The north and south of Italy are two opposites, with the north being one of the richest areas in Europe, while the south is one of the poorest.
There is also a noticeable difference in the people: northerners are more businesslike and serious, while the southerners are 'warmer' and more chaotic.
Jobs in Italy are hard to come by in 2008.
Top managers are paid really well, while ordinary staff usually get an ordinary-to-low wage (many people say they can't make it to the end of the month).
Interesting trends are:
An increase in online spending - over 1 billion US$ more every year for the last four years, a steady decrease in tobacco consumption since the smoking laws were introduced and a decline in tourism over the past four years. The economy continues to grow by less than the euro-zone average and growth is expected to decelerate to under 1.5% in 2008 as the euro-zone and world economies slow. If you want professional information on what to sell in Italy check out ihaitalia.it.
Food and wine are the great pastimes of the Italians, as well as football, maybe politics and certainly dressing well.
Fiat car group includes Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Lancia and is doing well, having relaunched the classic 500 (cinquecento). The constantly changing government makes it difficult to make any real, long term plans or infrastructure improvements, the country is still in debt.
Italy's getting older - it has the lowest percentage of people under 14 in the world (except for Hong Kong) and is in 2nd place in the over 65s bracket. Italian women tend to marry later than most Europeans at 27 and men at 30. Young italians often live with their parents until they get married. University students tend to spend at least 5 years getting their degrees and the majority take about 7 years to do so - possibly a reason for being dependent on mom and dad for so long.
National name: Repubblica Italiana
President: Giorgio Napolitano (2006)
Prime Minister: Silvio Berlusconi (2008)
Land area: 301,230 sq km
Life expectancy: 79.9 years
Population (2007 est.): 58.1 million
Top ten cities in size
Most expensive rent (apartments) by city