The Italian people are a Southern European ethnic group located primarily in Italy, Switzerland, France and, by virtue of a wide-ranging diaspora, throughout Western Europe, the Americas and Australia. They are one of the Latin European peoples and their native language is Italian, and historically Italian dialects and other regional languages.

There are almost 59 million Italians in Italy, about 750,000 in Switzerland, and about 28,000 in San Marino. There is also a large but undefined, autochthonous population in France (Nice, Corsica). Smaller groups can also be found in Slovenia and Croatia, primarily Istria. There are notable populations of Italian descent in Uruguay (Italian Uruguayans), Brazil (Italian Brazilians), Argentina (Italian Argentine), the United States (Italian Americans), Venezuela (Italo-Venezuelans), Canada (Italian Canadians), Australia (Italian Australians), Peru (Italian Peruvians), and throughout Europe—mainly in Belgium, United Kingdom (Italian-Scots/Britalian), France and Germany (Italo-Germans).

Origins of Italian people

The Italian people have somewhat varied European origins apart from the original Ancient Italic peoples: Northern Italy had a strong Celtic presence in Cisalpine Gaul until the Romans conquered and colonised the area in the 2nd century; the central portion of the Italian peninsula was inhabited by the Etruscans and Italic people; and southern Italy and Sicily was settled significantly by Greeks (see Magna Graecia).

The Romans Romanized the entire peninsula and preserved common unity until the 5th century AD. After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West in 476 AD, the Italian peninsula was invaded by Germanic peoples crossing the Alps, establishing settlements in north-central Italy and to a lesser degree in the south. The Germanic tribes underwent rapid Romanization.

The Byzantine Greeks were an important power in southern Italy for five centuries, fighting for supremacy first against the Ostrogoths and later against the Lombards of Benevento. Greek speakers were fairly common in Calabria and Apulia until the 11th century when their rule ended: a few small Greek-speaking communities still exist in southern Italy and Sicily.

In 827 AD, the island of Sicily was invaded starting the period of Arab and North African influence in Sicily and Apulia, especially Bari. Arabs controlled Sicily until the Norman Christians conquered much of southern Italy and all of Sicily in 1091 AD, and began expelling them. []

There are also still small Greek fishing villages in Calabria, Maltese-Italian residents whose family originated from Malta under Italian and then British rule from the 18th to the mid 20th centuries, and Catalan communities in Sardinia to this day.

For more than 500 years (12th to 17th centuries) after Norman rule, Swabian (German) and Angevin (French) swapped control of regions in Italy, predominately southern Italy and Sicily. During the 11th through 16th century the majority of city-states from Northern and Central Italy remained independent, nurturing the era now known as the Renaissance. Habsburg Spain and Bourbon France dominated in southern Italy, resulting in some cultural and linguistic influences.

In 1720, Sicily came under Austrian Habsburg rule and was swapped between various European powers until Giuseppe Garibaldi conquered Sicily and southern Italy, allowing for the annexation of the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies into the new Italian state in 1860 (see Risorgimento).

Italian society and culture

From the Lombard invasion until the mid-nineteenth century, Italy was not the nation-state it is today. The Italian regions were fractured into various kingdoms, duchies, and domains. As a result, Italian dialects or regional minority languages and customs evolved independently. While all Italian states were similar and they retained basic elements of Roman language and culture, each developed its own regional culture and identity. As a result, even to this day, Italians define themselves primarily by their home region, province or city, and many still speak a local dialect or regional language in addition to standard Italian. Regional diversity is important to many Italians, and some regions also have strong local identities

The Italian language has steadily replaced the numerous dialects and Gallo-italic and Italic languages, such as Sicilian, Venetian, Emiliano-Romagnolo, Lombard, Sardinian, Piedmontese, Ligurian (also known as Genoese), Friulian, Ladin, Franco-Provençal and Neapolitan. Standard Italian originated in literature of the 12th to 15th centuries, and was based on the dialects of Tuscany, along with influences of Sicilian and Venetian. In the 19th Century, Standard Italian became more common and helped unify the country.

Some non-Italian speaking minorities live within Italy. Thousands of German Bavarian speakers remain in the extreme northern province of Bolzano-Bozen. Portions of the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region have a small Slovene-speaking minority of Slavic origin. A small cluster of French-speaking people live in the province of Aosta and a small Catalan-speaking enclave in Sardinia goes back five centuries after first settled by Catalans from Catalonia in Spain. Two minor Italic languages are spoken outside of modern Italy- Corsican in Corsica, France and Romansh in eastern Switzerland.

Since the 19th century, the economic conditions of the agrarian southern and north-eastern regions resulted in mass migration from these regions to the Americas, industrial parts of northern Italy, and to other parts of Western Europe such as France and Belgium. By the 1970s economic conditions in the poorer regions of Italy improved to the point that even the less-developed regions of South Italy received more immigrants than it sent outwards. Today, Italy is less urban than many other countries in Europe, with 67% of Italians living in a major urban area- compared to 76% of French, 88% of Germans and 90% of Britons. The vast majority of Italians live outside of the large (over 1,000,000 population) cities.cite web |url=|title= 2005 World Development Indicators - Urbanization|accessdate=2007-05-02 |date= 2005|publisher=|format=PDF]

Italian diaspora and Italians abroad

There is a history of Italians working and living outside of the Italian peninsula since ancient times. Italian bankers and traders expanded to all parts of Europe and the Mediterranean, sometimes creating outposts. In medieval times, there was a strong presence in Flanders, Lyon and the Middle East. Since the Renaissance, the services of Italian architects and artists were sought by many of Europe's royal courts, as far as Russia. This migration, though generally small in numbers, and sometimes ephemeral, pre-dates the unification of Italian states.

The Dalmatian cities retained their Romanic culture and language in cities such as Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik. The 1816 Austro-Hungarian census registered 66,000 Italian speaking people between the 301,000 inhabitants of Dalmatia, or 22% of the total Dalmatian population. [Montani, Carlo. "Venezia Giulia, Dalmazia - Sommario Storico - An Historical Outline"]

Italy became an important source for emigrants after about 1870. More than 10 million Italians emigrated between 1870 and 1920. In the beginning (1870-1880), the main destination of the migrants were other European countries (France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg), where most Italians worked for some time and then returned to Italy. During this time many Italians also went to the Americas, especially to Brazil, Argentina and the United States. From about 1880 until the end of the early 1900s, the main destinations for Italian immigrants were Brazil, Argentina as well as Uruguay. Smaller migration patterns of Italians went to Mexico, the United States, and Corsicans constituted a large proportion of immigrants to Puerto Rico (see Corsican immigration to Puerto Rico).

Brazil has the largest Italian population outside Italy. The country was in need of workers to embrace the vast coffee plantations, and Italian immigrants became a main source of manpower for its agriculture and industry. Argentina and Uruguay were rapidly industrializing and attracting immigrants for work and settlers to populate the country. Italian immigration heavily influenced the culture and development of these countries (Today, Argentina and Uruguay have the highest national concentrations of Italians outside of Europe - about 50% of the population in each country). [,9171,901030120-407301,00.html]

Starting in the early 20th century until the 1950s, the United States became a main destination for Italian immigrants, most settling mainly in the New York metropolitan area, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit , Cleveland and Chicago. Other countries that received large numbers of Italians, primarily from about 1940 to the 1970s, were Australia, Canada, and Venezuela. During this period smaller migration patterns of Italians went to New Zealand and South Africa.

In a wave of temporary Italian migration, from 1920 to the early 1970s (peaking in the periods of WWI and WWII), Italian "guest workers" went mostly to Austria, Belgium, France, West Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg. [] Like the earlier waves, most Italians returned to Italy, but some did remain and assimilated in these countries.

The migration of Italians has at times been very large and has influenced much of the world. It can be estimated as many as 70 million people of at least some Italian origin live outside Europe, primarily in the Americas. Large numbers of people with full or significant Italian ancestry are found in Brazil (28 million), Argentina (20 million), the United States (17.2 million), Canada (1.5 million) and Australia (1 million).

Significant Italian expatriate population is noted in Cyprus, Egypt, Eritrea, Greece, Israel, Malta, Morocco, Spain, Turkey and South AfricaFact|date=June 2008.

In 1910 there were 105,000 Italians in Tunisia, as against 35,000 Frenchmen. The size of the Italian Egyptian community had reached around 55,000 just before World War II, forming the second largest expatriate community in Egypt. Former Italian communities once thrived in their African colonies of Eritrea (50,000 Italian settlers in 1935), [ [ Eritrea—Hope For Africa’s Future] ] Somalia and Libya (150,000 Italians settled in Libya, constituting about 18% of the total population). [ [ Libya - Italian colonization] ] Plans envisioned an Italian colony of 500,000 settlers in Libya by the 1960s. [ [ Libya - The Fourth Shore] ] There was emigration to Ethiopia as well. During the five-year occupation of Ethiopia, roughly 300,000 Italians were absorbed into East Africa (there were over 49,000 Italians living in Asmara in 1939, and over 38,000 in Addis Ababa). But fully one third of these Italians were military. [Barker, p.154]

Today, with the economic assimilation of the European Union Italians, as other Europeans, are mobile throughout Europe and can be found in most major centres in Europe.


Italians are predominantly Roman Catholic. [ [ CIA - The World Factbook - Italy ] ] Others may be Protestants (especially in Italy and the United States), Jews, or Muslims.

Contribution to humanity

The people of Italy have contributed significantly to world culture and scientific, and technological, progress continuously since ancient times. In the Arts, Italy produced some of the most widely known sculptors, writers and painters. Notable examples include Michelangelo, Dante, Pirandello and Raphael. Italian composers and musicians, such as Vivaldi, Rossini and Verdi, contributed to the evolution of western music, and Italians are cited with the creation of the opera; some of the most famous luthiers are Italians, like Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari.

Famous Italian scientists include Leonardo Da Vinci, a genius in several scientific disciplines, Galileo, the first to describe the laws of movement and use explicitly the experimental method, Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the electric battery, Antonio Meucci, inventor of the telephone, Antonio Pacinotti, inventor of the direct-current electrical generator, or dynamo, and of the electric engine, Galileo Ferraris, inventor of the alternating-current motor, Eugenio Barsanti and Felice Matteucci, who patented the first working efficient internal combustion engine, Guglielmo Marconi, the first to develop the wireless broadcasting, known as radio, Enrico Fermi the discoverer of neutron chain reaction and builder of the first atomic pile.

Italian contributions to architecture and engineering are numerous since ancient times. Renowned architects include Brunelleschi, Bernini and Palladio.

The rise of humanism and modern commerce can be attributed to conditions found in Italy during the Renaissance. This ambience also lead to the rise of the "universal man", of which Leonardo da Vinci often is considered as the prime example.

ee also

*List of Italians
*List of Sardinians
*List of Sicilians
*Demography of Italy
*Italian Citizenship
*Italian diaspora
*European ethnic groups
*Genetic history of Europe
*White Latin American


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