In many ways Italy is a country of enormous contrasts and contradictions. From a climatic point of view the regions of northern Italy have more in common with the continent of Europe than regions such as Sicily or Calabria in the south, which are closer to North Africa. Similarly, the social life of a city such as Milan more closely resembles that of Zurich than Naples or Palermo, which could almost be on another continent. The linguistic differences which were so important in the past have been removed by the spread of mass education and culture, though even now there are those who consider Italian almost as a second language.