Italian is a Romance language, which means that Italian, just like Spanish, French, and Portuguese, is a child of Latin. Latin was once the official language in a large part of Europe because the Romans ruled so much of the area. Before the Romans came, people spoke their own languages, and the mixture of these original tongues with Latin produced many of the languages and dialects that are still in use today.
If you know one of the Romance languages, you can often understand bits of another. Just as members of the same family can look similar but have totally different characters. You find the same contradictions in the dialects (regional or local language differences) in Italy and in other countries.
If you visit Italy, youíll hear various accents and dialects as you travel the country. Despite the number of dialects, you may be surprised to discover that everybody understands your Italian and you understand theirs. (Italians donít normally speak in their dialect with foreigners.)
The history of the Italian language is quite complex but the modern standard of the language was largely shaped by relatively recent events. The earliest surviving texts which can definitely be called Italian (as opposed to its predecessor Vulgar Latin) are legal formulae from the region of Benevento dating from 960-963.
Italian is the official language of Italy and is spoken by about 70 million people, primarily in this country. It's the official language of San Marino as well, and one of the official languages of Switzerland, spoken mainly in Ticino and Grigioni cantons.
The Italian Flag or il Tricolore is a green, white and red tricolor flag with equal panels representing the territories of the Republic of Italy. Adopted as the national flag on 1 January 1948, official colour designation under the Pantone Textile policy was established in 2003, then ratified into law in 2006.