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Traces of Italy's glorious past can still be seen all over the country, including of course in its capital, Rome. Important cultures and civilizations have existed in Italy since the pre-historic era, while the Etruscan civilization and the Roman Empire have shaped the European cultures for centuries. In many ways Italy is a modern state where the reunification process began in 1815 and was completed in 1871.
Italy boasts quite a few personalities who have left a permanent mark in history. For example, Marco Polo was 17 when he left Venice, and was probably the first European to reach China. Christopher Columbus was the first sailor to reach the West Indies and find the American continent shortly after, the name "America" derives from the italian sailor Amerigo Vespucci. Leonardo Da Vinci was a renaissance painter, architect, engineer, mathematician and philosopher, a genius the world has never seen again so far. Galileo Galilei invented the scientific method and made important discoveries in the field of mechanics, and especially of dynamics. In addition, the most beautiful masterpieces of the Renaissance art were realized in Italy. For instance, Michelangelo completed the statue of David in Florence in 1504, and began to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome in 1508, while Leonardo Da Vinci started the portrait of Mona Lisa in 1503. In modern era, Marconi invented the radio, Golgi started the neurology (and Levi Montalcini added important contributions later), Meucci invented the telephone, Volta invented the battery, Fermi was a mileston of modern physics.
The history of Italy is long and complex but reminders of it are to be found everywhere. The Roman Empire lasted from c. 750 BC until it disintegrated with attacks from Barbarians such as Alaric, King of the Visigo in 410 AD, the sack of Rome by vandals under Genseric and the final deposition of the last Emperor of the West Romulus Augustus by Odoacer in 476 AD. But this did not mean the end of civilization as the Arian Christian Theodoric, leader of the Ostrogoths, drove out Odoacer in 493 AD and the Ostrogoths ruled most of Italy from their capital Ravenna until the one of the Emperor of the East Justininan's Generals reconquered Italy. But this was again short lived as the Lombards under Alboin began to invade from the north in 568AD. Nevertheless the wealth and richness of the Barbarian Ostrogoths rule is well demonstrated in the great artistry displayed in the building of fine churches with superb mosaics to be seen in and around their capital Ravenna.
Monuments to the events of modern history also may be seen throughout Italy. You may remember that during the Italian campaign (1943-45), German and Allied armies battled from one end of Italy to the other. Today you can visit the monuments, museums and battlegrounds dedicated to those who fought in World War II. Many of these deeply moving places are in or near Rome, Florence, and Bologna. There are also many sites to visit in smaller towns.