In 1861, the city states of the Italian peninsula along with Sardinia and Sicily became united under King Victor EMMANUEL II; this is when Italy first became a nation state.
In the early 1920s Benito Mussolini set up a Fascist dictatorship. Later Mussolini's unfortunate alliance with Hitler and his Nazi party would lead to Italy's defeat in World War II.
In 1946 a democratic republic was set up to replace the monarchy. Economic revival soon followed.
Italy was one of the first countries to join NATO and the European Economic Community (EEC). It has since then been at the forefront of European economic and political unification. It joined the Economic and Monetary Union in 1999.
Italy has had persistent problems with illegal immigration, organized crime (the Mafia), corruption, unemployment, and sluggish economic growth. The low incomes and technical standards of the south still contrast greatly with the more prosperous north.
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