Situated in southern Europe is the peninsula of Italy. This “boot shaped” neck of land is divided into 20 different regions, which include the two Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Four bodies of water surround Italy in the Mediterranean Sea, the Ionian Sea in the south, the Adriatic Sea in the east and the Tyrrhenian Sea and Ligurian Sea in the west.
Northern Italy is bordered by Austria, France, Slovenia and Switzerland and offers great places to ski. This area is home to the Alps with well known mountains like the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, which is the highest peak in Europe and through which the borders of France and Italy pass, making it both French and Italian. The Apennine mountain range extends 740 miles along the length of Italy and is divided into three segments: northern, central and southern all of which have numerous, long, hiking trails that meander through preserved forests with a miscellany of flora and fauna and are protected by the country’s national parks.
Much of the Italian terrain is volcanic and many of the 30 volcanoes, a few of which are still active, have formed small islands and archipelagos in the south. The most famous of these volcanoes are Mount Etna, which is the largest located on the island of Sicily and Mount Vesuvius near Naples.
There are more than 1500 lakes scattered throughout Italy. The eastern mountainous area encompasses many of the major, more famous Italian lakes like Lake Garda, the largest with an area of almost 143 square miles and also deemed the most beautiful. Lake Maggiore, the second largest, stretches for 40 miles and is the longest. Lake Como, shaped like an inverted “Y” is set against the foothills of the Alps and is one of the most visited with many impressive villas lining the shoreline, some dating from Roman times.
Many rivers zigzag across Italy including the Po, the longest at 405 miles, which flows eastward through northern Italy into the Gulf of Venice. Journeying through major cities like Florence and Pisa, the River Arno is 150 miles long and is vital to the area of Tuscany. The River Tiber rises in the Tuscan Apennines and flows south through Italy’s capital city of Rome into the Tyrrhenian Sea and it is the third longest river in Italy.
Northern Italy, with the major cities of Milan, Turin and Genoa, is a valuable, productive agricultural and industrial area. Central Italy has very few natural plains for cultivation and houses the cities of Florence, Siena, Pisa and Rome, which are renowned for artistic, archaeological and religious artifacts. Southern Italy is less agricultural, but it is well known for its natural beauty, beaches and picturesque, coastal scenery.