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            A little larger than the state of Arizona with 301,230 sq. km, Italy is located in southern Europe, and extends its boot shape into the central Mediterranean Sea. Rome, the national capital, is located in the center of the country. The majority of people in Italy are Roman Catholic. 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. At least 31% of the land is used for growing crops, 10% for permanent crops, and 15% for permanent pastures. Forests and woodlands cover 23% of the land and there is an estimated 27,100 sq. km of irrigated land. Italy's natural resources include: mercury, potash, marble, sulfur, natural gas, oil reserves, fish and coal.
             The city of Rome in Italy is the home of the Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Italy is the birthplace of the Mafia. It is a land of the ancient and the very modern, a fascinating dichotomy. The official language, Italian, is spoken by about 95% of the people. Italy is a Republic - a nation whose government is wholly elected. .
             Like our state of California, Italy's climate and geography has something for everyone - mountains, seas, beaches, sun, snow, forests and farms, big modern cities and small ancient towns. In cooler northern Italy, bordered by France, Switzerland and Austria, are the Alps and Apennines mountains and the verdant Poe River basin. Southern Italy is warmer, surrounded by sea water and has several Islands, the largest being Sicily, belonging to it.
             Vatican City, a State of it's own contained within the city of Rome, is the heart of the Roman Catholic Church and the predominant religion of Italy. Even with a decreasing number of churchgoers (and with atheism and anti-clericalism on the increase), most Italians appreciate the beauty of Catholic traditions, and several Catholic feasts are national or local holidays.

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