Italian (italiano or lingua italiana) is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Somalia, Libya, and Eritrea, and by expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Many speakers are native bilinguals of both standardised Italian and other regional languages.
According to the Bologna statistics of the European Union, Italian is spoken as a native language by 59 million people in the EU (13% of the EU population), mainly in Italy, and as a second language by 14 million (3%). Including the Italian speakers in non-EU European countries (such as Switzerland and Albania) and on other continents, the total number of speakers is more than 85 million.
In Switzerland, Italian is one of four official languages; it is studied and learned in all the confederation schools and spoken, as a native language, in the Swiss cantons of Ticino and Grigioni and by the Italian immigrants that are present in large numbers in German- and French-speaking cantons. It is also the official language of San Marino, as well as the primary language of the Vatican City. It is co-official in Slovenian Istria and in Istria County in Croatia. The Italian language adopted by the state after the unification of Italy is based on Tuscan, which beforehand was a language spoken mostly by the upper class of Florentine society. Its development was also influenced by other Italian languages and by the Germanic languages of the post-Roman invaders.
Italian is descended from Latin. Unlike most other Romance languages, Italian retains Latin's contrast between short and long consonants. As in most Romance languages, stress is distinctive. Among the Romance languages, Italian is the closest to Latin in terms of vocabulary. (Wikipedia)