Known for its distinctive 'boot' shape that juts southwards into the Mediterranean, Italy has a long and illustrious history. The Roman Empire was, of course, founded here and Rome itself was for centuries the centre of Western civilisation. In the north of the country on the border with France, Switzerland and Austria, the Italian Alps and the striking limestone range of the Dolomites provide unlimited opportunities for exciting trekking and climbing holidays. These can be as varied as making an ascent of Gran Paradiso (the only uniquely Italian 4000 metre summit) or hiking and scrambling on the 'via ferrata' of Val Badia. Further south, the famously beautiful Amalfi Coast is a great location for an easy walking week, including an ascent of Vesuvius. Sicily and Sardinia are the two largest Mediterranean islands and they both belong to Italy. There is excellent walking on each of them, including (on Sicily) the chance to hike on Mount Etna.


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 and Sardinia. Its total land area is 294,020 km². Italy shares its borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, San Marino and the Vatican City. Its coastline stretches for 7,600 km along the Adriatic, Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas. Italy is a mountainous country, with the Alps as the northern boundary and the Apennine Mountains forming the backbone of the peninsula. In between the two lies a large plain in the valley of the Po, the largest river in Italy, which flows 652 km (405 miles) eastward from the Cottian Alps to the Adriatic. In the north of the country are a number of subalpine lakes, the largest of which is Garda (370 km², 143 sq miles). Several islands form part of Italy. The largest are Sicily (25,708 km², 9,926 square miles) and Sardinia (24,090 km², 9,301 sq miles). There are also a few active volcanoes: Etna, located on Sicily, is the largest active volcano in Europe and Vesuvius, is the only active volcano on the mainland of Europe.

Time Zone

The time in Italy is GMT + 1 hour and GMT + 2 hours in summer time.