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Language and population of Italy


Italy has 60,626,442 inhabitants according to 1/1/2011 municipal records (Anagrafe).Its population density, at 201/km² (520/sq. mile), is higher than that of most Western European countries.


However the distrubution of the population is widely uneven.

The most densely populated areas are the Po Valley (that accounts for almost a half of the national population) and the metropolitan areas of Rome and Naples, while vast regions such as the Alps and Appennines highlands, the plateaus of Basilicata and the island of Sardinia are very sparsely populated.

The population of Italy almost doubled during the twentieth century, but the pattern of growth was extremely uneven due to large-scale internal migration from the rural South to the industrial cities of the North, a phenomenon which happened as a consequence of the Italian economic miracle of the 1950-60s.

In addition, after centuries of net emigration, from the 1980s Italy has experienced large-scale immigration for the first time in modern history. According to the Italian government, there were 4,570,317 foreign residents in Italy as of January 2011.

High fertility and birth rates persisted until the 1970s, after wich they started to drammatically decline, leading to rapid population ageing.

At the end of the 2000s, one in five Italians was over 65 years old.

However, thanks mainly to the massive immigration of the last two decades, in recent years Italy experienced a significant growth in birth rates.

The total fertility rate has also climbed from an all-time low of 1.18 children per woman in 1995 to 1.41 in 2008.

Italy has no official religion.

The 1984 Lateran Treaty revision abolished the Roman Catholic Church as the official state religion, while recognizing the role it plays in Italian society. 87.8% of the population define themselves as Catholic, 5.8% as non-believers or atheists, and 6.4% other religions, of which 2.6% Islam.


Italy\'s official language is Italian.

Ethnologue has estimated that there are about 55 million speakers of the language in Italy and a further 6.7 million outside of the country.

However, between 120 and 150 million people use Italian as a second or cultural language, worldwide.

Italian, adopted by the state after the unification of Italy, is based on the Florentine variety of Tuscan and is somewhat intermediate between the Italo-Dalmatian languages and the Gallo-Romance languages.

Its development was also influenced by the Germanic languages of the post-Roman invaders.

Italy has numerous dialects spoken all over the country. However, the establishment of a national education system has led to decrease in variation in the languages spoken across the country.

Standardisation was further expanded in the 1950s and 1960s thanks to economic growth and the rise of mass media and television (the state broadcaster RAI helped set a standard Italian).

Several ethnic groups are legally recognized, and a number of minority languages have co-official status alongside Italian in various parts of the country.

French is co-official in the Valle d’Aosta—although in fact Franco-Provencal is more commonly spoken there.

German has the same status in the province of South Tyrol as, in some parts of that province and in parts of the neighbouring Trentino, does Ladin. Slovene is officially recognised in the provinces of Trieste, Gorizia and Udine in Venezia Giulia.

In these regions official documents are bilingual (trilingual in Ladin communities), or available upon request in either Italian or the co-official language.

Traffic signs are also multilingual, except in the Valle d’Aosta where—with the exception of Aosta itself which has retained its Latin form in Italian as in English—French toponyms are generally used, attempts to Italianise them during the Fascist period having been abandoned.

Education is possible in minority languages where such schools are operating.