The Roman Empire broke into two parts in 395 AD; the Western Roman Empire (based in Italy) soon dissolved, in 476 AD, following pressure from migrating Germanic tribes. Over the next millennium, Italian politics was decentralised, with power in the hands of city-states, with Holy Roman Emperors and Popes also having a stake in the country. The power of the city-states reached its zenith during the Renaissance, before defeat in the Italian Wars led to foreign domination (Habsburg Spain from 1559 to 1713, Habsburg Austria from 1713 to 1796, and France from 1805 to 1814).
The campaigns of Giuseppe Garibaldi led to the formation of modern-day Italy in 1861. Heavy loss of life and socialist movements resulting from World War I and the Russian Revolution, led to anarchic conditions, and ultimately to the formation of Fascism (following a coup by Benito Mussolini in 1922). Mussolini's style of dictatorship served as a blueprint for Nazi Germany and Falangist Spain; his two decades of rule were ended by the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943. Since 1946, Italy has been a republic, and it was a founding member of the European Economic Community (which in time became the European Union).
Coordinates: 42°56'N 12°64'E
Capital Coordinates: 41°54'N 12°29'E
Other Main Cities: Milan, Naples, Turin
Official Language(s): Italian
Ethnic Group(s): Italian 96%, North African Arab 0.9%, Italo-Albanian 0.8%, Albanian 0.5%, German 0.4%, Austrian 0.4%, other 1%
Currency: Euro, €, EUR
GDP: $1.848 trillion
Time Zone: CET (UTC+1)
International Dialling Code: 39
Internet TLD: .it
Electricity Voltage: 220 Volts AC (50Hz)