Italy like many European countries is a country of regions. This was the case before Rome united the peninsula and continued to be the came even during the Roman Imperium. After the fall of Rome, the peninsula was divided into city states and fierce local loyalties and rivalries became accentuated. Italy can be divided geographically into three major areas: north, central (dominated by Rome), and south. The climate and historical experience of these different regions is quite different because Italy was only united in the 1860s and some areas in the north were added even later. There are also some island territories. There are substantial diffrences between these regions. Northern Italy is the most industrialized area. The south is more agricultural and until after World War II, almost feudal. Naples and the south have historically often been associated with Sicily. Sardinia is another important island making up Italy. We have some limited on the island. Corsica was once part of Italy. It was seized from Carthage in the Punic Wars. Only relatively recently has it become a French territory. We do not yet have much information on the various Italian regions. Hopefully our Italian readers will tell us more about the different regions of their country.
Northern Iraly is the most diverse of the four major Itlian regions. It is referred to as Padania. It is a tourists' delight withbthe added bonus of wonderful wines to savor along with the unforgetable local cuisine. There is so much to take in as one travels the north. Piedmont has truffle forests and Barolo vineyards. There are lovely lakeside resorts in Lombardy (Lombardia). Tourists love the arcaded walkways in Turin. Milan is an industrial ciy with a fascinating history anbd art. There are mountains, broad river vallies, and beautiful beaches. The mounaines incluse the Alpine South Tyrol. The main River valley is the Po which flows into the Adriatic. The Po Valley makes up the larger portion of Northern Italy. It includes a broad plain extending from the foot of the Apennines to that of the southern Alps. There are valleys and slopes on both sides all along the course of the Po. The Po rises at Monte Viso and empties in the Adriatic Sea. And along the Adriatic coast we find Venice and the Veneto, one of the most engaging cities in the world. A little to the south is Florence, the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany. Many Italian cities played an immportant riler in the development of Western art. None are more important than Florence. The beaches include the Mediterranean Rivierra. Northern Italy is also the most industrialized area. One reader has provided us some interesting information about San Giorgio della Richinvelda, a small village in northeastern Italy.
Central Italy is of course dominated by the Latium abd Rome. The area around Rome is known as Latium . This is an area of undulating hills extending from the western foothills of the Apennines to the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Mediterranean. Latium is the cradle from which Rome grew. It originally consisted of the coastal plain from the mouth of the Tiber to the Circeian promontory and its adjacent foothills. only a short distance from Rome in any direction are enumeral villages. Some are quite famous. To the east is Ostia Antica--a Roman town and seaport. To the east is Tivoli, famous for Hadrian's villa and the Villa d'Este. Others are only known locally. Suio seen here is a good example (figure 1). The Appian Way (Via Appia) is the famous road leading south from Rome. It was one of the first and perhaps most strategically important Roman roads. It passes through the Pontine Marshes (Agro Pontino) south of Rome has an interesting history. Latium also has four very ancient volcanos and the craters have formed beautiful lakes (Bolsena, Vico, Bracciano, Albano and Nemi). Latium is the cradle of Roman civilization and by extension Western Civilization. The remains of both the Roman civilization as well as earlier and later civilizations makr it a fascinating area. The visitor can see the remains of the Etruscan civilization You can also see the remsins of the medieval era and Renaussance with its incredible artidtic treasures. The presence of the Church is everywhere, of course with all the great churches of Rome, including St. Peter's and the Vatican. Rome is a huge city and of course one of the most famous in the world. Rome has to be one of the most fascinating cities in the world. It was at the center of Western civilization for centuries. Few cities have a more extensive literature. Ironically what first comes to mind when most people think about Rome is the titilating excesses of the Empire. Only rarely does what makes Rome central to Western civilization emerge in public discourse--the rule of law. Latium is the mest known areas of central area, but of course the area is much more extensice than just Latium.
Southern Italy is referred to as the the Mezzogiorno in Italy. It is not as familar to many as the north where more tourists visit. The cultural influences in southern Italy are somewhat different than in the north. The Greek influence is strongest in the south and there are several important Greek ruins. Naples was founded as a Greek colony. There are also northern African influences. The south is more agricultural than northern and even central Italy and until after World War II, was almost feudal. Southern Italy has historically lagged behind the northern in literacy, income, economic development, and other indicators. The eography of the south gives the Italian peninsula its well-known boot image. Naples and the south have historically been associated with Sicily and for many years organized into the Kingdom of the Two Siclies. The best known and most populous region of southern Italy is Campania. The modern region has a population of around 6 million people. Thus it is the second-most-populous region of Italy and the most densely populated region in the country. It is located around Naples along southwesern coast of Italian Peninsula. The Tyrrhenian Sea off shoot of the Mediterrannean is located to the west. The Flegrean Islands and Capri are administratively part of the region.
The two most important Italian islands are Sicily and Sardinia. Sicily is a large island and dominates the central Mediterranean. For this reason it has been one of the most fought over island in the world. Sicily is especially important in Italian history. With the Roman conquest it became thorougly italianized. Both as well as Corsica were acuired by the Romans in the Punic Wars. Another famous but smaller island is Elba where Napoleon was exioled. Sardinia is another important island making up Italy. We have some limited on the island. An Italian reader tells us about the festival of Saint Salvatore at Cabras, a village on the eastern coast of Sardinia. Corsica is now French, but for much of its history was Roman or Italian. It was seized by France in the 18th century before the French Revolution. Thus the young Napoleon grew up as a French subject.
Istria has an interesting history. Venice became a major power in the Medieval era and seized control of Istria (1267). This introduced a strong Italian imprint. The Austrian Hapsburgs seized Istria as the wars associated with the French Revolution engulfed Europe (1797). And except for a brief period in which Napoleon seized the area (1805-13) the Hapsburgs controlled the area until their rule colapsed in the wake of World War I (1918). Istria became Itlalian territory as part of the World War I settlement. After World War II it was mostly transferred to Yugoslavia (1945). After the breakup of Yugoslavia, Istria was split between Croatia and Slovenia except for a small Italian section. Istria was under the Hapsburgs a multi-cultural region populated by Italians, Croats, Slovenes and smaller numbers of other ethnic communities. Relations among these communities was geneally harmonious until after the Napoleonic Wars when nationalist sentiment grew throughout Europe. Istria was affected by both Italian irredentism and Slovenian and Croatian nationalism. The result was the development of ethnic conflict. Rising nationalism was exacerbated by social class differences. The town populations were mostly Italian and the rural population mostly ethnic Croats or Slovenes. Fascist Italy after World War I persued a policy of Italianization and suppression of non-Italian culture. The brief NAZI occupation (1943) also affected community relations. After Yugoslavia achieved possession of Istria at the end of Wold war II, the Italians had to leave Istria. We note a First Comminion held by the Italian community in Istria before World War I.
Italy as part of the scramble for Africa obtained colonies in East Africa. The Kingdom of Italy itself was declared in 1861, after Kingdom of Piedmont and Sardinia had annexed Kingdom of Lombardy and Venice (this Kingdom was not independent, but controlled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and Kingdom of Naples (including all South Italy and Sicily). Rome became Italian only in 1870. Italy was a poor country. Many Italians emigrated to North and South America. The colonial effort was a attempt to share in the partition of Africa. This was both a matter of national pride as well the result of the widly held opinion that colonies were needed for a healthy economy. The colonies also provided new territory on which Italy's growing population could be settled.
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