21 Fascinating Facts about Italy
Did you know that Italy counts over 300 different types of pasta? Or that the stunning city of Venice is actually sinking? Deepen your knowledge on this beautiful country with 21 fascinating facts about Italy that will definitely surprise you and that only true Italians would tell you about.
Did You Know?
Once Upon a Time in Italy...
Culture and Traditions in Italy
Fun Facts about Italy
Interesting things to know before you visit Italy
1. Number one country for UNESCO sites
This incredible country counts up to 58 world heritage sites placing itself on top of the world's list. From unique natural landscapes to ancient traces of humanity to worldwide known buildings and architectures. Italy can be such a versatile destination and manages to bring everyone together. Food, culture, art, history united with fascinating cities, landscapes and crystal clear beaches... who doesn't have Italy on their bucketlist?
Here are a couple of UNESCO sites you should check out when visiting Italy:
- The Colosseum
- Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata
- Castel del Monte
- Amalfi Coast
- The Dolomites
- Trulli of Alberobello
- City of Verona
2. Green, white and red are the colours of the Italian flag
Italians are really proud of their flag and they will find any spot to hang it up. The Italian flag originally takes inspiration from the French one but the colours changed due to the will to disassociate from Napoleon's empire. Green represents the Italian mountains and meadows, white the perpetual snow on the mountains and red stands for the blood spilt by the Italian soldiers during the war.
3. Italy claims over 300 different types of pasta
Obviously, pasta is a main issue in this country, so why not have hundreds of different varieties of it? Pasta actually origined in Sicily during the Arab domination (before 1091) and then made its way across the whole peninsula. This is why each of the 20 Italian regions has developed over the years very specific and different types of pastas.
When visiting Italy, these are some pasta based dishes you can't miss:
- Spaghetti Carbonara (from Rome)
- Trenette with Pesto (from Genoa
- Tagliatelle Bolognese (from Bologna)
- Bucatini Amatriciana (from Amatrice)
4. Rome was founded by a fratricide
According to the myth, Rome was founded by Romulus, the city's first king, after he killed his twin brother Remus as a consequence of a dispute. As reported by Roman historian Titus Livius, the twins were born thanks to the divine union of vestal Rhea Silvia and Mars, god of war. After being put to death by the city's king due to a divine prediction, the twins were rescued and fed by a she-wolf (sacred to Mars).
5. Europe's oldest demographic
Italy is literally a 'country for old men'. Within Europe, Italy detains the oldest population. About 23% of the national population is over 65 years old. This happens for two main reasons: falling birth rate and aging population. Moreover, many young people decide to start studying or working abroad because of the poor opportunities that Italy is currently offering.
6. Europe's only three active volcanoes
Italy hosts the only active volcanoes located in Europe: Mount Etna, Stromboli and Mount Vesuvius. The eruption of this last one was responsible for Pompeii and Herculaneum's devastation back in 79 AD. Mount Etna and Stromboli erupted quite recently (2019 and 2021), while Mount Vesuvius has been stable since 1944. Italy can get very explosive too!
7. Rome against McDonald's
Rome is definitely not 'lovin' it'. Back in 1985, when the first McDonald's restaurant opened in Rome, the capital city was filled with protests against the American fast food chain. Italians can get really serious when it comes to food culture and healthy diet. Infact, back in 1985, Romans created the 'Save Rome' committee that put together musicians, actors and politicians that spoke out against America's fast food entrance in the Mediterranean diet's land.
8. Vatican City is the world's smallest country
The Italian peninsula encompasses two autonomous countries: the Republic of San Marino and Vatican City. This ecclesiastical monarchial state (ruled by the Pope) is actually the smallest country in the whole world! However, this country is home to some of the world's most famous pieces of art: the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, Raffaello's frescos, the Laocoön statue... often good things come in small packages.
9. The Odyssey is set in Italy
Everyone knows about Ulysses adventurous wanderings across the Mediterranean Sea narrated by Greek author Homer. However, did you know that most of the Odyssey’s settings are located in Italy? Over the years, historians and philologists tried to imagine a route that Ulysses could have possibly followed during his journey back home to Ithaca. Finally, it turned out that many of the famous locations from the story are can be visited in Italy!
If you are a mythology lover these are some spots you cannot miss out when visiting Italy:
- Mount Etna, Sicily: this volcano seems to be very similar to the cave home to giant Polyphemus, described by Homer. Ulysses managed to escape by blinding the cyclops’s only eye.
- Aeolian Islands, Sicily: the Sicilian islands, according to studies, encompassed the reign of Aeolus, god of the winds. The Greek hero was hosted by Aeolus, which provided him with the wind that should have helped with the navigation back home.
- Mount Circeo, Lazio: apparently, Ulysses lived here for one year enchanted by Circe the sorceress.
- Capri’s Faraglioni: where the sirens tried to bewitch sailors with their hypnotizing voices, causing shipwrecks and deaths.
- Strait of Messina: here, Ulysses had to face Scylla and Charybdis, two marine monsters. The strong sea currents that destroyed ships going through the Strait led to the ideation of these creatures.
10. The world's largest wine producer
Are you a wine enthusiast and want to deepen your knowledges? Well then Italy's the right place for you. Infact, it's regarded as the world's largest wine producer. Similarly as for culinary traditions, each region developed very specific and unique varities of wine. Chianti, Amarone, Brunello... the list can get very long. Planning on a less common and romantic getaway? Maybe diving in the green and quiet Italian vineyards could be the experience you're looking for!
11. Dante is the father of Italian language
It is known that the Italian language has its roots in the ancient latin culture and history. However, after the fall of the Roman Empire, each region developed its own very specific and individual dialect that made communication a very complicated issue. Historically, the transition to the modern Italian language happened thanks to Dante's writing of the world's famous Divine Comedy. The poet chose to use the Tuscan dialect that then became the basis for a national use of the Italian language.
12. The world's smallest restaurant
Searching for a very peculiar experience that will give a twist to your trip to Italy? You could try eating in the world's smallest restaurant! 'Solo per due' (just for two) is the perfect idea for a romantic dinner with you partner, as you will be the only two guests for the night. It's located in an ancient Roman villa in Vacone, a beautiful small village close to Rome.
13. Rome had a horse consul
Ancient Roman historians wrote some of the most impressive and somehow weird facts that, most of the times, turn out to be fake. However, according to Suetonius, Roman emperor Caligula made his horse, Incitatus, a consul. It is also mentioned that the horse owned a marble stable and was attended by servants. Caligula certainly was one of the most eccentric protagonists of ancient Rome, however the happening of this event seems very unlikely. But it doesn't matter, it's nice to think that this could've been possible. These crazy latins!
14. Italy is the 5th most visited country
Italy is the 5th most visited country in the whole world after France, Spain, United States and China. This doesn't come as a surprise as the peninsula counts so many UNESCO sites, worldwide famous museums and art galleries, not even mentioning food tourism. Italian culture is one of the most appreciated and loved all over the world. In fact, most of the the globe's biggest metropolitan cities enclose 'Little Italy' districts, in order to feel closer to one of Europe's most adored countries.
15. Football is a rather serious issue
It's known that Italians take football really seriously, but did you know anything about 'calcio storico' (historical football)? This sport was invented during the Middle Ages, it was a pastime for aristocrats and popes too. It results in a mixture between regular football and rugby. However, matches featured a lot of violence and frequently ended with many deaths. This tradition managed to make its way to present day but rules were slightly changed in order to mantain order. Still, I wouldn't recommend assisting the matches if you're easily suggestible. Games are usually organised in the month of June in Piazza Santa Croce, Florence.
16. Rome has a money fountain
Italy's capital city is known for its beautiful fountains, counting over 50 of them! But did you know that the famous Trevi Fountain makes about 1.4 milion euros each year? Traditionally, tourists throw coins with their backs towards the fountain making a wish (it's a must-do!). This old and maybe silly tradition results in €3,000 daily! The collected money is usually invested in food and houses for the homeless, so let's keep this practice going!
17. Shakespeare loves Italy
Although it is almost certain that the English poet never visited Italy, it is beyond doubt that he somehow must have fallen in love with Italian settings. In fact, out of Shakespeare's 38 total plays, 13 are set in beautiful Italy. From Romeo and Juliet's romantic and confliting Verona to dramatic Merchant of Venice and Othello to ancient Rome's Julius Caesar... maybe a Shakespeare based itinerary across Italy could be an interesting experience for literature lovers?
18. Italy is a very superstitious country
Never joke about superstitions with Italians, they take it very seriously most of the times. The major superstitions concern death or bad luck. Friday 17, black cats crossing your path, spilling salt over the table... these are just the tip of the iceberg. Obviously Italians have their lucky charms too that are going to protect you from having bad luck. The most famous one is the 'cornetto' (a red horn) that you will see everywhere if you're planning on going to Naples.
19. Venice is sinking
Probably not a lot of people are aware of this, but the wonderful and unique city of Venice is actually sinking. Having to deal with a city literally built over water can't be simple, but during these last years due to global warming, Venice is seriously in danger. Citizens are used to dealing with floods ('acqua alta', literally 'high water'), however, if the sea level keeps rising so fast, studies show that in 20 years Venice could be completely under water. Barriers where constructed in order to reduce the amount of water entering the lagoon but if you're willing to visit Venice... the sooner the better!
20. The Leaning Tower of Pisa was already built leaning
Did you know that the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa was already leaning when it first was built? Architects noticed it was leaning when the first three stories were built. This happened because of the uneven settling of the building's foundations on the soft ground. During decades the tower was subjected to many works in order to reduce the sloping. However this human mistake turned out to establish one of the world's most known landmarks.
21. Cappuccino can point you out as a tourist
If you're willing to fully merge with Italian culture and traditions, you need to learn about 'cappuccino rules'. If you get timing wrong, Italians will instantly be able to point you out as a tourist. In Italy, cappuccino is exclusively a morning drink. No one drinks cappuccinos after lunchtime, you can have regular espresso then. If you're fancying something to drink during the late afternoon, right before dinner, have an 'aperitivo' instead. It's the Italian expression for 'gathering with friends to have a drink and eat something while catching up'. Sometimes aperitivi turn into proper dinners and it's common to drink Aperol Spritz (traditionally originates from Padova).
Did these facts inspire you to plan a trip to discover the varities of wonders that Italy offers?
If you want to discover this fascinating country, check and compare our great flight deals to Italy on CheapTickets.sg!
COVID-19 Measures to Consider on Holiday in Italy
Tourists from Singapore are welcome to enter Italy without being forced to self isolation (5 days) as long as they fill out the Passenger Locator Form and show a Digital COVID-19 Certificate or show a negative PCR test taken in the 48 hours prior to entering Italy. Face masks are required on public transportation and in any indoor space. Bars and restaurants are obliged to check Digital COVID-19 Certificate if you will to consume indoors. Social distancing rules apply everywhere.
If you have specific issues, please refer to the GOV.SG website and the relevant Italian authorities.
COVID-19 related bonus fact: the word 'quarantine' actually has its origin from Italian.'Quarantena', from Venetian dialect, stands for forty days, period of time during which ships were obliged to isolate before entering the lagoon during the Black Plague.
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