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The story of Italy in 15 handy maps

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
The story of Italy in 15 handy maps
Photo: zoetnet/Flickr

Want to know where the cheapest rent in the country is? The 51 Unesco World Heritage sites? Or your nearest McDonald's? There's a map for that.


1. Before it was ‘Italy’

Public domain/Wikimedia commons

Here’s how the peninsula looked in the early 18th century - much of it under Spanish domination. If the country sometimes seems very divided, that’s because it’s only been a united republic for a relatively short time, since the late 19th century.
2. Languages
Mikima/Wikimedia Commons
Whichever part of Italy you’ve explored, you’ve probably noticed a local dialect or language that is used alongside the Italian you recognize; this map shows the many different languages of the country. Due to geography and foreign rule, there are influences from Spanish, French, German, Greek, Croatian, Slovenian and Arabic, as well as remnants of now-extinct languages such as Etruscan.
Most of the local variants aren’t actually ‘dialects’ because they didn’t evolve from standard Italian, but rather developed alongside it; standard Italian itself is an older form of the Tuscan dialect. Learn more about the Italian language, its history and many varieties here.
3. Unesco World Heritage sites

Sicilian Fan/Wikimedia Commons

Italy has plenty of sites deemed worthy of Unesco World Heritage status - so many, in fact, that in 2016 it decided not to submit any more, so as to give other countries a chance to catch up.
Here’s where all 51 of them are, including entire cities such as Florence and Venice, plus lesser-known gems including Sicily’s Arabo-Norman cathedrals. It's a valuable tool for planning trips around the country, and for more details, an interactive version can be found here.
4. Rent costs

Handy if you’re planning a move to the bel paese. Rent varies dramatically across the country, with apartments in larger cities and the prosperous north carrying the heftiest price tags. Looking for a bargain? Head to Calabria, where the average rent is around a third of the more expensive regions. This map shows average rents in €/m2 per month and was created using data from
5. Roman roads

Flappiefh/Wikimedia commons

See how the Romans got around the country with this map of their main roads. And it’s not just history fans who might find this one useful; in many places, you can still walk along many of the ancient pathways. The Appian Way, for example, the first paved road located just outside Rome, makes for a beautiful walk or bike ride.
6. Crime map
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This map, produced by Il Corriere using Istat data, is interactive - just select the type of crime you want to measure for (it’s in Italian), and you can see which areas have most crimes of that kind reported. For example, Milan has the most thefts - by quite a long way - but robberies are more likely to take place in the south of the country. Read more here.
7. National parks
Italy has 24 national parks, and this map shows you where your nearest one is - perfect for planning days out this summer. An interactive version with more information about each park can be found here.
8. Average wage
One for the job-hunters - where can you make the most money? This map was created with Istat data to show the average wages in euros per month, and it looks like Lombardy is a good bet if you want a guarantee of a sizeable paycheck. Of course, the cost of living in different areas usually fluctuates in line with local wages, meaning the contrast is not quite as dramatic as it may seem.
9. Blue flag beaches
293 beaches in Italy have been awarded the blue flag, meaning they meet strict standards of cleanliness so are ideal places to spend the warmer months. This map shows where they all are, and clicking on one of the blue dots will reveal information about that beach.
10. Life expectancy
Italians have one of the longest life expectancies in the world, and theories as to why that is range from their diet, laid-back lifestyle and focus on famiglia. This map shows the average life expectancy for men and women in each region, and is based on Istat figures.
11. McDonald’s locations

Screengrab/McDonalds Italia/Google Maps
The presence of the American fast food chain is a subject of controversy in Italy - a protesters in Florence recently argued that McDonald’s had no place in the city’s central square. But even in the land that invented pizza and follows strict rules when it comes to dining, there’s still a clear appetite for cheap, convenient meals. This map shows the extent to which the golden arches have conquered the peninsula.
12. Population density
This map, created with data from Istat, shows the number of inhabitants per square kilometre across Italy. Handy if you want to escape to a less crowded area of the country...
13. Topography Commons
Pretty self-explanatory really, this map shows the elevation, height and shape of different areas of the country - useful for any hiking fans.
14. Mafia

Carnby/Wikimedia Commons
This map shows the reach of the mafia across the country, by measuring reported cases of mafia extortion by location. There’s a clear north-south divide when it comes to the mafia - but you’ll also see how the groups have crept into the north of the country in recent years. 
15. Universities
Thousands of students come to Italy each year to take part in Erasmus or other study programmes, and this map showing the number of state universities in each region gives you some indication as to which areas might have the most options, and best student life.


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