Ready for some fun Italy facts? Every country has its small idiosyncrasies that shaped its history throughout the ages and formed the cultures we see today.
This is one of the things I love most about backpacking Europe. You have dozens of countries squished together in a small area. Yet, each country retains its own rich traditions and history. And Italy is no different!
Italy is located in the Mediterranean which is one of my best regions of the world. The food, sights, and people captive me. And of all the countries in the Mediterranean Italy is my favorite. Actually, scratch that, Italy isn’t my favorite country in that region but in the entire world. (I’m currently writing this post from a villa while I spend my last 3 days in Rome).
That is why I comprised this list of Italy facts. From the small Tuscan wineries to the sites of ancient Rome I am obsessed with every aspect of backpacking Italy.
Let’s get into it! Below are 101 fun facts about Italy divided in food, ancient, fun, and kid sections so you can browse whatever peaks your entrance.
1 – There is a wine fountain in central Italy where red wine flows 24 hours a day. Unbelievable right? Well, what is more unbelievable, yet true, is that the fountain is 100% free. You can fill up your flask as much as you want. For all you wino’s out there the fountain is in Abruzzo which is just two hours from Rome.
2 – The bull was the symbol of southern Italy. This could be how Italy got its name as “Italia” means “Calf Land.”
3 – It is rumored that Italy has more masterpieces per square mile than anywhere else in the world.
4 – The Leaning Tower of Pisa is found in Italy. And this landmark owes its fame to the poor foundation when it was first built. Engineers who have done some reconstruction and said that it will last at least another 200 years.
5 – Antonio Stradivari – An Italian and a top violinist is famous for the Stradivari Violin which is known for its exemplary craftsmanship.
6 – Italy is the birthplace of –arguably – the most essential musical instrument. The piano.
7 – This Italy fact is a little more gross than fun, but parts of Galileo’s body are on display in Florence ( His tooth, finger, and thumb). You can see them! It’s just one of the things to do in Florence.
8 – Roughly 80% of Italy is covered in mountains and hills.
9 – Italy has the tallest peak in all of Europe. Sitting at the height of just under 16,000 feet is the top of Monte Blanco (Which translates to the White Mountain)
10 – Italy is the 4th most visited country in the world and gets over 50 million tourists each year.
11 – Even though the Wolf is not the official animal of Italy, many locals consider it as such, since the wolf plays a vital role in the story of Rome’s founding.
12 – The Po River, in Northern Italy, is the largest river in the country and is 405 miles long.
13 – There are a lot of big lakes in Italy, however, Lake Garda is the largest with a catch area of 907 mi².
14 – Italy is the home of famous Renaissance painters and sculptors like Michelangelo, Botticelli, Da Vinci, Donatello, and Giotto. Their greatest works are housed in Florence, the city that sparked the Renaissance.
15 – Three authors came from Italy that have changed the course of Literature. These are Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio, and Francesco Petrarch. Among these three Dante’s (The Divine Comedy) is the most famous.
16 –Christmas is the most important holiday in Italy and the traditional holiday dinner comprises of seafood. Italy has a long Christmas season that stretches into January and ends during the Feast of Epiphany.
17 – Our first Italy food fact is that its the birthplace of one of the most popular foods in the entire world. No, not pasta but rather, Pizza. This delicious food that is responsible for so many of our waistlines comes from Naples which is just over an hour south of Rome. Even today, the best pizza I’ve had in Italy – actually in my life – was in Naples.
18 – Cheese lovers owe it to the Italians for producing such mouthwatering delights as the famous parmesan, mozzarella, and ricotta. There is nothing else on earth like fresh cheese from Italy.
19 – For 200 Euros you can buy a wheel of cheese that has been soaked in wine.
20 – Italy is famous for it’s drinks. You have wine, prosecco, aperol Spritz (my personal favorite), and digestivo. You should never be wondering what to drink in Italy.
21 – The Chinese were the first to make Ice Cream but it was the Italians who introduced it to the world.
22 – Pasta was brought to Italy by Arab countries, but Italians modified the dish and turned it into a staple of the country. Pasta in Italy is on a different level from the rest of the world! (Just ask my waistline.)
23 – Italy has over 350 different types of pasta.
24 – A traditional Italy breakfast is a sweet pastry or snack.
25 – There are over 240 different pasta shapes in Italy. Fun fact about me…. I know how to make one shape.
26 – Science owes a big debt to Galileo Galilei, which first introduced the theory of the earth revolving around the sun. Galileo Galilei is an Italian who lived in the 16th century.
27 – Until 2001 Italy’s currency was the Lira, after which they switched to the Euro.
28 – One fun facts about Italy for kids that you may not know is that the beloved cartoon character, Pinocchio, comes from Italy. The story is written by an Italian but made globally famous by Walt Disney.
29 – There are only a few brown bears left in Italy and are a protected species in the country.
30 – There are 3 active volcanoes in Southern Italy – Mount Vesuvius, Enta, and Stromboli.
31 – Italy is made up of 20 regions.
32 – Italy is famed for being easy to spot on a map due to the fact it is shaped like a boot.
33 – When Italy unified into the country we know today, Rome was under the control of the Papacy. So Florence was made the temporary capital until 1870.
34 – In 1870, troops entered Rome, which ended the Papal reign which had lasted more than a thousand years.
35 – Legend says if you throw a coin into Trevi Fountain over your left shoulder that you will one day return to Rome.
36 – World explorers like Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, and Marco Polo famed explorers. And they are all Italians.
37 – Until 1999 kids in Italy only needed to attend school until the age of 14!
38 – Italy is famed for being easy to spot on a map due to the fact it is shaped like a boot.
39 – The main Piazza in Marostica is a huge chess board. A popular activity is to play a game of chess using your friends as the pieces.
40 – Rome was first founded in 753 B.C.
41 – This makes Rome almost 3,000 Years Old.
42 – Many academics think Christmas stemmed from the Roman Pagan celebration of Saturnalia
43 – Saturnalia was a festival that celebrated the winter solstice and later the sun god Sol. It was celebrating the rebirth of the sun (the days getting longer) and even included minor gift giving.
44 – Julius Caesar set the date of the winter solstice to December 25th. 40 years before Jesus was born.
45 – Italy had one of the most expansive and longest running empires in known history. The capital, Rome, was the center of the known world at the time.
46 – Cities where much smaller compared to today standards. Ancient Rome was one of the largest cities in the world and only had a population of 1 million people at its height.
47 – The Roman Empire was massive and stretched from the middle east (around modern-day Syria) to the coast of Portugal. It also spread across Northern Europe and Southern Africa.
48 – At its height, the Empire covered about 2 million miles and had a population of over 120 million people.
49 – After the glory days of the Roman Empire the city fell on hard times and lost a lot of it population with only around 13,000 residents during Medieval Times.
50 – When the Roman Empire fell it paved the way for the rise of Christianity in Italy.
51 – The Renaissance graced the world with some of the most talented artist in history. Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael – no, not the ninja turtles – changed art forever, and their influence and techniques are still practiced today.
52 – The most well-preserved building left from Ancient Rome is the Pantheon. This was thought to be a temple to all the different gods, which might be why it was left alone when Rome was sacked.
53 – Fashion is one of the fields that Italy excels in. World famous couturiers like Armani, Valentino, Versace, Prada, and Gucci are Italians.
54 – Venice, that most romantic place in the world. Sadly, Venice is slowly but surely sinking into the water. (Better plan that 2 day trip to Venice fast)
55 – Currently, Venice is sinking at a rate of 7.8 inches every 100 years.
56 – The Catholic Church finally issued an apology to Galileo Galilei is 1992. His crime was saying that the earth revolves around the sun. An offense for which he was arrested and later he was put to death.
57 – Today Italy is known for its production of high-end cars that has made car lovers drool over since they have hit the market. Brand names like Maserati, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo, and the Ferrari are highly coveted among car addicts.
58 – Around 4/5ths of the country are Roman Catholics, the other 1/5th is made of up Protestants, Muslims, Jews, and other religious (or nonreligious) minorities.
59 – InsideItaly there is another country – San Marino which is the 5th Smallest Country in the world.
60 – Italy was one of the six countries to found the EU.
61 – The witches of Sardinia, which are still around today, they brew healing potions and talk in a secret language that survived by being passed to their daughters.
62 – One interesting fact about Italy is it has an independent state under it; the Vatican. Which is the world’s smallest country.
63 – The Vatican has its own electric company, TV and radio stations. It even has its own money. When sightseeing in Rome, the Vatican should be one of your first stops. One of the best ways to see the Vatican is on a Walks of Italy tour. My favorite tour company in Italy – see my whole Walks of Italy Rome Review here.
64 – Even a thousand years after its founding the University of Bologna still exists and is still well known as a great place to go to university in Italy.
65 –In WWI Italy was on the side of the US and UK.
66 –However, in WWII Italy sided with Germany and Japan.
67 – After WWI Benito Mussolini came into power. He was a ruthless dictator.
68 – There were seven kings of Rome before it was turned into a republic.
69 – Italy has more earthquakes than all the other countries in Europe. Some of them very deadly like the Sicily earthquake in 1693 where over 100,000 people died.
70 – Even today they are discovering and opening ancient sites in Rome. The latest is Nero’s Palace which was just opened in April 2019.
71 – Today Italy has a population of 60,590,000.
72 – Because the cemetery is full in the town of Falciano del Massico it is illegal to die.
73 – In Italy, the number 17 is bad luck. This is because the Roman numeral XVII can rearranged to read VIXI which in Latin means “My life is over”.
74 – Poveglia, an island in the north of Italy, is considered one of the most haunted places in the entire world.
75 – This is because it was a quarantine zone for the plague, and later a mental asylum. Nowadays, it is forbidden to go there.
76 – Tuscany is home to 7 of Italy’s UNESCO Site. These are Florence, Square of Miracles in Pisa, Val d’Orcia, the 12 Medicean Villas, Pienza, Medieval History Center of Siena, and San Gimignano.
77 – The Italian language we know today was born in Tuscany.
78 – There are over 10 leaning towers in Tuscany.
79 – There is no drinking age in Tuscany, actually in all of Italy.
80 – Although, you can’t buy or serve booze until you are 16.
81 – Before the Romans came, Tuscany was inhabited by a mysterious people known as the Etruscans.
82 – The Etruscans were already producing wine in Tuscany long before the Romans.
83 – Tuscany is famed for its meat. Boar meat is especially famous in the area. However, it is also known for its different kinds of meat they produce like the Fiorentina steak and cured meat.
84 – The marble arch came from Tuscany.
85 – The Teatro Massimo in Palermo is the largest opera house in Italy. It was featured in the Godfather Part III.
86 – Forbes voted the city of Palermo in Southern Italy as one of the top fives places for street food.
87 – Sicily has the tallest volcano in Europe. Mount Etna stands at 10,900 feet, and it is also one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
88 – Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean. The Island of Sicily is 9927 sq miles. It is also the most populated island in the area.
89 – Sicilian distinct and came from Greek, Arabic, Catalan, and Spanish influences rather than Italian.
90 – It is commonly believed that people have been living in Sicily since 8,000 B.C.
91 – There are 417 bridges in Venice, and 72 of those are private.
92 – The Venice population is 261,905.
93 – The city is built across 118 tiny islands.
94 – Venice is built on millions of petrified logs from Alder Trees. These logs were brought from various countries around the world. They have been driven into the ground and used as the base of the city.
95 – Venice is devoid of cars. This is one of the reasons the city is so charming. The best ways to get around are by boat and your own two feet.
96 – Casanova was born in Venice. He wanted to have a career in the church. However, his good looks and bad gambling addiction changed that. He had a lot of scandals throughout the city but eventually had to flee. He was also an avid prankster.
97 – Gondoliers are one of the highest paid jobs in Venice, and they can earn over 100,000 Euros a year.
98 – Venice has one of the narrowest streets in the entire world, and it is just over 20 inches wide.
99 – Venice has a total of 177 canals. The largest canal is the Grand Canal.
100 – Most modes of transportation with wheels are outlawed in Venice. This includes skateboards, skates, and bikes.
101 – It is a law in Venice that gondolas are painted black. Gondolas used to be decorated to attract customers, but this gave wealthier people an advantage.
102 – Italians love to take a stroll before dinner time. This, for them, is the perfect time to socialize, people watch, or strut their stuff.
There we go! A lot of facts about Italy. What do you think? Do any of these make you think differently about the country? Or perhaps they only heighten your desire to visit the country.
Whatever you think I hope you will go backpacking through Italy. It is my favorite country in the world, and all these Italy facts make me love it even more.
Hi, I’m Stephen Schreck (pronounced like Shrek; but don’t worry, I’m not green.)
At 21 I fell in love with travel. Since then my adventures have taken me to over 80 countries in 8 years.
Now my biggest passion is helping people just like you, reach their travel dreams!
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