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174 Facts You Didn’t know about Italy

174 interesting Facts About Italy

In ‘174 Facts You Didn’t Know About Italy,’ we uncover the layers of this culturally rich nation. From the intricate world of the Mafia to iconic architecture, diverse traditions, and mouthwatering cuisine, explore the untold stories that shape Italy’s unique identity, revealing a side often obscured by the more well-known facets.

Join us on this intriguing exploration beyond the familiar, where every fact opens a door to a deeper understanding of Italy’s hidden tales.

TOP 12 Facts

Let’s Start with our TOP 12 and then expand ALL 174 of them into their own categories.

  1. The Mafia exists in Italy to this day. It is estimated to make up 7% of the country’s entire GDP.
  2. Breaking a mirror will cause seven years of bad luck.
  3. Venice is built on 120 islands.
  4. A person convicted of killing a cat (stray or owned), can face a 10,000 euro fine and up to 3 years in prison.
  5. The average Italian consumes 26 gallons of wine and Italians drink around 14 billion espressos a year.
  6. There are over 2,500 traditional cheeses and 350 different kinds of pasta in Italy.
  7. Thirteen of Shakespeare’s 38 plays are set in Italy, including his most famous Romeo and Juliet which is set in Verona.
  8. The very first piano was developed in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori in 1698.
  9. The telephone was created by an Italian (Meucci).
  10. You shouldn’t cross your arms when you clink wine glasses together.
  11. Italians drop olive oil into a bowl of water to check for the evil eye (malocchio).
  12. There are over 1,500 lakes in Italy.

6 Interesting Facts About the Italian Mafia

  1. The Mafia exists in Italy to this day. It is estimated to make up 7% of the country’s entire GDP.
  2. The Mafia originated in Western Sicily. Southern Calabria and Napolitan area.
  3. Although The Mafia is more typical in the southern area, they are also everywhere else such as  Lazio, Umbria, Abruzzo, Liguria, and Tuscany. Some even say Lombardia and Emilia Romagna. They condition the Italian economy, politics, and institutions, and they use ‘’paid protection’’ for activities.
  4. Al Capone’s annual income was 1.3 billion in today’s dollars. He made 105 million dollars a year during the 1920s which is equivalent to 1.3 billion in profit.
  5. The American Mafia started in the United States in the 1800s. Italian families like Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, and the Lucchese moved to the US and they were called ‘’Cosa Nostra’’. They are present in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Detroit.
  6. On May 23rd, 1992, Judge Giovanni Falcone and his wife Francesca were killed by the Mafia using 500 KG of TNT, RDX, and ammonium nitrate.

10 Interesting Facts About the Italy Architecture

  1. Rome is home to hundreds of fountains including the oldest and most famous Trevi fountain.
  2. The Trevi Fountain, (Fontana di Trevi) is Italy’s largest and most famous Baroque fountain, standing 20 meters in width by 26 meters in height.
  3. Italy has the most UNESCO World Heritage sites – 58, as of 2022.
  4. The lagoon city of Venice Located in Northern Italy is built on 120 islands.
  5. The Colosseum arena in Rome could sit over 50,000 spectators.
  6. Milan cathedral (Duomo di Milano) took almost six hundred years to complete.
  7. The biggest cathedral in the world is St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It has 284 columns in the cathedral square, and the dome is 42 meters high. Surprisingly St. Peter’s Basilica isn’t the official seat of the Pope. Instead, San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran) is the mother church of the Roman Catholic church.
  8. The Colosseum in Rome is the largest Flavian amphitheater and sporting arena measuring 189 m long, 156 m wide, and 50 m high.
  9. Colosseum got its name because of a statue that was located alongside the amphitheater called ‘the colossus of Nero’. Nero’s hidden palace Domus Aurea is located opposite the Colosseum and it is unknown to many.
  10. Two big earthquakes caused the main damage seen today. These earthquakes happened in 847 AD and 1231 AD.

It was never shameful to learn from any teacher things that are useful to know.

Leon Battista Alberti

7 Interesting Facts About the Italian Traditions

  1. Italians take a stroll after dinner and call it ‘’fare una passeggiata’’ . This helps them with digestion and is also a social activity to catch up with friends and neighbors.
  2. The family (and the mother in particular) is the center of Italian society. Young people often live at home until their 30s.
  3. Italians are known for having large families.
  4. The biggest holiday of the year in Italy is Christmas.
  5. Rome is home to roughly 300,000 cats, and they are loved and protected by law. A person convicted of killing a cat (stray or owned), can face a 10,000 euro fine and up to 3 years in prison.
  6. It is customary to stand up when an elderly person enters the room as respecting the elderly is very essential in Italian culture.
  7. Before dinner, Italians will go out for an aperitivo. The Italian aperitivo is similar in concept to ‘Happy Hour’ but drinks aren’t discounted (although food is included). Having an aperitivo has become part of Italian traditions since most Italians eat lunch around 1 pm or 2 pm, and dinner around 9 pm. They go to a bar and have a post-work cocktail or wine with friends right before their dinner.

13 Interesting Facts About the Italian Language

  1. Dante Alighieri referred to simply as ‘’Dante’’ is considered the “Father of the Italian language. His works contributed a lot to establishing the literature of Italy and standardizing the Italian language.
  2. Italian has a lot of food-related expressions. One proverb goes as ‘’A tavola non si invecchia mai’’, which means ‘one doesn’t grow old at the dinner table’ indicating you should take your time and enjoy the moment. There is also plenty of Italian food-related insults. For example, Sei come il prezzemolo! Which literally means (You’re like parsley), indicating ‘you turn up everywhere, and Non fare il salame! Which means (Don’t act like salami!) or ‘Don’t be stupid!
  3. Italian became an official language in 1861. Italian is one of the closest languages to Latin among all romance languages.
  4. Around 63 million people in the world speak Italian as their first language and approximately 3 million speak Italian as a second language.
  5. Italian is the official language of Italy, Vatican City, and San Marino. It’s also the official language of some parts of Croatia, Switzerland, and Slovenia.
  6. The official language in the country is Italian, but German and French are also spoken in some regions.
  7. Today’s modern Italian language originated in the region of Tuscany.
  8. There are only 21 letters in the Italian alphabet. Letters J, K, W, X, and Y are used in loanwords, proper names, and archaisms, with few exceptions.
  9. Italians find it nearly impossible to express themselves without gestures as they speak with their hands and gestures nearly as much as they do with words.
  10. Italian is said to be one of the most beautiful languages in the world because of its so-called ‘melody’. The Italian language consists of a large number of words that end in vowels, and a few words with consecutive consonants in a row, this creates an open sound that makes it beautiful to hear and perfect for singing.
  11. There are many dialects found in Italy that differ a lot from each other, especially in pronunciation like Napolitano in Naples and Romanesco in Rome.
  12. The word quarantine dates back to the days of the Bubonic Plague in Venice. ‘’Quaranta’’ means ‘forty’ in Italian. Ships entering Venice were forced to anchor offshore for a full 40 days to prevent the spread of the disease.
  13. Italian words have grammatical gender (they can be either feminine or masculine). For example, Pizza is feminine, and risotto has a masculine grammatical gender.

12 Interesting Facts About Italian Food and Cuisine

  1. There are over 350 different kinds of pasta.
  2. There are over 2,500 traditional cheeses in Italy.
  3. The city of Naples gave birth to Pizza.
  4. The average Italian consumes 25 kilograms of pasta a year.
  5. The average Italian consumes 26 gallons of wine a year.
  6. Italian farms produce grapes, potatoes, sugar beets, soybeans, grain, olives, beef, and dairy.
  7. Italians went to the streets and protested when the first McDonald’s opened in Rome in 1986.
  8. The pasta was first served with honey and sugar as a sweet dish. It was also eaten with fingers!
  9. The average Italian consumes half a pound of bread a day.
  10. Fontana di vino is a free wine fountain located in the Dora Sarchese vineyard in Caldari di Ortona. It flows 24/7 with locally grown red wine.
  11. Italians drink around 14 billion espressos a year. An average household in Italy consumes about 37 kilograms of coffee annually.
  12. Pizza was invented in Naples. Pizza Margherita was created by the Neapolitan pizza maker Raffaele Esposito in honor of the Queen consort of Italy Margherita of Savoy in 1889. It represented the national colors of Italy as the national flag. Basil (green), mozzarella (white), and tomatoes (red).

“Life is a combination of magic and pasta.”

Federico Fellini, Italian director

19 Interesting Facts About Italian Superstitions

  1. Number 13 is actually considered very lucky in Italy. Number 17 is unlucky. Some tall buildings, hotels, and airplanes don’t have the number 17.
  2. Italians place a loaf of bread face up so as not to offend Jesus.
  3. It is bad luck to celebrate your birthday before the actual date.
  4. It is bad luck to raise a toast with water or when drinking from a plastic cup.
  5. In Naples, an amulet of red chili pepper(a cornicello) is said to bring luck and protection against the evil eye. What makes a cornicello so special is that you can’t buy it for yourself, it must be gifted to you.
  6. It is believed that if you accidentally spill salt or oil on the table, this could lead to a loss of money and debt. This idea comes from ancient times when both oil and salt were expensive commodities. In order to undo the potential harm caused by spilling these ingredients, you must quickly pick up the salt grains and throw them behind your shoulders three times with your left hand. Why three? This is the number of the Trinity and the left hand is associated with sinister things so, evil wards off other evil. When the grains of salt land on the floor, a passerby will pick up the bad luck instead. If you spill oil, then a single pinch of sprinkled salt will do the trick.
  7. Around 500,000 exorcisms are performed in Italy each year.
  8. Italians drop olive oil into a bowl of water to check for the evil eye (malocchio).
  9. You will receive good fortune if you hear a cat sneeze.
  10. Seeing a spider at night is a sign of receiving money.
  11. When you drop something, someone whose name starts with the first letter of the object dropped is thinking of you. Drop a pen (penna) and Pamela is thinking of you.
  12. When your nose itches, either kisses or punches are coming for you. Either “pugni o baci”.
  13. You will have ten years added to your life if you dream of someone dying.
  14. Eat lentils on New Year’s Day and money will flow to you during the year.
  15. You will lose money if you kill a spider.
  16. Breaking a mirror will cause seven years of bad luck.
  17. Giving a handkerchief as a gift will bring tears.
  18. Passing each other the salt hand to hand without putting it down on the table will lead to an unavoidable dispute between the two.
  19. You shouldn’t cross your arms when you clink wine glasses together.

7 Interesting Facts About Italian Art

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  1. The famous children’s story, Pinocchio, was written by an Italian.
  2. Ballet originated in Italy during the 15th century.
  3. Some of the most well-known artists and authors including Dante, Da Vinci, Michelangelo Rafael, Caravaggio, Titian, Botticelli, and Bellini are from Italy.
  4. The expression ‘Ars longa, vita brevis’ is a common saying in Italy that means ‘art is long, life is short. This saying implies the long-lasting impact of art over the shortness of life.
  5. Italy is home to 3,847 museums, galleries, and collections.
  6. Thirteen of Shakespeare’s 38 plays are set in Italy, including his most famous Romeo and Juliet which is set in Verona. He has a special love for Italy as it was the setting for many of his plays.
  7. Italy has more masterpieces per square mile than any other country in the world.

“A beautiful body perishes, but a work of art dies not.”

Leonardo da Vinci

5 Interesting Facts About Italian Law

  1. You will have to pay a fine if you eat or drink in the church. its courtyard or historic centers.
  2. In the city of Turin, dog owners must walk their dogs at least three times a day.
  3. bathing or swimming in a public fountain can bring about a large fine.
  4. It’s against the law to keep a goldfish in a bowl in Rome, as it’s considered cruel.
  5. Selling and buying counterfeit goods is illegal. Be careful not to get caught with a knockoff!

5 Interesting Facts About Italian Sports

  1. Italy has won the World Cup four times, the most World Cup wins, with Brazil claiming the top spot.
  2. Italy hosted the Olympics three times in 1956, 1960, and 2006.
  3. The Italian Volleyball League is one of the most talented leagues in the world.
  4. Italians consider soccer(Calcio) as part of their culture and history and are extremely patriotic when their team plays.
  5. Italy is host to one of the three most famous bike rides in Europe, which is called “Giro d’Italia” (Tour of Italy).

“Patience may be the toughest thing when you’re injured.”

Danilo Gallinari, Italian basketball player

13 Interesting Facts About Italian Music

  1. Verdi’s funeral was the largest public assembly event in the history of Italy.
  2. Verdi and Wagner, two of the most popular Italian composers of the 19th century, hated each other and never met.
  3. Italian culture consists of opera, instrumental music, lyrical songs, lullabies, and Italian folk music.
  4. Italian fishermen, shepherds, and soldiers have their own songs.
  5. Traditional musical instruments are accordion, flutes, bagpipes, and quartara.
  6. The center of European classical is considered to be Italy.
  7. Some of the famous Italian musicians are Vincenzo Bellini, Giuseppe Verdi, Saverio Francesco Mercadante, Alfredo Catalani, and Umberto Giordano.
  8. Italian Opera is known the world over and the opera tradition originated in Italy in 1600.
  9. Italian folk music varies between different regions. It is a mixture of Celtic music, Slavic music, Arabic music, Greek music, Spanish music, and Byzantine music.
  10. Claudio Monteverdi is among the very few composers from the 17th century whose music is still performed today.
  11. In North Italy, traditional music is influenced by Celtic and Slavic music.
  12. In southern Italy, traditional music is inspired by ancient Greek and Arabic music.
  13. Some of the most popular Italian folk revival bands are La Lionetta, Baraban, Callicanto, Re Niliu, Tre Martelli, and others.

3 Interesting Facts About Italian Cinema

  1. Well-known Italian directors such as Elio Petri, Paolo Sorrentino, Sergio Leone, Pietro Germi, Giuseppe Tornatore, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Federico Fellini have gifted the world with eternal films.
  2. Italian films gained popularity in the 20th century for their observation and understanding of society and humanity.
  3. Italian director Sergio Leone is credited with inventing the “Spaghetti Western” subgenre. You’ve probably seen his Clint-Eastwood-Starring films such as A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

4 Interesting Facts About Italian Fashion

  1. Italian people prefer to have fewer options for high-quality dresses in their wardrobe than have a lot of cheaply made clothes.
  2. Italian fashion is more about elegance than comfort.
  3. Italian attire is made up of high-quality fabrics.
  4. Italy is the birthplace place of world-class fashion designers.

“Styles come and go. Good design is a language, not a style.”

Massimo Vignelli, Italian designer

12 Interesting Facts About Italy Geography and climate

  1. Over 75% of Italy is mountainous or hilly.
  2. Italy has more volcanoes than any other country in Europe.
  3. About 80% of the Italian landscape is made up of hills and mountains, which is another consequence of the country being located on a fault line.
  4. Italy is separated from the other countries by the Alps. This mountain range is located in the north of Italy and runs along the full length of the border.
  5. The longest river in Italy is the Po.
  6. The highest mountain in Europe is located in the Alps on the French-Italian border. Called Mont Blanc in French and Monte Bianco in Italian, its highest peak is 4,807 meters.
  7. There are over 1,500 lakes in Italy, which is quite a lot for a relatively small country. Some are surrounded by mountains, others by sandy beaches, big and small.
  8. The two main mountain ranges in Italy are the Alps (which run across the top of Northern Italy) and the Apennines which run vertically down the center of Italy.
  9. Italy has two big islands, Sicily and Sardinia, as well as lots of smaller ones (over four hundred). It is estimated that 1 in every 10 Italians lives on an Island.
  10. There is a sea cave called Grotta Azzurra on the island of Capri. ‘Azzurra’ means ‘blue’ in Italian. Due to the unusual refraction of sunlight, the water in this cave appears incredibly blue. You can visit it by taking a boat ride but be careful not to bang your head on the very low entrance to the cave.
  11. Earthquakes are frequent in Italy with the last major earthquake, measuring 6.2 ± 0.016 on the moment magnitude scale. It hit Central Italy on 24 August 2016 where 299 people died.
  12. Italy is surrounded by four seas: the Adriatic Sea, Tyrrhenian Sea, Ionian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea, and borders four countries: France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia all in the north.

8 Interesting Facts About Italian Christmas

  1. Christmas festivities in Italy start around the 6th of December and end at Epiphany, the 6th of January.
  2. Most Italians also give and receive gifts 12 days after Christmas on January 6th.  A very old witch known as La Befana is said to bring gifts on the night of the 5th. This Italian character flies and puts candies and presents in children’s stockings.
  3. Eating a meatless dinner is very popular on Christmas eve. In parts of southern Italy, families eat a meal of seven fish!
  4. St. Peter’s Square in Rome is decorated beautifully with a large Christmas tree, and the Pope gives his Christmas address at noon on Christmas Day.
  5. One of the world’s largest Christmas trees is a lighting illumination on a mountainside near Gubbio in the Umbria region in Italy. Thousands of lights spread across the mountain form a tree shape, covering over 1000 square meters(650 meters in height and 350 meters in width)
  6. The Most Famous Italian Christmas cake is Panettone. This cupola-shaped sweet bread is served after mass on Christmas Eve. It is a dry fruit cake and is typically eaten with a cup of hot chocolate.
  7. Other Italian Sweet snacks and treats eaten through the holiday season are sweet honey bread, marzipan, nougat, and gingerbread. They all symbolize the sweetness of life.
  8. Many families keep The Yule Log burning nonstop until New Year. In Tuscany, a huge log is set on fire, during the Festival of the Log.

9 Interesting Facts About Italian Carnival

  1. Carnival means “farewell to meat” which comes from the Catholics eating all the meat they could before the start of Lent. Partaking in the last days of eating meat is part of the celebration of the Venice Carnival.
  2. Carnevale is the last celebration before fasting begins on Ash Wednesday. It is celebrated on Martedi Grasso or Fat Tuesday.
  3. Carnevale was first celebrated in Venice in 1094 and has been officially held annually since 1296.
  4. In Rome, Carnevale gained popularity in the 17th century, and it was celebrated with a riderless horse race down the Via del Corso until the 1880s. Too many accidents happened, and it was decided this was too unsafe so the city began celebrating in more traditional ways.
  5. Carnevale in Italy was traditionally a period when roles were switched (men and women, nobility and commoners).
  6. Venice Carnival lasts about two to three weeks long. It is the final party before Ash Wednesday and Lent.
  7. The wearing of the Venetian mask was a way for people to hide their status and mingle with whoever they wanted to freely. It allowed people to interact with other people of different social statuses without being judged.
  8. The best carnival costume and the best carnival mask contests take place on a stage in Piazza San Marco in Venice.
  9. There are about 10 different types of Venetian masks. The Bauta mask is the most traditional one. Bauta appears in white and covers the whole face. It was introduced in the 16th century and was worn throughout the year by the upper classes to hide their identity. The masses used them during the Carnival.

14 Interesting Facts About Italian Inventions

  1. The telephone was created by an Italian (Meucci).
  2. The first-ever pair of eyeglasses were made in Italy between 1268 and 1289.
  3. Alessandro Volta created the first battery in 1800. The unit of power, the volt, is named after him.
  4. Galileo Galilei invented the thermoscope. This instrument indicated temperature differences, which led to the invention of the thermometer by Santorio Santorio(a Venetian scientist).
  5. The jacuzzi was invented by Italian engineer Candido Jacuzzi in 1948. He used specialized water pumps to help his son who was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
  6. Da Vinci invented many things which are still used today, including the Barreled cannon (the automatic weapon), helical aerial screw (the helicopter), the anemometer (to measure wind speed and direction), the revolving bridge, a winged flying machine (the airplane), diving equipment, self-propelled cart (the car) and the parachute.
  7. The very first piano was developed in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori in 1698. Other musical instruments invented in Italy include the violin, the guitar, and the organ.
  8. Italy’s other contributions to science include the barometer, electric battery, nitroglycerin, and wireless telegraphy.
  9. The nuclear reactor was invented by Enrico Fermi.
  10. Cologne is an Italian invention.
  11. The espresso machine is an Italian invention. It was built by Angelo Moriondo in 1884.
  12. The typewriter was invented by an Italian.
  13. The first ice cream cone was created by an Italian immigrant who settled in New York City in 1896.
  14. Pretzels were actually first made in Italian in 610 by an Italian monk. The monk gave the pretzels to children who learned their prayers.
  15. Italian Renaissance architecture saw the development of linear perspective, a technique that enabled architects and artists to create more lifelike images that accurately depicted distance and depth.

6 Interesting Facts About Italian Culture

  1. Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance.
  2. Italy is considered the cultural and art capital of the world and it is believed that it has more masterpieces per square meter than any other place in the world.
  3. The story of Pinocchio was written by the Italian author Carlo Collodi. It was published in a newspaper in 1881. It tells the stories of the adventures of a marionette named Pinocchio and his father, a poor woodcarver named Geppetto.
  4. Italy is also a source of great film stars, such as Monica Bellucci, Sophia Loren, Robert Benigni, and Isabella Rossellini.
  5. Football (soccer) is very popular in Italy and an important part of Italian culture. There are many local clubs and millions of passionate fans.
  6. Ballet originated in Italy in the 15th century and was introduced to France by Catherine de Medici.

Italy, and the spring and first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy.

Bertrand Russell

14 Interesting Facts About Italian History

  1. In ancient times, Italy was the homeland of the Romans and the center of the Roman Empire. The roman empire in its most glorious days occupied about 5,000,000 square kilometers which is 1% of all the land on the planet!
  2. The Roman Empire was founded in 27 BCE and dissolved in 476 CE. 
  3. A large part of Italy used to be Ancient Greece. Greek culture is still seen in Sicily. Romans used to call the whole of Sicily and the foot of the boot of Italy  “Greater Greece’’.
  4. The first societies emerged in Italy around 1200 BCE. However, present-day Italy became a sovereign state on March 17, 1861.
  5. For twenty years, from 1925 to 1945, Italy was under the authoritarianism of Benito Mussolini.
  6. The first bank in the world started in Italy in 1149. The families of bankers became extremely wealthy and influential in areas such as Florence, Pisa, and Venice. Their businesses reached as far as England, France, and Spain, and they began lending money to the European sovereigns. The sovereigns sometimes offered baronage and other aristocratic titles instead of paying back the money they borrowed. This is how a member of the Medici family could be elected Pope and Lorenzo the Magnificent obtained the government of Florence.
  7. Italy was one of the six countries that founded the European Union. The other five founding countries were France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. 
  8. Italy was a kingdom until 1946. The last king of Italy was Umberto II. He ruled for 34 days, from 1946 to 1946, when Italy became a republic. 
  9. The ancient city of Pompeii was destroyed by the volcano Vesuvius in 79 CE.
  10. Since the end of World War ll, Italy has had 60 different governments. 
  11. Italy has been a host of the Olympic games three times: in 1956, 1960, and 2006.
  12. Famous Italian explorers were Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo, John Cabot, and Amerigo Vespucci.
  13. The Colosseum was the place for battles and gladiator contests. Estimates show that around 50,000 people and over a million animals were killed in the arena.
  14. The oldest university in Europe is in Bologna, Italy. The University of Bologna was founded in 1088, it is the third oldest university in the world and remains among the world’s best universities to this day.