Italy, officially the Italian Republic (Italian: Italia, IPA: /i'talja/ or Repubblica Italiana, IPA: /re'pubblika ita'ljana/), is a Southern European country, situated on the western side of the European continent. It comprises the Italian peninsula, the Po River valley, and two large islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia, and shares its northern alpine boundary with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The country also shares a sea border with Croatia. The independent countries of San Marino and the Vatican City are enclaves within Italian territory.
For more than 3,000 years Italy witnessed many migrations and invasions from Germanic, Celtic, Frankish, Byzantine Greek, Saracen, Norman, and the French Angevin, and Lombard peoples. Italy was also home to many well-known and influential civilisations, including the Etruscans, Greeks and the Romans.
Italy is called Belpaese (Italian for beautiful country) by its inhabitants, due to the beauty and variety of its landscapes and for having the world's largest artistic patrimony; the country is home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (40 as of January 1, 2006).
Presently, Italy is a highly developed country with the 6th highest GDP in 2004, a member of the G8 and a founding member of what is now the European Union, having signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957.
Inhabitants of Italy are referred to as Italians (Italian: Italiani). There exist several theories concerning the origin of the name "Italia", but the most widely accepted etymology is that it is derived from the ancient Greek word italos (bull).