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The country consists of a continental portion that terminates at almost the forty-fourth parallel, between Spezia and Rimini, of peninsular, and of insular portions.
It is customary to divide the peninsular portions into two parts: Central Italy and Southern Italy, of which the former is contained between the forty-fourth parallel and a straight line that connects the mouth of the Trigno River with that of the Garigliano, marking the narrowest part of the peninsula between the Adriatic and the Tyrrhenian Seas.
Concerning the temporal power of the popes and events culminating in the seizure of Rome in 1870 see the article PAPAL STATES.
The coast-line of the Italian Peninsula measures 2100 miles.
Under the Romans and in the Middle Ages, under the powerful republics of Amalfi and of Pisa, of Genoa and of Venice, Italy ruled the Mediterranean Sea, which, however, after the discovery of America, ceased to be the centre of European maritime activity.
The name to signify a land abounding in cattle, was applied at first to a very limited territory.In consequence of the earthquake that destroyed Messina and Reggio (28 December, 1908), the ground has undergone alteration, and telluric movements show no tendency to cease.Italy has the characteristic shape of a riding boot, of which the top is represented by the Alps, the seam by the Apennines, and the toe, the heel, and the spur, respectively, by the peninsulas of Calabria, Salento, and Gargano.But the opening of the Suez Canal (1869) and the tunnelling of the Alps (Fréjus, 1871; St.Gothard, 1884; Simplon, 1906), which brought Central and North-western Europe into easy communication with Italian ports, and especially with Genoa, have restored to the Mediterranean much of its former importance and made of Italy a mighty bridge between Europe and the Levant.