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Italy is a peninsula in Southern Europe that stretches far into the Mediterranean Sea. To the west of mainland Italy lie two large islands, Sardinia and Sicily, which are also considered part of Italy. Mostly mountainous Sardinia uses its fishing and tourism industries to support its population. Sardinia's neighbor, Sicily, is the largest Mediterranean island. Sicily contributes citrus, wheat, and barley to the Italian economy.

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Country Background
Italy is easily identified by its distinctive boot-shaped form, which not only makes it easy to find on a map, but also affects the country's climate. A traveler who journeys from the top of the boot to the bottom will notice a significant difference between the cooler, wetter north and the warmer, drier southern tip. Keeping the climate cool in the north are the Alps, located along Italy's border. Moving south, the land juts out into warmer waters, and the climate becomes warmer.

The capital city of Italy is Rome. Rome has long been an important and influential city in Europe because of the many innovations that citizens of the city have produced. Among the greatest Italian thinkers are Leonardo da Vinci, who not only painted a great deal, but also wrote down his ideas about art as a science. These notes proved helpful to other artists and art historians who studied Leonardo's work. The soothing Roman baths, an example of which can still be found in the English city of Bath, are another Italian innovation.

Within Rome, you can find the smallest independent country in the world: Vatican City. Although the population of Vatican City is as small as 1,000 people, the city serves as the center of the Roman Catholic Church, whose members number in the millions. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church, the pope, lives and governs from within the walls of the Vatican City. The Sistine Chapel, a famous Roman landmark, was originally built as the private chapel for the pope in the 15th century. In 1508, artist Michelangelo was commissioned to repaint the ceiling. Michelangelo's work remains an outstanding example of Renaissance art.

Popular Italian cities to visit are Florence, Naples, and Venice.

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There is a lot more to learn about Italy!

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