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The area of Italy, therefore, is little more than half that of France.
Under the Romans and in the Middle Ages, under the powerful republics of Amalfi and of Pisa, of Genoa and of Venice, Italy ruled the Mediterranean Sea, which, however, after the discovery of America, ceased to be the centre of European maritime activity.
The tides of this sea vary by only eight or twelve inches; it abounds in coral banks, and anchovy, sardine, and tunny fishing is remunerative along the coasts of Sicily and Sardinia.
(2) Ligurian Sea The Gulf of Genoa is the most inland and also the most northerly part of this open sea, which extends to the south as far as the Channels of Corsica and of Piombino, through which it communicates with the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The centre of European interests was carried towards the west: the Italian republics fell into decay, and sea power went to the countries on the Atlantic Ocean.
But the opening of the Suez Canal (1869) and the tunnelling of the Alps (Fréjus, 1871; St.
The branch that separates the Maltese Islands from Sicily is called the Malta Channel and has a minimum breadth of 51 miles.
In consequence of the earthquake that destroyed Messina and Reggio (28 December, 1908), the ground has undergone alteration, and telluric movements show no tendency to cease.Italy has the characteristic shape of a riding boot, of which the top is represented by the Alps, the seam by the Apennines, and the toe, the heel, and the spur, respectively, by the peninsulas of Calabria, Salento, and Gargano.The country consists of a continental portion that terminates at almost the forty-fourth parallel, between Spezia and Rimini, of peninsular, and of insular portions.Before Italy took its present form it was part of a great body of land called by geologists Tyrrhenses, now covered by the waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, which was united to Africa In fact, a great part of the Tuscan Archipelago and of the other islands of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the masses of the Peloritan Mountains in Sicily, of Aspromonte and of Sila in Calabria, the Roian Alps, formed of archaic rocks, all are fragments of an ancient land now for the most part submerged.Another fact that gave to the configuration of Italy its present characteristic lines was the recession of the sea from that great gulf which became the fertile plain of the Po.