The Peninsula par excellence
According to HOLIDAYSORT, Italy is not only the most famous peninsula in the world – the peninsula par excellence – or the ‘Bel Paese’ of tourists: it is a land where peoples from all over Europe and the Mediterranean have had the opportunity to confront each other, giving shape and development to western civilization; in which the city has become the foundation of the territorial organization, as it is today all over the world; in which the development of the arts and knowledge, the love for the past, the attention to innovations, the tendency to economic and social progress have become indispensable elements of civilization. Italy today, heir to all this, is not for nothing one of the most advanced countries in the world
The most famous country
Since the first written records that have been preserved, Italy has always been defined as a ‘beautiful’ land in all its parts and very suitable for the life of men: there are thousands of examples that could be made, spread over at least 2,500 years of history; for no other country in the world can one find such enthusiasm.
Those who live in Italy may not realize it. But so many statements of such great appreciation must have a reason!
The fact is that Italy has an exceptionally varied territory: in a not very large space, very different natural landscapes and different climates meet thanks to a particular geographical position; and then various ways of living (especially in the past) and original solutions both to build cities and to organize the countryside thanks to the fact that Italy has always been an area in which populations and cultures have merged.
In Italy everything bears the marks of human action, for better or for worse: there is no part of the Italian territory that has not been modified, adapted, ‘tamed’; there is no country in the world which appears so clearly as a ‘house of man’, which bears the signs of human culture with such breadth. It is not strange, therefore, that in Italy there are almost half of the places considered cultural heritage of humanity, not only single monuments, but entire cities.
The Italian territory has been densely populated since ancient times, and for millennia this was the European region with the most residents. Here Western culture was formed and refined, which today is the reference point for the whole world.
Despite the variety, however, Italy has always been recognized as a unitary territory. The fact is that the Alps and the sea clearly mark a distinction between the Italian territory and the rest of Europe and the Mediterranean area.
Marking a distinction does not mean separating (borders): the Alps do not separate Italy and continental Europe, if anything they unite them. Not even the sea separates anything: on the contrary, the sea has always been the busiest, cheapest, easiest way of communication.
Therefore, throughout its history, the Italian territory has had an easy and intense contact with the rest of Europe, with North Africa and with the Near East. In recent times also with East Asia and the Americas, thanks to transoceanic navigation, which in Italy had some of the most used ports.
In the same way, the ancient population of the Italian territory was produced, partly from the north, through the many passes of the Alps, and partly from the south, by sea as it happens today with immigrants.
The many different human contributions that over time have converged in the Italian region have tended to merge, to constitute a cultural unit that would represent them all. In this process, the political, juridical, economic and linguistic unification of the Roman era certainly weighed a lot and there is no doubt that many of the fundamental and typical characteristics of Italy date back to that time: for example, the network of Italian cities and roads dates back to decisions taken at the time of the domination of ancient Rome in order to organize the Italian territory in a coherent and unified manner. With that ancient structure, the Italian territory has continued to deal with until today.
From a geological point of view, the Italian region is very young: millions of years ago, when almost all of Europe had already emerged, instead of Italy there was only the sea. A series of movements of the earth’s crust led to the formation of the Alpine arc and the Apennines and to the development of those volcanic (volcano) and seismic phenomena still evident today. Excluding Sardinia and the central section of the Alps and the Po Valley, the rest of the Italian territory is seismic, and volcanoes such as Etna and Stromboli are still in an eruptive phase.
Then the plains were formed: the Po-Venetian plain, which occupies about one sixth of the Italian territory, and various others much less vast, almost all coastal; other flat lands and useful for agriculture are in the river valleys and in many Apennine basins but about 40% of the territory is covered by mountains as well as by hills.
The Apennines and the minor mountain and hill formations parallel to the Apennines have had the effect of dividing the peninsular territory into more or less restricted and different regions. To this is added the effect of the climate, temperate everywhere, but Mediterranean along the coasts of the peninsular part (not in the Apennines, however) and sub-continental in the northern plain. However, the climatic variety is greater: the Tyrrhenian coast is warmer and less humid than the Adriatic, the southern peninsulas (Salento and Calabria), Sicily and Sardinia are even hotter and drier (always except for the mountains), the Alpine region it is colder and less humid than the northern plain. The atmospheric circulation and the arrangement of the mountains, then, generates a number of local climates, small in extent but marked and differentiated. It is thus possible to indicate many types of landscape, from the alpine ones to those of the small islands (such as the Ponziane or the Egadi).
… many regions
The diversity of natural landscapes has been superimposed on a considerable diversity of population. The Italian population is the result of a large number of migrations, from Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean regions, which have settled in different areas: Phoenicians, Greeks, perhaps Etruscans, Arabs, Normans, Spaniards arrived by sea; Italics, Illyrians, Celts, Germans, Slavs by land. Although it was generally a matter of few groups, the great linguistic differentiation and the plurality of dialects still evident in Italy derive from this process of continuous immigration.
The different agricultural potentials have allowed certain parts of the country (the plains, the coasts) to support a denser population than in others. Differences in production have fueled intense trade exchanges between Italian regions since ancient times, which have become complementary to each other. The movement of goods and people has found in the cities – an early characteristic of the Italian region – the ideal places in which to make the indispensable contacts.
Between the cities and the countryside those particular relationships of mutual necessity have been established that have ‘designed’ the Italian territory. Often the cities (before and after the Roman domination) have tended to organize themselves into states, and this has also divided the territory from a political point of view, while it has strengthened the local cultural characteristics, perhaps more than in any other part of Europe and of the world: it is not for nothing that Italy has been called ‘the country of a hundred cities’.