Two countries—Spain and Portugal— dominate the Iberian Peninsula. The Pyre- nees Mountains separate the peninsula from the rest of Europe. Reaching Spain by water is also difficult because steep cliffs rise along the coast. The Meseta, or plateau, covers central Spain. Several rivers cross the Meseta, but only the Guadalquivir is navigable, deep and wide enough for ships. Spain has a Mediterranean climate with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. Little rain, however, reaches the Meseta, which is dry. Farmers there grow wheat and barley. Siroccos—hot, dry winds from northern Africa—make the southeast even drier.Spain is developing new industries, such as transportation equipment. Bilbao and Barcelona are centers of industry. Madrid is the capital and largest city.Many people in Spain identify with their regions. The Basques of northern Spain speak a language that is not related to any other European language. Some Basques want independence from Spain. People in other regions want more local control. Portugal gets good rainfall for farming. Wheat, corn, and barley grow well. The country exports olive oil and cork. Portugal became a trading nation in the 1100s. By the 1400s, Portuguese explorers had found routes around Africa to East Asia. Both Spain and Portugal had colonies in Latin America. Portugal also had colonies in Africa. They started to lose their colonies in the 1800s.

On what peninsula are Spain and Portugal located?
Map Skills On what body of water is Lisbon located?


Many people recognize Italy’s boot shape on a map. The Apen- nine Mountains run all the way down the Italian Peninsula. The Alps form the northern border.
Until the 1960s, more than one third of the population lived and worked on farms. Today only 10 percent of the people are farmers. Italian factories make automobiles, home appliances, and other metal goods. The European Union has given Italy a larger market for its goods. After the Roman Empire collapsed, many Italian cities became independent states. As Christianity spread, the Roman Catholic Church gained control of large amounts of land. In 1861, states in the north joined to form the country of Italy. Within ten years, the peninsula was united. There are still great differences among Italy’s regions. The heart of the northern region is the Po River valley. This is Italy’s best farm- land. About two thirds of Italy’s factory goods are made there. Central Italy includes Rome, the capi- tal. Inside Rome is Vatican City, the cen- ter of the Roman Catholic Church. Cities in central Italy became famous during the Renaissance, a time of great art and learning that started in Italy in the 1300s. Southern Italy includes the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. The poor soil makes farming hard. Many people have moved to the north to find jobs.


Why have many southern Italians moved to the north?
Map Skills What mountains form Italy’s northern border?


History and geography make Greece part of the Mediterranean region. The culture that began in Greece developed further in Western Europe. Greece also has ties to Eastern Europe and Turkey, which it borders. Greece includes some 2,000 islands. Most of the country is covered by moun- tains and rocky soil. Farmers raise sheep and goats on the slopes. Wheat, olives, and citrus fruits are grown on the narrow coastal plains. Athens, the capital, is a modern city with ancient monuments. Over one third of all Greeks live in and near Athens. Greece depends on the sea for trade. It has one of the world’s largest fleets of ships as well as a shipbuilding industry. Fishing and tourism are also important. The sea also keeps Greece connected to its islands. Fewer than two hundred of the islands are inhabitable, or able to sup- port a permanent population. The island of Crete puzzles people. About thirty-five hundred years ago, it was a center of culture and trade. Around 1500 B.C., the cul- ture declined. Nobody today can Western culture has many of its roots in ancient Greece. From the second century B.C. to the fifth century A.D., Greece was part of the Roman Empire. Then it became part of the Byzantine Empire. The Turks ruled Greece for nearly 400 years until Greece gained its independence in 1829.


What makes Greece a part of the Mediterranean region?
Chart Skills Which country has the highest population? Which one has the lowest life expectancy?