This video is part of a series of 6 animated maps.

View series: Rome and its Empire

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The Italian peninsula’s geographical features

This map is part of a series of 6 animated maps showing the history of Rome and its Empire.

Italy is a long narrow peninsula, extending south into the centre of the Mediterranean Sea. A mountainous range, the Apennines, separates the east coast from the western seaboard. This chain of mountains runs close to the Adriatic coast, while smaller chains and hills spread along the shore of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

In the north, the Po plain offers a very different world from the peninsula; the Romans called this region Cisalpine Gaul.Italy is part of the Mediterranean climate zone: very hot and heavy in summer, with mild winters along the coastline, cold and snow in the inland mountain areas. Rain falls in heavy downpours during autumn and winter.

The rivers are not very wide, but some were navigable for the small boats used in ancient times. From north to south, the principal rivers are:

- The Arno, the Tiber, and the Volturno, on the Tyrrhenian coast,

- The Metauro on the Adriatic coast.

There are few plains, and they are often small and sometimes marshy, due to the irregularity of rainfall.  The major plains face the Tyrrhenian Sea:

- In the north, the valley of the Arno; - In the centre, the region surrounding Rome, - At the foot of Mt Vesuvius, Campania, a grassy plain, fertilized by decomposing volcanic rocks.- In the southeast, the plain of Apulia, opening out onto the Ionian and the Adriatic seas.

Apart from these plains, opportunities for agriculture on the peninsula vary considerably, and the land is best suited for animal husbandry.