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Italy Geography

Geography

Mainland Italy extends southward into the Mediterranean Sea as a large boot-shaped peninsula. This extension of land has forced the creation of individual bodies of water, namely the Adriatic Sea, Ionian Sea, Ligurian Sea and Tyrrhenian Sea

The northern reaches of the country are dominated by varied ranges of the Alps, a massive stretch of mountains that extends from France to Austria, and then south along the Adriatic Sea. Italy's highest point near the summit of Mont Blanc (or Monte Bianco), a mountain it shares with France, rises to 4,748 m.

The beautiful and rugged Lake District of northern Italy includes many mountain lakes, with the major ones being Como, Garda and Maggiore

The Po River Valley is positioned directly south of Alps, and runs from Turin to Venice. Rising in the Alps, the Po River is Italy's longest and the valley it dissects is the country's most fertile farmland.

The Apennine Mountains (a range of the Alps) form the backbone of the Italian peninsula, and they extend south through Italy, then directly beneath the narrow Strait of Messina to cover much of Sicily. These mountains consist of several chains and they form the peninsula's watershed, as several rivers rise in the upper elevations, including the Arno and the Tiber.

About 30% of Italy's land area consists of plains with some low, marshy areas, especially along the Adriatic Sea, from Ancona north to Venice. The coastline of the country features numerous large and small bays, as well as gulfs.

The Amalfi Coast south of Naples, and the Cinque Terra to the north of Pisa offer some of the most spectacular coastal scenery imaginable as steep rocky slopes rush down to the sea, and tiny villages with colorful houses pack much of the cliffs

Italy is renowned for its many rugged islands, most volcanic in origin. Significant ones include the large islands of Sardinia and Sicily and the smaller islands of Capri, Elba, Ischia, and the Aeolian Island group.

Much of Italy is volcanic in origin, and today a few of its many volcanoes are active, including Sicily's Mt. Etna, Stomboli in the Aeolian Islands, and volcanologists are constantly monitoring Mt. Vesuvius near Naples, as it has the potential to erupt at anytime.

Geography Italy
Location: Southern Europe, a peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea, northeast of Tunisia

Geographic coordinates:

42 50 N, 12 50 E

Map references:

Europe

Area:

total: 301,230 sq km
land: 294,020 sq km
water: 7,210 sq km
note: includes Sardinia and Sicily

Area - comparative:

slightly larger than Arizona

Land boundaries:

total: 1,932.2 km
border countries: Austria 430 km, France 488 km, Holy See (Vatican City) 3.2 km, San Marino 39 km, Slovenia 232 km, Switzerland 740 km

Coastline:

7,600 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation

Climate:

predominantly Mediterranean; Alpine in far north; hot, dry in south

Terrain:

mostly rugged and mountainous; some plains, coastal lowlands

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) de Courmayeur 4,748 m (a secondary peak of Mont Blanc)

Natural resources:

coal, mercury, zinc, potash, marble, barite, asbestos, pumice, fluorospar, feldspar, pyrite (sulfur), natural gas and crude oil reserves, fish, arable land

Land use:

arable land: 27.79%
permanent crops: 9.53%
other: 62.68% (2001)

Irrigated land:

26,980 sq km (1998 est.)

Natural hazards:

regional risks include landslides, mudflows, avalanches, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding; land subsidence in Venice

Environment - current issues:

air pollution from industrial emissions such as sulfur dioxide; coastal and inland rivers polluted from industrial and agricultural effluents; acid rain damaging lakes; inadequate industrial waste treatment and disposal facilities

Environment - international agreements:

party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants

Geography - note:

strategic location dominating central Mediterranean as well as southern sea and air approaches to Western Europe

Note: The information tabled directly above was researched by and provided by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

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This page was last modified on August 12, 2015.