|Official Name:||Italian Republic (Repubblica Italiana)|
|Area:||301,340 sq km|
|Population:||61.5 million (2013)|
|Climate:||Predominantly Mediterranean; Alpine in far north; hot, dry in south|
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Famous explorer. Born in Venice, Italy.
As a teenager Polo travelled to China (then known as Cathay) with his father and uncle. The trio spent 20 years at the court of Kublai Khan -- this at a time when few Europeans had visited that country.
After his return to Venice Polo collected the stories of his travels into a book, Il Milione (also known as The Travels of Marco Polo), which was widely read and is the basis of his fame. Polo is now remembered as the man who introduced Europeans to the Orient, and his name is synonymous with exotic travel. Some historians have claimed that Polo made the whole story up, but this has never been proved.
According to legend, Polo introduced pasta to Italy.