Country profile - Distinguishing factors (Italy)
Italy is located in Southern Europe and comprises the long, boot-shaped Italian Peninsula, the land between the peninsula and the Alps, and a number of islands including Sicily, Sardinia, Elba and about 70 smaller ones. The environmental character of the Italian territories is similar to other Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Greece. Similarities are especially observed for the dry and seasonally hot Mediterranean climate, the north-south gradients in soil characteristics, and the importance of the elevation gradient in determining natural vegetation quality and cover.
Italy’s territorial surface is 301 336 km2. Its territory is characterised by a combination hills covering 41.6 % of the country, and mountains covering 35.2 %, and a relatively long coast line of 8 353 km. This combination ensures highly diversified landscapes and climate conditions.
Italy has a mainly temperate climate with regional variations and continental characteristics especially in the north. In summer the northern parts of Italy are warm with occasional rainfall, the central region is somewhat stifled by humidity and the south scorches under dry heat. In winter, conditions in the main northern cities are dominated by cold, damp and fog; in central regions winter temperatures approach freezing, while temperatures in the south of the country are more favourable averaging 10-20 °C.