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Because of its geographical position, Italy has direct contacts with the main ethnic and cultural areas of old Europe (neo-Latin, Germanic, and Slav-Balkan areas) as well as, through North-African countries, with the world of Arab-Islamic civilisation. Consequently, while still anchored in the European and Western civilisation, Italy can be considered a natural link to those African and Asian countries which, bordering as they do on the same Mediterranean Sea, have shared historical events and cultural influences over many centuries.
Italian culture is deeply rooted in the ancient Greek and Roman civilisations which florished on the penisula for over a milllenium and left their imprint everywhere in the country in so many works of art, her legal system, her traditions.
After the decay of the Roman empire, through the Middle Ages and the Rennaissance up to the Modern Age, Italy developed her own civilisation, an interesting combination of traditions and innovations stimulated by the influence of the Christian faith. She became the cradle of visual arts, music, poetry, literature. At the same time, Italy promoted the development of the modern philosphical thought, of science and research and started establishing her universities the first of which ("Università degli Studi di Bologna" and "Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II") are among the most ancient in the world.
Soon after the second world war (1950-1960), Italy made a tremendous effort to recover its moral energies and financial resources, rebuild its infrastructures, promote literacy as well as education at all levels, grant equal political and educational opportunities to all layers of society, foster scientific progress and technological innovation, establish fruitful relations of political, cultural and conomic cooperation with all countries within and outside Europe.
In more recent years, Italy has played an important role in European higher education: it is one of the four countries that first engaged to create the so-called "European Area of Higher Education" (Sorbonne Declaration, May 1998), thus starting that type of higher education reform which, known as "Bologna Process" (Bologna Declaration, June 1999) is being implemented all over Europe.
Today Italy ranks among the 8 most industrialised countries in the world. Alongside some big companies, both state-owned and private, she has developed a sound network of small and medium-sized undertakings, promoted a few scientific parks, and is incentivating basic and applied research in a great variety of fields (biology, ICT, medicine, physics, etc.).