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Summary: Italy is located in southern Europe, and is a peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea, northeast of Tunisia. Mostly rugged and mountainous, Italy features some plains and coastal lowlands, and has an economy that remains divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less developed, welfare-dependent agricultural south.

Capital: Rome
Time Zone: DST +0200 UTC
Population: 58,057,477
Languages: Italian, German, French, Slovene
Power: 230 V, 50 Hz
Currency: Euro - Currently 1 EUR € = 1.4607 USD $
Climate: Although Italy is predominantly Mediterranean, meaning hot and dry in the south of the country, it has an Alpine climate in the far north with milder, more humid weather.

Rome: Rome's history speaks for itself, however, the beauty of its architecture and its scenery speak louder. Few cities are as good for walking around and enjoying as Rome, as trips can include the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Roman Imperial Forum. Of course, Vatican City is enclosed by Rome and is in itself worthy of a trip, and high-end shopping is only steps away from St. Peter's Basilica.

Venice: Venice is one of the singly most memorable and recognizable cities, with canals lined with marble as its highways. Start in the Piazza San Marco and see the Basilica di San Marco and the Clock Tower, take a gondola ride down the Canal Grande, or see the Chiesa di Madonna dell'Orto and the Chiesa di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, two of the most beautiful churches Venice has to offer.

Milan: Milan has a surprisingly metropolitan feel, whether because of the fashion shows or the operas in La Scala Theater. While here, see the Piazza del Duomo with Italy's first Il Duomo, begun in 1386 and completed in 1897 and completely made of marble with more than 2,200 statues, with the world's first shopping mall nearby, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, but the absolute must-see is the Santa Maria delle Grazie which houses da Vinci's Last Supper.

Florence: The capital of the Renaissance, with the red-tiled Duomo standing guard, Florence produced greats like Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Medici. See Italy's second Il Duomo, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, built in 1436 has a famous octagonal dome and mathematical symmetry, and see Giottos and Botticellis at the Uffizi Gallery, and nearby catch a glimpse of Michelangelo's David in the Accademia.

Pisa: Take an afternoon and trip over to see the legendary leaning tower of Pisa. Built 800 years ago as a four story building, three stories were added in the 13th century, and the top in the 14th. These floors weren't added exactly straight, which meant that the tower started to tilt on its ground of sand and clay. 20 years of construction around the base have settled the tower at an angle just shy of 5 degrees.


Shorts: When visiting Italian churches or cathedrals, remember that shorts or beachwear is not acceptable, so dress appropriately.

Cappuccino: Italians drink a good cappuccino at breakfast only, and not dinner. It still gives quite the wake up kick.

Wines: Italy is known for, among other things, its wines. If in doubt at a restaurant or if feeling overwhelmed, order the house red or white, as they still tend to be quite good.

When To Visit: Most cities, towns and villages have their own patron saint. On that saint's calendar day, the town closes down with festivities.

Food: Italy's cuisine is world famous, and can make a meal from pasta and olive oil, or fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil, topped with olive oil, salt, and pepper, or of course the many fantastic wines. By the way, eating pasta and anti-pasto in the same meal will not make you explode.

Phrases: Yes - Si, No - No, Good morning - Buongiorno, Good night - Buonanotte, Please - Per favore, Thank you - grazie, Excuse me - Mi scusi

Tipping: Tips are normally included in restaurant and hotel bills, but leave waiters and hotel staff a couple of Euro.

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