If you would like to start learning about Italy, here you can find some fun facts regarding Italian people, history and culture.
1. Rome is over 2,000 years old
Rome was founded in 753 BC. The Roman Empire, named after the city where it began, started in 27 BC, and ruled over much of Europe and parts of North Africa until 395 AD. That's why in Italy there many historical cities and places where you can find Roman architecture and traces. Especially in Rome, you can find some people dressed as traditional centurions and you can take pics with them (giving a small tip).
2. Italy is one of Western Europe's youngest countries
Italy has only been a country since 1861 when the separate nation-states unified together as the Kingdom of Italy. Actually, some regions joined later, for example Veneto in 1866 and Trentino Alto Adige and Friuli Venezia Giulia in 1918.
3. Italy's last king ruled for just 36 days
Italy had a royal family until 1946 when citizens voted to abolish the idea of a ruling monarchy in favour of a republic in the wake of the Second World War. King Umberto II ruled from 9 May 1946 to 12 June 1946.
4. The country was under a dictatorship for 20 years
The fascist dictator Benito Mussolini ruled over Italy from 1925 until 1945. Before assuming control of the country, he served as prime minister for three years, from 1922. Known as "Il Duce" (the leader), Mussolini started out as a radical socialist but aligned himself with Adolf Hitler in the lead up to World War II. He was killed in 1945 by partisan troops.
5. Italy's national day is called "Festa della Repubblica"
The founding of the republic is celebrated every year on the 2nd of June.
6. The national flag is green, white and red
The Italian flag is also known as "tricolore", meaning three colours. In fact, the colours represent hope (green), faith (white) and charity (red).
7. Tourists throw €1,000,000 into the Trevi fountain each year
Roughly €3,000 is thrown in the Trevi Fountain every day – that's a million euros a year. It is then collected and donated to charity. If you are considering visiting Rome, you should definitely go to Trevi fountain and throw some coins by making a wish.
8. 13 of Shakespeare's 38 plays are set in Italy
Romeo and Juliet is set in the city of Verona (you can even visit "Juliet's balcony" for yourself and there's also Romeo's home), while Julius Caesar takes place in Rome. Othello and the Merchant of Venice are set in Venice (no surprise there) while Much Ado About Nothing is based in the Sicilian city of Messina.
9. The Adventures of Pinocchio was first published in an Italian newspaper
The classic tale of a wooden toy who comes to life – and who likes to tell lies – was written in 1880 by Carlo Collodi. It was serialised in Gioniale per i Bambini, Italy's first children's newspaper.
10. Italy has the most Unesco Sites in the world
There are over 50 Unesco Sites in Italy, including cities as well as small towns. Only some examples are mount Etna, the trulli of Alberobello, Rome's Colosseum, Amalfi Coast, many archeological sites and villas.
11. The Sistine chapel welcomes over 20,000 visitors per day
Painted by Michelangelo in 1512, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome is one of the most famous monuments in the world. You will certainly know the well-known fresco of the Creation of Adam with the image of the near-touching hands of God and Adam.
12. Italy is home to Europe’s only three active volcanoes
You should definitely visit these volcanoes, where you can find the particular rocks stemming from the eruption process.
First, on the island of Sicily, Mount Etna last erupted in 2018, but you can often see a white plume of steam rising from the top. It's a surreal sight as you stroll along Catania's main shopping street, the via Etnea.
Then, Mount Stromboli is currently active and located its own small island off the coast of Sicily. You can plan to visit the island, but be aware that you might have to change plans depending on the current level of activity.
Finally, Vesuvius overlooks the southern city of Naples and hasn't erupted since 1944.
13. The Vatican City, in Rome, is the smallest country in the world
At just 100 acres, the Vatican City is roughly 1/8 the size of New York's Central Park. That said, it's packed with historic monuments like St Peter's Cathedral, the Sistine Chapel, Raphael frescoes and more. In some specific occasion, if you are in St Peter's square, you can see from a small window the Pope coming out to speak and greet the believers.
14. Italy is the fifth most visited country in the world
62.1 million people visited Italy in 2018 – with many heading to tourist hotspots like Rome, Florence, and Pisa. Despite the millions of visitors, you can still find places not teeming with people, like Castelmezzano in Basilicata or Camogli in Liguria.
15. There are 60 million inhabitants in Italy
While the country's birth rate is declining, the number of people living in Italy has increased thanks to immigration. With births reaching a record low of 8 births per 1,000 people in 2018 (the lowest in the EU), the government is considering plans to encourage Italians to have more children. To compare, in 1950 there were 19 births per 1,000 people.
16. You'll find over 1,500 lakes in Italy
From the famous names like Lake Garda and Lake Como to the lesser-known Lake Iseo in Lombardy, the country is dotted with charming bodies of water.
17. Italy's highest mountain is Mont Blanc
Rising 4,808 m (15,774 ft) above sea level, Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) stands on the border between France and Italy. It's also the highest mountain in the Alps.
18. Batteries were invented in Italy
Did you know it? Italian scientist Alessandro Volta created the first battery in 1800. The volt – the unit of electrical power – is named after him.
19. Christopher Columbus was Italian
Although known the world over for his voyages of discovery to the Americas under the Spanish flag, Christopher Columbus was actually Italian. The explorer was born in Genova in 1451.
20. Italians invented eyeglasses
Although the exact date is not certain, it's thought the first pair of glasses with corrective lenses were made in the late 13th century. In fact, there is an important district in Northern Italy where there are many companies and shops producing and selling glasses.
21. Pizza was invented in Naples
Mentions of the word pizza can be found all the way back to the 10th century AD, but pizza in its modern form – with a tomato base – was developed in Naples in the late 18th century. A widespread belief says that in June 1889 the pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito invented a dish called "Pizza Margherita" in honor of the Queen of Italy, Marherita of Savoy, and the Italian unification, since toppings are tomato (red), mozzarella (white) and basil (green), representing the same colors of the national flag.
22. Italians ate pasta as far back as the 4th century BC
Wall paintings in a pre-Roman Italian tomb depict what many Italians believe is pasta-making equipment.
23. Fourteen billion espressos are consumed in Italy each year
With many Italians drinking their daily coffee ration out in local cafés, being a barista is big business. Over 20,000 Italians work as baristas, while the annual coffee consumption per household is 37 kg.
24. Italy is the world's largest wine producer
In 2018, the country produced a staggering 54,800 hectolitres of wine, ahead of France at 49,000 hectolitres. The country is also one of the world's largest exporters of wine, with the majority going to Germany, the US and the UK.
25. Italians eat their fruit salad for dessert
While in many countries a plate of salad acts as an appetiser, in Italy it's commonly eaten after the main course. It's not really dessert though – in a traditional meal there are still two courses (plus coffee) to go – la frutta (fresh fruit) and then il dolce (dessert). Actually, fruit should be eaten at the end of the meal because as a famous saying goes "siamo alla frutta" means that we are at the end of something.