Italy, slightly larger than Arizona, is a long peninsula shaped like a boot, surrounded on the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea and on the east by the Adriatic. It is bounded by France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia to the north. The Apennine Mountains form the peninsula’s backbone; the Alps form its northern boundary. The largest of its many northern lakes is Garda (143 sq mi; 370 sq km); the Po, its principal river, flows from the Alps on Italy’s western border and crosses the Lombard plain to the Adriatic Sea. Several islands form part of Italy; the largest are Sicily. Italy is home to some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, and Italian wines are known worldwide for their broad variety. Italy, closely followed by France, is the world’s largest wine producer by volume.The extensive latitudinal range of the country permits wine growing from the Alps in the north to almost-within-sight of Africa in the south.
The fact that Italy is a peninsula with a long shoreline contributes moderating climate to coastal wine regions; The extensive mountains and foothills provide many altitudes for grape growing and a variety of climate and soil conditions. Etruscans and Greek settlers produced wine in Italy before the Romans started their own vineyards in the 2nd century B.C. Roman grape-growing and winemaking was prolific and well-organized, pioneering large-scale production and storage techniques like barrel-making and bottling.