sicily at the bottom of the «boot». Sardinia, another large Italian island, lies off its western coast.

Italy is a Republic composed of 20 regions (from North to South): Valle d'Aosta, Piedmont, Lombardy, Liguria, Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Marche, Umbria, Latium, Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Apulia, Calabria, Basilicata, Sicily, Sardinia, subdivided into 109 provinces.

Every region is different and has its own local government; some have special statutes and a certain autonomy. Covering ten degrees of Latitude, the country's configuration varies from the mountain peaks and lakes in the north, the vast and fertile valley of the Po River, the rolling hills of Tuscany and Umbria, the harsh mountains of the Abruzzi, the lovely, wide Bay of Naples, the orange groves of Sicily, the wooded mountains of Sardinia and all over  Italy there are long, sunny, sandy, pebbled or rocky coasts.

Despite the fact that 40 per cent of its land is covered by mountains and that its plains are often too wet or dry, Italy is one of the main producers of agricultural products in Western Europe. Centuries of hard work and many years of reclamation, drainage and irrigation have made possible. Among the great variety of crops are cereals, rice, fodder and fruit from the north.

Vineyards are to be found almost everywhere. Olive trees are abundant in the hills of central and southern Italy, and citrus fruits thrive in the sunny south. Greens and vegetables of all kinds for every season of the year are grown all over the country.

Italy has made rapid progress since World War II in asserting itself as a modern industrial nation. Industry has been concentrated in the north between Milan, Genoa and Turin, but important centers are also located in Tuscany, Emilia and southern and central Italy. First in Europe in the use of hydroelectricity, Italy also has thriving steel, mechanical engineering, chemicals, rubber, textiles, glass and petroleum industries. Italy has always been famed for its beautiful, pure marble from Carrara in Tuscany.