Italy, often referred to as the boot because of its high-heeled boot-like shape, is bordered by Austria, France and Switzerland and is the 11th largest country in continental Europe. The weather in Italy is warmer than in the UK because it is closer to the Equator. The capital city of Italy is Rome. Rome was home to the Ancient Romans, whose civilisation grew into a huge empire. The official currency in Italy is the euro. Over 60 million people live in Italy. Italy was the birthplace of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural achievements in poetry, painting and architecture that lasted from the 14th to the 17th centuries. Famous and typical artworks during the Renaissance are David statue by Michelangelo The school of Athens by Raphael Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci The longest river in Italy is the river Po with the length of 652 kilometers and goes through many important Italian towns Vatican City is a microstate that is nestled inside the city of Rome and surrounded by a stone wall. It is the home of the Pope, who is the head of the Roman Catholic Church. San Marino, also known as the Most Serene Republic of San Marino, is another microstate within Italy, situated on the Italian Peninsula on the north-eastern side of the Apennine Mountains. It operates independently to Italy and even has its own football team. Two adjacent islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sardinia and Sicily, are also part of Italy. Sicily is home to Mount Etna, which is the tallest and most active volcano in Europe. Italians are famous for their inventions and discoveries. The Italian explorers Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. While Marco Polo explored the East. Leonardo da Vinci was a scientist and artist who was the first to prove the world is round and not flat Alessandro Volta studied electricity, hence the name “volt” to measure a unit of electricity Italy’s flag represents three virtues: hope (green), faith (white), and charity (red). The thermometer is an Italian invention. Galileo Galilei invented a water thermoscope in 1593. Pizza is surely one of the most famous Italian culinary exports and in Italy, it is usually baked in a wood-fired oven and very thin, loaded with fresh vegetables or thinly sliced ham, salami, artichokes or olives. Italian pasta is renowned worldwide and there are more than 200 different shapes.