Italy is a long peninsula that juts out from the southern edge of central Europe into the Mediterranean Sea. In the north, the land is mountainous and borders Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland, San Marino and France. The elevation drops to sea level in the southern portion of the country. Additionally, the country includes approximately 70 islands near the mainland, including the relatively large islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
Italy has a total land area of approximately 116,345 square miles, which means that it is slightly larger than the U.S. state of Arizona. However, Italy has a relatively high population of 58.7 million people, which is equal to about 18 percent of the United States’ population. About 22 percent of the land area is considered arable, of which only 8 percent is permanently planted with crops. Italy’s coastline is 4,722 miles long, and its highest point is 15,577 feet high. Northern Italy is more industrialized than the southern part of the country, which is predominantly agricultural.
Italy is dominated by a Mediterranean climate, but the northern reaches of the country feature an alpine climate. The lowlands are often hot and dry. Because Italy’s location nearly bisects the Mediterranean, it is a place of great strategic importance in military affairs.