When a nation has been around since the beginning of the Roman Empire, it isn’t surprising that these Italy facts are so abundant and diverse! Italy really has it all; with mountains and beaches, active super volcanoes, artistic visionaries, world-class athletes, innovative fashion designers, brilliant inventors and scientists, musical geniuses, and culinary masters. Oh, and LOTS of wine! Make sure Italy is on your European bucket list as a not miss destination.
Italy’s location is part of their historic success and appeal. The peninsula has been at the center of major trade routes for centuries, which factored greatly to the culture and wealth moving into and out of the country. Italy is currently the 5th most visited country in the world. This constant influx of tourists helps in contributing to the Italy’s economy which ranks at #8 in world!
In 2001, Italy switched to the Euro as its main currency. Before 2001, they used the Italian Lira.
Italy was one of the six founding members of the European Union in 1993.
While Italy’s origins may be ancient, a surprising Italy fact is that the country as we know it today wasn’t founded until 1861! The country isn’t even technically called, “Italy”. The proper name is the, “Italian Republic”.
Italy’s is divided into 20 regions for administrative purposes; similar to states in the U.S. in function and autonomy.
That official language is, unsurprisingly, Italian. However, there are over 30 different dialects across the country. Most Italians under the age of 35, will speak some variation of Florentine. But, as you travel further and further south, the dialects deviates more and more from traditional Italian. For example, the Sicilian dialect is almost its own language with heavy influences from Arabic, French, and Spanish.
Rome is so old…How old is it?! Almost 3,000 years old! There’s even some archaeological evidence to suggest that there’s been human activity as long as 14,000 years ago!
Rome is kind of a big deal. It’s the 14th most visited city in the world, and is considered a “global city”, as it’s a crucial if not vital hub in the global market.
These Italy facts about their luxury brands will have you dreaming of living in Italian elegance! The super car manufacturer, Ferrari is from Italy! Their famous red paint jobs, while originally assigned to all race cars from Italy, still account for around 45% of Ferrari’s sold! Fashion giants such as Gucci, Versace, Fendi, and Prada are just a few of the major brands from Italy.
Did you know that Guccio Gucci was 40 when he started the company? So it’s never too late to pursue your dreams!
Another major Italian brand that spread all over the world is, Nutella. If you take all of the Nutella sold in a year, and had a lot of time on your hands, you could then cover a 1000 soccer fields in a thin layer of the delicious, hazelnut spread!
If you’re into geology, you’ll love these Italy facts! All of Europe’s active volcanoes call Italy their home. Most people know of Mt. Vesuvius and the role it played in Pompeii’s demise, but Etna, and Stromboli are the other active European volcanoes. This highly active geologic region also contributes to Italy having more earthquakes than all of Europe combined!
Speaking of active, if you’re into hiking then you’re in luck. Italy is actually a quite a rugged country, with 80% of the land area being mountains or hills!
Western Europe’s tallest mountain varies by who you ask. If you ask someone from Italy, it’s Monte Bianco. But someone from France would say that it’s Mont Blanc. The thing is, it’s the same mountain. At 15,777 feet above sea level, this “White Mountain” is a popular destination for hikers, skiers, and explorers. Centuries of uncertain and unclear political dealings, mixed with a French revolution, left the two countries still puzzling over the proper ownership. But, they can all agree that is a fantastic vacation spot in the Alps to enjoy year-round snow, and majestic views.
Italians like to take the time to do things right. The biggest and most important meal of the day is dinner. Most Italians will visit many different markets and stores to gather the right ingredients. The result is food that is delicious because it’s seasonal and fresh.
Quench your thirst with these Italy facts about wine! There is a fountain in Central Italy where wine continuously runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! It’s located in Caldari di Ortona, and while the wine is available for all to drink, it’s main function is for those participating in the Cammino di San Tommaso pilgrimage. This offering is quite welcome as the pilgrimage is 196 miles from Rome to Ortona.
Italy is the is number one in the world in exporting wine, AND in 2015 surpassed France in wine production (25% of bottles sold worldwide are from Italy).
A large portion of the wine produced still stays in the country too, as Italians drink around 45 bottles of wine per year, per person.
These creepy yet cool Italy facts involves dismemberment and Galileo. In 1737 (95 years after Galileo’s death), big fans of the astronomer removed several fingers, his thumb, a tooth, and a vertebra from his body as it was being moved to a special tomb. The vertebra made it to the University of Padua, but the rest remained in the same family for generations until the 20th century when the remains vanished without a trace. They then made an appearance at an auction, along with documents that verify their authenticity. You can view the remains, and several of Galileo’s instruments on display at the Galileo Museum in Florence, Italy.
Italians place a large value on family. So much so that it is common for children to live at home with their parents until they are 30 years old. Despite family being such an important aspect of Italian life, Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in the western world. For the first time in Italy’s history, the median age is 45 years old. An aging population coupled with an extremely low birth rate, has lead some experts believe that the population will decrease by 7 million over the next 50 years.
Here are some fun and interesting Italy facts about their many superstitions! First of all, you most likely won’t see the number 17 too often. Many hotels will skip from the 16th floor straight to 18th, and airplanes will omit the 17th the row. The reasoning? In Roman numerals, 17 is XVII. While this may seem benign, it’s an anagram for for the latin word “VIXI”, meaning, “I have lived”. This past tense phrasing is thought to be extremely unlucky.
Witches?! Yes, on the Sardinia islands resides a group of well-known “witches”! They brew potions to help alleviate certain ailments that afflict the residents of the islands. Their medicinal secrets are closely guarded by using a secret language that’s only passed on from mother to daughter.
Another widely observed superstition, is the spilling of olive oil. Not only an expensive blunder, it’s considered to bring ill fortune. Italians cherish olive oil so much, that it’s considered rude to request other condiments or dressing.
Over 58 million people visit Italy every year, making it the 5th most visited country in the world right behind China.
Italy is the home of music! Not only was most of the terminology created in this country (like crescendo meaning to “gradually get louder”), but so was the piano, violin, guitar, and organ.
More Italy facts about inventions! In 1948, things really heated up when the jacuzzi was invented by, Roy Jacuzzi. He originally created the tub to help his son with symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
You can’t have Italy facts without mentioning espresso! The reason espresso is such an Italian icon is that it was literally invented in Italy. Angelo Moriondo, in 1884, created the first espresso machine. While an espresso can be enjoyed any time of the day, a cappuccino is usually only drank before 11am. The cappuccino arrived on the scene just after the turn on the 20th century.
For Italians, coffee truly is a life-long labor of love as the average age for a barista is 48 years old.
Italy has one of the more well-recognized flags in the world. Did you know that the colors have special meanings? Green is for hope, white symbolizes faith, and red represents charity.
Roman Catholicism is the dominating religion. This makes sense, as in the middle of Rome is, Vatican City. A city that is also a country that can close its gates at the end of the day, The Vatican (as it is more commonly called) is the main hub for Roman Catholicism. The Pope also calls Vatican City his home.
Vatican city is technically the smallest country in the world, however, that isn’t the only country within Italy. San Marino, located in North-Central Italy, is nestled on the slopes of Monte Titano. It is also believed to have one the world’s oldest republics.
Exorcism is not uncommon Italy, and over half-a-million Italians are treated every year.
Bologna University, not only one of the top universities in the world, they also claim to be the world’s oldest. Established in 1088, Bologna University was created in an effort to move away from the educational systems that were primarily focused on religious studies.
Ballet is typically associated with France or Russia, however, it began in Italy during the 1500s.
Italy (along with other nations in Europe) experienced a boom in cultural, musical, artistic, and scientific pursuits between the 14th and 17th centuries called, The Renaissance. This era contributed Italy facts such as: having the most masterpieces per square mile, being the birthplace of “humanism”, and the construction of the Sistine Chapel.
Four of Italy’s most prominent artists during the Renaissance were used as names for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael.
Here are some interesting Italy facts about Leonardo da Vinci, Italy’s most famous Renaissance man! Often considered a troublemaker, he challenged many commonly held beliefs. Such as being the first person to prove that earth is round, and suggested that the biblical timelines for the creation of the earth were too compressed to account for the rivers, mountains, and coastlines that he observed.
Leonardo could write with both hands! He could even draw backwards. Many of his manuscripts have notes that are written backwards, however, it’s unclear if this was protect his work from prying eyes, or simply a way of writing left-handed without smearing the ink.
Bill Gates is a huge da Vinci fan. So much so, that for 40 million dollars he purchased the only known copy of da Vinci’s illustrated manuscript, “Codex Leicester”. It’s 72 pages of his thoughts on how light behaves in the sky, the behavior of water, and why the moon is so bright.
Hope you’re hungry for these Italy facts! While it’s nearly impossible to think of Italian cuisine and NOT think of tomatoes, the vegetable wasn’t incorporated into their dishes until the 1540’s!
Rocco the dog, sniffed out a white truffle (more rare and valued than the black variety) that weighed over 3 pounds! It set a world record when it sold for $333,000 at an auction. Now that is a “good dog!”
Naples is the home of pizza!
The world knows just how much the Italians love their pasta. But these Italy facts about pasta may surprise you! Did you know that we have Italy to thank for the fork? It was introduced to Italians in the 11th century as a way to more efficiently eat pasta, and they LOVED it! It’s even considered rude to use a spoon to “spin” spaghetti before putting it in your mouth. By the late 1800’s, Italy had claimed over 250 types of pasta and shapes, it has since been refined down to around 60.
Italians were even the first to invent the pretzel! In 610, an Italian monk would make pretzels to give to well-behaved children.
If you’re unsure what to order at a restaurant, give the national dish of Italy a try! Ragu alla Bolognese, a simple yet refined pasta dish with a seasoned, meat-based sauce.
Soccer is one of the most popular sports in Italy. The Italians are so gifted at the sport that they’ve been World Cup champions four times. That’s second best behind Brazil.
Cycling is extremely popular in Italy. Belgium is the only country that has won more international competitions than Italy.
Italy has had the honor of hosting the Olympics three times!
If you’re unsure of what to do when visiting Italy, then these Italy facts will help you decide. If you’re wanting breathtaking views and fresh air, maybe skiing the Monte Bianco in the Alps should be on your list? Perhaps a pilgrimage to the literal home of the Roman Catholic church at Vatican City, or to Naples..the home of pizza. A country rich in traditions, pastas, World Heritage sites (Italy has more than anyone!), you could spend a lifetime and not see everything. So get started now!
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