Italy has been at the forefront of western civilisation since before the birth of Christ, and since then has had a profound influence on the development of Europe and the rest of the world in almost every aspect of art and culture: The Romans gave the world the rule of law and a pattern of government still in evidence today; The establishment of the Christian faith in Europe was sponsored by the roman emperor, Constantine the great.
Many of the universally admired forms of architecture came from Italy, and many of the most beautiful buildings in the world can be found there.
Italy was home to many of the world's most famous and best loved painters, sculptors and composers, and the great minds of Galileo Galilei and Leonardo da Vinci helped to shape the world in which we live.
The Renaissance movement, which has come to symbolise art and culture, originated in Florence, and spread thoughout Europe, its influence affecting literature, philosophy, art, politics, science, religion, and almost all other aspects of cultural life.
But Italy's contribution to European culture is not all in the past. Italian cinema is famous worldwide and many of Italy's architects, fashion designers and engineers are world leaders in their fields.