In thinking about Italy, adjectives and superlatives can pile up quickly: spectacular, colorful, vivid, chaotic, confusing, breathtaking, mind-boggling. From Milan and Venice in the north, to Sicily and Campania in the south, Italy can feel like several nations rolled into one. It serves as a reminder that Italy was only unified as a single nation in 1861, the year America went to war with itself.

Italians know it as the ‘Risorgimento’, the process that consolidated the various states and kingdoms of Italy into a single entity called the Kingdom of Italy. The monarchy was abolished after the second World War and became the Italian Republic.

Books have been written and will continue to be written about Italy’s history and its contributions to all of humanity. Start dropping some names from history and imagine the world without them: Galileo, da Vinci, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Marconi, Machiavelli, Dante, Puccini, Sinatra (…had to throw in an Italian-American, after all…).

More images from Italy here…