Population: 58 million
Size: 301,250 sq. km.
Official Language: Italian
While Italy's status as a single political entity is relatively recent (1861), its strategic Mediterranean position made it a target for colonisers and opportunists fairly early on in human history. The Etruscans were the first people to rule the peninsula, arriving anywhere between the 12th and 8th centuries BC. They were eventually subsumed within the mighty Roman empire, leaving little cultural evidence, other than the odd tomb. The Ancient Greeks, their contemporaries, set up a few colonies along the southern coast, which became known as Magna Graecia and developed into independent city states. Thus the greater glory which was Rome was itself the offspring of Etruscan and Greek cultures.
Dubbed the world's 'living art gallery', Italy has more 'culture' than you can shake a baton, paintbrush, quill or chisel at. Whether it's a broken pillar rising up through the linoleum floor of a train station or a baroque church overlooking a cracked antique pediment in the forum, history and culture surround you. Outside there are Etruscan tombs, Greek temples, cat-infested Roman ruins, Moorish architecture and statue-filled baroque fountains to gape at; inside you can swoon to Roman copies of Hellenic sculptures, Byzantine mosaics, beatific Madonnas from Giotto to Titian, gargantuan baroque tombs and trompe l'oeil ceilings.
Visit this link for more information about Italy:
The Lonely Planet Guide - Italy