Despite the Roman Empire's famous 500-year reign over Europe, parts of Africa and the Middle East, Italy does not have the same long national history as states such as France or England. Divided for much of its history, Italy's regions have been, at various times, parts of bigger, often antagonistic empires, notably those of Spain and Austria. In addition, its challenging and varied terrain made consolidation of political control all the more difficult. This concise history covers, in very readable fashion, the formative events in Italy's past from the rise of Rome, through a unified country in thrall to fascism in the first half of the twentieth century right up to today. The birthplace of the Renaissance and the place where the Baroque was born, Italy has always been a hotbed of culture. Within modern Italy country there is fierce regional pride in the cultures and identities that mark out Tuscany, Rome, Sicily and Venice to name just a few of Italy's many famous regions. Jeremy Black draws on the diaries, memoirs and letters of historic travellers to Italy to gain insight into the passions of its people, first chronologically then regionally. In telling Italy's story, Black examines what it is that has given Italians such cultural clout - from food and drink, music and fashion, to art and architecture - and explores the causes and effects of political events, and the divisions that still exist today.