(pronounced "SEEL-vee-o bear-loos-KO-nee")
"There's nobody on the world stage who can possibly claim to be a match for me, nobody who has anything like my past, my history…When I meet a visiting premier or a head of state, it's up to them to try to prove that they're cleverer than I am."
The Italian Republic, a southern European peninsula, is bordered on the north by Switzerland and Austria, on the northeast by Slovenia, and on the northwest by France and Monaco. Included in the Italian Republic are the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, as well as smaller groups of islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Encompassing a land area of 301,277 sq km (116,323 sq mi), Italy had an estimated population of 57.7 million in 2002.
Although most of the population is Italian, there are significant minority groups, such as the South Tyrolians, the Slovenes, and Croatians. While Italian is the official language, French, German, and Slavic dialects can be heard in various regions of the country. Approximately 95% of the population are Roman Catholic. The remainder are Protestant, Muslim, and Jewish minorities.
Until 2002, the Italian lira was the official currency. On 1 January 1999, however, the euro was introduced by the European Union (EU) as common currency. The euro replaced local Italian currency for all transactions in 2002. Italy's per capita gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at US $25,000 in 2002. Major exports include textiles, apparel, metals, transportation equipment, chemicals, and food products.
Piazza Colonna, 370
00187 Rome, Italy