A peninsula of southern Europe, projecting into the Mediterranean Sea between the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas.
Italy did not become a sovereign nation until the early 1870s, when it was unified as a Kingdom. Prior to this, it was, much like Germany until the end of the Franco-Prussian War (also the early 1870s), a balkanised region made up of a great number of smaller nations. During the Middle Ages significant states in what is now Italy included the Kingdom of Sicily, the Kingdom of Naples, the Kingdom of Lombardy, the Republic of Florence and great trading city-states like Genoa and Venice. The Catholic Church also controlled large tracts of the peninsula.
Italy is roughly shaped like a boot, with Sicily being the ball about to be kicked through the Straits of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic Ocean.