The boot-shaped Apennine Peninsula is the most easily recognizable relief form on the map of Europe. Called also the Italian Peninsula, it is the smallest of the three large peninsulas in the southern part of the continent. It occupies an area of 131,337 square kilometers and covers the greater part of Italy, but not the entire country, as well as the small city-states of San Marino and Vatican. It stretches between the Po Valley to the north and the island of Sicily to the south.
The Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Sea are to the west and the Adriatic Sea is to the east. Due to its central location, the peninsula plays the role of an imaginary border between the Eastern and Western Mediterranean.
Relief. The interior of the Apennine Peninsula is mostly mountainous, and the coastal area is occupied by narrow and elongated coastal lowlands.
Winding like a snake approximately 1,200 kilometers, the Apennine Mountains follow the entire length of the peninsula, but they do not exceed more than 250 km width.
There is a small number of extinct and dormant volcanoes, but with certainly the Apennines are the place where you will find the only active volcano in mainland Europe – Vesuvius, located not far from Naples.
With a maximum height of 2,912 m, the Apennine Peninsula is slightly lower than the Balkans and especially the Pyrenees.
Climate. The Apennine Peninsula is located completely within the subtropical climate zone. There are basically two seasons: dry and hot summer and cool, humid winter.
The average temperature in most of the southern and coastal areas is significantly higher in comparison with the northern and mountainous portions of the peninsula.
However, in the Apennines there are no such climatic extremes as in the Iberian Peninsula and especially in the Balkans.
The average daytime temperatures of the peninsula vary between 13 – 17°C in winter and 30°C in summer in the southern coastal regions of Calabria and between 13 and 28°C in the north, in coastal Liguria.
With the exception of the mountains, snowfalls are a rarity in the majority of the Apennines, and they usually do not form a long-lasting snow cover.
Waters. Due to its geographical features, the Apennine Peninsula is a place where you will find a large number of rivers, most of which, however, not very long.
Most of them quickly reach the coast, crossing the short distance between the slopes of the Apennine Mountains and the Mediterranean.
With its 405 km, Tiber is the largest river in the Apennines and the third longest in Italy. It passes through the capital Rome and empties its waters into the Tyrrhenian Sea, on the west coast of the peninsula.
The Apennines are a place with many mountain and fewer coastal lakes. The biggest one is Lago Trasimeno, followed by the second largest Lago di Bolsena.
Nature. The Apennine Peninsula has a beautiful and varied scenery. In the high mountains, where the climate is cool and humid, grow dense deciduous, coniferous and mixed forests. The highest parts of the mountains are covered with fresh and green mountain meadows.
In low-lying coastal areas you will find some evergreen species of plants, such as citrus and olive trees, Mediterranean shrubs and cypresses.
The coast of the Apennine Peninsula is very picturesque, dotted with countless golden sandy beaches and sheltered coves, covered with oval pebbles.
Wildlife. The fauna of the Apennine Peninsula is typical for Europe. The richest diversity you will find in the forested highlands of the region. In some quiet and remote areas live brown bears, wolves, foxes, wild boars, badgers, deer, rodents and others.
Because of its specific location between Europe and Africa, the Apennine Peninsula is an important transport corridor for migratory birds.
For this reason, the variety of species of birds here is remarkable in comparison with most other places on the continent.
Population and cities. Today the population of the Apennine Peninsula is approximately 26,173,000 people. Despite its large territory, the region is home for less than half the population of Italy. Typical demographic feature is the low birth rate and high life expectancy.
This is one of the few regions in the world with a slight decrease in population. The largest cities in the area, Rome and Naples, are urban centers with more than 4 million inhabitants each.
Furthermore, the peninsula boasts some of the most beautiful cities in Europe, such as Florence, Pisa and the the heart of the Catholic Church – the Vatican.
Economics. The Apennine Peninsula occupies the territory between the highly developed and rich industrial north of Italy and quite poor, economically underdeveloped and mostly agricultural south of Sicily.
Remarkable is the fact that the number of foreign tourists, who visit this part of the country, exceeds the number of local residents.
Today probably the biggest obstacle to economic growth, however, is the trend of population aging in the region.