As I am writing this, I am sitting on a sun bed, next to a pool surrounded by the stunning mountains that rise above Lake Garda in Italy. Within the last 3 years, my wife and I have travelled all around this great country, making this easily my favourite place in Europe. Because of this I have decided to construct this list. Enjoy.
1) Almost four-fifths of Italy is either mountainous or hilly.
2) When McDonald’s opened in 1986 in Rome, food purists outside the restaurant gave away free spaghetti to remind people of their culinary heritage.
3) In central Italy, there is a fountain that flows red wine 24-hours a day. It is free to everyone, except for “drunkards and louts.”
4) The Italian wolf is Italy’s unofficial national animal and plays a large role in the legend of the founding of Rome.
5) The name Italy comes from the word italia, meaning “calf land,” perhaps because the bull was a symbol of the Southern Italian tribes.
6) The University of Rome is one of the world’s oldest universities and was founded by the Catholic Church in A.D. 1303. Often called La Sapienza (“knowledge”), the University of Rome is also Europe’s largest university with 150,000 students.
7) Vatican City is the only nation in the world that can lock its own gates at night. It has its own phone company, radio, T.V. stations, money, and stamps. It even has its own army, the historic Swiss Guard.
8) Most of Italy’s natural flora and fauna has disappeared due to centuries of cultivation. Most of its natural wildlife has also disappeared due to over-hunting.
9) Italy is approximately 116,400 square miles (including Sicily and Sardinia), which is slightly larger than Arizona.
10) The official name of Italy is the Italian Republic (Repubblica Italiana)
11) Italy is said to have more masterpieces per square mile than any other country in the world.
12) The name Pinocchio means “pine nut” The author of “Pinocchio” (“pine nut”), Carlo Collodi (1826-1890), was Italian.
13) Italians suffer more earthquakes than any other Europeans. In 1693, an estimated 100,000 people died in an earthquake in Sicily. The most deadly recent quake in Italy occurred in Naples in 1980, killing 3,000 people.
14) No other country in Europe has as many volcanoes as Italy. This is because the Italian peninsula stands on a fault line. Three major volcanoes (Etna, Stromboli, and Vesuvius) have erupted in the last hundred years.
15) Like most of Europe, Italy was ravaged in the middle of the fourteenth century by the Black Death, a combination of plagues (chiefly the bubonic) that were carried to Genoa by Italian merchants returning from the Middle East. The recovery stimulated growth and helped spawn humanism and the Renaissance.
16) The highest peak in Europe is in Italy. Monte Bianco (White Mountain) is 15,771 feet high and is part of the Alps.
17) Though Italy’s economy lagged behind the rest of Europe during the first half of the twentieth century, currently it is the world’s seventh largest economy.
18) The capital of Italy is Rome (also known as the Eternal City) and is almost 3,000 years old. It has been the capital since 1871 and is home to the Dome of St. Peter’s, the Sistine Chapel, the Coliseum, and the famous Trevi Fountain.
19) Ancient Rome was eight times more densely populated than modern New York
20) Over 50 million tourists a year visit Italy. Tourism is vital to Italy’s economy and provides nearly 63% of Italy’s national income.
21) When European Jews were being persecuted during WWII, it was not unusual for some Jews to hide in Italy’s ancient catacombs.
22) Approximately 85% of Italians are Roman Catholics, with Protestants, Jews, and a growing Muslim community making up the minority.
23) Football is Italy’s most popular sport, and the famous San Siro Stadium in Milan holds 85,000 people. Italy has won the World Cup four times (1934, 1938, 1982, and 2006), making the country’s team second only to Brazil’s in number of wins.
24) From 1861 to 1985, more than 26 million people left Italy (mostly from the overcrowded south) to seek a better life. Only one in four came home again.
25) In 1454, a real human chess game took place in Marostica, Italy. Rather than fight a bloody duel, the winner of the chess game would win the hand of a beautiful girl. To commemorate the event, each September in even-numbered years, the town’s main piazza becomes a life-sized chess board.
26) Italy has hosted the Olympic Games three times. The 1956 Winter Games were held at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Zuel, and the Dolomite Alps. The 1960 Summer Olympics were held in Rome. And Turin hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics.
27) Italy is among the world’s leaders of the fashion industry. In the 1950s, Italian designers such as Nino Cerruti and Valentino led the world in creating stylish fashions. Additionally, Armani, Versace, Gucci, and Prada have become internationally recognised. Italy is also known for fine sports cars, such as the Ferrari and Lamborghini.
28) The first violin appeared in Italy in the 1500s, probably from the workshop of Andrea Amati (1505-1578) in Cremona. The city later became the home of Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737), the most famous of violin-makers.
29) The world’s longest land tunnel is the Lötschberg Base Tunnel, which proves a 22-mile railway link between Switzerland and Italy.
30) The Leaning Tower of Pisa was built in 1173 and began to lean soon after, probably due to a poorly laid foundation. During WWII, the Nazi’s used it as a watch tower. After reconstruction efforts in 2008, engineers declared the tower would be stable for at least another 200 years.
And that’s it.. I hope you have enjoyed this list.. Stay Safe, HV