Italian Curiosities

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Italy
Year of EU entry: Founding member (1952)
Member of Schengen area:Yes
Political system: Republic
Capital city: Rome
Total area: 301 263 km²
Population: 60 million
Currency: euro
Listen to the official EU language:  Italian

Italy is mainly mountainous, except for the Po plain in the north, and runs from the Alps to the central Mediterranean Sea. It includes the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, Elba and about 70 other smaller ones. There are two small independent states within peninsular Italy: the Vatican City in Rome, and the Republic of San Marino. The centre of the vast Roman Empire which left a huge archaeological, cultural and literary heritage, the Italian peninsula saw the birth of medieval humanism and the Renaissance. This further helped to shape European political thought, philosophy and art via figures like, Dante, Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo. The list of famous Italian artists is long and includes Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Tintoretto and Caravaggio. The country has also produced opera composers such as Verdi and Puccini and film-maker Federico Fellini. Italian cuisine is one of the most refined and varied in Europe, from the piquant flavours of Naples and Calabria to the pesto dishes of Liguria and the cheese and risotto dishes of the Italian Alps.

Belgica
Year of EU entry: Founding member (1952)
Member of Schengen area:Yes
Political system: Constitutional monarchy
Capital city: Brussels
Population: 10.7 million
Currency: euro
Listen to the official EU languages:German , French , Dutch Brussels hosts several international organisations: most of the European institutions are located here as well as the NATO headquarters. Independent since 1830, Belgium is a constitutional monarchy. The two houses of Parliament are the Chamber of Representatives, whose members are elected for a maximum period of four years, and the Senate or upper house, whose members are elected or co-opted. Given its political make-up, Belgium...
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