Learn more about Italian people
|Total population||c. 120 - 140 million (est.)|
|Regions with significant populations|| Italy:|
|Language||Italian (including dialects), Sicilian, Sardinian, Ladin, Friulian|
|Religion|| predominantly Roman Catholic <tr>
<th style="background-color:#fee8ab;">Related ethnic groups</th> <td style="background-color:#fff6d9;">• other Latins
The Italians are a Southern European ethnic group found primarily in Italy and in a wide-ranging diaspora throughout Western Europe, the Americas and Australia. Their native language is Italian and their religion is predominantly Roman Catholic.
Speakers of a Romance language, the Italians have some eclectic origins, due to Italy's history of invasions and migrations. The appellation Italian is possibly derived from the Greeks who used the term to describe the Ancient Italic peoples, who pre-date the coming of Indo-European languages.
There are almost 56 million autochthonous Italians in Italy alone, while around 750,000 are found in Switzerland, and around 28,000 in San Marino (which is a small enclave in the Italian territory just like the Vatican). Smaller groups can also be found in Slovenia and Croatia. There is a notable Italian diaspora in the United States (Italian Americans), Brazil (Italian Brazilians), Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay, Canada (Italian Canadians), Belgium, Australia (Italian Australians), United Kingdom (Italian-Scots/Britalian), France and Germany (Italo-Germans). Historic patterns of late 19th century Italian migration to Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic, as well some Italian expatriates in Egypt, Israel, Ethiopia and South Africa are noted.
 Historical background
The History of Italy is ancient and stretches back millennia to Paleolithic times. With the rise of agriculture by the 6th millennium BC, Italy's population grew. Indo-European languages reached Italy between 2000 and 1200 BC and their speakers mingled with the local Italic tribes. The Bronze Age by the 2nd millennium BC ushered in a new era as Aegean influences permeated the Italian Peninsula. Minoan and Mycenaean influences can be seen in archaeological finds in the Lipari islands near Sicily. While, early Latin peoples dominated the north, Greeks settled parts of the south and the islands. The use of iron is seen as evidence of a strong influence from the north as the Latin language developed near the Tiber region.
By the 8th century BC, Greek colonists settled in eastern Sicily and along the coast near modern Naples. These early Greeks formed independent city-states that often fought each other, but mainly prospered as more Greeks arrived due to overpopulation and political struggles in Greece. Around the same time period, Etruscans began to develop a state of their own. The origins of the Etruscans remain a mystery; speculation points towards their early forebears coming from Lydia or Troy in western Anatolia, while other sources contend that they were an indigenous Italian people. Etruscan language remains undeciphered. Trade with the Greeks to the south brought prosperity to Italy.
Etruscans and Greeks began to lose their holdings in Italy as Gauls (a Celtic group) invaded the north and Romans overthrew their Etruscan rulers to become masters of the peninsula. From 509 to 202 BC, the Romans conquered all of Italy and engaged in the Punic wars to become masters of a new empire the likes of which had not been seen in western Eurasia. Until the death of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Empire knew few rivals in the world. It slowly declined due to Germanic invaders from the north, pressures from the Persians in the east and most importantly, an enormous economic recession in part caused by the massive civil wars of the 3rd Century.
Remnants of the empire survived and during the reign of Constantine I The Christian faith emerged as the main religion and completely transformed the early Italians. Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Lombards, and other Germanic peoples conquered Italy in the 5th and 6th centuries, but were themselves romanized. Bulgars also came with the Lombards. A small group, Alcek (also transliterated as 'Altsek' and 'Altzek'), led by Emnetzur, settled in northeast of Naples.
Italy emerged from the Middle Ages as an important center of religion, as the Papacy gave the region significant political clout and authority throughout the Christian world. The Normans conquered southern Italy and Sicily by the 11th century, but over time they were absorbed by the local population. Numerous city-states maintained a high degree of autonomy that led to literally hundreds of dialects that were often unintelligible to other Italians. The age of the Renaissance can be traced to the creative and commercial activity that began in Italy with the international trade and exchange of ideas coming through the powerful city-states such as Venice.
By the 16th century, many of the Italian city-states began to be dominated by the centralized nation-states of Spain and France and the Austrian Empire until the rise of Italian nationalism. Napoleon's efforts in fusing Italy into a single unit inspired many local nationalists in both the north and south to seek some form of unification. This risorgimento period in the 19th century saw various European powers intervening in Italy to carve out territories for themselves. Italy with the exception of Rome and Venice became a nation-state led by the House of Savoy in 1860. After ten years of stubborn resistance from the Pope and the clergy Rome was incorporated with the rest of Italy and made the capital of the new state, Italy was finally unified for the first time since the end of the 6th century AD. Major changes began to unfold in 1896, the country experienced unparalleled industrial growth and social progress. Following numerous conflicts including World War I and the rise and fall of a short lived Italian Empire with Italy joining the Axis Alliance in World War II, modern Italy emerged in its modern incarnation with borders that largely corresponded to an Italian majority population.
 Origins of Italian people
Italians have some varying physical characteristics, a fact that may result from the ancient settlement of the peninsula by ethnically different peoples other than the original native Italic tribes. The Gauls in the north, the Etruscans in Central Italy (Tuscany and parts of Umbria and Latium) and the Greeks in the south preceded the Romans, who in turn "Latinized" the whole country and preserved unity until the 5th century AD. Jewish settlements were established in Italy as early as the Roman Republic and survive to the present day.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, Italy was subjected to a number of invasions and colonisations, which did little to affect its ethnic composition. The peninsula was invaded from the north by Germanic tribes crossing the Alps, while various conquerors arrived by sea in the south. The Byzantine Greeks were an important power in the south for five centuries, fighting for supremacy against the Lombards of Benevento. The Germanic tribes underwent rapid Latinization and were soon inevitably assimilated into the native Latin majority of the peninsula. Greek-speakers were present in Calabria and eastern Apulia until the 11th century (end of Byzantine rule) and at a small scale survive today. Sicily was invaded by the Saracens in the 9th century, who remained in power until the Norman invasion in the early 11th century. The Normans reigned until 1282, to be succeeded by the Aragonese and the Spanish. In 1720, Sicily came under Austrian rule and was swapped between various European powers until Giuseppe Garibaldi conquered Sicily and Southern Italy, allowing for the annexation of the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies into the new Italian state in 1860.
There is a notable physical difference in complexion and general height between the upper northern third of Italy and the southern part of the country. Northern Italians generally have somewhat fairer complexions similar to central Europeans, as well as a higher frequency of light hair  and eyes, whereas most southern Italians have darker features<ref name=Perry>Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, History and Geography of Human Genes, Abridged paperback edition.</ref>. Due to regular population movements, the differences are not stark or pronounced, but do indeed exist, and may correspond to the ancient Italo-Celtic and Greco-Etruscan settlements rather than the various later invasions of Germanic tribes.
 Italian society and culture
Italians have historically been more loyal to their local regions than to the state. However, the Italian language has increasingly quite replaced the numerous dialects and other languages once prominent in Italy such as Sicilian, Venetian, Emiliano-Romagnolo, Lombard, Sardinian, Piedmontese, Ligurian, Friulian, Ladin and Neapolitan. Thousands of German Bavarian speakers remain in the extreme north mainly in the South Tyrol region.
A general north-south divide has persisted over time and the economic disparity between the regions was once so pronounced that millions immigrated to the Americas, northern Italy and to other parts of Western Europe such as France and Belgium. Economic conditions in the poorer regions of Italy have improved to the point that they receive immigrants rather than send immigrants outwards. Italy is one of the most rural countries in Europe, with only 67% of Italians living in an urban area compared to 76% of French, 88% of Germans and 90% of Britons, with the vast majority of the population living outside of large (over 1,000,000 population) cities.
Religious and conservative values, which have always been very strong in Italy, have gone into relative decline over the last decades, following the general trend on the European continent.
 Italian diaspora
- Main article: Italian diaspora
Italy became an important country of emigrants after 1870. More than 10 million Italians emigrated between 1870 and 1920, mostly from the country's underdeveloped South. In the beginning (1870-1880), the main destinations of the migrants were other European countries (France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg). Most Italians worked in these countries for some time and then returned to Italy.
From 1880 until the end of the 19th century, the main destinations of Italian immigrants were Brazil and Argentina. Brazil was in need of workers to embrace the vast coffee plantations, and Italian immigrants became the main source of man power in that country, whereas Argentina was attracting immigrants in order to populate the country. Starting in the late 19th century, the United States became the main destination of Italian immigrants, settling mainly in the New York metropolitan area, as well as cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and, more recently, Miami. Other countries that received large numbers of Italians were Australia, Canada, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Nowadays, there is a very large Italian diaspora. About 70 million people of Italian origin live outside Italy, mainly in South America (namely in Brazil which has 25 million Italian descendants and Argentina with 13 million). North America (mainly the USA and Canada) has over 17 million Italian descendants, even though unnofficial estates claim that there is as much as 26 million Italians in the United States alone.
 Within Italy
From the Lombard invasion until the mid-nineteenth century, Italy was not the nation-state as we know it today. The landmass was fractured into various kingdoms, duchies, and domains. Over the centuries, dialects or regional minority languages and customs evolved differently as a result of isolation of the kingdoms from one another, and their being influenced by foreign powers. While all these states were similar in that they retained basic elements of Roman language and culture, each one built upon this ancient culture to develop their own independent culture and ethnic identity. Even to this day, Italians living in their homeland define themselves by their home region, and many speak both standard Italian and local dialect or regional language.
 See also
- List of Italians
- Demographics of Italy
- Italian American
- Italian Australian
- Italian Mexican