The climate of Italy is highly diversified, with extremes ranging from frigid in the higher elevations of the Alps and Apennines, to semitropical along the coast of the Ligurian Sea and the western coast of the lower peninsula.
Regional climatic variations on the peninsula result chiefly from the configurations of the Apennines, and are influenced by tempering winds from the adjacent seas. In the lowlands regions and lower slopes of the Apennines bordering the western 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 northeastern winds. Along the upper eastern slopes of the Apennines, climatic conditions are particularly bleak. Semitropical conditions prevail in southern Italy and along the Gulf of Genoa, whereas the climate of the Plain of Lombardy is continental.
Warm summers and cold winters prevail on this plain, which is shielded from sea breezes by the Apennines. Heaviest precipitation occurs in Italy during the fall and winter months, when westerly winds prevail. The lowest mean annual rainfall, about 460 mm (about 18 in), occurs in the Apulian province of Foggia in the south and in southern Sicily; the highest, about 1,520 mm (about 60 in), occurs in the province of Udine in the northeast.
Italy is poor in natural resources. Much of the land is unsuitable for agriculture because of mountainous terrain or unfavorable climate. Italy, moreover, lacks substantial deposits of basic natural resources such as coal, iron, and petroleum. Natural gas is the country’s most important mineral resource. Other deposits include feldspar and pumice. Many of Italy’s mineral deposits on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia had been heavily depleted by the early 1990s. Italy is rich in various types of building stone, notably marble. Despite Italy’s long coastline, its commercial fishing catch is small; anchovy, mussels, and clams have the greatest commercial importance.
The plants of the central and southern lowlands of Italy are typically Mediterranean. Among the characteristic vegetation of these regions are trees such as the olive, orange, lemon, palm, and citron. Other common types, especially in the extreme south, are fig, date, pomegranate, and almond trees, and sugarcane 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, and at higher elevations, there are extensive stands of pine and fir. Because people have inhabited Italy for so many centuries and the country is so densely populated, few wild animals remain.
Italy has fewer varieties of animals than are found generally in 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 the mountain regions. Another fairly common quadruped is the fox. Among the predatory species of bird are the eagle, hawk, vulture, buzzard, falcon, and kite, confined for the most part to the mountains. The quail, woodcock, partridge, and various migratory species abound in many parts of Italy. Reptiles include several species of lizards and snakes and three species of the poisonous viper family. Scorpions are also found. "Italy" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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