Ethnic groups in Italy

Ethnic groups in Italy

The population of Italy was around 59.5m in early 2007, roughly the same as the UK and France, with a population density of almost 200 inhabitants per km2, which makes Italy the fifth most densely populated country in Europe, after the Benelux countries and the UK.

A land of emigration

Traditionally, Italy has been a land of emigration, as witnessed by the massive flows of Italians to North and South America during the 19th and 20th centuries. Between 1875 and 1925, a total of some 10m Italians left the country (around half eventually returned).

In recent years, Italy’s rapid economic growth has attracted many immigrants to the country, mainly from North and sub-Saharan Africa, but also from the Philippines, China, South America and most recently from Albania and the former Yugoslavia. There are over 1.5m registered immigrants in Italy, plus many more living illegally.


The major ethnic group in Italy is Italians, who account for 95% (above 60 millions) of the total population of Italy. The remaining 5% of the population consists of ethnicities like Albanians, Romanians, Ukrainians and other Europeans (2.5%); Africans (1.5%) and several other minorities (1%).

Other nationalities

Italy was divided into separate provinces that were controlled by different ethnicities. In the past, Greeks, Celts, Romans, and older Italian peoples have had control of the Italian peninsula. The Romans were strong in northern parts of Italy while Greeks dominated the south, and the early Italian tribes were found in the north and central parts of the peninsula. Others that ruled different regions of the Italian peninsula in varied time period belonged to ethnicities that include Catalans, Norman, Swabian and Angevin.

Because of this joint occupation, there were several descendants of the different ethnic groups that remained back in the Italy and eventually accepted themselves as Italians. The culture of the Italians has been strongly influenced by those of the Romans, who were very aggressive rulers in the history of Italy. As Italy had remained in a divided form for several centuries, the Italians from each of these provinces had their own regional dialects and culture which can still be seen in Italy.

Island of Sicily

Around two thousand years ago, the island of Sicily was ruled by the African Arabs for nearly two hundred years. Though it has been a long period since their defeat by the Normans, even today there are about half a million African Arabs settled in Italy. There are also other 100,000 Africans apart from the Arabs which have immigrated to Italy in recent years.

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