|Area||301,230 sq km|
|Population||61,261,254 (est 2012)|
|Languages||French, German, Italian, Slovene|
|Religions||Christian (majority Roman Catholic 80%). atheists & agnostics 20%.|
|Life expectancy||81.86 (est 2012)|
From the brilliance of Leonardo da Vinci to the romantic beauty of Michelangelo, Italy has produced many of the world’s famous artists, opera singers and architects who continue to inspire millions.
Italy’s history is rich with the cultural influences of the Etruscans, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans. Its influence continued to be significant during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, helping to lead the way in European philosophy, science and art.
In 1922 Benito Mussolini became the fascist dictator of Italy, establishing links with Germany and later becoming an ally of the Axis Powers during the Second World War. In June 1946 a referendum was held on whether to keep the monarchy and led to the establishment of Italy as a republic. In 1948 a new constitution was adopted.
Since the constitution Italy has had a fairly insecure political life. While the effects of such continuous changes have been to moderate extremes of policy, it has also hampered attempts to tackle serious national problems such as poverty in the south and political corruption at all levels.
Widespread poverty in the south of Italy means 20 per cent of the population is unemployed. The islands of Sicily and Sardinia are particularly poor regions.
Italy has been rocked in recent years by scandal and corruption. The Mafia and the Neapolitan Camorra who have considerable influence at every level of society control much of the country’s wealth.
BMS involvement in Italy
In recent years BMS World Mission has been involved in church work in Italy. There are currently three BMS pastors working there: Amanda Redwood is finishing her language study, David and Ann Macfarlane in Reggio Calabria, and Huw and Alex Anderson in Matera.
Italian terrain is mostly rugged and mountainous with some plains and over 2,000 miles of coastland.
There is a sharp division between north and south Italy. The north has a flourishing economy, with industry and farming concentrated on the Po River plain. The south is less developed, relying almost entirely on agriculture. Vineyards and tourism are a major source of income.
Though no longer the state religion, Roman Catholicism forms Italy’s major denomination, with over 80 per cent of the population nominally Catholic. Protestants make up about one per cent of Italians, with the Waldensian church, with whom Baptists work, being the largest. The Baptist Union of Italy has 116 churches and roughly 6,200 members but only 29 pastors.