• Napoleon claimed Italy was just “too long”, and who can disagree? The distance from the tip of the country’s “toe” to its northern border is about 1380km.

Italy became a nation state in 1861, under King Vittorio Emanuele II, and has been a democratic republic since 1946, when the monarchy was abolished by popular referendum.

• The parliament consists of two houses, the Senate (315 seats) and the Chamber of Deputies (630 seats); both sit for five-year terms of office. The country has an elected president, but real power lies with the prime minister, who is generally the leader of the party with the biggest majority in the Chamber of Deputies.

Italy’s population is just over 61 million, of whom almost three million live in the capital, Rome. The country is divided geographically and administratively into twenty regions, of which five are autonomous.

Italy has the lowest birth rate in Europe, and twenty percent of the population is over 65.

• The average Italian eats 23 kilos of pasta annually, and the nation drinks a staggering 14 billion cups of coffee every year.

There’s still a significant gender divide in Italy, with the country ranked 69th in the world in a recent gender equality survey. And in the country of the pizzaiolo, it’s a shocking thing that seventy percent of men claim never to have used an oven.

Essentials

Everything you need to know before you set off.

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