Regional Geography of Italy


1.     Physical Characteristics

o    Relative location

o    Landscape and Physical Environment

o    Weather and climate

2.     Human Characteristics

o    Population, Density and Age/Sex characteristics

o    Language and religion

o    Cultural/ethnic groups

3.     Economic Characteristics

o    Major economic activities

o    Imports and Exports

o    GNP and GNP per capita

4.     References

Physical Characteristics

Relative Location

Italy is located in the southern part of Europe, right on the Mediterranean Sea.  On its northern side, it borders Switzerland, France, Austria, and Slovenia.  It is a boot-shaped Peninsula, so it juts out into the Mediterranean where it is surrounded by water on three sides.  The large islands of Sardinia and Sicily are located off Italy’s western coast.  It stretches from 7° E all the way to 19° E and 47° N down to 37° N.


Landscape and Physical Environment

Italy is often separated into six geographic regions consisting of: the Italian Alps, the Po Valley, the Apulian Foreland, the Tyrrhenian Foreland, the Islands and the Apennines.  The world-famous Alps contain mountain peaks, glaciers, and picturesque valleys.  The Po Valley is an extremely fertile area with a large agricultural presence.  Italy has approximately 7500 kilometers of coastline ranking it in at the 14th most of any country.  Much of this coastline is comprised of steep cliffs, yet there are many cities and towns that are still built right on them.


Weather and Climate

Having such a diverse collection of landscape and altitudes, Italy has varying weather and climate depending where you are and when you are there.  The record low temperature ever recorded in Italy was in the Alps at -49 degrees.  The altitude obviously had a large role in this, but near sea level in Bologna the temperatures regularly reach freezing.  On the southern end of the country temperatures often hover over 100 degrees.  The vast portion of the country experiences warm summers and mild winters.  Like much of the countries located around the Mediterranean, Italy is relatively humid.  For the most part, there is not a huge discrepancy in the temperatures stretching from the north to the south, pending some major elevation changes.



Human Characteristics

Population, Density and Age/Sex Characteristic

Italy has a population of 62 million inhabitants making it the 23rd most populated country on Earth.  The densities of this population vary greatly.  Italy has a large countryside with many vineyards.  In these areas the density is low, but it also has large cities with millions of people.  The overall population density is 97 inhabitants per square kilometer of arable land (Population Reference Bureau).  Rome and Naples have the highest population densities coming in at 2,232 and 8,500 people per square kilometer.  There are 1.05 Italian females for every Italian male making it a pretty even ratio.  The average age for an Italian is 45.5 years old. 


Language and Religion

Italian is the national language.  The earliest Italian language texts are just over 1000 years old.  There are several different dialects of the Italian language and some of them are very different from one another.  Some people even suggest that the Sicilian dialect should be its own language!  Those that are familiar with music may realize that Italian is the official language of classical music.  This kind of music was invented during the Renaissance and has Italian based terms such as crescendo or forte.  It is also the official or co-official language in San Marino, Switzerland, Slovenia, and Vatican City.

Speaking of the Vatican City, Roman Catholicism makes up roughly 80% of the Italians’ religious beliefs.  Although the Vatican City is not technically part of Italy, it is located entirely inside of Rome. 


Cultural/Ethnic Groups

Italy has a very proud culture dating back centuries.  Over the course of history, Italy has had huge influence on countries all over the world.  The Renaissance of the 1400s and 1500s marked the rebirth of many great art forms.  A few artists from this period included both Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.  The architectural styles of classical Roman, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical all originated in Italy and were later copied in many other countries.  Italian food is also considered some of the best in the world.  Wine, cheese, and pasta are some of the most widely consumed foods world-wide.

Only about 8% of Italy's population identify as non-Italian minorities.  The largest of these groups being Romanian Italians.  Most of these non-Italians are due to a recent increase in immigration into many European countries with Italy being no exception. 

Economic Characteristics

Major Economic Activities

Italy has the 3rd largest economy in the Eurozone and the 8th largest nominal GDP in the world. After World War II, Italy underwent a transformation from being a largely agricultural economy to one of the world’s most advanced economies with multitudes of imports and exports. According to the Economist, Italy ranks in the top 10 for highest quality of life in the world. This along with a high standard of living is largely due to the economic shift that Italy underwent after the war. Italy is a large manufacture of a significant variety of products including machinery, vehicles, pharmaceuticals, furniture, food, clothing, and robots.


Imports and Exports

Italy is the 9th largest exporter of goods in Europe.  Some of their unique brands that are sold all over the world are Armani, Valentino, Versace, Benetton, Prada, FIAT, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Lamborghini.  The main export in Italy is precision machinery.  About 56% of their exports go to other European Union countries.

Italy imports most of the oil that it uses.  Oil alone makes up 17% of all Italian imports.  Pharmaceuticals and other chemicals are also widely imported.  Regardless of where the incoming goods are arriving from, they must adhere to the local and European Union laws.


GNP and GNP per capita

The Population Reference Bureau states that Italy has a GNI of $40,030 per capita.  This comes out to a total of 2.42 trillion US Dollars.  Their GDP is only growing at an estimated rate of 0.8% (2018).  As of 2011, the workforce of Italy was split between: agriculture: 3.9%,  industry: 28.3%,  and services: 67.8%.



Bonetto, Cristian, et al. Italy. Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd, 2018.


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Zimmermann, Kim Ann. “Italian Culture: Facts, Customs & Traditions.” LiveScience, Purch, 13 Sept. 2017,




Submitted by Dan Pavlik on 4/14/19.