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Located in southern Europe, Italy, formally the Italian Republic, is made up of a peninsula bounded by the Alps and a number of islands that surround it. Italy is a country in Southern Europe that is situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It is also often referred to as a part of Western Europe. With Rome as its capital and biggest city, Italy is a unitary parliamentary republic with a total geographical area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi). It borders France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia on the east and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino on the west. A territorial exclave of Italy in Switzerland (Campione) and a marine exclave in Tunisian seas are both recognised by the United Nations (Lampedusa). Italy, with a population of about 60 million people, is the third-most populous member state of the European Union, behind only Germany and France.

As a result of its geographical centrality in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, Italy has traditionally been home to a diverse range of peoples and cultural traditions. Additionally, in addition to the various ancient peoples dispersed throughout what is now modern-day Italy, the most predominant of which were the Indo-European Italic peoples who gave the peninsula its name, beginning with the classical era, Phoenicians and Carthaginians established colonies mostly in insular Italy, Greeks established settlements in the so-called Magna Graecia of Southern Italy, and Etruscan and Celts settled in central and northern Italy, respectively. In the eighth century BC, an Italic tribe known as the Latins united to establish the Roman Kingdom, which ultimately evolved into a republic with a government composed of the Senate and the People. After first conquesting and assimilating its neighbours on the Italian peninsula, the Roman Republic went on to expand and conquer portions of Europe, North Africa, and Asia. As early as the first century BC, the Roman Empire had risen to prominence as a dominant power in the Mediterranean Basin and had established itself as a major cultural-political-religious centre, ushering in the Pax Romana, a period of more than 200 years during which Italy's law, technology, economy, art, and literature flourished.