The meeting place of some of the most ancient cultures in the Old World, Italy has served as a cultural center to Europe for over 2000 years. From music, architecture, fine art and sculpture, to food, fashion and trade, Italy has undergone centuries of invention and exploration in the finer aspects of civilization and culture. World-renowned as one the premier locations to study music and opera, cities such as Florence and Rome are a favorite destination for music students. Furthermore, Italy's emergence from the ruins of the Roman empire make it particularly attractive for history buffs, art history students, and those with even a passing interest in architecture and sculpture.
Italy was the birthplace of one of the most important eras in western art - the Renaissance - as well as the home to some of fashion's biggest names. Masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Rafael, Titian, and Michaelangelo gathered their inspiration from Italy's rich religious culture, its beautiful landscapes, and its colorful and diverse people; their art has inspired successive generations of artists even up to the present period. In fashion, too, Italy has set the standard with modern fashion icons like Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, and Prada making their way to the forefront of the industry. Currently, Italy's fashion and textile industries contribute 73 billion euro to Italy's economy (approximately $83.5 billion USD).
Although for a period Italy's technology industries were woefully behind the rest of Europe, it is now playing catch-up. It's computer services and communications industries are growing rapidly, and it is becoming an area of interest to big corporations like AT&T, IBM, and Motorola. Over the past 6 years, the Italian IT industry has averaged an annual growth rate of 8%, adding over 920,000 new jobs in 2001 alone. In the area of DSL coverage, Telecom Italia Group - Italy's largest telephone and telecommunications provider - is planning on expanding ADSL coverage to about 80% of the population. Market analysts are predicting that these industries will only continue to grow at a high rate over the next 10 to 15 years, adding thousands more jobs to the Italian market.
Italy also has a unique geographic position, located at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa, which provides ample opportunity for those interested in studying how these regions have affected Italy's politics, economy, ethnic composition, arts and culture. Possible topics of study could include the effect of Mediterranean trade on Italy's economy; the role of NATO and the EU in Italy's relationship with its neighbors; the impact of Muslim immigration on Italy's political system; or the inclusion of African and Middle Eastern themes in Italian art. In addition, Italy's location at the center of all these cultures makes it an ideal starting point for further travel and exploration. Currently, Italy holds the Presidency for the Council of the EU, giving political students in Italy a unique look at the role of Italy in furthering the goals of this pan-European organization.
Of course, the opportunity to chow down on Italian food, made in the traditional style, only adds allure to a study abroad experience. Each region puts its own special twist on the famed pasta, cheese and wine that have made Italian food loved the world round while also offering their own unique dishes. Whether you find yourself savoring the fresh fruits and pappa al pomodoro of Tuscany, the pesto and fragrant spices of Liguria, or the famous Italian gelato enjoyed across the country, chances are you'll discover a new favorite while studying abroad in Italy. As the Italians have it, "Buon Appetito!"