- A country in southern Europe; population 58,126,200 (est. 2009); official language, Italian; capital, Rome. Italian name Italia.
Italy was united under Rome from the 1st century bc to the collapse of the empire in ad 476. In the Middle Ages it was dominated by several city states and the papacy and was the centre of the Renaissance. Modern Italy was created in the mid 19th century by a movement led by Garibaldi; the Sardinian monarch, Victor Emmanuel II, became king of Italy in 1861. Italy entered the First World War on the Allied side in 1915. In 1922 the country was taken over by the Fascist dictator Mussolini; participation in support of Germany during the Second World War resulted in defeat and Mussolini’s downfall. Italy was a founder member of the EEC