Italy is a boot-shaped peninsula surrounded by the Adriatic, Tyrrhenian, Ligurian, Ionian and Mediterranean seas. This European country gave us pasta and pizza, Michelangelo and DaVinci. The history, language, culture and religion of Italy have made important contributions to the rest of the world. When you use words such as mother and nature, eat ice cream, or listen to the radio, you can thank Italy.
The Roman Empire and Italian History
The history of modern Italy began thousands of years ago. Rome was the capital of the ancient world. Rome's first emperor was Augustus Caesar. The month of August is named after him. A famous quote says, "All roads lead to the Roman Empire." At its peak in A.D. 117, the Roman Empire stretched from Portugal to Syria, Britain to North Africa. Many famous landmarks from the Roman Empire, including the Coliseum, still stand in Rome.
During the Middle Ages, the city state of Florence became the centre for the Italian Renaissance, or rebirth, of Ancient Roman and Grecian culture. Poet Dante Alighieri and other writers began writing literature in common languages spoken and understood by the public, so literacy increased. New ideas were encouraged and developed in mathematics, art, science, literature, philosophy, religion and politics. Great artists such as Michelangelo, DaVinci and Botticelli created masterpieces.
Italy became a unified country in 1861. The official form of government is a parliamentary republic with a president as head of the country and a prime minister as head of government. The official language is Italian. The origin of modern Italian is Tuscany, home of Florence. Many dialects of Italian are spoken.
Italians have invented many popular items we use today, from eyeglasses to the ice cream cone, the thermometer to the radio. Salvino D'Armate invented eyeglasses in the 13th century. Galileo was a famous scientist who invented the thermometer. He also was the first man to use a telescope to observe the planets. Nikola Tesla and Guglielmo Marconi invented the radio. Contributions to music included instruments such as the piano, violin and cello as well as works by composers Vivaldi, Rossini and Puccini. Many explorers and navigators came from Italy, including Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo and Amerigo Vespucci.
The official language of Italy is Italian, which has Latin roots. Italians speak many dialects, depending on where they live. Many English words come from Italian or Latin. You may know some of them: pizza, pasta, mozzarella, Parmesan, cappuccino, lion, mother, nature and zodiac, as well as the months of our calendar.
The largest city in Italy is Rome, which was the seat of the Roman Empire. Milan, in Northern Italy, is a centre of fashion and commerce. Florence, the heart of the Renaissance, is home to famous museums, works of art and architecture. Venice is a city built on canals. People travel by gondola or boat instead of cars.
Life in Italy
Children in Italy must attend school from ages six to fourteen. Soccer is the most popular sport in Italy. Italian kids enjoy eating pasta, pizza and gelato, or ice cream. Most families eat lunch together. Shops are closed during lunch, which is the largest meal of the day, and many children go home from school to eat with their families. Unmarried young people often live with their parents until their thirties. Grandparents often live with their adult children.
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