If you are one of those people who can’t get enough of anything Italian, you at the right place. Exploring my fun facts about Italy will not only give you some great conversation starters but will also be tons of fun.
Italy is an amazing place. A blend of many small states that may share that specific Italian culture but are still different enough to feel almost like another country. An abundance of landmarks, authentic dishes, stunning nature, and… peculiar facts.
This is Italy, and you’re about to get very familiar with it. From the long-lasting pasta love to the origin of Christopher Colombus, here are the top 20 fun Italy facts:
The capital is older than the country
We start our facts about Italy with something surprising. Do you know that Italy is one of the youngest countries in Europe? I surely didn’t. Founded in 1861, the Kingdom of Italy is less than 200 years old.
Wait, what about the might Roman Empire that used to rule the ancient world?
Well, it was the Roman Empire, not the Italian one. Rome, Italy’s current capital, was founded in 753 BC and has a history dating back 28 centuries. The Roman Empire used to rule over Europe, Northern Africa, and parts of Asia until 395 AD and was a separate state until the Kingdom of Italy was formed.
The pizza was born in Naples…or was it?
Out of all Italy facts, this one shocked me the most. You’ve probably heard that the pizza, this marvelous wonder of culinary, was invented in Naples. But what if I told you that’s not entirely true.
The history of pizza dates back quite many hundreds of years, all the way to ancient Greece. Greeks were known to bake flat bread and topple it with olive oil, herbs, and dates – basically inventing an ancient greek pizza.
So, it turned out that Italians didn’t discover pizza, but they most certainly perfected it. In my book, mozzarella and pepperoni easily beat olive oil and dates!
This one I didn’t expect. You know how most of the flags in Europe look very similar to one another. Well, it turned out countries often get inspiration for their flags from other countries. The same thing happened with the Italian flag inspired by the French one that was introduced during Napoleon’s 1797 invasion of the peninsula.
The colors, however, do have their meaning. They represent three virtues: hope (green), faith (white), and charity (red).
See Also: Top 20 Fun Facts About Rome
Italians love bread
You may presume that Italy’s most beloved food is pasta or pizza or maybe even gelato, but the answer is something as simple as… bread. An integral part of the Italian diet, bread has become so essential that it is eaten with almost every meal.
Now, I don’t really think they eat bread with pasta or pizza in Italy, but with their vast amount of salamis and cheese, I can certainly see why il pane has become the cornerstone of the Italian diet.
Even though Italy became a country roughly 250 years after Shakespeare’s death, if the famous English writer were alive at the time, he would certainly declare it as his favorite country.
Why am I so sure?
Because 13 out of his 38 plays are set in Italian cities. Romeo and Juliet in Verona, Caesar in Rome (duh), Othello and the Merchant of Venice in Venice (double duh), etc.
UNESCO rich Italy
We continue our facts about Italy with some UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And by some, I mean 55 because that’s the number of sites the country offers, more than any other in the world.
From the historical center of Rome to the romantic canals of Venice and the spectacular Amalfi Coast, there are so many places to see in Italy that you need to dedicate all your vacations for the next decade or so to be able to see everything!
See Also: Top 20 Interesting Facts About Spain
A tourist favorite
Now that you know how many things are there to see, the next Italian fact won’t be that surprising. Yes, the fact that Italy is a favorite destination for tourists is anything but surprising.
Welcoming more than 94 million tourists per year, Italy ranks fourth globally for most international visitors. And if you haven’t been part of those 94 million till now, I strongly suggest you begin planning your Italian adventure. My big, bad Italian bucket list is a great place to start.
Now that we know that Italy is a smoking hot tourist destination, we’re about to find out it’s literally smoking hot. That’s because the boot-shaped land is home to the staggering amount of 37 volcanos, three of them still active.
The tourist-popular Mount Etna is located on the island of Sicily. Even though its last eruption was in 2018, you can often see a puff of white smoke over its peak. The second active volcano is named Mount Stromboli, and its located on its own uninhabited island, again near Sicily.
The last one is the infamous Vesuvius. The volcano that decimated ancient Pompeii hasn’t erupted since 1944, but it’s still considered active.
Italy houses the smallest country in the world
Italy is so awesome that it houses two other countries inside its borders. The first one is tiny San Marino, and the second – even tinier Vatican City. To be fair, even though the Vatican is a different country on paper, it’s more of a Roman neighborhood. A small Roman neighborhood.
The Catholic mecca may be tiny, but it certainly has a lot to offer. St. Peter’s basilica and square combined with the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel are absolute must-haves on your Roman itinerary.
See Also: Top 25 Fun Facts About Paris
Columbus was Italian
Out of all facts about Italy, I think this is the least known one. Do you know that the famous navigator and explorer, the man who discovered the Americas, is, in fact, Italian? Yeah, I didn’t know it too. For some reason, it felt natural for him to be Spanish, right?
Born in 1451 in Genoa, Christopher Columbus’ voyage to discover a western sea passage to the East Indies was sponsored by
Isabella I of Castile and eventually lead to the discovery of the New World.
Land of science and art
Now that we know about Colombus, let’s check some other famous Italians. Through the ages, and especially during the Renesaince, the Italian states were the cradle of pretty much all innovations worldwide. The geniuses of the artists Raphael and Michelangelo, writers Dante Alighieri and Giovanni Boccaccio, and, of course, the ultimate genius of Leonardo Da Vinci amaze us to this day.
Other famous Italians include the man who discovered that the Earth is round (even though some people have a hard time believing it), Galileo Galilei, the pioneer of electricity and power, Alessandro Volta, and the father of modern political science, Niccolò Machiavelli.
Land of innovation
Being home to that many bright minds throughout the years, it’s not surprising that plenty of things we take for granted today were invented in Italy.
For better or for worse, modern banking was developed in the Renaissance and particularly in the affluent cities of Florence, Venice, and Genoa. The thermometer was invented in the early 1600s, while the first electrochemical battery was constructed in 1800.
Other notable mentions include casinos, miles, newspapers, nuclear reactors, opera houses, paddle boats, parachutes, pianos, pistols, schools, malls, the stock exchange, and Nutella.
Long-lasting pasta love
Italians love pasta!
Wait, why is this among the fun facts about Italy. It’s just common knowledge.
But do you know how much Italians love pasta?
Evidence suggests that it’s not a coincidence that the Italian chefs know so many good pasta sauces. They had plenty of years to perfect the craft. It turned out the historians found 4th century BC paintings in a pre-Roman tomb that depict pasta-making equipment. Crazy, right?
Italian pasta used to be sweet, but during the years, more and more different sauces were developed until it became the ultimate Italian dish that it is today. Every year, the average Italian consumes more than 23 kg (51 pounds) of pasta.
See Also: Top 25 Interesting Facts About London
Did you say cheese?
Neither pizza nor pasta would’ve been the same if the Italians didn’t have the perfect cheeses to put on them. And they do have a lot of cheeses. In fact, no other country in the world can claim to have more cheese than Italy, and its 2500 different types.
Yes, you’ve read that right; Italy has over 2500 different traditional cheeses. If you’re a cheese enthusiast, your next stop should definitely be Lombardy, where you can taste 77 different local kinds of cheese.
Italy is a coffee nation
If you’ve ever been to Italy, you know that their coffee is on the next level. Trust me; I’ve tried many different authentic coffees around the world. From the tick Turkish coffee to the peculiar Vietnamese egg coffee, nothing comes even close to the Italian one.
No matter where you get it from (yes, even at the airport), the Italian espresso is like a divine shot of pure energy. Not only that, but the rich taste will overwhelm your senses to the point of total ecstasy.
Being that good, it’s normal that Italians consume around fourteen billion espressos per year. Over 270,000 Italians are employed as baristas, and the average consumption of coffee is 3,7 kg per capita. Truly a coffee nation.
and a wine nation
If the 14 billion espressos are consumed in the morning, there is only one drink for the evening, and that’s wine. The magical scarlet elixir is so beloved in Italy that the average Italian consumes around 98 liters (26 gallons) of wine per year.
There’s even a free 24-hour wine fountain.
Wait, what? A wine fountain? Are you serious?
No joke here. The small town of Caldari offers this peculiar tourist attraction. The Fontana del vino is both free and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, offering delicious local red wine.
And if you find yourself in Italy during the first Sunday of October, make sure to visit Maritimo and enjoy the Sagra dell’Uva (the grape festival).
This is the most wonderful time of the year for the wine enthusiasts because, for a glorious half an hour, all fountains in town run free not with water but with wine.
Easy to recognize
As far as the facts about Italy goes, this is the most obvious one. Italy is the easiest country to find on the map. What do I mean? Open a world map (one without borders), and I’m sure the first country your eyes will set on is Italy. Why? Because the Italian peninsula (where the country is situated) is shaped exactly like a boot.
Land of the calves
I don’t know if there are many calves in Italy, but some historians believe the name Italia may derive from Oscan víteliú, meaning ‘[land] of young cattle’. Apparently, the bull was a symbol of the tribes of Southern Italy, so it makes sense.
Others believe the country may be named after Italus, an early king of the region, but it seems unlikely since he wasn’t a particularly famous king.
If you find yourself in Italy, you may try one of the popular local traditions. Mostly practiced by the elderly today, la passeggiata is a traditional evening stroll in the central plaza.
The word derives from the Italian verb passeggiare, which means to walk. It’s one of Italy’s most endearing traditions, and it requires literally nothing but two healthy legs and a friendly character. According to the Italians, it adds a lot of richness to life.
The most superstitious country in Europe
We finish our facts about Italy with a bunch of superstitions. Italians are the most faith-feared people in Europe. They have so many omens that, at times, it feels ridiculous.
Some of the most famous ones include placing a loaf of bread face up (lest you affront Jesus Christ), not letting a broom touch your feet (because you won’t get married), dropping olive oil into a bowl of water (o check for Malocchio (an evil eye), not letting any birds inside the house (brings bad luck) and trying to hear a cat sneeze (brings good luck).
They also believe the number 13 is a lucky number (brings prosperity and abundant life) but somehow, sitting at a table with 12 others is extremely bad.
The worst number in Italy is 17, an anagram of VIXI, which in Latin means ‘I have lived’ or ‘My life is over’.
That’s all from me, I hope you enjoyed these 20 fun facts about Italy.
If you haven’t planned your trip there yet, find out how I plan my trips!
I have 41 bucket list ideas for Italy. See my impossible bucket list of 1700+ adventures!
Have you been to Italy?
Some of the above are affiliate links and I will earn a percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you. This helps keep my site running – so thanks in advance for your support!