Once the seat of an empire stretching across the (then) known world, Italy is still a destination for tourists, pilgrims, students and artists from all over the globe. From the Italian fashion capital of Milan and enchanting Venice in the north, to Rome and Vatican City in the west, and Naples and implacable Mt. Vesuvius in the south, Italy is well worth exploring, whatever your interests. The country is also full of natural charms, to entice outdoors enthusiasts. The breathtaking beauty of Lake Garda, where Mussolini set up his headquarters, the Dolomite Mountains, once part of Austria, and Mt. Etna, Europes tallest active volcano ("Italy Travel Guide - Ultimate Italy"), are all sure to stir the senses and inspire even the most reluctant shutterbug. Below are a few interesting facts to get you started on your Italian adventure.Italy is a relatively small country in southern Europe, the bulk of which is bounded by seas. According to the U.S. Department of State, Italy covers an area of 116,303 square miles, or 301,225 square kilometers, and has an estimated population of 60.6 million.The main spoken and written language of Italy isyou guessed it, Italian. Italian is a Romance language (though it does sound nice, Romance in this instance refers to the languages Latin roots, not to its suitability for amorous pursuits).From left to right, the Italian flag is composed of one green, one white and one red vertical section. Its tricolor design was inspired by the national ensign of France ("U.S. Department of State").Italy officially became the Italian Republic on June 2, 1946. The king had failed to protect his people from either Mussolinis ambitions or Hitlers predations. In a referendum, the people of Italy chose to replace the monarchy with a democratic republic.The country is divided into 94 provinces, in 20 regions ("U.S. Department of State"). Northern regions tend to be more financially prosperous than the southern areas.Italy shares a border with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, and the Principality of Monaco (which is located in the southeastern corner of France).The currency of Italy is the Euro. Like all countries in the Eurozone, Italys coins and bills bear images of significance to that nation.Italy has long been known for its art, architecture, cuisine, wine, fashion, fine textiles, and in more recent decades, its cars and motorcycles.Italian sports cars, supercars and motorcycles are treasured for their beauty and artistry as much as for how fast they can go. Three extremely recognizable Italian car manufacturers are Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini. Italy also produces Moto Guzzi, Aprilia and Ducati motorcycles, as well as Vespa scooters.Famous Italians include Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dante, Machiavelli, Antonio Vivaldi, Amerigo Vespucci, Monica Bellucci, Pope John Paul I, Giorgio Armani, and many, many more.Some popular cities to visit in Italy are:Rome (also the site of Vatican City)VeniceFlorenceMilanNaplesVeronaTurinBolognaPerugiaGenoaItaly is home to two independent States; the papal State of Vatican City, and the Republic of San Marino. Vatican City (also called Holy See) is a walled enclave within the city of Rome, and presided over by the Pope, who is the head of the Roman Catholic Church.Situated on and around the three peaks of Monte Titano, the Republic of San Marino covers just 24 square miles. San Marino is also the name of the Republics principal city. Passports are not required if entering from Italy ("Italy Travel Guide - Ultimate Italy").Italian culture is heavily influenced by the Catholic religion. Family is at the heart of social structures, with respect and deference paid to elders. Public display of religious icons (such as crosses and statues of saints) is not uncommon, even for office buildings ("Kwintessential").Milan is one of the fashion capitals of the world, and fashion is important to the Italian people. People are judged on their appearance, and first impressions are lasting ("Kwintessential").One should wait to refer to acquaintances by their first name until invited to do so.Visiting Italy and interested in guided cultural tours? Look no further! We can teach you some more facts about Italy on our walking tours in Ancient Rome, TheVatican and St. Peters's, Milan, Assisi, Florence, Venice and more!Resources:"Background Note: Italy." U.S. Department of State. Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, 12 May 2011. Web. 25 Jun 2011."Places." Italy Travel Guide - Ultimate Italy. Ultimate Italy, 2000 - 2005. Web. 25 Jun 2011."Italy - Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette." Kwintessential. Kwintessential Ltd., 2010. Web. 25 Jun 2011.Le Baccanti Tours is a luxury travel company located in Tuscany, Italy. We have been specializing in gourmet food, wine and cultural tours of Italy for over 10 years. We pride ourselves on showing our discerning group of clients the authentic and beautiful Italy of their dreams.