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Geography: Geography


Southern Europe, a peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea, northeast of Tunisia

Geographic Coordinates

42 50 N, 12 50 E

Map References



Total: 301,340 sq km

Land: 294,140 sq km

Water: 7,200 sq km

Note: Includes Sardinia and Sicily

Country comparison to the world: 73

Area Comparative: Almost twice the size of Georgia; slightly larger than Arizona

Land Boundaries

Total: 1,836.4 km

Border countries (6): Austria 404 km, France 476 km, Holy See (Vatican City) 3.4 km, San Marino 37 km, Slovenia 218 km, Switzerland 698 km

Coastline: 7,600 km

Maritime Claims

Territorial sea: 12 nm

Continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation


Predominantly Mediterranean; alpine in far north; hot, dry in south


Mostly rugged and mountainous; some plains, coastal lowlands


Mean elevation: 538 m

Lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m

Highest point: Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) de Courmayeur (a secondary peak of Mont Blanc) 4,748 m

Natural Resources

Coal, antimony, mercury, zinc, potash, marble, barite, asbestos, pumice, fluorspar, feldspar, pyrite (sulfur), natural gas and crude oil reserves, fish, arable land

Land Use

Agricultural land: 47.1% (2011 est.)

Arable land: 22.8% (2011 est.)

Permanent crops: 8.6% (2011 est.)

Permanent pasture: 15.7% (2011 est.)

Forest: 31.4% (2011 est.)

Other: 21.5% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land: 39,500 sq km (2012)

Population Distribution

Despite a distinctive pattern with an industrial north and an agrarian south, a fairly even population distribution exists throughout most of the country, with coastal areas, the Po River Valley, and urban centers (particularly Milan, Rome, and Naples), attracting larger and denser populations

Natural Hazards

Regional risks include landslides, mudflows, avalanches, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding; land subsidence in Venice

Volcanism: significant volcanic activity; Etna (3,330 m), which is in eruption as of 2010, is Europe's most active volcano; flank eruptions pose a threat to nearby Sicilian villages; Etna, along with the famous Vesuvius, which remains a threat to the millions of nearby residents in the Bay of Naples area, have both been deemed Decade Volcanoes by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, worthy of study due to their explosive history and close proximity to human populations; Stromboli, on its namesake island, has also been continuously active with moderate volcanic activity; other historically active volcanoes include Campi Flegrei, Ischia, Larderello, Pantelleria, Vulcano, and Vulsini

Current Environmental Issues

Air pollution from industrial emissions such as sulfur dioxide; coastal and inland rivers polluted from industrial and agricultural effluents; acid rain damaging lakes; inadequate industrial waste treatment and disposal facilities


  • Strategic location dominating central Mediterranean as well as southern sea and air approaches to Western Europe