Italy is one of the most visited countries in Europe and with good reason. From the food to the fashion to the culture, there is so much to see and do in this high-heeled boot jutting into the Mediterranean Sea. If you are planning an Italian getaway once borders open again, here are a few fun facts about Italy to keep in mind before heading off to explore the land of art, pasta and passion.
Interesting Facts about Italy
Table of Contents
Read on to learn some interesting facts about Italy while we all wait to travel again.
Italy Has More UNESCO World Heritage Sites Than Any Other Country
If it’s history you’re seeking, you’ll certainly find it in Italy. With more than 55 heritage sites, Italy is home to a stunning representation of historical characteristics. There are obvious options, such as the Colosseum in Rome, and then less obvious inclusions, such as Mount Etna or Alberobello’s Trulli. From the historic center of Florence to Venice and its lagoon, you could spend an entire summer in search of its historic sites. See them all here.
Rome is Old
Founded in 735 BC, Rome is more than 2000 years old. It ruled over the Roman Empire that stretched from Africa to Northern Europe until 385 when the Roman Empire fell. Today it is the Capital City of Italy.
The Trevi Fountain Is Full of Money
Legend has it that throwing one coin into the Trevi Fountain definitely means that you will return to Rome (the Eternal City), throwing two means that you will return to the city and fall in love, and tossing in three means that you will return, fall in love and get married.
As a result, thousands upon thousands of tourists toss coins in daily. (ourselves included) The money is routinely collected and donated to charity.
The Italian Flag Colors Have Meaning
The green, white and red colors were not just chosen for their cohesive hues; there is actual meaning behind them. The red in the flag means charity, white means faith, and green means hope.
Italy is home to three mountain ranges. The ranges of the Alps, Dolomites, and the Apennines are located in Italy and it shares Mont Blanc with France. The Italian Alps are probably the most famous as they border the French Alps..
Speaking of mountains, Italy is home to Europe’s only active volcanoes. Mount Etna on the island of Sicily, Mount Stromboli off the coast of Sicily, and Vesuvius in Southern Italy.
Read The Best Guide to Hiking Mount Etna by Phil and Izzy of The Gap Decaders – (their photo above from hiking Mount Etna). But there are many dormant volcanoes in Italy due to the fact that the country sits on a fault line.
Italians Go Crazy For Soccer
Every country has its sports and in Italy, it’s definitely soccer. Italians are known for being among the most passionate soccer fans in the world – it is the national pastime here.
Venice Is All About Its Islands
Venice might be known for its meandering canals, but it also has islands galore. In fact, the city is comprised of 118 islands specifically. Many of them are too small to be noticed on their own. A couple of our favorites in Italy are Murano and Burano.
Christopher Columbus Was Italian
Many people think Christopher Columbus was Spanish since he sailed under the Spanish flag, but in fact, Christopher Columbus is Italian.
There Are More Than 900 Churches in Rome Alone
Italy is hugely devoted to religion, with a large contingent of Roman Catholics living here. Therefore, it is no surprise that houses of worship are in almost constant demand.
In Rome, there are more than 900 churches alone, all but guaranteeing that anyone who wants to worship during their time here will have a place in which to do so.
It is amazing that more of these were not destroyed in World War II.
Milan Has The Most Skyscrapers In Italy
Milan may be known for its delicious food, cutting-edge fashion and infusion of culture, and with good reason. Everything the city does, it does with style. This includes its architectural elements. As such, Milan is home to more skyscrapers than any other area of Italy, with towering buildings numbering 25 at last count. This gives it a very metropolitan appeal.
Mount Vesuvius Took More Than Just Pompeii
When the infamous Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, the story details the way that its lava flow rushed over the poor city of Pompeii, destroying everything in its path. However, Pompeii is not the only city destroyed by the eruption. There were numerous others that had a similar fate to Pompeii with ruins that also stand to this day.
Italy’s Wine Offerings Extend Beyond Tuscany
This might be the region for which Italian wine is best known, but it is not the only one in Italy offerings delectable tasting options. Veneto and Piedmont are also popular areas from which to purchase Italian wines. Sicily and Campania also make the list for wine lovers.
Visitors Still Use Public Drinking Fountains
One of the quirky elements of Italy found around the country is the presence of the drinking fountains built so long ago. They are stunning displays of Roman ingenuity, despite how old they are.
The best part is that even though the fountains have been standing for so long, they still have potable water and can be used to fill a bottle. This is what you may see when you see tourists and residents alike filling bottles of water alongside a major thoroughfare all over Italy.
Italy Is Known For Chocolate
Pasta, pizza and mozzarella cheese might be most commonly associated with Italy, but don’t forget the chocolate. When in Italy, do yourself a favor and find a chocolate maker for some of the best authentic chocolate your mouth has ever had the pleasure of tasting.
The Vatican Is a Country Within a Country
Vatican City may be in Rome, but it serves as its own sovereign country with the Pope serving as the head of it. While it is an independent entity, it is tiny measuring in at just an eighth of the size of Central Park in New York City. Despite its small stature, there are numerous sights to visit here, from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Cathedral.
Vatican is the Smallest Country in the World
And small in stature indeed. The Vatican is the smallest country in the world. The Pope is the head of state with a population of 825 people.
While we are on the subject of small countries, Italy surrounds another small republic. San Marino is the oldest republic on the planet and the third smallest country in Europe.
Speaking Of Vatican City, There Is a Secret Passage From The Vatican To Rome
The reason for this secret passageway is a no-brainer: should Vatican City ever come under attack, the first priority is to get the Pope out. This is the reason that this secret passageway was built. Since its inception, it has been used twice to evacuate popes who have found themselves in immediate danger.
Venice Canals Number More Than 100
While Venice is known for its canals, many people don’t realize how many criss-cross the city. There are more than 150 canals lining Venice, which makes for a startling image for tourists who don’t realize the position of this city on the water.
Rome Has a Nickname: The Eternal City
Local lore has it that the reason the city has this nickname is because those wandering through it feel an acute sense of history as though it will never fully fall.
Christmas Is HUGE In Italy
If you really want to go somewhere that they do Christmas big, forget about the northern regions – Italy is where you want to be. Because of its deeply-ingrained Roman Catholic traditions, few countries go in on Christmas spirit than Italy. For instance, huge Christmas dinners are generally held on Christmas Eve and the seasons lasts until January 6, which is the date of Epiphany in Christianity. Almost every city is decorated in lights and puts on shows, pageantry and festivals unlike anywhere else in the world.
There is an island in Venice that acts purely as a cemetery
San Michele Island is an active cemetery to this day.
Shakespeare Wrote 38 Plays – 13 Are Set In Italy
You might think England is your best bet to explore the settings that served as inspiration for the Bard’s work. However, he clearly had a penchant for Italian settings Romeo and Juliet was set in Verona, in the Veneto Region, and Julius Caesar was set in the Eternal City. Much Ado About Nothing was set in Messina, Sicily, while Othello and the Merchant of Venice were both set in Venice. Get your complete works of Shakespeare here.
Venice Was Once Uber-Rich
Though this is not the case anymore, Venice was once among the wealthiest of European cities. One of the reasons is because of the shipping options found via the unique topography here.
Visit Mummies In Palermo
If you want to check out mummies, you don’t need to travel to Egypt or one of the more well-known countries for this purpose. Palermo also offers a cool options of visiting the Capuchin Catacombs, which were created in the 17th century. Here, you can see mummies expertly preserved.
Sardinian Residents Live Exceptionally Long Lives
The residents of Sardinia are known for living exceptionally long lives as it is one of the world’s Blue Zones which is pinpointed as a place in the world where life expectancy is exceptionally long. In fact, Italy has the oldest population in Europe. As of 2019, 22% of the population in Italy was over 65 years old.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa Has Always Leaned
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the most popular world sites and a fun fact about it is that the tower started leaning shortly after it was constructed. Yet, it is expected to remain stable for several more centuries despite how long it has already been leaning.
Italy Invented the Sonnet
While many believe that Shakespeare is the inventor of the sonnet, the truth is that it was actually invented in Italy. This may be one of the reasons that Shakespeare set so many of his plays here and why he loved Italian culture so much.
More Italy inventions
- The thermometer was invented in Italy
- The Battery was invented in Italy
- Eyeglasses were invented in Italy
- The Piano was invented by an Italian
- Leonardo da Vinci may be famous for the Mona Lisa, but he was also an inventor and it was his theory that the world was round.
- Pasta was not invented in Italy. Although Italy made the pasta dish popular with more than 200 different shapes of Italian Pasta it was most likely introduced by Marco Polo after his return from China.
- However, pizza was invented in Italy.
- Many people think ice cream was invented in the kingdom of Italy because of its delicious gelato, but in fact, ice cream was first eaten China.
- Tomato Sauce was not invented in Italy, it was actually invented in Mexico.
- Mince meat filling, which most people associate with England was first featured in a Roman cookbook in the late 4th or 5th century AD.
And these are a few lighthearted facts to get you dreaming of visiting Italy and Southern Europe soon. Where will you go first?
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