Italy is a southern European country shaped like a boot. The country is nicknamed “Bel Paese” which means beautiful country. Since it is surrounded by water on three sides, Italy is called a peninsula. The southern part of Italy extends into the Mediterranean Sea. The country covers 116,306 square miles (301,230 square kilometers) including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. It is slightly larger than Arizona, a southwestern state in the United States.
Italy is home to 61 million people. The capital and largest city is Rome which is often called the Eternal City because it has been around for a long time, almost 3000 years since 753 B.C. It is a very crowded city with about 3 ½ million people.
In the north, the mountain range of the Alps separates Italy from the other European countries of France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The highest mountain of Italy can be found in the Alps. The Alps mountain range is located across the north of Italy. The tallest peak is Monte Bianco known as Mont Blanc which is 15,770 feet tall (4,897 meters).
The Apennines, another big mountain range, run all along the bottom of Italy and separate the east and the west of the country by going through the center of the country. These mountain areas are colder than the southern part of Italy along the Mediterranean Sea.
Italy surrounds two of the world’s smallest countries: San Marino and the Vatican City. San Marino in northeast Italy is the oldest republic in the world. The Vatican City located inside of Rome is the smallest country in the world. The Vatican City is led by the Pope and is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.
There are many deep lakes in the north of Italy before the country flattens in to the Po Valley. The Po is Italy’s longest river and flows from the Alps near the French border east into the Adriatic Sea. The Arno River and the Tiber River are two other long rivers in Italy. The lowest points in Italy are at sea level, the level of the Mediterranean where the climate is mild, hot and dry. In the south of Italy you will find Italy’s three active volcanoes: Vesuvius near Naples, Etna on the island of Sicily and Stromboli off the coast of Italy.