Italy 2 Essay Research Paper Italy Italian

Italy 2 Essay, Research Paper

Italy (Italian Italia), republic in southern Europe, bounded 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 northwest by France. It comprises, in

addition to the Italian mainland, the Mediterranean islands of Elba,

Sardinia, and Sicily and many 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 and largest

city of Italy. The area of Italy is 301,302 sq km (116,333 sq mi).

Land and Resources

More than half of Italy consists of the Italian Peninsula, a long

projection of the continental mainland. Shaped much like a boot, the

Italian Peninsula extends generally southeast into the Mediterranean

Sea. From northwest to southeast, the country is about 1145 km (about

710 mi) long; with the addition of the southern peninsular extremity,

which extends north to south, it is about 1360 km (about 845 mi) long.

The maximum width of the mainland portion of Italy is about 610 km

(about 380 mi) in the north; the maximum width of the peninsula is

about 240 km (about 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 (4478 m/14,692

ft) and Monte Rosa, which rises to its highest point (4634 m/15,203 ft)

in Switzerland just west of the border. 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 4807 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 Po River. The northern Apennines project from the

Maritime Alps along the Gulf of Genoa to the sources of the Tiber

River. Monte Cimone (2163 m/7097 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 (2914 m/9560 ft), the highest

Apennine peak. The southern Apennines stretch southeast from the

valley of the Sangro River to the coast of the Gulf of Taranto, where

they assume a more southerly direction. High peaks of the Apennine

ranges of the Calabrian Peninsula, as the southern extremity of the

Italian Peninsula is known, include Botte Donato (1929 m/6329 ft) and

Montalto (1957 m/6422 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.

Only about one-third of the total land surface of Italy is made 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

oceangoing vessels. From a point near Rimini southward, the eastern

coast of the peninsula is fringed by spurs of the Apennines. Along the

middle of the western coast, however, are three stretches of low and

marshy land, the Campagna di Roma, the Pontine Marshes, and the


The western coast of Italy is broken up by bays, gulfs, and other

indentations, which provide a number of natural anchorages. In the

northwest is the Gulf of Genoa, the harbor of the important commercial

city of Genoa. Naples, another leading western coast port, is situated on

the beautiful Bay of Naples, dominated by the volcano Mount Vesuvius.

A little farther south is the Gulf of Salerno, at the head of which stands

the port of Salerno. The southeastern 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 Mount Etna, 3323 m (10,902 ft) high, is

located. Another active volcano rises on Stromboli, one of the Lipari

Islands, northwest of the Strait of Messina. In addition to volcanic

activity, Italy is also plagued by frequent minor earthquakes, especially in

the southern regions.

Principal Cities

The capital and largest city of Italy is Rome (population, 1991,

2,775,250), which is a famous cultural and tourist center. Other cities

with populations of more than 300,000 in the 1991 census include

Milan (1,369,231), an important manufacturing, financial, and

commercial city; Naples (1,067,365), one of the busiest ports in Italy;

Turin (962,507), a transportation junction and major industrial city;

Palermo (698,556), the capital and chief seaport of Sicily; Genoa

(678,771), the leading port in Italy and a major trade and commercial

center; Bologna (404,378), a major transportation center and

agricultural market; Florence (403,294), a cultural, commercial,

transportation, and industrial center; Bari (342,309), a major

commercial center; Catania (333,075), a manufacturing and commercial

city of Sicily; and Venice (309,422), a leading seaport and a cultural and

manufacturing center.


The dominant religion of Italy is Roman Catholicism, the faith of

about 84 percent of the people. However, the Catholic church s role in

Italy is declining; only about 25 percent of Italians attend mass regularly,

and a law ratified in 1985 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.

Renaissance, period of European history that saw a renewed interest in

the arts. The Renaissance began in 14th-century Italy and spread to the

rest of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. In this period, the

fragmented feudal society of the Middle Ages, with its agricultural

economy and church-dominated intellectual and cultural life, was

transformed into a society increasingly dominated by central political

institutions, with an urban, commercial economy and lay patronage of

education, the arts, and music.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Florentine artist, one of the great

masters of the High Renaissance, celebrated as a painter, sculptor,

architect, engineer, and scientist. His profound love of knowledge and

research was the keynote of both his artistic and scientific endeavors. His

innovations in the field of painting influenced the course of Italian art

for more than a century after his death, and his scientific

studies particularly in the fields of anatomy, optics, and

hydraulics anticipated many of the developments of modern science.

The Last Supper

One of the most famous religious paintings of all time, Leonardo da

Vinci s The Last Supper (about 1495-1497) decorates the walls at Santa

Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. This mural depicts the moment

immediately following Christ s dramatic announcement to his

disciples that One of you shall betray me. Unfortunately, much of

the mural has deteriorated because Leonardo painted with an

oil-tempera mixture that did not stick well to the wall. A 15th and

early 16th century Italian artist and scientist, Leonardo ranks as one of

the great creative figures of the European Renaissance (1300-1600).

Early Life in Florence

Leonardo was born in the small town of Vinci, in Tuscany, near

Florence. He was the son of a wealthy Florentine notary and a peasant

woman. In the mid-1460s the family settled in Florence, where

Leonardo was given the best education that Florence, a major

intellectual and artistic center of Italy, could offer. He rapidly advanced

socially and intellectually. He was handsome, persuasive in conversation,

and a fine musician and improviser. About 1466 he was apprenticed as a

garzone (studio boy) to Andrea del Verrocchio, the leading Florentine

painter and sculptor of his day. In Verrocchio’s workshop Leonardo was

introduced to many activities, from the painting of altarpieces and panel

pictures to the creation of large sculptural projects in marble and

bronze. In 1472 he was entered in the painter’s guild of Florence, and in

1476 he was still considered Verrocchio’s assistant. In Verrocchio’s

Baptism of Christ (1470?, Uffizi, Florence), the kneeling angel at the left

of the painting is by Leonardo.

In 1478 Leonardo became an independent master. His first commission,

to paint an altarpiece for the chapel of the Palazzo Vecchio, the

Florentine town hall, was never executed. His first large painting, The

Adoration of the Magi (begun 1481, Uffizi), left unfinished, was ordered

in 1481 for the Monastery of San Donato a Scopeto, Florence. Other

works ascribed to his youth are the so-called Benois Madonna (1478?,

Hermitage, Saint Petersburg), the portrait Ginevra de’ Benci (1474?,

National Gallery, Washington, D.C.), and the unfinished Saint Jerome

(1481?, Pinacoteca, Vatican).


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