|Italy, officially the Italian Republic (Italian: Italia, IPA: [i'taːlja] or Repubblica Italiana, IPA: [ɾe ˌpubblika ita 'ljaːna]), is a Southern European country. It comprises the Po River valley, the Italian Peninsula and the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia. It is shaped like a boot and for this reason Italians commonly call it "lo stivale" ("the boot").
The Italian Republic shares its northern alpine boundary with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The country also shares a sea border with Croatia, Slovenia and France. The independent countries of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within Italian territory. Also belonging to the republic is the commune of Campione d'Italia, an enclave in the territory of the Italian Switzerland. The Republic includes only the 92% of Italian physical region, delimited conventionally by the alpine watershed; besides the above-mentioned enclaves, the following territories do not belong to the country: the Principality of Monaco, Nice with Briga and Tenda, some strips of the Alps near the French border (Monginevro, Moncenisio and Piccolo San Bernardo), the Italian Switzerland (Canton Ticino and some valleys of Grigioni), the peninsula of Istria and a piece of Venezia Giulia, the island of Corsica and the archipelago of Malta.
Italy was home to many well-known and influential European civilizations, including the Etruscans, Greeks and the Romans. For more than 3,000 years Italy experienced migrations and invasions from Germanic, Celtic, Frankish, Lombard, Byzantine Greek, Saracen, Norman, and Angevin peoples, and was divided into many independent states until 1861 when Italy became a nation-state.
Italy is called "il Belpaese" (Italian for beautiful country) by its inhabitants, due to the beauty and variety of its landscapes and for having the world's largest artistic patrimony; the country is home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (41 as of July 13, 2006).
Today, Italy is a highly developed country with the 7th highest GDP in 2006, a member of the G8 and a founding member of what is now the European Union, having signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957.
Inhabitants of Italy are referred to as Italians (Italian: Italiani or poetically Italici).