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 to the southern part of Rome) and the mostly rural south (everything below this line). The more prosperous, industrialized 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. In recent decades the population has generally migrated from rural to urban areas; the population was 68 percent urban in 2005.
The overwhelming majority of the people speak Italian (see Italian Language), one of the Romance 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, and Slovenian. Regional dialects are spoken in some parts of Italy. According to the 2001 census, Italy had a population of 56,995,744. The 2018 estimated population is 60,590,733, giving the country an average population density of 198 persons per sq km (about 512 per sq mi). About two-thirds of Italy’s people live in towns and citie.
Italy is made up of many distinct regions. Piedmont, in the northwest, consists of the country’s highest alpine peaks and a fertile plain. Its mountains and valleys attract tourists. In the districts around Vercelli and Novara the rivers are used to irrigate rice paddies. They also furnish energy for the vast industrial network of the plains below. Turin, the principal city of the region, has a population estimated at 902,255. In the 19th century it was the home of the political group that struggled to free Italy from foreign control and to unify it into one nation. Turin also played a major role in the economic rebirth of Italy following World War II. As the headquarters of Fiat, it leads Italy in automobile manufacturing.
Liguria occupies a narrow strip of coastline from the French border to Tuscany. Its leading city, Genoa (population 605,084) remains the most important port of Italy and a major commercial and banking center. Beyond the city’s busy suburbs lies the Italian Riviera, which is blessed with a mild, sunny climate, pleasant beaches, and a profusion of exotic plants and flowers. Lombardy combines scenic beauty with bustling industrial activity. The lake region, with Lake Como, Lake Garda, Lake Maggiore, and Lake Lugano, has become a thriving tourist center. Milan, with a population of 1,299,439, is the second largest city in Italy, after Rome. It is the country’s industrial and financial heart as well as a center of design and fashion. The Italian opera house La Scala is in Milan as is Leonardo da Vinci’s celebrated mural, The Last Supper.
Veneto stretches from the Po River to Trieste. Curving along the Adriatic in an arc, it is for the most part a fertile plain, with lively cities and agricultural and industrial centers. At the center of the arc, situated on more than 100 islets, lies Venice (population 271,251). Venice was for many centuries the gateway between East and West and is world-famous for its art treasures. Other cities of Veneto include Verona, an agricultural and industrial center; Padua, with an ancient university and art treasures; and Trieste, built like an amphitheater around a bay, an important port for the commerce of the landlocked countries of central Europe. Trentino-Alto Adige is a mountainous region in northern Italy where farming and forestry are important and tourism, especially skiing and hiking in the Dolomites, is a major source of income. Situated along the Austrian border, this is the least Italian region in Italy, and Alto Adige is also known by its German name of Südtirol (South Tyrol). The region’s chief cities are Trento and Bolzano. "Italy" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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