The Geography of Italy

Italy is a boot thrust into the Mediterranean, its toe pointed toward the tip of Sicily which it appears to be kicking. Lapping its shores are three seas, the Tyrrhenian to the west, the Adriatic to the east, and the Ionian to the south.

In the far north the majestic Alps ring the country in a great arc, forming a natural border between Italy and her neighbors - France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia. Originating in the Alps and fed by its runoff is the Po, Italy's largest river. The plain which this river traverses from west to east is the largest flat plot of land in the country. But no sooner does the plain of the Po end than the Appennines begin. This chain of mountains runs straight down the center of Italy, ending at the very tip of the toe. Italy is a mountainous country.

Great cities lie in the north where the Alps turn into foothills and plain or run into the sea - Milan, Turin, Venice, Genoa - then, further south, and now influenced by the Appennines, Bologna, Florence, Siena. Appropriately, Rome is in the center. Two hundred miles south of Rome is the only great city of the southern mainland, Naples. The other great city of the south is Palermo on the island of Sicily.

Maschito, in the foothills of the Appennines, is situated in the middle of the Italian boot, roughly 150 miles due east of Naples. It is in the province of Potenza which is the northern part of the region of Basilicata (formerly called Lucania). Basilicata takes up the instep of the boot. Flanking it to the west is the region of Campania, to the south Calabria, to the north Molise, and to the cast Apulia. Some of these regions, together with Sicily, also include villages of people who speak the same dialect as do the Maschitans - and, as you might suspect - share the same Albanian Italian heritage.

The narrow Adriatic Sea separates the Italian boot from its Balkan neighbors, Slovenia in the north and, in order running south, Croatia, Bosnia - Herzogovina, Serbia (Yugoslavia), Albania, and Greece.

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