Name: Republic of Italy
Area: 301,225 sq. km. (116,303 sq. mi.); about the size of Georgia
and Florida combined.
Cities: Capital--Rome (pop. 2.7 million).
Other cities--Milan, Naples, Turin.
Terrain: Mostly rugged and
Climate: Generally mild Mediterranean; cold northern
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Italian(s).
Population: 56.9 million.
Annual growth rate: 0.2%.
Primarily Italian, but there are small groups of German-,French-, Slovene-, and
Religion: Roman Catholic (majority).
Education: Years compulsory--14.
Health: Infant mortality rate--8/1,000 live
births. Life expectancy--74 yrs.
Work force (23 million):
Services--61%. Industry and commerce--32%.
Type: Republic since June 2, 1946.
Constitution: January 1,
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state), Council of
Ministers (cabinet), headed by the president of the council (prime minister).
Legislative--bicameral Parliament: 630-member Chamber of Deputies,
325-member Senate. Judicial--independent constitutional court and lower
Subdivisions: 94 provinces, 20 regions.
Forza Italia, Northern League, National Alliance, Democratic Party of the Left,
Italian People's Party, Christian Democratic Center, Socialist, La Rete,
Communist Renewal, Social Democratic, Republican, Liberal, Greens, Italian
Suffrage: Universal over 18.
GDP (1998): $1.18 trillion.
Per capita income (1998 est.):
GDP growth (1999 est.): 1.0%.
Natural resources: Fish, natural
Agriculture: Products--wheat, rice, grapes, olives, citrus
Industry: Types--automobiles, machinery, chemicals,
Trade (1998): Exports--$242 billion: mechanical
products, textiles and apparel, transportation equipment, metal products,
chemical products, food and agricultural products. Partners--EU 55%,
U.S. 7%, OPEC 3%. Imports--$215 billion: machinery and transport
equipment, foodstuffs, ferrous and nonferrous metals, wool, cotton, energy
products. Partners--EU 61%, OPEC 6%, U.S. 5%;
Italy is largely homogeneous linguistically and religiously but is
diverse culturally, economically, and politically. Italy has the fifth-highest
population density in Europe--about 200 persons per square kilometer (490/sq.
mi.). Minority groups are small, the largest being the German-speaking people
of Bolzano Province and the Slovenes around Trieste. Other groups comprise
small communities of Albanian, Greek, Ladino, and French origin. Although Roman
Catholicism is the majority religion--99% of the people are nominally
Catholic--all religious faiths are provided equal freedom before the law by the
Greeks settled in the southern tip of the Italian Peninsula in the
eighth and seventh centuries B.C.; Etruscans, Romans, and others inhabited the
central and northern mainland. The peninsula subsequently was unified under the
Roman Republic. The neighboring islands also came under Roman control by the
third century B.C.; by the first century A.D., the Roman Empire effectively
dominated the Mediterranean world. After the collapse of the Roman Empire in
the west in the fifth century A.D., the peninsula and islands were subjected to
a series of invasions, and political unity was lost. Italy became an
oft-changing succession of small states, principalities, and kingdoms which
fought among themselves and were subject to ambitions of foreign powers. Popes
of Rome ruled central Italy; rivalries between the popes and the Holy Roman
Emperors, who claimed Italy as their domain, often made the peninsula a
The commercial prosperity of northern and central Italian cities,
beginning in the 11th century, and the influence of the Renaissance mitigated
somewhat the effects of these medieval political rivalries. Although Italy
declined after the 16th century, the Renaissance had strengthened the idea of a
single Italian nationality. By the early 19th century, a nationalist movement
developed and led to the reunification of Italy--except for Rome--in the 1860s.
In 1861, Victor Emmanuel II of the House of Savoy was proclaimed King of Italy.
Rome was incorporated in 1870. From 1870 until 1922, Italy was a constitutional
monarchy with a parliament elected under limited suffrage.
During World War I, Italy renounced its standing alliance with
Germany and Austria-Hungary and, in 1915, entered the war on the side of the
Allies. Under the postwar settlement, Italy received some former Austrian
territory along the northeast frontier. In 1922, Benito Mussolini came to power
and, over the next few years, eliminated political parties, curtailed personal
liberties, and installed a fascist dictatorship termed the Corporate State. The
king, with little or no effective power, remained titular head of state.
Italy allied with Germany and declared war on the United Kingdom
and France in 1940. In 1941, Italy--with the other Axis powers, Germany and
Japan--declared war on the United States and the Soviet Union. Following the
Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943, the King dismissed Mussolini and appointed
Marshal Pietro Badoglio as premier. The Badoglio government declared war on
Germany, which quickly occupied most of the country and freed Mussolini, who
led a brief-lived regime in the north. An anti-fascist popular resistance
movement grew during the last 2 years of the war, harassing German forces
before they were driven out in April 1945. The monarchy was ended by a 1946
plebiscite, and a constituent assembly was elected to draw up plans for the
Under the 1947 peace treaty, minor adjustments were made in
Italy's frontier with France. The eastern border area was transferred to
Yugoslavia, and the area around the city of Trieste was designated a free
territory. In 1954, the free territory, which had remained under the
administration of U.S.-U.K. forces (Zone A, including the city of Trieste) and
Yugoslav forces (Zone B), was divided between Italy and Yugoslavia, principally
along the zonal boundary. This arrangement was made permanent by the
Italian-Yugoslav Treaty of Osimo, ratified in 1977 (currently being discussed
by Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia). Under the 1947 peace treaty, Italy also gave
up its overseas territories and certain Mediterranean islands.
The Roman Catholic Church's status in Italy has been determined,
since its temporal powers ended in 1870, by a series of accords with the
Italian Government. Under the Lateran Pacts of 1929, which were confirmed by
the present constitution, the state of Vatican City is recognized by Italy as
an independent, sovereign entity. While preserving that recognition, in 1984,
Italy and the Vatican updated several provisions of the 1929 accords. Included
was the end of Roman Catholicism as Italy's formal state religion.
Italy's Cultural Contributions
Europe's Renaissance period began in Italy during the 14th and
15th centuries. Literary achievements--such as the poetry of Petrarch, Tasso,
and Ariosto and the prose of Boccaccio, Machiavelli, and Castiglione--exerted a
tremendous and lasting influence on the subsequent development of Western
civilization, as did the painting, sculpture, and architecture contributed by
giants such as da Vinci, Raphael, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, and
The musical influence of Italian composers Monteverdi, Palestrina,
and Vivaldi proved epochal; in the 19th century, Italian romantic opera
flourished under composers Gioacchino Rossini, Giuseppe Verdi, and Giacomo
Puccini. Contemporary Italian artists, writers, filmmakers, architects,
composers, and designers contribute significantly to Western culture.
Italy has been a democratic republic since June 2, 1946, when the
monarchy was abolished by popular referendum. The constitution was promulgated
on January 1, 1948.
The Italian state is highly centralized. The prefect of each of
the provinces is appointed by and answerable to the central government. In
addition to the provinces, the constitution provides for 20 regions with
limited governing powers. Five regions--Sardinia, Sicily, Trentino-Alto Adige,
Valle d'Aosta, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia--function with special autonomy
statutes. The other 15 regions were established in 1970 and vote for regional
"councils." The establishment of regional governments throughout Italy has
brought some decentralization to the national governmental machinery.
The 1948 constitution established a bicameral Parliament (Chamber
of Deputies and Senate), a separate judiciary, and an executive branch composed
of a Council of Ministers (cabinet) which is headed by the president of the
council (prime minister). The president of the republic is elected for 7 years
by the Parliament sitting jointly with a small number of regional delegates.
The president nominates the prime minister, who chooses the other ministers.
The Council of Ministers--in practice composed mostly of members of
Parliament--must retain the confidence of both houses.
The houses of Parliament are popularly and directly elected by a
mixed majoritarian and proportional representation system. Under 1993
legislation, Italy has single-member districts for 75% of the seats in
Parliament; the remaining 25% of seats are allotted on a proportional basis.
The Chamber of Deputies has 630 members. In addition to 315 elected members,
the Senate includes former presidents and several other persons appointed for
life according to special constitutional provisions. Both houses are elected
for a maximum of 5 years, but either may be dissolved before the expiration of
its normal term. Legislative bills may originate in either house and must be
passed by a majority in both.
The Italian judicial system is based on Roman law modified by the
Napoleonic code and subsequent statutes. There is only partial judicial review
of legislation in the American sense. A constitutional court, which passes on
the constitutionality of laws, is a post-World War II innovation. Its powers,
volume, and frequency of decisions are not as extensive as those of the U.S.
Principal Government Officials
President--Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
Foreign Minister--Lamberto Dini
Ambassador to the United
Italy maintains an embassy in the United States at 1601 Fuller
Street NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-328-5500).
There have been frequent government turnovers since 1945. The
dominance of the Christian Democratic (DC) Party during much of the postwar
period lent continuity and comparative stability to Italy's political
From 1992 to 1997, Italy faced significant challenges as
voters--disenchanted with past political paralysis, massive government debt,
extensive corruption, and organized crime's considerable influence--demanded
political, economic, and ethical reforms. In 1993 referendums, voters approved
substantial changes, including moving from a proportional to a largely
majoritarian electoral system and the abolishment of some ministries.
Major political parties, beset by scandal and loss of voter
confidence, underwent far-reaching changes. New political forces and new
alignments of power emerged in March 1994 national elections: There was a major
turnover in the new parliament, with 452 out of 630 deputies and 213 out of 315
senators elected for the first time. The 1994 elections also swept media
magnate Silvio Berlusconi--and his "Freedom Pole" coalition--into office as
Prime Minister. However, Berlusconi was forced to step down in January 1995
when one member of his coalition withdrew support. The Berlusconi government
was succeeded by a technical government headed by Prime Minister Lamberto Dini,
which fell in early 1996.
In April 1996, national elections were again held and led to the
victory of a center-left coalition (the Olive Tree) led by Romano Prodi.
Prodi's government became the third-longest to stay in power before he narrowly
lost a vote of confidence (by three votes) in October 1998. A new government
was formed by Democratic Party of the Left leader and former-communist Massimo
D'Alema. Like Prodi's government, D'Alema's coalition includes the Democratic
Party of the Left (PDS), the Italian People's Party (PPI), the newly created
Italian Communist Party (split from the Communist Renewal in October 1998) and
other small, center-left groups. In May 1999, the Parliament selected Carlo
Azeglio Ciampi as the new Italian President (replacing Oscar Luigi Scalfaro).
Ciampi, a former Prime Minister, and actual Minister of Treasury, was elected
on the first ballot with an easy margin over the required two-thirds votes.
Italy's dramatic self-renewal transformed the political landscape
between 1992 and 1997. Scandal investigations touched thousands of politicians,
administrators, and businessmen; the shift from a proportional to majoritarian
voting system--with the requirement to obtain a minimum of 4% of the national
vote to obtain representation--also altered the political landscape.
Party changes were sweeping. The Christian Democratic party
dissolved; the Italian People's Party and the Christian Democratic Center
emerged. Other major parties, such as the Socialists, saw support plummet. New
movements such as Forza Italia, led by former Prime Minister Berlusconi, gained
wide support. The National Alliance broke from the neofascist Italian Social
Movement. A trend toward two large coalitions--one on the center-left and the
other on the center-right--emerged from the April 1995 regional elections. For
the 1996 national elections, the center-left parties created the Olive Tree
coalition while the center right united again under the Freedom Pole. This
emerging bipolarity represents a major break from the fragmented, multiparty
political landscape of the postwar era.
The largest parties in the Chamber are Democratic Party of the
Left--moderate successor to the Italian Communist Party--(21.1%); Forza Italia
(20.6%); National Alliance (15.7%); Northern League (10.1%); Italian Communist
Party (4%); Communist Renewal (4%); and Italian People's Party (6.8%). The same
rankings generally apply in the Senate.
The Italian economy has changed dramatically since the end of
World War II. From an agriculturally based economy, it has developed into an
industrial state ranked as the world's fifth-largest industrial economy. Italy
belongs to the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations; it is a member of
the European Union and the OECD.
Italy has few natural resources. With much of the land unsuited
for farming, it is a net food importer. There are no substantial deposits of
iron, coal, or oil. Proven natural gas reserves, mainly in the Po Valley and
offshore Adriatic, have grown in recent years and constitute the country's most
important mineral resource. Most raw materials needed for manufacturing and
more than 80% of the country's energy sources are imported. Italy's economic
strength is in the processing and the manufacturing of goods, primarily in
small and medium-sized family-owned firms. Its major industries are precision
machinery, motor vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electric goods, and
fashion and clothing.
Italy is in the midst of a slow economic recovery but lags behind
most of its west European neighbors. Italy's economy accelerated from anemic
0.7% growth in 1996 to 1.3% in 1998, still one of the lowest growth rates among
industrialized economies. Domestic demand and exports were the dominant factors
in GDP growth. Most economic forecasters expect GDP growth to drop to around 1%
While exports grew, imports grew faster, resulting in a trade
surplus of $27 billion in 1998, down from $47.1 billion in 1997 and $60 billion
in 1996. Italy has continued to build foreign exchange reserves to $80 billion
in 1998, a record high.
On inflation, Italy is now firmly within norms specified for
Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), a major achievement for this historically
inflation-prone country. Consumer inflation fell from 3.9% in 1996 to 1.5% in
1997, with a slight increase to 1.9% in 1998. The 1992 agreement on wage
adjustments, which has helped keep wage pressures on inflation low, remains in
effect. Tight monetary policy by the Bank of Italy also has helped bring
inflation expectations down.
Since 1992, economic policy in Italy has focused primarily on
reducing government budget deficits and reining in the national debt.
Successive Italian governments have adopted annual austerity budgets with
cutbacks in spending, as well as new revenue raising measures. Italy has
enjoyed a primary budget surplus, net of interest payments, for the last 7
years. The deficit in public administration is expected to decline to 2.4% of
GDP in 1999, down from 7% in 1995. Italy joined the European Monetary Union in
The national debt should continue to decline slowly. It stabilized
in 1995 at roughly 124% of GDP and has declined steadily to 118% of GDP in
1998. Given the heavy weight of interest payments in government expenditures,
public finances remain susceptible to international capital market
developments, as well as domestic political developments.
Italy's closest trade ties are with the other countries of the
European Union, with whom it conducts about 59% of its total trade. Italy's
largest EU trade partners, in order of market share, are Germany (18%), France
(13%), and the United Kingdom (7%).
U.S.-Italy Economic Relations
The U.S.-Italian bilateral relationship is strong and growing. The
U.S. and Italy cooperate closely on major economic issues, including within the
G-8. With a large population and a high per capita income, Italy is one of the
United States' most important trade partners. In 1998, the United States was
the fourth-largest foreign supplier of the Italian market (with a market share
of 5.6%) and the largest supplier outside the EU. Total trade between the
United States and Italy exceeded $30 billion in 1998. The U.S. ran more than an
$8.5 billion deficit with Italy.
Significant changes are occurring in the composition of this trade
which could narrow the gap. More value-added products such as office machinery
and aircraft are becoming the principal U.S. exports to Italy. The change
reveals the growing sophistication of the Italian market, and bilateral trade
should expand further. During 1998, the United States imported about $19
billion in Italian goods while exporting about $11.3 billion in U.S. goods to
Italy. U.S. foreign direct investment in Italy at the end of 1997 exceeded
$11.8 billion; Italian investment in the U.S. was roughly $9 billion.
Unemployment remains high (12.2% for 1998 but has declined to just
below 12% in mid-1999). It is especially severe in the south where average
unemployment for the year was more than 20%. Women and youth have significantly
higher rates of unemployment than men. A rigid labor market serves as a
disincentive to job creation. There is a significant underground economy
absorbing substantial numbers of people, but they work for low wages and
without standard social benefits and protections.
Unions claim to represent 40% of the work force. Most Italian
unions are grouped in three major confederations: the Italian General
Confederation of Labor (CGIL), the Italian Confederation of Labor Unions (CISL)
and the Union of Italian Labor (UIL). These confederations formerly were
associated with important political parties or currents, but they have formally
terminated such ties. Nowadays, the three often coordinate their positions
before confronting management or lobbying the government. The three major
confederations have an important consultative role on national social and
economic issues. Among their major agreements are a 4-year wage moderation
agreement signed in 1993, a reform of the pension system in 1995, and an
employment pact, introducing steps for labor market flexibility in economically
depressed areas, in 1996. The CGIL, CISL, and UIL are affiliates of the
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.
Italy's agriculture is typical of the division between the
agricultures of the northern and southern countries of the European Union. The
northern part of Italy produces primarily grains, sugarbeets, soybeans, meat,
and dairy products, while the south specializes in producing fruits,
vegetables, olive oil, wine, and durum wheat.
Even though much of its mountainous terrain is unsuitable for
farming, Italy has a large work force (1.4 million) employed in farming. Most
farms are small, with the average farm only seven hectares.
For further economic and commercial information, please refer to
the "Country Commercial Guide" for Italy, available on the State Department web
page at www.state.gov.
Italy was a founding member of the European Community--now the
European Union (EU). Italy was admitted to the United Nations in 1955 and is a
member and strong supporter of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),
the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization (GATT/WTO), the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Western
European Union (WEU), and the Council of Europe. It chaired the CSCE and the
G-7 in 1994 and the EU in 1996.
Italy firmly supports the United Nations and its international
security activities. Italy actively participated in and deployed troops in
support of UN peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Mozambique, and Cambodia and
provides critical support for NATO and UN operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, and
The Italian Government seeks to obtain consensus with other
European countries on various defense and security issues withinthe WEU as well
as NATO. European integration and the development of common defense and
security policies will continueto be of primary interest to Italy.
The United States enjoys warm and friendly relations with Italy.
The two are NATO allies and cooperate in the United Nations;in various regional
organizations; and bilaterally for peace, prosperity, and defense. Italy has
worked closely with the UnitedStates and others on such issues as NATO and UN
operations in Bosnia and Kosovo; sanctions against the former Yugoslavia;
assistance toRussia and the New Independent States (NIS); Middle East peace
process multilateral talks; Somalia and Mozambique peacekeeping; and combating
drug trafficking, trafficking in women and children, and terrorism.
Under longstanding bilateral agreements flowing from NATO
membership, Italy hosts important U.S. military forces at Vincenza and Livorno
(Army); Aviano (Air Force); and Sigonella, Gaeta, and Naples--home port for the
U.S. Navy Sixth Fleet. The United States has about 17,000 military personnel
stationed in Italy. Italy hosts the NATO War College in Rome.
Italy remains a strong and active transatlantic partner which,
along with the United States, has sought to foster democraticideals and
international cooperation in areas of strife and civil conflict. Toward this
end, the Italian Government has cooperatedwith the U.S. in the formulation of
defense, security, and peacekeeping policies.
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission-- William
Political Affairs--Mark Dillon
Public Affairs--Robert Callahan
Agricultural Section--Elizabeth Berry
Vincent P. Mocini, USN
Consul General, Florence--Hilarion Martinez
Milan--Ruth Van Heuven
Consul General, Naples--Marianne Myles
The U.S. embassy in Italy is located at Via Veneto 119, Rome (tel.
(39)(06) 46741 The URL for the embassy web page is:
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program
provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and Public
Announcements. Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and
include information on entry requirements, currency regulations, health
conditions, areas of instability, crime and security, political disturbances,
and the addresses of the U.S. posts in the country. Travel Warnings are
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a
certain country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to
disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively
short-term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by calling
the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand system:
202-647-3000. Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings also are
available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:
http://travel.state.gov. Consular Affairs
Tips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on obtaining
passports and planning a safe trip abroad are on the internet and hard copies
can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing
Office, telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. For
after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-4000.
Passport information can be obtained by calling the National
Passport Information Center's automated system ($.35 per minute) or live
operators 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number
is 1-900-225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat
rate of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648). It also is
available on the internet.
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at
877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and a web site at
give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or
requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and
countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS
publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing
Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to travelers
also may be obtained before your departure from a country's embassy and/or
consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal Government Officials"
listing in this publication).
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous
areas are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country
(see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). This may
help family members contact you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on
the Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign
policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; daily
press briefings; Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of
foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an
annual basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of official
foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact the Superintendent
of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA
15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S.
Department of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related
information. It is available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the
NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.