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FocusMM - Mediterranean Guide


Italy is situated on the southern border of Europe and her peninsula, with surrounding islands, reaches almost to the coast of Africa. Just because of this geographical position, Italy has direct contact with the main ethnic and cultural areas of the Old World (neo-Latin, Germanic and Slav-Balkan) as well as, through the North Africa countries, with the world of Arab-Islamic civilization.

Consequently, while remaining firmly anchored in the world of western or European civilization, which was the direct heir of the Graeco-Roman culture that developed and flourished on this very peninsula for over a millennium, Italy seems to stretch out na turally towards the opposite shore of the Mediterranean, practically dividing its western and eastern basins. Thus Italy can be considered the most logical link between Europe and the peoples of Africa and Asia, bordering as they do on the same sea and sh aring over many centuries both historical events and cultural influences.

Still today, with the present international situation of unrest and open conflict in some Mediterranean areas, Italy, with her renewed productivity and a policy of peaceful co-existence with all countries, provides a source of stability and moderation wit hin the political context of this part of the Old World.

Italy in Europe The territory of the Italian Republic covers 301,278 sq km (including the enclave of Campione in Switzerland and the states of the Republic of San Marino and of the Vatican City, measuring together 61 sq km). This is equal to a 35th part of Europe and slightly more than a five-hundredth of all the world's landmass. In Europe, excluding the Soviet Union, Italy's territorial extent is considerably smaller than that of France, Spain and Sweden, while only being slightly less than that of Finland, Norway and Poland.

Italy lies between the northern latitudes of 4705'29'' (m 2,837 from the Testa Gemella Occidentale/Westl. Zwillingskpfe in the Aurine Alps on the Austrian border) and 3539'26'' (Punta Pesce Spada on the island of Lampedusa to the south of Sicily), and the eastern longitudes from Greenwich of 637'32'' (m 3,178 from the minor peak north of the Rocca Bernauda in the northern Cottian Alps, upper Val di Susa, on the French border) and 1831'13'' (Capo d'Otranto on the Salentina Peninsula).

The territory of the Republic of Italy coincides almost precisely with the geographically defined Italian region. Its northern border corresponds with the Alpine watershed and it also physically includes the Istrian peninsula, the island of Corsica, the Swiss territories of Canton Ticino, Val Bregaglia and Val di Poschiavo and the Maltese Islands, while excluding Pantelleria and the Pelagian Islands (Lampedusa and Lampione), which emerge from the African continental platform.

Altogether, the Italian physical region measures some 324,000 sq km.

Politically the territory of the Italian Republic has its northern border along the Alpine arc. This touches on France, Switzerland, Austria and (former) Yugoslavia and is some 1,900 km long, generally following the watershed of the mountain chain except where it moves far away as in the Swiss and Yugoslavian sections. The remaining Italian territorial limits are maritime and, except for the territorial seas, they have usually been fixed with the countries concerned: Yugoslavia and Albania in the Adriatic, Greece in the Ionian, Malta, Libya and Tunisia in the Sea of Sicily, Tunisia and Algeria in the Channel of Sardinia, Spain in the Sea of Sardinia and France in the Ligurian and upper Tyrrhenian Seas.

The structure of the Italian territory differs considerably. Besides the continental section (Alps and Po-Venetian Plain), there is a long and indented peninsula that is almost completely occupied by the Apennine chain, the two large islands (Sicily and Sardinia) marking the borders of the Tyrrhenian Sea and many other minor island groups (Tuscan Archipelago, Lipari Islands, etc.). This produces long distances between the country 's extremities. In fact, along the Trieste parallel this is of some 540 km, while along that of Otranto, to the western coast of Sardinia, it is some 845 km. Finally, the greatest latitudinal distance is measured along the meridian of the Pelagian Islands for some 1,290 km.

It should also be noted that the geographical form of Italy favours the maritime. Indeed, the most inland zones of the peninsula are little more than 100 km from the sea (the peninsula's widest point, between the Argentario Promontory and Mount Conero, does not exceed 240 km) and on the two largest islands is rarely greater than 50 km. Even for continental Italy the zone furthest from the sea (the Spluga Pass in the Lombard Alps) is only just 230 km away. Finally to the land borders should be added some 7 ,500 km of coasts, over half of which belong just to the islands. In particular, Sicily has a perimeter of 1,115 km, Sardinia 1336 km and the minor islands 1,734 km.