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.
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Interesting Facts about Italy
Read on to learn some interesting facts about Italy while we all wait to travel again.
1. 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.
2. Rome is Old
Founded in 735 BC, Rome is more than 2000 years old. The first ruler of Rome was King Romulus. The first Roman Emperor was Augustus Octavian. The Roman Empire stretched from North Africa to Northern Europe until 385 when the Roman Empire fell. Today Rome is the Capital City of Italy. Check out: 42 Amazing Ancient Ruins of the World
3. 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. Check out: Where to stay in Rome – A Guide To The Best Neighbourhoods
As a result, thousands upon thousands of tourists toss coins in daily. (ourselves included) The money is routinely collected and donated to charity. Read more: 14 Beautiful and Historic Places to Visit in Iran
4. 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.
5. High Mountains
Italy is home to three mountain ranges. The ranges of the Alps, Dolomites, and Apennines are located in Italy and it shares the highest mountain Mont Blanc with France. Monte Bianco (as it is called in Italy) is the highest peak in Italy. The Italian Alps are probably the most famous as they border the French Alps. Read more: 32 of The Tallest Mountains in the World by Continent
6. Active Volcanoes
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). However, there are many dormant volcanoes in Italy due to the fact that the country sits on a fault line.
7. 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.
8. They Also Go Crazy for Espressos
14 billion espressos are consumed in Italy each year. I can believe it because whenever we are sitting in a cafe having breakfast, Italians pop in and down an espresso while standing before carrying on with their day. Read more: Italian Food: 27 Italian Dishes to Try in Italy or at Home
9. 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. Read more: 25 Best Things to do in Venice, Italy
10. Christopher Columbus Was an Italian
Many people think Christopher Columbus was Spanish since he sailed under the Spanish flag, but in fact, Christopher Columbus is Italian.
11. 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. Read more: 21 Best Monuments in Rome To See In Your Lifetime
12. 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. Read more: 15 Most Beautiful Cities in Italy for Travelers
13. 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. Read more: 18 Beautiful Amalfi Coast Towns to Visit in 2023
14. Italy’s Wine Offerings Extend Beyond Tuscany
Tuscany might be the region for which Italian wine is best known, but it is not the only one in Italy offering 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. Read more: 22 Best Day Trips from Florence
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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.
It is one of the most visited monuments in the world seeing 20,000 visitors a day. Most of them go into the Sistine Chapel to view the masterpiece by Michelangelo. Read more: How Much Does A Trip to Italy Cost – Detailed Budget Breakdown
18. The 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. 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.
19. San Marino Is Also Within Italy
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. And it is surrounded by Italy. Read more about San Marino: The Remarkable Views from San Marino
20. 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. Read more: 3 Days in Venice – The Complete Venice Itinerary
21. 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. Read more: 3 Days in Rome: Planning the Perfect Rome Itinerary
22. Italians Loved to Explore
Many a famous explorers came out of Italy. Italian Christopher Columbus discovered America and Marco Polo who discovered the Orient was also Italian. Other famous Italians include John Cabot and Amerigo Vespucci. Beyond exploring the world, Italians are famous for exploring the night skies. The famous astronomer Galileo Galilei was Italian.
23. 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 all in on Christmas spirit than Italy. Read more: Best Places to Celebrate Christmas Around the World
For instance, huge Christmas dinners are generally held on Christmas Eve and the season 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. Do you love Christmas? Check out our Christmas Vacation in New York
24. An Island Cemetery
There is an island in Venice that acts purely as a cemetery. San Michele Island is an active cemetery to this day.
25. Home to Old Universities
The University of Bologna is the oldest continuously operating university in the world. Founded in 1088 it is the oldest, but there are four other old universities in Italy. One in Siena, Naples and Padua. Check out: The 26 Best Things to do in Bologna, Italy
26. 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.
27. 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.
28. Pinocchio was First Published in Italy
While everyone credits Walt Disney for Pinocchio, he was the King of stealing ideas. His Fairytale Castle was modeled after Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Disneyland was modeled after Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, and the first story of Pinocchio was published in an Italian newspaper in 1890 by Carlo Collodi
29. 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. Read more: Venice A City Tour By Boat – The Way it Was Meant to Be
30. You can 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 cool options for visiting the Capuchin Catacombs, which were created in the 17th century. Here, you can see mummies expertly preserved.
31. 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.
32. Pasta Was Not Invented in Italy
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. Tomato Sauce was also not invented in Italy, it was actually invented in Mexico.
Many also people think ice cream was invented in Italy because of its delicious gelato, but in fact, ice cream was first eaten in China.
However, pizza was invented in Italy. Mincemeat filling, which most people associate with England was first featured in a Roman cookbook in the late 4th or 5th century AD. Read more: Italian Food: 27 Italian Dishes to Try in Italy or at Home
33. 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. Read more: Tips for Visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa
34. Famous Italy inventions
- The thermometer was invented in Italy
- The Battery was invented in Italy by Alessandro Volta. His last name is where the word volt came from.
- Eyeglasses were invented in Italy
- The Piano was invented by an Italian
35. Leonardo da Vinci was more than a Painter
Leonardo da Vinci may be famous for the Mona Lisa, but he was also an inventor and scientist and it was his theory that the world was round.
28. Italy Facts Geography
- Italy borders Switzerland, Austria, France, San Marino, Slovenia and Vatican City.
29. Italy’s Largest lake
Lake Como may be the most famous lake in Italy, but the largest lake in Italy is Lake Garda
30. Italy’s National Day
Italy celebrates its national holiday in June and it is called Festa della Repubblica
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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