Where did opera begin? Why are wine, women and song so important to the Italians? What is the connection between Italy and the fastest tractor in the world? This book answers these questions, and many more, in a concise and lively overview of Italy: the country, its languages, its people, their way of life and culture and what makes them tick. If you are studying for examinations which require a knowledge of the background of Italy and its civilisation, or if you are learning the language, in, for example, an evening class and want to know more about the country, this is the book for you. If your job involves travel and business relations, it will provide valuable and practical information about the ways and customs of the people you are working with. Or if you simply have an interest in Italy for whatever reason, it will broaden your knowledge about the country and its inhabitants. The book is divided into three sections. Chapters one and two deal with the forces - historical, geographical, geological, demographical and linguistic - that have brought about the formation of the country we know as Italy and the language we know as Italian. Chapters three to seven deal with the wealth of creative aspects of Italian culture from the beginnings to the present day. These chapters take a look at the main areas or works of literature, art and architecture, music, traditions and festivals, science and technology, fashion, and food and drink, together with the people who have created and are still creating them. Chapters eight to eleven deal with aspects of contemporary Italian society and the practicalities of living in present-day Italy: the way the political structure of the country is organized, education, the environment, the workplace and how people spend their leisure time. The final chapter looks at the country's relations with the wider world, and takes a glance at the future. Each chapter ends with a section entitled 'Taking it Further', where you will find useful addresses, websites, suggested places to visit and things to see and do. The new edition takes into account any developments in Italian culture and society, such as the introduction of the euro, which have occurred since first publication.