In Italy, a fashionable marketplace
With three vertical bands of green, white and red, the French flag brought to Italy by Napoleon in 1797 inspired the design. The colors are those of Milan (red and white), combined with the green uniform color of the Milanese civic guard.
Location: A peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea, Italy is in southern Europe, northeast of Tunisia. The country is about twice the size of Georgia.
Language: Italian, with some regions speaking mainly German or French
Total Population: 62.1 million
Government: Parliamentary republic
Religion: 80% Christian (overwhelmingly Roman Catholic)
Economy: With a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and an agricultural, though more highly subsidized south, Italy has a diversified economy. It’s driven largely by the manufacture of high-quality consumer goods, along with agriculture, construction and service sectors. Though Italy has the third-largest economy in the euro zone, its high public debt and structural barriers to growth such as a weak banking sector make it vulnerable to scrutiny by financial markets. Italy’s had modest economic growth—0.7 percent—each year since 2015 but the government still faces pressure to continue its efforts to address labor market inefficiencies and a sluggish judicial system.
Overall unemployment is 11.7 percent.
News note: At press time, Italy was preparing for parliamentary elections on March 4. Predictions of a hung parliament, due to Italy’s complex electoral mix of proportional representation, have stoked fears of political instability that could stunt the economy. A coalition around former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s party (Berlusconi can’t personally stand for office because of a 2013 conviction for tax fraud) was ahead in opinion polls leading up to the election.
GDP (official exchange rate): $1.85 trillion
Currency: Euro (conversion rate at press time: 1 EUR equals $1.23 USD).
Franchising in Italy: Franchising is widespread throughout the country, with Italy being the fourth largest market for franchises in Europe, after France, Germany and Spain. It’s also one of the few sectors of the economy with positive growth and gains in both profits and employment. Numerous laws govern the operation of franchises within the EU, but these laws are broad and generally don’t inhibit the competitive position of U.S. businesses.
Ease of doing business ranking by World Bank: 46, unchanged from 2017 when it moved up from 50 in 2016.
Sources: U.S. Commercial Service, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, U.S. Dept. of Commerce.