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Italy Hotels Comparison & Online Booking

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What's important: you can compare and book not only Italy hotels and resorts, but also villas and holiday cottages, inns and B&Bs (bed and breakfast), condo hotels and apartments, timeshare properties, guest houses and pensions, campsites (campgrounds), motels and hostels in Italy. If you're going to Italy save your money and time, don't pay for the services of the greedy travel agencies. Instead, book the best hotel in Italy online, buy the cheapest airline tickets to Italy, and rent a car in Italy right now, paying the lowest price! Besides, here you can buy the Italy related books, guidebooks, souvenirs and other goods.

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How to Book a Hotel in Italy

In order to book an accommodation in Italy enter the proper dates and do the hotel search. If needed, sort the found Italy hotels by price, star rating, property type, guest rating, hotel features, hotel theme or hotel chain. Then take a look at the found hotels on Italy map to estimate the distance from the main Italy attractions and sights. You can also read the guest reviews of Italy hotels and see their ratings.

When a hotel search in Italy is done, please select the room type, the included meals and the suitable booking conditions (for example, "Deluxe double room, Breakfast included, Non-Refundable"). Press the "View Deal" ("Book Now") button. Make your booking on a hotel booking website and get the hotel reservation voucher by email. That's it, a perfect hotel in Italy is waiting for you!

Hotels of Italy

A hotel in Italy is an establishment that provides lodging paid on a short-term basis. Facilities provided may range from a basic bed and storage for clothing, to luxury features like en-suite bathrooms. Larger in Italy hotels may provide additional guest facilities such as a swimming pool, business centre, childcare, conference facilities and social function services. Hotel rooms in Italy are usually numbered (or named in some smaller hotels and B&Bs) to allow guests to identify their room. Some Italy hotels offer meals as part of a room and board arrangement. Hotel operations vary in size, function, and cost. Most Italy hotels and major hospitality companies that operate hotels in Italy have set widely accepted industry standards to classify hotel types. General categories include the following:

Upscale luxury hotels in Italy
An upscale full service hotel facility in Italy that offers luxury amenities, full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and the highest level of personalized and professional service. Luxury Italy hotels are normally classified with at least a Four Diamond or Five Diamond status or a Four or Five Star rating depending on classification standards.

Full service hotels in Italy
Full service Italy hotels often contain upscale full-service facilities with a large volume of full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and a variety of on-site amenities such as swimming pools, a health club, children's activities, ballrooms, on-site conference facilities, etc.

Historic inns and boutique hotels in Italy
Boutique hotels of Italy are smaller independent non-branded hotels that often contain upscale facilities of varying size in unique or intimate settings with full service accommodations. Italy boutique hotels are generally 100 rooms or less. Some historic inns and boutique hotels in Italy may be classified as luxury hotels.

Focused or select service hotels in Italy
Small to medium-sized hotel establishments that offer a limited amount of on-site amenities that only cater and market to a specific demographic of Italy travelers, such as the single business traveler. Most Italy focused or select service hotels may still offer full service accommodations but may lack leisure amenities such as an on-site restaurant or a swimming pool.

Economy and limited service hotels in Italy
Small to medium-sized Italy hotel establishments that offer a very limited amount of on-site amenities and often only offer basic accommodations with little to no services, these facilities normally only cater and market to a specific demographic of travelers, such as the budget-minded Italy traveler seeking a "no frills" accommodation. Limited service Italy hotels often lack an on-site restaurant but in return may offer a limited complimentary food and beverage amenity such as on-site continental breakfast service.

Guest houses and B&Bs in Italy
A bed and breakfast in Italy is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodation and inclusive breakfast. Usually, Italy bed and breakfasts are private homes or family homes offering accommodations. The typical Italy B&B has between 4 and 11 rooms, with 6 being the average. Generally, guests are accommodated in private bedrooms with private bathrooms, or in a suite of rooms including an en suite bathroom. Some homes have private bedrooms with a bathroom which is shared with other guests. Breakfast is served in the bedroom, a dining room, or the host's kitchen. Often the owners of guest house themselves prepare the breakfast and clean the rooms.

Hostels in Italy
Italy hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge, and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms may also be available. Hostels are often cheaper for both the operator and occupants; many Italy hostels have long-term residents whom they employ as desk agents or housekeeping staff in exchange for experience or discounted accommodation.

Apartment hotels, extended stay hotels in Italy
Extended stay hotels are small to medium-sized Italy hotels that offer longer term full service accommodations compared to a traditional hotel. Extended stay hotels may offer non-traditional pricing methods such as a weekly rate that cater towards travelers in need of short-term accommodations for an extended period of time. Similar to limited and select service hotels, on-site amenities are normally limited and most extended stay hotels in Italy lack an on-site restaurant.

Timeshare and destination clubs in Italy
Italy timeshare and destination clubs are a form of property ownership also referred to as a vacation ownership involving the purchase and ownership of an individual unit of accommodation for seasonal usage during a specified period of time. Timeshare resorts in Italy often offer amenities similar that of a Full service hotel with on-site restaurant(s), swimming pools, recreation grounds, and other leisure-oriented amenities. Destination clubs of Italy on the other hand may offer more exclusive private accommodations such as private houses in a neighborhood-style setting.

Motels in Italy
A Italy motel is a small-sized low-rise lodging establishment similar to that of a limited service hotel, but with direct access to individual rooms from the car park. Common during the 1950s and 1960s, motels were often located adjacent to a major road, where they were built on inexpensive land at the edge of towns or along stretches of highways. They are still useful in less populated areas of Italy for driving travelers, but the more populated an area becomes the more hotels fill the need. Many of Italy motels which remain in operation have joined national franchise chains, rebranding themselves as hotels, inns or lodges.

Why HotelsCombined

HotelsCombined is the leading hotel metasearch engine founded in 2005, with headquarters in Sydney, Australia. It is widely recognized as the world's best hotel price comparison site and has won many of the most prestigious tourism industry awards. The site operates in over 40 languages, handles 120 different currencies and aggregates more than 2 million deals from hundreds of travel sites and hotel chains. The number of users counts more than 300,000 people a year with over $1,000,000,000 in estimated total cost of hotel reservations.

The main purpose of HotelsCombined hotel price comparison service is to help the travelers in finding a perfect accommodation option in Italy at the best price, eliminating the need to manually analyze hundreds of hotel booking sites and thousands of price offers. Through the partnership with the most popular hotel booking websites, online travel agencies and hotel chains, HotelsCombined allows its users to search for and compare the current rates on Italy hotels in a single search. It also provides an aggregated summary of hotel reviews and ratings from external sites.

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Travelling and vacation in Italy


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Italian Republic
Repubblica Italiana (Italian)
Flag of Italy
Emblem of Italy
Flag Emblem
Anthem: Il Canto degli Italiani (Italian)
"The Song of the Italians"
Location of  Italy  (dark green)– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]
Location of Italy (dark green)

– in Europe (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union (light green) – [Legend]

and largest city
 / 41.900; 12.483
Official language
and national language
  • 83.3% Christianity
  • 12.4% No religion
  • 3.7% Islam
  • 0.2% Buddhism
  • 0.1% Hinduism
  • 0.3% Other religions
Demonym Italian
Government Unitary parliamentary republic
• President
Sergio Mattarella
• Prime Minister
Paolo Gentiloni
• President of the Senate
Pietro Grasso
• President of the Chamber of Deputies
Laura Boldrini
Legislature Parliament
• Upper house
Senate of the Republic
• Lower house
Chamber of Deputies
• Regnum Italicum
23 August 476
• Ostrogothic Kingdom
15 March 493
• Kingdom of the Lombards
2 April 568
• Kingdom of Italy (medieval state)
2 January 888
• Kingdom of Italy (Napoleonic)
17 March 1805
• Unification (modern state)
17 March 1861
• Republic
2 June 1946
Founded the EEC (now the European Union)
1 January 1958
• Total
301,338 km (116,347 sq mi) (71st)
• Water (%)
• 2016 estimate
60,599,936 (23rd)
• Density
201.3/km (521.4/sq mi) (63rd)
GDP (PPP) 2016 estimate
• Total
$2.234 trillion (12th)
• Per capita
$36,833 (32nd)
GDP (nominal) 2016 estimate
• Total
$1.850 trillion (8th)
• Per capita
$30,507 (25th)
Gini (2014) 32.7
HDI (2015) Increase 0.887
very high · 26th
Currency Euro (€) (EUR)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
• Summer (DST)
Date format dd/mm/yyyy (AD)
Drives on the right
Calling code +39
ISO 3166 code IT
Internet TLD .it
  1. French is co-official in the Aosta Valley; Slovene is co-official in the province of Trieste and the province of Gorizia; German and Ladin are co-official in South Tyrol.
  2. Before 2002, the Italian Lira. The euro is accepted in Campione d'Italia, but the official currency there is the Swiss Franc.
  3. To call Campione d'Italia, it is necessary to use the Swiss code +41.
  4. The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.

Italy (Italian: Italia [iˈtaːlja]), officially the Italian Republic (Italian: Repubblica italiana), is a unitary parliamentary republic in Europe. Located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,338 km (116,347 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. Due to its shape, it is often referred to in Italy as lo Stivale (the Boot). With 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth most populous EU member state.

Since classical times, ancient Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Greeks established settlements in the south of Italy, with Etruscans and Celts inhabiting the centre and north of Italy respectively and various different ancient Italian tribes and Italic peoples dispersed throughout the Italian Peninsula and insular Italy. The Italic tribe known as the Latins formed the Roman Kingdom, which eventually became a republic that conquered and assimilated other nearby civilisations. Rome ultimately emerged as the dominant power in the Mediterranean basin, conquering much of the ancient world and becoming the leading cultural, political and religious centre of Western civilisation. The legacy of the Roman Empire is widespread and can be observed in the global distribution of civilian law, republican governments, Christianity and the Latin script.

During the Middle Ages, Italy suffered sociopolitical collapse amid calamitous barbarian invasions, but by the 11th century numerous rival city-states and maritime republics rose to great prosperity through shipping, commerce and banking, laying down the groundwork for modern capitalism. These independent statelets, acting as Europe's main trading hubs with Asia and the Near East, often enjoyed a greater degree of democracy and wealth in comparison to the larger feudal monarchies that were consolidating throughout Europe at the time, though much of central Italy remained under the control of the theocratic Papal States, while Southern Italy remained largely feudal until the 19th century, partially as a result of a succession of Byzantine, Arab, Norman, Spanish and Bourbon conquests of the region.

The Renaissance began in Italy and spread to the rest of Europe, bringing a renewed interest in humanism, science, exploration and art. Italian culture flourished at this time, producing famous scholars, artists and polymaths such as Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo and Machiavelli. Italian explorers such as Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci and Giovanni da Verrazzano discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, helping to usher in the European Age of Discovery. Nevertheless, Italy's commercial and political power significantly waned with the opening of the Atlantic trade route and the route to the Indian Ocean via the Cape of Good Hope, which bypassed the Mediterranean. Furthermore, the Italian city-states constantly engaged one another in bloody warfare, culminating in the Italian Wars of the 15th and 16th centuries that left them exhausted, with no one emerging as a dominant power. The weakened sovereigns soon fell victim to conquest by European powers such as France, Spain and Austria.

By the mid-19th century, a rising movement in support of Italian nationalism and independence from foreign control led to a period of revolutionary political upheaval known as the Risorgimento, which sought the formation of a unified nation-state. After various unsuccessful attempts, the Italian Wars of Independence and the Expedition of the Thousand resulted in the eventual unification of the country in 1861, now a great power after centuries of foreign domination and political division. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, the new Kingdom of Italy rapidly industrialised, although mainly in the north, and acquired a colonial empire, while the south remained largely impoverished and excluded from industrialisation, fuelling a large and influential diaspora. Despite being one of the main victors in World War I, Italy entered a period of economic crisis and social turmoil, leading the way to the rise of a fascist dictatorship in 1922. The subsequent participation in World War II on the Axis side ended in military defeat, economic destruction and an Italian civil war. Following the liberation of Italy and the rise of the resistance, the country abolished the monarchy, reinstated democracy, enjoyed a prolonged economic boom and, despite periods of sociopolitical turmoil (e.g. Anni di piombo, Mani pulite, the Second Mafia War, the Maxi Trial and subsequent assassinations of anti-mafia officials), became a major developed country.

Today, Italy has the third largest economy in the Eurozone and the eighth largest in the world. It has a very high level of human development and is ranked sixth in the world for life expectancy. The country plays a prominent role in regional and global economic, military, cultural and diplomatic affairs, and it is both a regional power and a great power. Italy is a founding and leading member of the European Union and the member of numerous international institutions, including the UN, NATO, the OECD, the OSCE, the WTO, the G7/G8, G20, the Union for the Mediterranean, the Council of Europe, Uniting for Consensus and many more. As a reflection of its cultural wealth, Italy is home to 51 World Heritage Sites, the most in the world, and is the fifth most visited country.

Italy: Etymology

The assumptions on the etymology of the name "Italia" are very numerous and the corpus of the solutions proposed by historians and linguists is very wide. According to one of the more common explanations, the term Italia, from Latin: Italia, was borrowed through Greek from the Oscan Víteliú, meaning "land of young cattle" (cf. Lat vitulus "calf", Umb vitlo "calf"). The bull was a symbol of the southern Italic tribes and was often depicted goring the Roman wolf as a defiant symbol of free Italy during the Social War. Greek historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus states this account together with the legend that Italy was named after Italus, mentioned also by Aristotle and Thucydides.

The name Italia originally applied only to a part of what is now Southern Italy – according to Antiochus of Syracuse, the southern portion of the Bruttium peninsula (modern Calabria: province of Reggio, and part of the provinces of Catanzaro and Vibo Valentia). But by his time Oenotria and Italy had become synonymous, and the name also applied to most of Lucania as well. The Greeks gradually came to apply the name "Italia" to a larger region, but it was during the reign of Emperor Augustus (end of the 1st century BC) that the term was expanded to cover the entire peninsula until the Alps.

Italy: History

Italy: Prehistory and antiquity

Hera Temples in Paestum, two of the world's largest and best-preserved Doric temples

Excavations throughout Italy revealed a Neanderthal presence dating back to the Palaeolithic period, some 200,000 years ago, modern Humans appeared about 40,000 years ago. The Ancient peoples of pre-Roman Italy – such as the Umbrians, the Latins (from which the Romans emerged), Volsci, Oscans, Samnites, Sabines, the Celts, the Ligures, and many others – were Indo-European peoples; the main historic peoples of possible non-Indo-European heritage include the Etruscans, the Elymians and Sicani in Sicily and the prehistoric Sardinians, which includes the Nuragic civilisation. Other ancient Italian peoples of undetermined language families but of possible non-Indo-European origins include the Rhaetian people and Cammuni, known for their rock carvings.

Between the 17th and the 11th centuries BC Mycenaean Greeks established contacts with Italy and in the 8th and 7th centuries BC Greek colonies were established all along the coast of Sicily and the southern part of the Italian Peninsula became known as Magna Graecia. Also the Phoenicians established colonies on the coasts of Sardinia and Sicily.

Italy: Ancient Rome

The Colosseum in Rome, built c. 70 – 80 AD, is considered one of the greatest works of architecture and engineering of ancient history
The Roman Empire at its greatest extent, 117 AD

Rome, a settlement around a ford on the river Tiber conventionally founded in 753 BC, was ruled for a period of 244 years by a monarchical system, initially with sovereigns of Latin and Sabine origin, later by Etruscan kings. The tradition handed down seven kings: Romulus, Numa Pompilius, Tullus Hostilius, Ancus Marcius, Tarquinius Priscus, Servius Tullius and Tarquinius Superbus. In 509 BC, the Romans expelled the last king from their city and established an oligarchic republic.

In the wake of Julius Caesar’s rise and death in the first century B.C., Rome grew over the course of centuries into a massive empire stretching from Britain to the borders of Persia, and engulfing the whole Mediterranean basin, in which Greek and Roman and many other cultures merged into a unique civilisation. The long and triumphant reign of its first emperor, Augustus, began a golden age of peace and prosperity.

The Roman Empire was among the most powerful economic, cultural, political and military forces in the world of its time. It was one of the largest empires in world history. At its height under Trajan, it covered 5 million square kilometres. The Roman legacy has deeply influenced the Western civilisation, shaping most of the modern world; among the many legacies of Roman dominance are the widespread use of the Romance languages derived from Latin, the numerical system, the modern Western alphabet and calendar, and the emergence of Christianity as a major world religion.

In a slow decline since the third century AD, the Empire split in two in 395 AD. The Western Empire, under the pressure of the barbarian invasions, eventually dissolved in 476 AD, when its last Emperor was deposed by the Germanic chief Odoacer, while the Eastern half of the Empire survived for another thousand years.

Italy: Middle Ages

Flag of the Italian Navy, displaying the coat of arms of the most prominent maritime republics (clockwise from left): Venice, Genoa, Pisa and Amalfi

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Italy was seized by the Ostrogoths, followed in the 6th century by a brief reconquest under Byzantine Emperor Justinian. The invasion of another Germanic tribe, the Lombards, late in the same century, reduced the Byzantine presence to a rump realm (the Exarchate of Ravenna) and started the end of political unity of the peninsula for the next 1,300 years. The Lombard kingdom was subsequently absorbed into the Frankish Empire by Charlemagne in the late 8th century. The Franks also helped the formation of the Papal States in central Italy. Until the 13th century, Italian politics was dominated by the relations between the Holy Roman Emperors and the Papacy, with most of the Italian city-states siding for the former (Ghibellines) or for the latter (Guelphs) from momentary convenience.

The Iron Crown of Lombardy, for centuries symbol of the Kings of Italy
Castel del Monte, built by German Emperor Frederick II, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site

It was during this chaotic era that Italian towns saw the rise of a peculiar institution, the medieval commune. Given the power vacuum caused by extreme territorial fragmentation and the struggle between the Empire and the Holy See, local communities sought autonomous ways to maintain law and order. In 1176 a league of city-states, the Lombard League, defeated the German emperor Frederick Barbarossa at the Battle of Legnano, thus ensuring effective independence for most of northern and central Italian cities. In coastal and southern areas, the maritime republics, the most notable being Venice, Genoa, Pisa and Amalfi, heavily involved in the Crusades, grew to eventually dominate the Mediterranean and monopolise trade routes to the Orient.

In the south, Sicily had become an Islamic emirate in the 9th century, thriving until the Italo-Normans conquered it in the late 11th century together with most of the Lombard and Byzantine principalities of southern Italy. Through a complex series of events, southern Italy developed as a unified kingdom, first under the House of Hohenstaufen, then under the Capetian House of Anjou and, from the 15th century, the House of Aragon. In Sardinia, the former Byzantine provinces became independent states known as Giudicati, although some parts of the island were under Genoese or Pisan control until the Aragonese conquered it in the 15th century. The Black Death pandemic of 1348 left its mark on Italy by killing perhaps one third of the population. However, the recovery from the plague led to a resurgence of cities, trade and economy which allowed the bloom of Humanism and Renaissance, that later spread in Europe.

Italy: Early Modern

Leonardo da Vinci, the quintessential Renaissance man, in a self-portrait, c. 1512. Royal Library, Turin

In the 14th and 15th centuries, northern-central Italy was divided into a number of warring city-states, the rest of the peninsula being occupied by the larger Papal States and the Kingdom of Sicily, referred to here as Naples. Though many of these city-states were often formally subordinate to foreign rulers, as in the case of the Duchy of Milan, which was officially a constituent state of the mainly Germanic Holy Roman Empire, the city-states generally managed to maintain de facto independence from the foreign sovereigns that had seized Italian lands following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. The strongest among these city-states gradually absorbed the surrounding territories giving birth to the Signorie, regional states often led by merchant families which founded local dynasties. War between the city-states was endemic, and primarily fought by armies of mercenaries known as condottieri, bands of soldiers drawn from around Europe, especially Germany and Switzerland, led largely by Italian captains. Decades of fighting eventually saw Florence, Milan and Venice emerged as the dominant players that agreed to the Peace of Lodi in 1454, which saw relative calm brought to the region for the first time in centuries. This peace would hold for the next forty years.

Cosimo de' Medici, Father of the Nation (pater patriae). Portrait in the Uffizi, Florence

The Renaissance, a period of vigorous revival of the arts and culture, originated in Italy thanks to a number of factors, as the great wealth accumulated by merchant cities, the patronage of its dominant families, and the migration of Greek scholars and texts to Italy following the Conquest of Constantinople at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. The Italian Renaissance peaked in the mid-16th century as foreign invasions plunged the region into the turmoil of the Italian Wars.

The Medici became the leading family of Florence and fostered and inspired the birth of the Italian Renaissance, along with other families of Italy, such as the Visconti and Sforza of Milan, the Este of Ferrara, and the Gonzaga of Mantua. Greatest artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Giotto, Donatello, Titian and Raphael produced inspired works – their paintwork was more realistic-looking than had been created by Medieval artists and their marble statues rivalled and sometimes surpassed those of Classical Antiquity. Humanist historian Leonardo Bruni also split the history in the antiquity, Middle Ages and modern period. The ideas and ideals of the Renaissance soon spread into Northern Europe, France, England and much of Europe. In the meantime, the discovery of the Americas, the new routes to Asia discovered by the Portuguese and the rise of the Ottoman Empire, all factors which eroded the traditional Italian dominance in trade with the East, caused a long economic decline in the peninsula.

Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492, opening a new era in the history of humankind

Following the Italian Wars (1494 to 1559), ignited by the rivalry between France and Spain, the city-states gradually lost their independence and came under foreign domination, first under Spain (1559 to 1713) and then Austria (1713 to 1796). In 1629–1631, a new outburst of plague claimed about 14% of Italy's population. In addition, as the Spanish Empire started to decline in the 17th century, so did its possessions in Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, and Milan. In particular, Southern Italy was impoverished and cut off from the mainstream of events in Europe.

In the 18th century, as a result of the War of Spanish Succession, Austria replaced Spain as the dominant foreign power, while the House of Savoy emerged as a regional power expanding to Piedmont and Sardinia. In the same century, the two-century long decline was interrupted by the economic and state reforms pursued in several states by the ruling élites. During the Napoleonic Wars, northern-central Italy was invaded and reorganised as a new Kingdom of Italy, a client state of the French Empire, while the southern half of the peninsula was administered by Joachim Murat, Napoleon's brother-in-law, who was crowned as King of Naples. The 1814 Congress of Vienna restored the situation of the late 18th century, but the ideals of the French Revolution could not be eradicated, and soon re-surfaced during the political upheavals that characterised the first part of the 19th century.

Italy: Italian unification

Animated map of the Italian unification, from 1829 to 1871

The birth of the Kingdom of Italy was the result of efforts by Italian nationalists and monarchists loyal to the House of Savoy to establish a united kingdom encompassing the entire Italian Peninsula. In the context of the 1848 liberal revolutions that swept through Europe, an unsuccessful war was declared on Austria. The Kingdom of Sardinia again attacked the Austrian Empire in the Second Italian War of Independence of 1859, with the aid of France, resulting in liberating Lombardy.

Victor Emmanuel meets Giuseppe Garibaldi near Teano

In 1860–1861, general Giuseppe Garibaldi led the drive for unification in Naples and Sicily, allowing the Sardinian government led by the Count of Cavour to declare a united Italian kingdom on 17 March 1861. In 1866, Victor Emmanuel II allied with Prussia during the Austro-Prussian War, waging the Third Italian War of Independence which allowed Italy to annex Venetia. Finally, as France during the disastrous Franco-Prussian War of 1870 abandoned its garrisons in Rome, the Italians rushed to fill the power gap by taking over the Papal States.

The Constitutional Law of the Kingdom of Sardinia the Albertine Statute of 1848, was extended to the whole Kingdom of Italy in 1861, and provided for basic freedoms of the new State, but electoral laws excluded the non-propertied and uneducated classes from voting. The government of the new kingdom took place in a framework of parliamentary constitutional monarchy dominated by liberal forces. In 1913, male universal suffrage was adopted. As Northern Italy quickly industrialised, the South and rural areas of the North remained underdeveloped and overpopulated, forcing millions of people to migrate abroad, while the Italian Socialist Party constantly increased in strength, challenging the traditional liberal and conservative establishment. Starting from the last two decades of the 19th century, Italy developed into a colonial power by forcing Somalia, Eritrea and later Libya and the Dodecanese under its rule.

The Altare della Patria in Rome, resting place of the Unknown Soldier (more than 650,000 Italian soldiers died on the battlefields of World War I)

Italy, nominally allied with the German Empire and the Empire of Austria-Hungary in the Triple Alliance, in 1915 joined the Allies into the war with a promise of substantial territorial gains, that included western Inner Carniola, former Austrian Littoral, Dalmatia as well as parts of the Ottoman Empire. The war was initially inconclusive, as the Italian army get struck in a long attrition war in the Alps, making little progress and suffering very heavy losses. Eventually, in October 1918, the Italians launched a massive offensive, culminating in the victory of Vittorio Veneto. The Italian victory marked the end of the war on the Italian Front, secured the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and was chiefly instrumental in ending the First World War less than two weeks later.

During the war, more than 650,000 Italian soldiers and as many civilians died and the kingdom went to the brink of bankruptcy. Under the Peace Treaties of Saint-Germain, Rapallo and Rome, Italy obtained most of the promised territories, but not Dalmatia (except Zara), allowing nationalists to define the victory as "mutilated". Moreover, Italy annexed the Hungarian harbour of Fiume, that was not part of territories promised at London but had been occupied after the end of the war by Gabriele D'Annunzio.

Italy: Fascist regime

Benito Mussolini, duce of Fascist Italy

The socialist agitations that followed the devastation of the Great War, inspired by the Russian Revolution, led to counter-revolution and repression throughout Italy. The liberal establishment, fearing a Soviet-style revolution, started to endorse the small National Fascist Party, led by Benito Mussolini. In October 1922 the Blackshirts of the National Fascist Party attempted a coup (the "March on Rome") which failed but at the last minute, King Victor Emmanuel III refused to proclaim a state of siege and appointed Mussolini prime minister. Over the next few years, Mussolini banned all political parties and curtailed personal liberties, thus forming a dictatorship. These actions attracted international attention and eventually inspired similar dictatorships such as Nazi Germany and Francoist Spain.

In 1935, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia, resulting in an international alienation and leading to Italy's withdrawal from the League of Nations; Italy allied with Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan and strongly supported Francisco Franco in the Spanish civil war. In 1939, Italy annexed Albania, a de facto protectorate for decades. Italy entered World War II on 10 June 1940. After initially advancing in British Somaliland and Egypt, the Italians were defeated in East Africa, Greece, Russia and North Africa.

After the attack on Yugoslavia by Germany and Italy, suppression of the Yugoslav Partisans resistance and attempts to Italianisation resulted in the Italian war crimes and deportation of about 25,000 people to the Italian concentration camps, such as Rab, Gonars, Monigo, Renicci di Anghiari and elsewhere. After the war, due to the Cold war, a long period of censorship, disinterest and denial occurred about the Italian war crimes and the Yugoslav's foibe killings. Meanwhile, about 250,000 Italians and anti-communist Slavs fled to Italy in the Istrian exodus.

An Allied invasion of Sicily began in July 1943, leading to the collapse of the Fascist regime and the fall of Mussolini on 25 July. On 8 September, Italy surrendered. The Germans shortly succeeded in taking control of northern and central Italy. The country remained a battlefield for the rest of the war, as the Allies were slowly moving up from the south.

In the north, the Germans set up the Italian Social Republic (RSI), a Nazi puppet state with Mussolini installed as leader. The post-armistice period saw the rise of a large anti-fascist resistance movement, the Resistenza. In late April 1945, with total defeat looming, Mussolini attempted to escape north, but was captured and summarily executed near Lake Como by Italian partisans. His body was then taken to Milan, where it was hung upside down at a service station for public viewing and to provide confirmation of his demise. Hostilities ended on 29 April 1945, when the German forces in Italy surrendered. Nearly half a million Italians (including civilians) died in the conflict, and the Italian economy had been all but destroyed; per capita income in 1944 was at its lowest point since the beginning of the 20th century.

Italy: Republican Italy

Alcide De Gasperi, first republican Prime Minister of Italy and one of the Founding Fathers of the European Union

Italy became a republic after a referendum held on 2 June 1946, a day celebrated since as Republic Day. This was also the first time that Italian women were entitled to vote. Victor Emmanuel III's son, Umberto II, was forced to abdicate and exiled. The Republican Constitution was approved on 1 January 1948. Under the Treaty of Peace with Italy of 1947, most of Julian March was lost to Yugoslavia and, later, the Free Territory of Trieste was divided between the two states. Italy also lost all its colonial possessions, formally ending the Italian Empire.

Fears in the Italian electorate of a possible Communist takeover proved crucial for the first universal suffrage electoral outcome on 18 April 1948, when the Christian Democrats, under the leadership of Alcide De Gasperi, obtained a landslide victory. Consequently, in 1949 Italy became a member of NATO. The Marshall Plan helped to revive the Italian economy which, until the late 1960s, enjoyed a period of sustained economic growth commonly called the "Economic Miracle". In 1957, Italy was a founding member of the European Economic Community (EEC), which became the European Union (EU) in 1993.

The signing ceremony of the Treaty of Rome at the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Capitoline Hill

From the late 1960s until the early 1980s, the country experienced the Years of Lead, a period characterised by economic crisis (especially after the 1973 oil crisis), widespread social conflicts and terrorist massacres carried out by opposing extremist groups, with the alleged involvement of US and Soviet intelligence. The Years of Lead culminated in the assassination of the Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro in 1978 and the Bologna railway station massacre in 1980, where 85 people died.

In the 1980s, for the first time since 1945, two governments were led by non-Christian-Democrat premiers: one republican (Giovanni Spadolini) and one socialist (Bettino Craxi); the Christian Democrats remained, however, the main government party. During Craxi's government, the economy recovered and Italy became the world's fifth largest industrial nation, gaining entry into the G7 Group. However, as a result of his spending policies, the Italian national debt skyrocketed during the Craxi era, soon passing 100% of the GDP.

In the early 1990s, Italy faced significant challenges, as voters – disenchanted with political paralysis, massive public debt and the extensive corruption system (known as Tangentopoli) uncovered by the 'Clean Hands' investigation – demanded radical reforms. The scandals involved all major parties, but especially those in the government coalition: the Christian Democrats, who ruled for almost 50 years, underwent a severe crisis and eventually disbanded, splitting up into several factions. The Communists reorganised as a social-democratic force. During the 1990s and the 2000s (decade), centre-right (dominated by media magnate Silvio Berlusconi) and centre-left coalitions (led by university professor Romano Prodi) alternatively governed the country.

In the late 2000s, Italy was severely hit by the Great Recession. From 2008 to 2013, the country suffered 42 months of GDP recession. The economic crisis was one of the main problems that forced Berlusconi to resign in 2011. The government of the conservative Prime Minister was replaced by the technocratic cabinet of Mario Monti. Following the 2013 general election, the Vice-Secretary of the Democratic Party Enrico Letta formed a new government at the head of a right-left Grand coalition. In 2014, challenged by the new Secretary of the PD Matteo Renzi, Letta resigned and was replaced by Renzi. The new government started important constitutional reforms such as the abolition of the Senate and a new electoral law. On 4 December the constitutional reform was rejected in a referendum and Renzi resigned after few days on 12 December; the Foreign Affairs Minister Paolo Gentiloni was appointed new Prime Minister.

Italy was affected by the European migrant crisis in 2015 as it became the entry point and leading destination for most asylum seekers entering the EU. The country took in over half a million refugees, which caused great strain on the public purse and a surge in the support for far-right and euroskeptic political parties.

Italy: Geography

Italy: Notes

  1. The Italian peninsula is geographically located in Southern Europe, while North Italy can be placed partly or totally in Central Europe. Due to cultural, political and historical reasons, Italy is a Western European country.
  2. Official French maps show the border detouring south of the main summit, and claim the highest point in Italy is Mont Blanc de Courmayeur (4,748 m or 15,577 ft), but these are inconsistent with an 1861 convention and topographic watershed analysis.
  3. According to Mitrica, an October 2005 Romanian report estimates that 1,061,400 Romanians are living in Italy, constituting 37% of 2.8 million immigrants in that country but it is unclear how the estimate was made, and therefore whether it should be taken seriously.

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Italy: Bibliography

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