History of Italy
Italy was a monarchy from its unification in the second half of the 19th century until 1946, when it became a parliamentary republic following a national referendum. On 1st January 1948, it adopted a constitutional charter, which defines the political and civil liberties of citizens and the principles of government. Italy is headed by a President who appoints a Prime Minister, the elected head of government.
The seat of government
The seat of government is Rome, where the President resides in the Palazzo del Quirinale, the chamber of deputies sits in the Palazzo Montecitorio and the senate occupies the Palazzo Madama.
The head of state is the President of the republic, who represents the nation’s unity and ensures compliance with the constitution. He is elected every seven years by a college comprising both chambers of parliament and three representatives from each region. The minimum age for presidential candidates is 50.
The Italian parliament is bicameral, consisting of two chambers or assemblies: the Senate of the Republic with 315 members and the Chamber of Deputies with 630 members. The assemblies enjoy equal power and are both elected by universal suffrage.
Senators represent Italy’s 20 regions whereas deputies come from 26 constituencies, but the most important difference between the chambers is the minimum age required for the electorate and the candidates: 18 and 25 respectively for deputies and 25 and 40 for senators. Parliament is elected every five years, although few Italian governments run their course, the average length of office being less than a year.
The government is appointed by the President and is led by the president of the council of ministers more commonly referred to as the Prime Minister. Although the government carries out the executive functions of the state, in emergencies it also has powers to approve laws by decree. Parliament can be dissolved by the President, e.g. when the Prime Minister loses a vote of no confidence.
Regions of Italy
For administrative purposes, the country is divided into 20 regions, which roughly correspond to the historical regions of the country. The regions are further divided into 110 provinces, which are further subdivided into town councils or communes. The five ‘special status’ regions of Friuli-Venezia- Giuila, Sardinia, Sicily, Trentino-Alto Adige and Val d’Aosta are autonomous or semi-autonomous due to particular ethnic or geographical considerations.