Italy is in the Mediterranean. Its land borders are with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. Italy has many islands: the largest of them is Sicily. Other islands include Sardinia, Elba, Capri and the volcanic Aeolian Islands. The Vatican City in Rome, the home of the Pope, is a separate principality.
The name of Italy's capital city, Rome, is derived from its legendary founder Romulus.
Rome, on the banks of the River Tiber, grew in power and conquered her neighbours. Eventually, Rome controlled all of Italy and much of Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
The Romans were great builders. Augustus, the first Roman emperor, boasted that he found Rome built of brick and left it built of marble. The Roman invention of concrete and use of vaulting, domes and arches allowed the Romans to build higher and span wider areas than could have been attempted before.
Many Roman buildings can still be seen today in Italy: the Colosseum in Rome and the amphitheatre in Verona.
Italy's architectural legacy is extremely rich. World Heritage sites include the Vatican City and St Peter's, the Renaissance City of Ferrara, the historic centre of Florence, the historic centre of Naples, Ravenna, the historic centre of Siena, the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy in Turin, Venice, the City of Verona and the City of Vicenza.
During the Renaissance period Italy produced the first full-time designer of buildings - Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446). Other famous Italian architects included Michelangelo (1475-1564), Palladio (1508-1580), Borromini (1599-1667) and Bernini (1598-1680).
Borromini (who began as Bernini's assistant) was the most famous architect of the baroque style of architecture. The reaction to baroque's ornateness brought neo-classical styles into favour during the eighteenth century. Andrea Palladio reinvented classical Roman and Greek architecture and worked especially in Venice and the surrounding area.
In modern times Italy's most important architect was Pier Luigi Nervi, an engineer who greatly developed the use of reinforced concrete. The Pirelli building in Milan is an example of his work.
We would like to thank Melanie Dunn for the photographs of Rome
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