Aside from pasta and Ferraris, Italy has made a name for itself in many ways. This boot-shaped country pioneers industries such as food, fashion, and luxury cars, as well as sports. Italy’s history, culture and arts shaped the world as we know it today. Find out more about this historic country with these Italy facts.
- The name Italy originated from the word ‘Italia’ which means ‘calf land.’
- Its official name is The Italian Republic or Repubblica Italiana.
- Italy is a country in south-central Europe in a peninsula into the Mediterranean Sea.
- Italy covers a total area of 116,400 sq mi., making it only slightly bigger than Arizona.
- As of March 2020, Italy only has a population of 60,488,362.
- Italy was founded on March 17, 1861.
- A nickname for Italy is ‘Bel Paese,’ meaning ‘beautiful country.’
- Newborn Italians have an average life expectancy of 79.54 years.
- Tourism provides around 63% of the national income of Italy.
- Italy counts as one of the founders of the European Union.
- Italian first names would usually end in -o for men and -a for women.
- The largest producer of wine in the world is Italy.
- The literacy rate in Italy is at least 98%.
- Italy used the Italian Lira as its currency until 2001 when they switched to the Euro.
- Over 50 million tourists flock into Italy every year.
- Carlo Collodi of Italy wrote ‘Pinocchio.’
- At the end of the 16th century, Italy composed the first operas in the world.
- Italians popularized forks in Europe due to the convenience that it adds in twirling the endemic spaghetti.
- In central Italy, a red wine fountain flows 24/7 but is only free to those who are not drunkards and louts.
- The Italian Traffic Police has 2 Lamborghini Gallardo cars in service.
Italy Facts Infographics
Rome is Italy's capital city.
People also call Rome the Eternal City since it’s already 3,000 years old. Established in 1871, Rome is the biggest city in the country and is home to numerous landmarks such as the Trevi Fountain and the Coliseum.
Italy shares its longest border with Switzerland.
Other countries that it shares borders with are France, Austria, and Slovenia.
Italy is home to 2 other independent states.
The first one is the Vatican City which is only 0.17 sq mi. big, while the second one is the Republic of San Marino at only 23 sq mi.
Stromboli, the ‘Lighthouse of the Mediterranean,’ is in Italy.
It is one of the 7 volcanic islands that consists of the Aeolian archipelago off the northern coast of Sicily. Moreover, Stromboli is iconic due to its steady towering glow.
The history of Italy traces back to the peak of the Roman Empire.
Back in 117 AD, Italy’s territory stretched from present-day Spain to modern-day Iraq in the west. It also covered Great Britain in the north across the Mediterranean sea down to Egypt in North Africa.
Italy was one of the European countries ravaged by the Black Death in the mid-14th century.
Returning Italian merchants from the Middle East carried a combination of plagues to Genoa – the most notorious one being the Black Plague. Italy’s recovery from the disease ushered the growth of the country, leading to the generation of humanism and the Renaissance.
Over 26 million left Italy from 1861-1985.
Most of them came from the then overcrowded southern region, seeking out a better life. However, only 1 out of 4 returned home.
A royal family ruled Italy until 1946.
In the wake of WWII, the citizens voted against the monarchy rule in favor of a republic. The last King Umberto II only ruled for 34 days from May 9, 1946, to June 12, 1946.
The Italian flag bore influence from the French flag.
The Italian flag has 3 equal vertical divisions with the colors green, white, and red. Some say that the colors represent hope, faith, and charity. However, another interpretation paints green as the Italian landscape, white as the snow-capped Alps, and the red as the bloodshed that paved the way for the independence of the country.
Italy is a member of the Group of Eight (G8).
This governmental-political forum consists of the 8 most powerful nations in the world. Alongside Italy are the United States, Canada, Russia, Japan, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.
Italy was the first city in Europe to have paved streets.
After getting its first paved street in Florence in 1339, Italy became the first European country to have a paved street. Other territories of the falling Roman Empire abandoned road paving projects fearing that it would only help enemies charge faster.
In the 1500s, the first violin surfaced in Italy.
The first violin was believed to come from Andrea Amati’s workshop in Cremona in the 1500s. Eventually, the city became home to Antonio Stradivari, the most famous maker of violins.
Italy suffers the most earthquakes among European countries.
The 1693 Sicily earthquake killed around 100,000 people. Moreover, the most recent one that shook the country in 1980 Naples killed at least 3,000 people.
Europe only has 3 active volcanoes, and all of them are in Italy.
They are the Vesuvius, Etna, and Stromboli. What’s more, is that the location of the Italian peninsula is directly above a fault line.
San Marino in Italy has the oldest republic in the world.
Dating back to 301 AD, San Marino also has the oldest continuous constitution in the world. Back then, it only has less than 30,000 citizens called the Sammarinese.
Italy has the highest peak in Europe.
The Alps are a mountain system that spans 8 countries in Europe. Its highest point is found in Italy, where the Monte Bianco or White Mountain reaches a height of 15,771 feet.
Italy is home to the longest land tunnel in the world.
The Lötschberg Base Tunnel runs 22 miles connecting Italy to Switzerland.
Vatican City in Italy is the only nation with the ability to lock its gates at night.
The Vatican is highly independent with its own radio and TV stations, phone company, stamps, and even currency. Vatican City also enforces the historic Swiss Guard as its own army.
Italy has the second-lowest birthrate in the West.
Political and church leaders have since taken measures to increase the country’s birth rate, offering rewards for couples who have more than one child.
The WWII bombings only left 1 bridge standing in Italy.
The Ponte Vecchio Bridge crosses the River Arno in Florence. Rumor has it that Hitler found the bridge too beautiful to destroy, thus sparing it.
Italy has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
With 47 cultural sites and 4 natural sites, Italy claims the title for the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country.
Opera originated from Italy.
Because of this, many famous operas were written and performed in Italian. The list includes Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida and La Traviata and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. Additionally, Italian tenor soloist Luciano Pavarotii made the libretto more accessible to the masses through working in the Three Tenors.
There were 3 Italic tribes.
The Latins, Oscans, and Umbrians settled in the country from 2000 B.C. The Etruscans followed in 800 B.C. Eventually, the Greeks established the Magna Graeca colonies in southern Italy, which is the modern-day Apulia.
Rome was founded in 753 BC.
After its founding, the Romans claimed full territory over the peninsula.
In Italy, the Sardinian islands have a rep for being home to witches.
These local ‘witches’ brew health potions and remedies for the locals. These women communicate in a secret language that they pass onto their daughters.
It is customary for Italian men to live at home until their 30s.
This condition is regardless of them having their own family and job already. In Italy, the family is at the heart of society.
For a time, Italians finished school at 14 years old.
From 1904-1999, only went to school until the age of 14. Now, it is compulsory for them to go to school until they’re 16.
18-year-old Italians can vote for the Chamber of Deputies.
The Chamber of Deputies is the lower house in the parliament. Italian citizens should be at least 25 to be able to vote for the Senate.
Benito Mussolini tried to rid the Italian language of foreign words.
The Italian fascist governed the country from the 1930’s to the 1940s. During this time, Mussolini banned borrowed words even in pop culture. ‘Mickey Mouse’ became ‘Topolino,’ ‘Donald Duck’ became ‘Paperino,’ while ‘Goofy’ became ‘Pippo.’ A ‘goal’ in soccer became ‘meta’ instead. How’s that for crazy Italy facts?
The most iconic authors in Italy were all part of The Three Fountains.
Its members are Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), and Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374). Some even claim that they are the 3 most famous Italian authors of all time.
Dante is considered as the father of the Italian language.
Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ or Divina Commedia not only impacted Italian literature, but it served a great contribution to the Italian lanuage.
Galileo Galilei was born in Italy.
Galilei introduced the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun. His argument reportedly made the Catholic Church lock him in his own house. Eventually, they had to issue Galilei a formal apology in 1992.
Northern Italy served as the setting of Shakespeare’s Othello.
Othello’s storyline took place between 1489-1571. However, whether Shakespeare has actually been to the country is subject to debate.
The Italian language is a Romance language.
The Italian language traces its origins from Vulgar Latin, a dialect that people spoke during the last years of the Roman Empire. Moreover, it contains more Latin words than the rest of the Romance languages and has a grammatical system similar to Latin. In Vatican City, Latin remains to be the official language.
The Italian language serves as the universal language of music.
The term scale originated from ‘scala’ which means ‘step.’ Other Italian musical notations are allegro, andante, presto, and vivace.
The Italian alphabet only has 21 letters.
Italy’s alphabet does not include the letters J, K, W, X, and Y.
Italy considers the Italian wolf as its unofficial national animal.
The Italian wolf has played a remarkable role in the legend of the founding of Rome.
Lily is the national flower of Italy.
Still, many locals perceive the rose as the traditional symbolic flower of the country.
Pre-dinner evening stroll or ‘passeggiata’ is an essential part of Italian culture.
It remains among the most longstanding leisure activities in Italy where locals would stroll along the streets to ‘see and be seen.’
Italy celebrates Christmas as its biggest holiday.
During Christmas Eve, people celebrate with a huge feast usually featuring seafood. The Christmas season would pursue until January 6, the Epiphany, or the date when the Three Wise Men reached the manger of Jesus.
The most popular sport in Italy is soccer.
San Siro Stadium in Milan is a famous game arena and could hold 85,000 guests. Moreover, Italy’s team is second only to Brazil’s, winning 4 World Cups in 1934, 1938, 1982, and 2006.
In Italy, soccer fans are called ‘tifosi’ which means ‘carriers of typhus.’
They earned this name due to their display of rowdy behavior and lack of inhibition during soccer games.
Italy has a reputation for being one of the fashion industry leaders in the world.
Since the 1950s, famous Italian designers like Valentino and Nino Cerruti have pioneered in creating iconic fashion styles.
Italy is also known for its universal brands.
Italy’s celebrated designers include Armani, Gucci, Prada, and Versace. Even in the fine sports cars category, Italy also holds the bragging rights to Ferrari and Lamborghini.
Italians claim that they were responsible for the rest of Europe learning how to cook.
Among the foods that trace their origin to the country are coffee, fruit pies, and ice cream. Italy also joins Belgium and France as pioneers of cooking French fries.
Parmesan cheese traces its roots to the city of Parma in Italy.
Italy also created other cheeses such as mozzarella, ricotta, provolone, and gorgonzola.
Italy has a different version of the Pepperoni Pizza.
In Italy, ‘pepperoni’ is not salami, but peppers. Hence, placing an order of pepperoni pizza in the country might bring forth a vegetarian pizza.
In Genoa, pesto sauce is an exception to plane liquids laws.
Their airport limits up to only 3 ounces of liquids per passenger. Still, Genoa has designated a special pesto scanner for their precious specialty. Definitely one of the cooler Italy facts.
McDonald’s was not easily welcome in Rome.
When the first franchise in the city opened in 1986, food purists protested outside. They gave away free spaghetti as a reminder of their culinary heritage for their fellow countrymen.
Italian tradition does not include putting meatballs in the pasta dishes.
Most Italian meals have pasta as the first course or primo piatto, followed by meat or fish as the main course or the secondo piatto.
Latte is an entirely different drink in Italy.
Placing an order of ‘latte’ in the country would most probably bring forth a glass of milk. On the other hand, a ‘latte macchiato’ refers to milk with espresso.
The Uffizi Gallery in Italy is one of the world’s oldest museums.
Located in Florence, the Uffizi Gallery was established in 1560 for the Cosimo l de’ Medici. Among the famous works in this museum are those of da Vinci, Michaelangelo, and Botticelli.
The University of Rome stands as one of the oldest universities in the world.
The University of Rome is also the largest university in Europe with a population of 150,000 students. The Catholic Church founded the university which was also known as La Sapienza in 1303 AD.
Italy is home to the oldest university in Europe.
The University of Bologna has observed continuous operation since its establishment in 1088, making it the oldest active university in Europe.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the main attractions in Italy.
Since its construction in 1173, it has begun to lean due to the poorly laid foundation. The Nazis even used it as a watchtower during WWII. Although engineers have exerted reconstruction efforts in 2008, they eventually declared that the leaning tower would still be stable for at least the following 200 years.
Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion in Italy.
Other than the 85% Roman Catholics of the country’s population, there are still minority groups like the Jews, Protestants, and growing Muslims.
The number 17 is unlucky in Italy.
In Italy, 17 is considered an unlucky number because of an anagram of the Roman numeral XVII – VIXI, which in Latin means “I have lived”. While this may be positive, this statement has the implication of “I am dead”. Hence, some hotels in Italy don’t have a 17th floor.
Italians consider it unlucky to have 13 people sit together at the dinner table.
They acquired this superstition from the 13 people seated at Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting ‘the Last Supper.’
Italy hosted the Olympic Games 3 times.
First, was the 1956 Winter Games held at the Cortina d’Ampezzo, Zuel, and the Dolomite Alps. The 1960 Summer Olympics followed in Rome. Lastly for now is the 2006 Winter Olympics held in Turin.
Marostica, Italy witnessed a real human chess game in 1454.
Instead of fighting a bloody duel, the contestants of the human chess game would win the hand of a beautiful maiden. The town began commemorating the event each September of even-numbered years. For this event, the main piazza of Marostica becomes a life-sized chessboard.