Year of EU entry: Founding member / Capital city: Rome / Population: 58.8 million
Italy is primarily a mountainous country, running from the Alps to the central Mediterranean Sea. There are two small independent states within peninsular Italy: the Vatican City in Rome, and the Republic of San Marino.
The country’s main economic sectors are tourism, fashion, engineering, chemicals, motor vehicles and food. Italy is a member of the G8 group of industrialised countries and it is the world's seventh largest economy. Italy's northern regions are per capita amongst the richest in Europe.
Already the centre of a vast Roman empire which left a huge archaeological, cultural and literary heritage, the Italian peninsula saw the birth of medieval humanism and the Renaissance. This further helped to shape European political thought, philosophy and art via figures like Machiavelli, Dante, Leonardo and Galileo.