Italy

Italy (in Italian, Italia), republic in southern Europe, bordered on the north by Switzerland and Austria; on the east by Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea; on the south by the Ionian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea; on the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Ligurian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea; and on the north-west by France. It comprises, in addition to the Italian mainland, the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, in the Mediterranean Sea; Elba in the Tyrrhenian Sea; and maany lesser islands. Enclaves within mainland Italy are the independent countries of San Marino and Vatican City; the latter is a papal state mostly enclosed by Rome, the capital of Italy. The area of Italy is 301,323 sq km (116,341 sq mi).
Land and Resources

More than half of Italy consists of the Italian Peninsula, a long projection of the continental mainland. Shaped like a boot, the Italian Peninsula extends generally south-east into the Mediterranean Sea. From north-west to south-east, the country is abbout 1,145 km (710 mi) long; with the addition of the southern peninsular extremity, which extends north to south, it is about 1,360 km (845 mi) long. The maximum width of the mainland portion of Italy is about 610 km (380 mi) in the north; the ma

aximum width of the peninsula is about 240 km (150 mi). On the northern frontiers are the Alps, which extend in a wide arc from Ventimiglia on the west to Gorizia on the east, and include such high peaks as Monte Cervino (4,478 m/14,692 ft) and Monte Rosa (4,634 m/15,203 ft). The highest point in Italy is near the summit of Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco), on the border of Italy, France, and Switzerland; the peak, located in France, is 4,807 m (15,771 ft). Between the Alps and the Apennines, which form the backbone of the Italian Peninsula, spreads the broad Plain of Lombardy, comprising the valley of the River Po. The northern Apennines project from the Maritime Alps along the Gulf of Genoa to the sources off the River Tiber. Monte Cimone (2,163 m/7,097 ft) is the highest summit of the northern Apennines. The central Apennines, beginning at the source of the Tiber, consist of several chains. In the eastern portion of this rugged mountain district is Monte Corno (2,914 m/9,560 ft), the highest Apennine peak. The southern Apennines stretch south-east from the valley of the River Sangro to the coast of the Gulf of Taranto, where they assume a more southerly direction. High peaks of the Apennine ra
anges of the Calabrian Peninsula, as the southern extremity of the Italian Peninsula is known, include Botte Donato (1,929 m/6,329 ft) and Montalto (1,957 m/6,422 ft). The Apennines form the watershed of the Italian Peninsula. The main uplifts are bordered by less elevated districts, known collectively as the sub-Apennine region.
About one third of the total land surface of Italy consists of plains, of which the greatest single tract is the Plain of Lombardy. The coast of Italy along the northern Adriatic Sea is low and sandy, bordered by shallow waters and, except at Venice, not readily accessible to ocean-going vessels. From a point near Rimini going southwards, the east coast of the peninsula is fringed by spurs of the Apennines. Along the middle of the west coast, however, are three stretches of low and marshy land, the Campagna di Roma, the Pontine Marshes, and the Maremma.
The western coast of Italy is broken up by bays, gulfs, and other indentations, which provide a number of natural anchorages. In the north-west is the Gulf of Genoa, the harbour of the important commercial city of Genoa. Naples, another leading west-coast port, is situated on the beautiful Bay of Naples, dominated by the volcano Vesuvius. A li
ittle further south is the Gulf of Salerno, at the head of which stands the port of Salerno. The south-eastern end of the peninsula is deeply indented by the Gulf of Taranto, which divides the so-called heel of Italy (ancient Calabria) from the toe (modern Calabria). The Apennine range continues beneath the narrow Strait of Messina and traverses the island of Sicily, where the volcano Etna, 3,323 m (10,902 ft) high, is located. Another active volcano rises on Stromboli, one of the Lipari Islands, north-west of the Strait of Messina. In addition to volcanic activity, Italy is also plagued by frequent minor earthquakes, especially in the southern regions.
Rivers and Lakes

Italy has many rivers, of which the Po and the Adige are the most important. The Po, about 670 km (415 mi) long, is navigable from Turin to its outlet on the Adriatic Sea and with its tributaries affords about 965 km (600 mi) of inland waterways. The Adige, about 355 km (220 mi) long, enters Italy from the Austrian province of Tirol, flows east, and, like the Po, empties into the Adriatic. The beds of these rivers are slowly being elevated by alluvial deposits from the mountains.
The rivers of the Italian Peninsula are shallow, often dry during th

he summer season, and consequently of little importance for navigation or industry. The chief peninsular rivers are the Arno and the Tiber. From its sources in the Apennines, the Arno flows west for about 225 km (140 mi), through a well-cultivated valley and the cities of Florence and Pisa. The Tiber rises not far from the sources of the Arno and runs through Rome. Both the northern and peninsular regions of Italy have numerous lakes. The principal lakes of northern Italy are Garda, Maggiore, Como, and Lugano; the peninsular lakes, which are considerably smaller, include Trasimeno, Bolsena, and Bracciano.
Climate

The climate of Italy is highly diversified, with extremes ranging from frigid, in the higher elevations of the Alps and Apennines, to semi-tropical along the coast of the Ligurian Sea and the west coast of the lower peninsula. The average annual temperature, however, ranges from about 11° to 19° C (52° to 66° F); it is about 13° C (55° F) in the Po Valley, about 18° C (64° F) in Sicily, and about 14.5° C (58° F) in the coastal lowland. Climatic conditions on the peninsula are characterized by regional variations, resulting chiefly from the configurations of the Apennines, and are influenced by tempering winds from the adjacent seas. In the lowland regions and lower slopes of the Apennines bordering the west coast from northern Tuscany to the vicinity of Rome, winters are mild and sunny, and extreme temperatures are modified by cooling Mediterranean breezes. Temperatures in the same latitudes on the east of the peninsula are much lower, chiefly because of the prevailing north-eastern winds. Along the upper eastern slopes of the Apennines, climatic conditions are particularly bleak. The climate of the peninsular lowlands below the latitude of Rome closely resembles that of southern Spain. In contrast to the semi-tropical conditions prevalent in southern Italy and along the Gulf of Genoa, the climate of the Plain of Lombardy is continental. Warm summers and severe winters, with temperatures as low as -15° C (5° F), prevail in this region, which is shielded from sea breezes by the Apennines. Heaviest precipitation occurs in Italy during the autumn and winter months, when westerly winds prevail. The lowest mean annual rainfall, about 460 mm (18 in), occurs in the Apulian province of Foggia in the south and in southern Sicily; the highest, about 1,525 mm (60 in), occurs in the province of Udine in the north-east.
Natural Resources
Italy is poor in natural resources, much of the land being unsuitable for agriculture due to mountainous terrain or unfavourable climate. Italy, moreover, is seriously deficient in such basic natural resources as coal. The most important mineral resources are natural gas, petroleum, lignite, sulphur, and pyrites. Other mineral deposits include lead, manganese, zinc, iron ore, mercury, and bauxite. Many of these deposits are on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. They had been heavily depleted by the early 1990s, however. Italy is rich in various types of building stone, notably marble. The coastal waters of Italy teem with fish, of which sardine, tuna, and anchovy have the greatest commercial importance. Freshwater fish include eel and trout.
Plants and Animals
The flora of the central and southern lowlands of Italy is typically Mediterranean. Among the characteristic vegetation of these regions are such trees as the olive, orange, lemon, palm, and citron. Other common types, especially in the extreme south, are fig, date, pomegranate, and almond trees, and sugar cane and cotton. The vegetation of the Apennines closely resembles that of central Europe. Dense growths of chestnut, cypress, and oak trees occupy the lower slopes, while at higher elevations there are extensive stands of pine and fir.
Italy has fewer varieties of animals than are generally found in comparable areas of Europe. Small numbers of marmot, chamois, and ibex live in the Alps. The bear, numerous in ancient times, is now virtually extinct, but the wolf and wild boar still flourish in mountainous regions. Another fairly common quadruped is the fox. Among the predatory species of bird are the vulture, buzzard, falcon, and kite, confined for the most part to the mountains. There are also quail, woodcock, partridge, and various migratory species. Reptiles include several species of lizards and snakes and three species of the poisonous viper family. Scorpions are also found.
Population
The Italian population consists almost entirely of native-born people, many of whom identify themselves closely with a particular region of Italy. The country can be generally divided into the more urban north (the area from the northern border and the port of Ancona to the southern part of Rome) and the mostly rural south (everything below this line, which is called the “Ancona Wall” by Italians). The more prosperous north contains most of Italy’s larger cities and about two thirds of the country’s population; the primarily agricultural south has a smaller population base and a more limited economy.
Population Characteristics

The population of Italy (1995 estimate) is 57,268,578; the overall population density is approximately 190 people per sq km (491 per sq mi). In recent decades the population has generally migrated from rural to urban areas; the population was about 70 per cent urban in the early 1990s.
Political Divisions

Administratively, Italy is divided into 20 regions, each of which is subdivided into provinces and communes.
Principal Cities

The capital and largest city of Italy is Rome (population, 1993, 2,687,881), which is a cultural and tourist centre. Other cities with populations of more than 300,000 in 1993 include Milan (1,334,171), an important manufacturing, financial, and commercial city; Naples (1,061,583), one of the busiest ports in Italy; Turin (945,551), a transport junction and major industrial city; Palermo (694,749), the capital and chief seaport of Sicily; Genoa (659,754), the leading port in Italy and a major trade and commercial centre; Bologna (394,969), a major transport centre and agricultural market; Florence (392,800), a cultural, commercial, transport, and industrial centre; Catania (327,163), a manufacturing and commercial city in Sicily; Bari (338,949), a major commercial centre; and Venice (306,439), a leading seaport and a cultural and manufacturing centre.
Religion

The dominant religion of Italy is Roman Catholicism, the faith of more than 80 per cent of the people. However, the Catholic Church’s role in Italy is declining: only about 25 per cent of Italians attend Mass regularly, and a law passed in 1984 abolished Roman Catholicism as the official state religion and ended mandatory religious instruction in public schools. The constitution guarantees freedom of worship to the religious minorities, which are primarily Protestant, Muslim, and Jewish.
Language
The overwhelming majority of the people speak Italian, one of the Romance group of languages of the Indo-European family of languages (see Italic Languages). German is spoken around Bolzano in the north near the Austrian border. Other minority languages include French (spoken in the Valle d’Aosta region), Ladin, Albanian, Slovene, Catalan, Friulian, Sardinian, Croatian, and Greek.
Education
The Italian impact on European education dates from the ancient Roman educators and scholars, outstanding among whom were Cicero, Quintilian, and Seneca. Later, during the Middle Ages, Italian universities became the model for those of other countries. During the Renaissance, Italy was the teacher of the liberal arts to virtually all Europe, especially for Greek language and literature. The educational influence of Italy continued through the 17th century, when its universities and academies were Continental centres of teaching and research in the sciences. After a decline during the 18th and 19th centuries, Italian education regained international attention in the 20th century, partly as a result of Maria Montessori’s method for teaching young children.
The modern educational system dates from 1859, when a law was passed providing for a complete school system that extended from the elementary through the university levels. Improvements were introduced later in the 19th century. In 1923 the philosopher Giovanni Gentile, Minister of Public Instruction under Benito Mussolini, promoted complete State control of education, which was reinforced by the School Charter of 1939. With the collapse of fascism in 1944, however, Italy undertook to organize the school system along democratic lines. The constitution of 1947 and later laws raised the general educational level and encouraged such experiments as televised adult education (telescuola).
Traditionally, the goal of the Italian educational system has been to establish a well-trained minority rather than a widely educated majority. Children aged 3 to 5 may attend kindergarten. Education is free and compulsory for all children aged 6 to 14. The compulsory system includes five years of elementary and three years of secondary education. The required part of secondary education is taken in a lower secondary school. This period may be followed by study in a higher secondary school to gain specialized training or to prepare for university entrance. Higher secondary studies leading to university entrance may be taken in classical, scientific, teacher-training, technical, or business schools. A student may also enter an art institute or conservatory of music. Areas of specialized training include industry and agriculture. In 1995 just over 5 per cent of national income was spent on education.
Elementary and Secondary Schools
In 1995-1996 about 20,442 elementary schools with some 283,760 teachers were giving instruction to about 2.8 million pupils. Some 1.9 million students were annually enrolled in about 9,270 lower secondary schools, and about 2.7 million students attended some 7,880 higher secondary schools.
Universities and Colleges
Much attention is given to higher education in Italy. During the last quarter of the 19th century, the gain in Italian university graduates was about seven times the corresponding rate of increase of the Italian population. More than 1.6 million students were enrolled in higher education in Italy in the academic year 1995-1996. Examinations held three times a year are mainly oral. Six Italian universities were founded in the 13th century and five in the 14th. The oldest is the University of Bologna, dating from the 11th century, and the largest is the University of Rome, with about 180,000 students. Other notable institutions are those of Bari, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Padua, Perugia, Pisa, Siena, and Trieste.
Culture

From antiquity to modern times, Italy has played a central role in world culture. Italians have contributed some of the world’s most admired sculpture, architecture, painting, literature, and music, particularly opera. Although the nation was politically unified less than 150 years ago, the Italians do not consider themselves to be a “new” people, but see themselves instead as the descendants of the ancient Romans. Moreover, regional differences persist because of natural geographical boundaries and the disparate cultural heritage that has come down from the Greeks, Etruscans, Arabs, Normans, and Lombards. Regional variety is evident in persistent local dialects, holidays, festivals, songs, and cuisine. Central to all Italian life is the tradition of the family as a guiding force and focus of loyalty.
Many of the great Italian painters, such as Giotto, Fra Angelico, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, and Amedeo Modigliani, are covered in separate articles in the encyclopedia, as are such composers as Antonio Vivaldi, Gaetano Donizetti, Giacomo Puccini, Gioacchino Rossini, and Giuseppe Verdi. See Italian Literature; Cinema, History of; Music, Western.
Italy is rich in important library collections. Among the largest and most valuable are the national libraries in Florence, Naples, and Rome. Several universities also have large libraries. Smaller collections, rich in local manuscripts and incunabula, are found in most Italian cities.
World-famous art collections are housed in numerous Italian cities. Among the most important art museums are the Uffizi Gallery and Medici Chapel in Florence, the National Museum in Naples, and, in Rome, the Villa Giulia Museum, the Galleria Borghese, and the National Gallery of Modern Art. Vatican City has important art collections in its museums and chapels, the most famous of which is the Sistine Chapel. An international biennial exhibition of visual arts in Venice is world renowned.
The Mafia
A loosely affiliated network of criminal groups that first developed in Sicily during the late Middle Ages, the Mafia has historically been a powerful social and economic force in large parts of Italy. By the late 19th century, the Mafia, known for its familial structure, ruthless violence, and strong code of silence (omertą), controlled the Sicilian countryside, infiltrating or manipulating local authorities, extorting money, and terrorizing citizens. During the 20th century, except for a period of repression by Benito Mussolini from the 1920s until the end of World War II, the Mafia continued to expand its influence over both legal and illegal operations in Italy, especially in the south. The Mafia’s influence was exported to other countries by emigrants, and by the 1970s the Mafia controlled a large part of the world’s heroin trade. Renewed government prosecution of Mafia figures and activities beginning in the mid-1980s, and a series of political scandals linking many Italian politicians with the Mafia, gave rise to hopes that Mafia influence in Italy would eventually decline.
Economy

A largely agricultural country before World War II, Italy has developed a diversified industrial base in the north, which contributes significantly to the economy. In 1994 the gross national product (GNP) of Italy was US$1,101 billion (World Bank figure; 1992-1994 prices), or US$19,840 per capita, while in 1995 the gross domestic product was estimated at US$1, 089 billion, or about US$18,700 per capita; industry contributed about 32 per cent to the value of domestic output, agriculture 3 per cent in the early 1990s. Italy has essentially a private-enterprise economy, although the government has a controlling interest in a number of large commercial and manufacturing enterprises, such as the oil industry through the Italian state petroleum company. Also, the state owns the principal transport and telecommunication systems. An ongoing problem of the Italian economy has been the slow growth of industrialization in the south, which lags behind the north in most aspects of economic development. Government efforts to foster industrialization in the south have met with mixed results, as problems with the workforce and the overriding influence of the Mafia have discouraged many large corporations from opening operations there. Many southerners have migrated to northern Italy in search of employment. Unemployment remains a problem throughout the country, however: the unemployment rate remains at over 12 per cent (1995) of the working-age population. The large national debt has also plagued Italy’s economy: the national budget of Italy in 1994 included revenue of about US$339 billion and expenditure of some US$431 billion.
Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing

Nearly 60 per cent of the land area of Italy is devoted to crops and pasture; agriculture employs about 8 per cent of the workforce. Variations of climate, soil, and altitude allow the cultivation of many types of crops. Italy is one of the leading nations in the production of grapes, and ranks among the world’s foremost wine producers. Italian wine production totalled about 6.3 million hectalitres in 1994. Italy is also one of the world’s leading producers of olives and olive oil. The output of olives was about 2.7 million tonnes in 1994, and production of olive oil was about 6.3 million hectolitres. In 1996 the chief field crops, with approximate annual production figures in tonnes, included sugar beet (12.1 million), maize (8.7 million), wheat (8.2 million), tomatoes (4.8 million), potatoes (2.1 million), and rice (1.4 million). Other field crops are barley, rye, artichokes, chilli peppers, and watermelons. Orchard crops, prominent in the Italian economy, include olives, apples, oranges, figs, peaches, nectarines, and nuts. Dairy-farming is a major industry. About 50 kinds of cheese are produced, including Gorgonzola, pecorino, and Parmesan. The livestock population in 1994 numbered about 10.4 million sheep, 8.2 million pigs, 7.7 million cattle and buffalo, 1.3 million goats, 338,000 horses, mules, and donkeys, and 137 million chickens.
The forestry industry is limited in Italy, and much wood is imported. Most of the old-growth forests have been harvested, first by the Romans in antiquity and then in the 19th century. The resulting soil erosion has also hampered industry. However, some advances have been made in recent years, and roundwood removals in 1993 amounted to about 9.8 million cu m (346.1 million cu ft).
The annual catch of the country’s substantial fishing industry in 1993 was about 552,000 tonnes. Among the species harvested are mussels and other shellfish, shrimps and prawns, sardines, trout, mullet, squid, and anchovies.
Mining
Mining contributes only a small portion of the annual national product, but production of some minerals is sizeable. In 1994 production of economic significance included, in tonnes, barites (58,000), zinc (40,900), and lead (20,450). Production of fossil fuels included 33.4 million barrels of crude petroleum and 20.2 billion cu m (713 billion cu ft) of natural gas. Other mineral resources include lignite, pyrites, and fluorspar.
Manufacturing
Since World War II, Italian industry has expanded rapidly, and Italian products have gained worldwide popularity. In 1994 the production of the textile industry, one of the largest and most important, included 262,500 tonnes of cotton yarn. Production of the chemical industry, which is also important to the national economy, included sulphuric acid (1.2 million tonnes), caustic soda (953,200), and ammonia (612,000). Among other major industries are the manufacture of motor vehicles, iron and steel, rubber, heavy machinery, electrical ware (particularly household products), and foodstuffs, especially pasta. Production of passenger cars totalled 1.3 million in the 1994. Shipbuilding, the processing of hemp and tobacco, and sugar-refining are also important. Leading manufacturing centres include Genoa, Milan, Rome, and Turin.
Energy
Italy is a net energy importer and relies on other countries for much of its gas, coal, and oil. About 80 per cent of Italy’s yearly output of electricity is generated in thermal plants burning petroleum products, natural gas, coal, or lignite, and most of the remainder is produced in hydroelectric facilities. In 1994 Italy had an installed electricity-generating capacity of about 60 million kW, and output was some 232 billion kWh.
Currency and Banking
The unit of currency in Italy is the lira, consisting of 100 centesimi (1,789 lire equal US$1; 1998). The Bank of Italy is the bank of issue and exercises control over credit. A public institution, the Bank of Italy has branches in each provincial capital. In addition, Italy has many private banks. The 1990 Banking Act introduced a number of changes in the country’s banking system, reducing public ownership of banks and loosening regulations on external and foreign capital, as part of the European Community’s move towards free capital movement within Europe and currency union. Milan and Rome are major financial centres.
Commerce and Trade
Increased trade between Italy and the other member countries of the European Community (now called the European Union) characterized the 1970s and 1980s. The dependence of Italy on imported coal, petroleum, and other essential raw materials usually yields an unfavourable balance of trade. This imbalance is partly offset by the tourist industry, remittances from Italian nationals in foreign lands, and shipping revenues. In 1994 Italian exports earned about US$190 billion per year and imports cost about US$168 billion. Exports include motor vehicles, machinery, vegetables and fruit, wine, chemicals, textiles, and clothing; imports consist mainly of machinery, transport equipment, crude oil, coal, foodstuffs, chemicals, and cotton.
The bulk of Italian export trade is conducted with the countries of the European Union and with the United States, Switzerland, Austria, and countries of the former Soviet Union. Leading sources of Italian imports are Germany, France, the United States, the Netherlands, the Middle East, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.
Italy has a buoyant tourist industry, drawing on the country’s natural, cultural, and artistic treasures. Tourist arrivals in 1994 totalled 51.8 million, of whom 24.8 million stayed one night or longer. Receipts from tourism in the same period totalled US$24 billion.
Labour
Of the total workforce of approximately 22.7 million in 1995, about 9 million belonged to three major trade unions: the Communist-dominated Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, or CGIL (some 4.6 million members); the centrist Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori, or CISL (about 3 million); and the Unione Italiana del Lavoro, or UIL (1.4 million). Union contracts set wages and salaries in every major field.
Transport

Italy has a large merchant fleet; its total displacement in 1995 was about 11.8 million deadweight tonnes. The country’s chief seaports include Genoa, Trieste, Taranto, and Venice. Italy is served by about 19,590 km (12,173 mi) of operated railway track, more than half of which is electrified. The government operates most of the railway lines. The country has about 305,388 km (189,768 mi) of roads, including some 6,301 km (3,915 mi) of limited-access motorways (autostrade). One of the longest road tunnels in the world, the Mont Blanc Tunnel linking Italy and France, was opened in 1965. The two countries are also linked via the Mount Fréjus vehicular tunnel, opened in 1980. In 1992 there were around 29.4 million passenger cars in Italy, with an average of 1.8 people per vehicle. Alitalia, the state airline, provides both domestic and international service. The country’s busiest airport is near Rome; the largest international airport is Malpensa Airport near Milan.
Communications
Since the abolition in 1976 of the Italian government’s monopoly on broadcasting, the number of radio and television stations in the country has increased from less than 100 to more than 1,000. As the radio and television industries have grown, the print media, especially national publications, have declined, although local and regional publications, including those produced by political parties and by the Roman Catholic Church, remain an important part of Italy’s communications network. Influential dailies include Corriere della Sera, issued in Milan, and La Stampa, published in Turin. In 1994 approximately 45 million radios and 17 million television sets were in use in the country; telephones numbered approximately 27.9 million in 1994.
Government
Italy has been a democratic republic since June 2, 1946, when the monarchy was abolished by popular referendum. By the terms of the constitution that became effective on January 1, 1948, the re-establishment of the Fascist party is prohibited; direct male heirs of the House of Savoy are ineligible to vote or hold any public office and are, in fact, banished from Italian soil; and recognition is no longer accorded to titles of nobility, although titles in existence prior to October 28, 1922, may be used as part of the bearer’s name. Although Italy’s tumultuous politics have produced more than 50 different governments since the advent of the democratic system, order is maintained through a well-established bureaucracy that supports the elected offices. The constitution is currently under review, with reform proposals including a reduction in parliamentary seats and a directly elected presidency.
Executive and Legislature
The president of Italy is elected for a seven-year term by a joint session of parliament augmented by three delegates from each of the 20 regional councils, except that of Valle d’Aosta, which sends only one. The president, who must be at least 50 years old, is ordinarily elected by a two-thirds majority. The president has the right to dissolve the Senate and Chamber of Deputies at any time except during the last six months of his tenure. The president usually has little to do with the actual running of the government. This is in the hands of the prime minister—who is chosen by the president and must have the confidence of parliament—and the Cabinet of ministers. The prime minister (sometimes called the premier) is generally the leader of the party that has the largest representation in the Chamber of Deputies.
The Italian parliament consists of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies elected by popular suffrage for five-year terms of office. For many years, Italian citizens voted for political parties, and individual representatives were appointed by party leaders in a proportional manner. But as a result of corruption scandals in the early 1990s, a number of public referendums was passed in April 1993 that mandated a more direct electoral system. Beginning with the elections of March 1994, three quarters of the 630 seats in the lower-house Chamber of Deputies and an identical proportion of the 315 elected seats in the upper-house Senate are now filled by direct candidate ballot. The other 25 per cent of representatives continue to be appointed by party leaders according to each party’s electoral success. There are also life members in the Senate, a group made up of past presidents and their honorary nominees (each president is entitled to make up to five such appointments). Citizens must be 25 years of age or older to vote for senators; in all other elections, all citizens over age 18 are eligible to vote.
Political Parties
During the first half of the 1990s, in the face of widespread political scandal, Italy moved from a coalition system of politics in which a single party had long dominated to a more splintered system of powerful new parties and alliances. In January 1994 the Partito Democrazia Cristiana (Christian Democratic Party), a part of 52 consecutive coalitions that had ruled Italy since 1948, was dissolved into two separate parties, the Popular Party and the Christian Democratic Centre Party. In the reorganization, the recently formed Forza Italia (“Go, Italy”) emerged as a leading political party, along with the federalist Northern League and the neo-Fascist National Alliance; these three parties make up the right-wing Freedom Alliance, which won the March 1994 election. The Democratic Party of the Left, one of the largest Communist parties in Western Europe, along with the Italian People’s Party, the Italian Renewal Party, Refounded Communists, and several smaller parties, leads the left-wing Olive Tree Alliance, which won the April 1996 elections. The country’s minor parties include the Green Party, the Liberal Party of Italy, several Socialist parties, the Republican Party of Italy, the Radical Party, and the Anti-Mafia Network Party.
Judiciary
Italy has a Supreme Court of Cassation (Corte Suprema di Cassazione), which is the highest court of appeal in all cases except those concerning the constitution. There is also a constitutional court, which is analogous in function to the Supreme Court of the United States, and is composed of 15 judges. Five of the judges are appointed by the president of the republic, five by the Senate and Chamber of Deputies jointly, and five by the supreme law courts. The criminal justice system includes district courts, tribunals, and courts of appeal.
Local Government
Italy is divided into 20 regions, which are subdivided into a total of 94 provinces. These regions are Abruzzi, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Latium, Liguria, Lombardy, Marche, Molise, Piedmont, Trentino-Alto Adige, Tuscany, Umbria, Valle d’Aosta, Veneto, and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Each region is governed by an executive responsible to a popularly elected council. The regional governments have considerable authority. The chief executive of each of the provinces, the prefect, is appointed by, and answerable to, the central government and in fact has little power. The power of the regions is an important issue in Italian politics, with some groups such as the Northern League and a Venetian radical faction, proposing outright division into smaller statelets.
An elected council and a provincial executive committee administer each province. Every part of Italy forms a portion of a commune, the basic unit of local government, which may range in size from a small village to a large city such as Naples: there were more than 8,000 communes in the early 1990s. Each commune is governed by a communal council elected for a four-year term by universal suffrage. A mayor is elected by each council.
Health and Welfare
A government-run national health service was established in 1980 with the goal of providing free medical care for all citizens. In 1993 Italy had about 207,300 doctors (1 per 193 people) and 380,400 hospital beds. Social security, funded largely by employers, is extended to the infirm and the aged, as well as to people pensioned by the State, farmers, unemployed agricultural workers, and apprentices. Life expectancy at birth is 81.48 years for women and 74.85 years for men (1996 estimate); the infant mortality rate is 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births (1996 estimate).In 1990 Italy spent around 7.5 per cent of its national income on health care.
Defence
The armed forces of Italy have been greatly expanded since the country joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. In 1997-1998 the Italian permanent armed forces totalled 325,150 people, with an army of 188,300, a navy of 44,000, and an air force of 63,600. Compulsory military service for men is for 12 months.
International Organizations
Italy is a member of the UN, NATO, the Western European Union (WEU), and the Council of Europe. A founder member of the original European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) which developed into the European Union (EU), Italy has made many official policy changes in recent years in order to be eligible to participate in European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).
History
For the history of Italy to the 5th century AD, see Rome, Kings of; Roman Republic; Roman Empire. For additional data on the development of modern Italy, see Etruscan Civilization; Florence; Genoa; Lombardy; Milan; Naples; Papal States; Savoy, House of; Sicily; Tuscany; Venice.
The Middle Ages
In AD 476 the last independent Roman Emperor of the West, Romulus Augustulus, was dethroned by the invading Germanic chieftain Odoacer, who thereupon succeeded to the throne. In 488 Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, invaded Italy and, after defeating and slaying Odoacer, became the sole ruler in Italy. Theodoric ruled until his death in 526. In 535 Justinian I, Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire (see Byzantine Empire), dispatched the great general Belisarius to expel the Germanic invaders from Italy. A fierce war ensued, ending in 553 with the death of Teias, the last of the Gothic kings. The Byzantine rule was of short duration, however, for in 572 Italy was invaded by the Lombards, another Germanic tribe. Alboin, their king, made Pavia the capital of his realm, and from that city he launched a series of campaigns that eventually deprived the Byzantine power in Italy of everything except the southern portion of the province and the exarchate of Ravenna in the north. The country’s most important religious leaders of the time were the archbishops of Ravenna.
Religious Conflict
After the death of Alboin in 572, the Lombards for a time had no king. Separate bands thereupon united under regional leaders known as duci. The Lombards, like the Goths before them, espoused the heretical creed called Arianism, with the result that they were in perpetual religious conflict with the native Italians, who overwhelmingly supported orthodox Christianity. This conflict was intensified as the temporal power of the popes increased. At length, Agiluf, a new Lombard king who reigned from 590 to 615, was converted to orthodox Christianity, and for some time comparative harmony prevailed. To consolidate their political power, however, the Lombards began to encroach on papal territory, even threatening Rome, the centre of Church authority. In 754 Pope Stephen II summoned help from the Franks, who had accepted the spiritual authority of the Church a century earlier. Under the vigorous leadership of Pepin the Short and his son, Charlemagne, the Franks conquered the Lombards, deposing the last Lombard king in 774. On Christmas Day, 800, Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the West by Pope Leo III.
When the Saracens subdued Sicily and threatened Rome in the 9th century, Pope Leo IV called on King Louis II, Charlemagne’s great-grandson, who checked the progress of the invaders. The Muslims overran southern Italy after Louis died and compelled the popes to pay tribute. For many years thereafter, the history of Italy is the record of the rise and fall of successive petty kings. Chief among them were Guido of Spoleto; Berengar I of Friuli, Holy Roman Emperor; and Hugh of Provence. The period of anarchy ended in 962, when the Germanic leader Otto I, after obtaining possession of northern Italy and the Lombard crown, was crowned Emperor by Pope John XII. This event is considered by some to mark the establishment of both the Holy Roman Empire and the German nation.
The Papacy Versus the Holy Roman Empire
Until the close of the Middle Ages the Holy Roman emperors claimed and, in varying degrees, exercised sovereignty over Italy, but for practical purposes imperial authority became completely nominal by the beginning of the 14th century. Meanwhile, the south of Italy had remained under Byzantine and Lombard sway. In the 11th century, however, the Normans broke the Byzantine power and expelled the Lombards. The Normans united their territorial conquests in Italy in 1127 with Sicily, which they had wrested from the Saracens. These developments coincided with a resurgence of papal power, long secondary to that of the emperors. Imperial and papal friction reached a peak in the Investiture Controversy. By the Concordat of Worms, negotiated in 1122, the emperor surrendered to the college of cardinals the right to elect the pope. Simultaneous with the increasing influence of the papacy, strong opposition to the continued rule of the Holy Roman emperors appeared in the form of the rising Italian city-states. In Italy the feudal system had never attained the high degree of development characteristic of France and Germany. The relative weakness of Italian feudalism was due in great part to the survival of Roman traditions and to the large number of cities in Italy, for feudalism was a rural rather than an urban phenomenon. The northern cities in particular defied the power of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I, who fought fierce but inconclusive wars with them. At length the Lombard League, an alliance of Italian cities, was formed in 1167; Frederick was vanquished at Legnano in 1176, and in 1183, with the signing of the Peace of Constance, the cities of northern Italy secured virtual autonomy. A final and unsuccessful attempt to crush both the papacy and its allies was made by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, the last great ruler of the royal House of Hohenstaufen. Italy itself was divided by the struggles between imperial partisans (the Guelphs) and their opponents (the Ghibellines). These names continued to be the designations of fiercely contending parties long after the Holy Roman emperors had lost their hold on the country.
Meanwhile, in 1266, southern Italy and Sicily came under the domination of the French House of Anjou. In 1282, however, Sicily threw off the French yoke and placed itself under the power of Aragón. See Sicilian Vespers.
The Rise of The City-States

Through commerce, some of the northern Italian cities had meanwhile grown wealthy and had established oligarchical governments that were tending to become democratic. The prosperous merchants of these cities, having secured their independence from the authority of the Holy Roman emperors, soon began to contest the authority of their powerful nobles. Gradually, these nobles were divested of their power and compelled to abandon their extensive landholdings. Venice, by its participation in the Fourth Crusade, had secured extensive possessions in the Byzantine East and had developed a far-reaching trade empire. Pisa, Genoa, Milan, and Florence had likewise become powerful. A bitter struggle for ascendancy soon developed between Genoa and Venice. The conflict ended with a Venetian victory towards the close of the 14th century.
In every city of northern and central Italy the population had long been divided into Guelphs and Ghibellines. The former party was substantially progressive in character, the latter conservative. Civil strife was almost incessant, and the triumph of one party frequently resulted in the banishment of members of the other. On occasion, the banished party sought to regain power with the aid of other cities, so that city often warred against city, producing a shifting succession of alliances, conquests, and temporary truces. This turbulence was highly disadvantageous to commerce and industry, the chief interests of the northern cities. In consequence, the office of podesta, or chief magistrate, was established to mediate the differences of the contending parties. It proved ineffective, however, and the podesta came in time to be primarily a judicial officer. His place as head of the city was taken by a “captain of the people”, representing the dominant party. This position was usually held by a noble. The people, longing for peace, acquiesced in the establishment of centralized authority. Thus, almost every city came to have its despot, or absolute ruler; the office in many cases became hereditary in some noble families, such as the Scala at Verona, the Este at Ferrara, the Malatesta at Rimini, and the Visconti and later the Sforza at Milan. Under the rule of the despots, wealth increased, life became more luxurious, and literature and the arts flourished. Gradually, the smaller cities passed under the influence of the larger ones.
Period of Prosperity
By the middle of the 15th century Italy had achieved great prosperity and comparative tranquillity. The country stood in the forefront of European nations culturally, having pioneered the great revival of learning and the arts known as the Renaissance. Pre-eminent in this revival was Tuscany, which had produced the great poet Dante Alighieri and the painter Giotto. Near the end of the 15th century Italy became the object of a succession of aggressive wars, waged by France, Spain, and Austria, which culminated in the ascendancy of the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs. In 1494 King Charles VIII of France undertook to conquer the Kingdom of Naples, then under the rule of the House of Aragón. Charles was induced to conduct this campaign by the Milanese regent Ludovico Sforza and by the citizens of Florence, who were restive under the Medici family. He invaded Italy, occupied Naples, and concluded a treaty with Florence, by the terms of which the Medici were expelled and the pope was brought to submission. In consequence, however, of a league formed against him by Spain, the pope, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the Italian cities of Venice and Milan, Charles was forced to retire from Naples and fight his way out of Italy. This French invasion, although it produced no great political results, was highly important as a means by which Italian culture was disseminated throughout Europe.
The Early Modern Age
During the 16th century the various states on the Italian Peninsula fell prey to armies from the more centralized countries of the north. In 1499 King Louis XII of France, successor to Charles VIII, subjugated Milan, which changed hands several times between the French and the Habsburgs. In 1501 Ferdinand V of Castile, who had also been King of Sicily since 1468, reunited Naples and Sicily under one crown. The rivalry between Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, and King Francis I of France led to another French invasion of Italy in 1525. With the Florentines, Genoese, and Venetians as allies, the French were successful at first, but they were ultimately defeated. In the Peace of Cambrai (1529) Francis renounced all his claims to territory in Italy. Although he renewed the conflict in the 1540s, Charles’s domination over Italy could not be broken. On the extinction of Milan’s Sforza dynasty in 1535, Charles also took control of that duchy, which became part of his Spanish Habsburg realm. Milan remained a Spanish possession for almost 200 years. Of the various free cities of Italy a few survived, and of these only Genoa and Venice remained influential. Venice, in its last notable achievement as an independent city, conquered the Pelopónnisus in 1684, but lost it in 1715.
During the 18th century Italy remained divided and controlled by foreigners. Until 1748 it was the site of a succession of European wars, while the balance of power shifted. Venice turned eastwards, the papacy became increasingly insular, and Florence no longer had a central role in the area. The Duchy of Savoy, located between France and the Habsburg possessions in Italy, became a major force in the area. Duke Victor Amadeus II emerged from the War of the Spanish Succession with power and prestige. The Peace of Utrecht (1713) awarded him a royal title and Sicily, which he ceded to Austria in exchange for Sardinia in 1720. The Utrecht treaties also transferred Spain’s holdings in Italy to the Austrians, who exercised dominion in the peninsula throughout most of the second half of the 18th century.
The Napoleonic Period
In 1796 Napoleon Bonaparte, later Emperor of France, invaded Italy. His victories led to the Treaty of Campo Formio (1797), establishing the Cisalpine and Ligurian republics with the former’s capital at Milan and the latter’s at Genoa. Venice and its territory were given to Austria. Napoleon was crowned King of Italy at Milan in 1805. The next year he took possession of the Kingdom of Naples. The island of Sicily, however, was preserved for the Neapolitan Bourbons by the British fleet. Naples was granted first to Napoleon’s brother Joseph and later to his brother-in-law Joachim Murat. By 1810 even Rome was incorporated into the French empire.
Napoleon’s hold on Italy was weakened by his defeat at Leipzig in 1813 as the Austrians invaded northern Italy and a British fleet occupied Genoa. The Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) led to a restoration of Austrian domination of the peninsula, but Sardinia recovered Piedmont, Nice, and Savoy and acquired Genoa.
The Risorgimento
The Italian resistance to Austrian domination, characterized by a growing movement for the unification of Italy and independence, has been termed the Risorgimento. Despite suppressive measures by the petty despots who relied on Austrian statesman Prince Klemens von Metternich, with his astute diplomacy and threat of military intervention, to preserve their rule, a network of secret societies challenged the traditional order. These societies, especially the Carbonari of southern Italy, played a key role in the revolutions of 1820, which were suppressed by Austria.
Nationalist Movements
The July Revolution of 1830, which drove the Bourbons from the throne of France, had repercussions in Italy. In 1831 insurrections erupted in the Papal States. A congress of representatives from its constituent areas (except Rome and a few cities in the march of Ancona) met in Bologna and adopted a constitution establishing a republican form of government. Responding to the request of Pope Gregory XVI, Austria intervened to suppress the revolutionary movement in the papal domain, and placed Bologna under military surveillance.
After the 1831 death of King Charles Felix of Sardinia, the crown passed to Charles Albert, Prince of Savoy and Piedmont, who, as regent, had proposed granting his people a constitution in 1821. Believing that Charles Albert still held liberal views, the Italian patriot Giuseppe Mazzini exhorted the new king to serve as liberator of Italy. The king answered this appeal by ordering Mazzini’s arrest; nevertheless, patriotic Italians continued to look to the Sardinian monarchy for leadership.
From exile in Marseille, France, in 1831 Mazzini established an organization called Giovine Italia (“Young Italy”) to spread the ideals of nationalism and republicanism to the Italian people. Its goals were education and insurrection, and it inspired several revolutions. As these uprisings were suppressed, some Italians questioned the use of radical tactics, suggesting that the national movement required a more responsible leadership.
The neo-Guelph movement sought to establish an order in which the pope would exercise political as well as spiritual leadership in Italy. In 1846 the nationalist and neo-Guelph movements were quickened by the election of Pope Pius IX, who was perceived as being a liberal and a nationalist. The pope immediately began an extensive programme of reform in the Papal States. An amnesty was proclaimed for political offenders, political exiles were permitted to return, freedom of the press was introduced, the highest government offices were opened to laymen, and a consultative chamber was created to suggest new reforms. The pope’s example was followed by the rulers of Lucca, Tuscany, and Piedmont. Instead of allaying the revolutionary movement, however, the reforms of 1846 and 1847 only intensified it. In January 1848 the people of Palermo drove out the forces of Ferdinand II, King of the Two Sicilies, who responded to the revolutionary outburst on the mainland by granting his Italian subjects a constitution. At the same time Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, issued a constitution for his duchy. In Turin, Charles Albert, encouraged by Conte Camillo Benso di Cavour, also promised to issue a constitution. Pope Pius IX reluctantly consented to a constitution for the Papal States, although he began to regard the course of events with some apprehension.
The Uprisings of 1848
The outbreak of revolution in Vienna in 1848, part of the Europe-wide revolutions of 1848, which drove Metternich from power, served as the signal for an uprising in Milan on March 18. The populace drove the Austrian troops out of the city on March 22. The Austrians were also expelled from Venice, and a Venetian republic was proclaimed. The autocratic rulers of Parma and Modena were forced to abandon their thrones. In Piedmont the nationalists called for a war of liberation to drive the Austrians from Italian soil. After some hesitation, Charles Albert mobilized his army and marched to the assistance of Lombardy, which he entered on March 26, acclaimed as the liberator of Italy.
Italian hopes were dashed when at the end of April the pope refused to join in the war, in mid-May the revolution in Naples collapsed, and on July 24 the Piedmontese were defeated in battle by the Austrians. By the subsequent armistice the Piedmontese gave up Lombardy. Charles Albert later denounced this armistice, only to be badly defeated in battle at Novara in March 1849. He then abdicated the Sardinian throne in favour of his son, Victor Emmanuel II.
The Revolution in Rome
Meanwhile, Pius IX was denounced by radicals in the Papal States for failing to join the war of national liberation. A popular insurrection in Rome led the pope and his closest adviser, Cardinal Giacomo Antonelli, to flee the capital in November 1848. In his absence the temporal power of the pontiff was abolished and a republic was proclaimed. Early in 1849 Cardinal Antonelli appealed to the Roman Catholic powers of France, Austria, Spain, and Naples to overturn the Roman Republic. Despite the efforts of Mazzini, at the head of the government, and the military leadership of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Austrians moved into the north, the Spanish and Neapolitans invaded from the south, and a French force occupied Rome in July 1849. The papal regime was restored.
Garibaldi and Cavour

Victor Emmanuel remained faithful to the liberal constitution promulgated by his father and retained the tricolour flag, symbol of a free Italy, thus encouraging political refugees from the restored conservative states of the peninsula to find asylum in Sardinia. In 1852 Cavour became the Sardinian prime minister and in 1855 led his country into the Crimean War on the side of Britain and France. At the peace conference in Paris in 1856, Cavour, with the connivance of French Emperor Napoleon III, aired the Italian question as an international problem. In 1858 he met secretly with Napoleon to plot a Franco-Sardinian war against Austria for the liberation of Italy; war erupted in 1859. The Franco-Italian coalition won the battles of Magenta and Solferino, which proved costly. Fearing the consequences of a long war, Napoleon deserted the Italians and unilaterally concluded a preliminary agreement in July 1859 with the Austrians. The Sardinians then accepted the terms formalized in the Treaty of Zurich: Austria ceded most of Lombardy to France, which in turn transferred the Lombard cities of Peschiera and Mantua to Sardinia.
Elsewhere, the drive for a united Italy accelerated. In a series of plebiscites in 1860 the people of Romagna and the duchies of Parma and Modena voted for union with Sardinia. France, in return for its collaboration, obtained the regions of Nice and Savoy. In April 1860 Palermo rose against Francis II, King of the Two Sicilies. In May, Garibaldi, with Cavour’s secret support, led an expedition from Genoa to aid the Sicilian revolt. Garibaldi soon took control of Sicily, and in August he attacked the Neapolitan mainland, entering Naples on September 7. Francis fled to the fortress of Gaeta. The Sardinian government, while sympathetic to Garibaldi’s conquest, had officially maintained a policy of neutrality. When Garibaldi threatened to march on Rome, which was protected by French forces, Cavour became alarmed. With Napoleon’s consent, he moved his forces into the Papal States to block Garibaldi. In the process, Sardinia absorbed the bulk of the Papal States, leaving the pope with Rome and its immediate environs. Meanwhile plebiscites in Naples and Sicily and in the marches and Umbria all favoured union with Sardinia.
The Kingdom of Italy

On March 17, 1861, the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed, with Victor Emmanuel II as King and Cavour as Prime Minister. Italy, however, was not complete; Rome and Venice remained outside the kingdom. Cavour, who planned for their peaceful inclusion, died in June. The next year Garibaldi went to Sicily and organized a march on Rome. Fearing French intervention, the Italian government denounced Garibaldi. He and his followers, who had landed in Calabria, were blocked by the troops of Victor Emmanuel and compelled to surrender in August 1862. In 1866 Italy became the ally of Prussia in the Seven Weeks’ War against Austria, and at its end acquired Venice. Rome remained elusive, however, as a combined Franco-Papal force defeated a renewed effort by Garibaldi and his followers at Mentana in 1867. In 1870 French reverses in the Franco-Prussian War induced Napoleon III to withdraw his troops from Rome, and the Italians were finally able to enter the city. An October plebiscite favoured union with the Italian kingdom, and in July 1871, Rome became the capital of a united Italy.
Colonial Ventures
When Victor Emmanuel died in January 1878, his son, Humbert I, succeeded to the Italian throne. During his reign, Italy concluded the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1882, marking the division of Europe into two hostile camps. Humbert was assassinated by an anarchist on July 29, 1900, and his son, Victor Emmanuel III, ascended the throne. Meanwhile, prompted by the examples of France and Britain and by the desire to distract attention from economic and social problems at home, the government had launched a colonial programme. In early 1885 an Italian expedition occupied a portion of East Africa. These territories were consolidated in 1890 into the colony of Eritrea. In that year Italy established a protectorate over the Somali coast south of British Somaliland. Prime Minister Francesco Crispi then decided to move from the coastal territories and take over the heartland of Ethiopia. The Italians, however, suffered a serious defeat in the Battle of Adwa in 1896 and had to recognize Ethiopia’s independence. Elsewhere, Italian troops moved into Libya in 1911 and, at the end of the ensuing Italo-Turkish war, Italy’s possession of the Libyan coast was confirmed.
Pre-War Italy
From 1901 to 1914 Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti dominated Italy, which underwent political, social, and economic modernization. Giolitti has been criticized for interfering in the electoral process, tolerating protectionism, and creating a virtual parliamentary dictatorship, but he has also been hailed as the maker of modern Italy. During his tenure a number of reforms were introduced: the right of workers to strike for higher wages was recognized; changes in electoral law greatly increased male suffrage; Roman Catholics were drawn into Italy’s political life; and the first major legislation on behalf of the economically depressed south was passed.
In foreign affairs, relations were improved with France, while Italy remained in the Triple Alliance. During the Giolitti era Italy’s rate of industrial growth was 87 per cent, and workers’ wages grew by more than 25 per cent despite a shortened workday and the introduction of a guaranteed day of rest. In many ways Italy was a democracy in the making, but this progress was halted by participation in World War I.
World War I
When World War I began in August 1914, the Italian government brushed aside the Triple Alliance and declared its neutrality. Subsequently, after having signed the secret Treaty of London with the Allied powers, Italy declared war on Austria and Turkey, and then declared war against Germany about one year later. Italy sent a large force into the Trentino region, in the south Tirol. In 1916 the Austrians launched a series of attacks north-east of Trent and along the eastern bank of the Adige River, capturing the towns of Asiago and Asiero. Most of the lost territory was later regained by Italian forces, which then mounted an offensive along the Isonzo River in Venezia Giulia, capturing Gorizia on August 9. The Italian armies made little progress thereafter.
In October 1917 a combined Austro-German force attacked the Italian defences, winning a dramatic victory at Caporetto in Venezia Giulia. The Italians fell back, abandoning both Gorizia and the Karst Plateau. The enemy threatened the Italian line from the Julian Alps to the Adriatic Sea. The Italians retreated to the Piave River; reinforced by small numbers of French and British troops, they consolidated their defences and were able to fight off an Austrian force that attacked in June 1918. The Italians and their allies assumed the offensive, culminating in their crushing victory in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto (October 24-November 4). The Italian army then occupied Udine and Trent, while the navy landed troops at Trieste.
Meanwhile, on November 3, the Austro-Hungarian government and the Allies had signed an armistice. Italian casualties during the war totalled more than half a million. In the treaties that followed, Italy acquired the Trentino, Trieste, and the South Tirol, but did not get all the territory promised in the Treaty of London—notably Dalmatia and Fiume. In November 1920 Italy and the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later renamed Yugoslavia) signed the Treaty of Rapallo; Fiume was established as a free state, and Italy renounced its claims to Dalmatia.
The Post-War Years
From 1919 to 1922 Italy was torn by social and political strife, inflation, and economic problems, aggravated by the belief that Italy had won the war but lost the peace. Armed bands with a strong nationalist bias, known as the Fascisti (see Fascism), fought Socialist and Communist groups in Rome, Bologna, Trieste, Genoa, Parma, and elsewhere.
During Giolitti’s final ministry from 1920 to 1921, some semblance of normality returned. He formed a National Bloc of Liberals, Nationalists, and others, including Fascists, but he failed to gather a stable parliamentary majority because the two largest political parties, the Socialists and the newly formed Catholic Popular Party, refused their support. Giolitti then resigned. His departure precipitated a period of uncertainty. Many landowners feared that their estates would be seized by the peasants; the middle class and the industrialists feared that Italy would become a Soviet-style republic; and conservative Roman Catholics worried that socialism, communism, and atheism threatened the religious order.
On October 24, 1922, the Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, emboldened by the support of conservatives and former soldiers, demanded that the government be entrusted to his party. He threatened to seize power by force if his conditions were refused. As the Fascisti mobilized for a march on Rome, Prime Minister Luigi Facta resigned. On October 28 Victor Emmanuel called on Mussolini to form a new government.
The Fascist Dictatorship

Although he was given extraordinary powers to restore order, Mussolini initially governed constitutionally. He headed a coalition government in 1923 that included Liberals, Nationalists, and Catholics, as well as Fascists. After the violence of the 1924 elections and the murder of the Socialist Party Deputy Giacomo Matteotti in 1924, Mussolini moved to suspend constitutional government. He proceeded in stages to establish a dictatorship by forbidding the parliament to initiate legislation; by making himself responsible to the king alone; by ordering parliament to authorize him to issue decrees having the force of law; by establishing absolute censorship of the press; and, in 1926, by suppressing all opposition parties.
Economic Measures
In 1928 further measures were taken to transform the nation into a Fascist state. Supreme power was theoretically lodged in the Fascist Grand Council, comprising the top leadership of the Party, with the prime minister as chair. The Grand Council was to select the list of candidates for the Chamber of Deputies and to be consulted on all important business of the government, especially the choice of an heir to the throne and successor to Mussolini. Mussolini scored one of his greatest diplomatic triumphs in 1929, when he concluded the Lateran Treaty between the Italian state and the Holy See. This settled the 60-year-old controversy concerning the temporal power of the pope by the creation, at Rome, of Vatican City. In 1934 another step was taken in the reorganization of the economic life of Italy with the formation of 22 corporations, or guilds, representing workers and employers in all phases of the economy. Each corporation included Fascist Party members on its governing council and had Mussolini as its president. These councils were organized into a National Council of Corporations.
During the world economic depression that began in 1929, the Fascist government increasingly intervened to prevent the collapse of a number of industries. The construction of new factories or the expansion of old ones without governmental consent was prohibited. The government reorganized the ir

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