• Vatican City!

    Vatican City: Vatican Museums. Go Now!

    Vatican City
    The smallest country in the world offers the heart of Catholicism and among the world's finest art collections, including the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms (ceiling pictured). Go to Vatican City!

  • Macedonia!

    Macedonia: Traditional architecture. Go Now!

    Macedonia
    Macedonia is a country still finding its unique identity, but its architecture is already one of a kind. Explore Macedonia!

  • Netherlands!

    Netherlands: Wooden shoes. Go Now!

    Netherlands
    This low country might be small, but it maintains a unique place in history and culture. Explore the Netherlands!

  • Austria!

    Austria: Belvedere Palace. Go Now!

    Austria
    Belvedere Palace (pictured) is just one of many palaces found in Vienna. The capital is a good start to Austria, which also features the Alps, the Lakes District, and incredible history & food. Go Now!

  • Ukraine!

    Ukraine: Traditional Village. Go Now!

    Ukraine
    Ukrainian culture is based on village life, particularly that found in the Carpathian Mountains (pictured). Begin Your Journey!

  • Latvia!

    Latvia: Art Nouveau in Riga. Go Now!

    Latvia
    Latvia is small, but has a diverse history, foods, and architecture (shown), which includes aspects from both Eastern and Western Europe. Begin Your Journey!

Geography, Weather, & Wildlife of Italy

Geography

Italian Geography - Muhlwald in the Alps
Muhlwald in the Alps

Italy is a peninsula that juts south into the Mediterranean Sea. Beyond the mainland peninsula, Italy also owns a few islands off its shores, including Sardinia to its west and Sicily to its southwest. Italy is bordered by France (west), Slovenia (east), Austria (northeast), and Switzerland (north).

Geographically, Italy is a very mountainous country with an extremely long coastline. In the north of the country are the Alps, which are very tall and many parts are inaccessible. From these mountains a number of large rivers flow south and east, many of which drain into the Adriatic Sea. This northern area is also very flat and very densely populated. From here moving north-south along the peninsula there is a "spine-like" mountain chain dividing the country. These mountains gradually rise and fall, making them fairly accessible as they slope down to the coasts, which are flat. Likewise, both Sardinia and Sicily are fairly mountainous, but accessible.

Weather

Italian Geography - Tuscany
Tuscany

Italy is a fairly large country, but doesn't typically experience the extreme colds and snow outside the Alps. Although most of the country doesn't receive snow, the country's weather still varies due to the length of the country running north-south and due to the country's mountains. Winters (December-February) are cold and snowy in the Alps, with temperatures regularly below freezing, but in nearby Milan, snow is rare as the temperature averages about 40˚ F (5˚ C). The further south one travels the warmer the weather gets except in the mountains running the length of the country, which are always cooler. Although many cities, including Rome, get snow, only towns and cities surrounded by mountains tend to get cold enough to sustain snow for weeks at a time. The island of Sicily and the southern part of the country tends to be warm year round, with the coldest days of winter still averaging 55˚ F (13˚ C).

Italy in the summer outside the Alps is extremely hot; the Alps averages about 65-70˚ F (20˚ C) during this time. The western and southern parts of the country can receive heat waves from the sea and North Africa making these areas, including Rome nearly unbearable as daily highs average 90˚ F (22˚ C).

The late spring and early fall (autumn) are a bit cooler and can fall dramatically as these seasons near winter. Rome, for example has daily highs of about 72˚ F (22˚ C) during these seasons.

Wildlife

Italian Geography - Sardinia coast
Sardinia coast

Much of Italy's native wildlife is now confined to the mountains, forests, and the lakes or rivers. In the mountains marmots, ibex, rabbits, and deer are still fairly common, while other mammals, like the bear are nearly extinct in the region. The rivers, lakes, and Mediterranean Sea are still home to significant numbers of wildlife though. Trout, sturgeon, and other fish are found in lakes and rivers, while the Mediterranean is home to tuna, swordfish, and other sea life, both large and small.

There a hundreds of bird species that travel through Italy as they migrate, while others find the peninsula nation a permanent home. There are also a fair number of amphibians and reptiles in certain areas depending on the particular species and season.

This page was last updated: March, 2013