Italy is a long peninsula shaped like a boot surrounded on the west by
the Tyrrhenian Sea and on the east by the Adriatic. It is bordered by France,
Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia to the north. The Apennine Mountains form the
backbone of the peninsula; the Alps form its northern boundary. The largest of
its many northern lakes is Garda (143 sq miles-370 sq km); the Po, its principal
river, flows from the Alps on Italy's western border and crosses the Lombard
plain to the Adriatic Sea. Several islands form part of Italy, the largest of
which are Sicily (9,926 sq miles-25,708 sq km) and Sardinia (9,301 sq
miles-24,090 sq km).
Italy is one of the popular vacation countries in Europe, all seasons being
good for a visit. In summer, Italy is an international playground with visitors
from all continents mingling with vacationing Italians at the famous resorts.
Spring comes early to Italy and autumn lingers - and so will the wise traveller
who wants to enjoy at a more leisurely pace the art centres, the large cities
and the holiday resorts such as those in the Lombardian Lake region where spring
and fall are ideal seasons.
In winter, the Italian Alps are unequalled for scenery and skiing. In
northern Italy are some of the world's most renowned winter sports resorts,
easily reached from such centres as Torino, chief city of the westernmost
Piemonte region; from Milan, hub of the central mountain and lake district; and
from Venice, the main city of the eastern region. Skiing is also a summer sport
in the Torino Alps and the lofty mountains surrounding the Valle d’Aosta.