Italy began as a parliamentary government under the reign of King Victor Emmanuel. It was established as a nation in 1861, merging the city-states of the peninsula. Today, Italy is vested in a bicameral parliament consisting of a chamber of deputies of 630 members. It borders on Austria (430 km), France (488 km), Vatican City (3.2 km), San Marino (39 km), Slovenia (232 km), and Switzerland (740 km). Also included in Italy are the large Mediterranean islands, Sicily and Sardinia. The southern part of Italy is hot and dry, while the northern tip of the country is much cooler. Most of the country is covered by mountains, but some areas have coastal lowlands and plains. Italy's natural resources include mercury, potash, marble, sulfur, natural gas, oil reserves, fish, and coal.
Current environmental concerns include air pollution, pollution of coastal and inland rivers, acid rain, and inadequate industrial waste treatment and disposal facilities. Ninety percent of drinking water comes from ground water sources and some of these sources are polluted due to widespread use of fertilizers and pesticides. Several rivers run the risk of becoming ecologically dead because of industrial pollution. .
Italy is 301,230 square kilometers in total area and has 57,998,353 people residing. The majority of people living in Italy are Roman Catholic. The great majority of the population speaks Italian, including several dialects; there are small German-, French-, and Slavic-speaking minorities. Italy's unemployment rate is 9.1% and 23.6 million people make up its labor force. Low fertility and marriage rates, high survival rates, and significant levels of immigration affect population growth in Italy. In fact, fast-rising life expectancy and the world's lowest birthrate are combining to make Italy "the oldest country in the world." (L.A. Times) With an average life expectancy of 76.47 years for males and 82.