50 Interesting Facts About Italy

If you want to travel to Italy someday then these 50 facts about Italy might come in handy.

Learn about how the volcano in Sicily can disrupt travel plans, how the tip is already included in the bill at restaurants, and which city is the most visited city in Italy so you can plan accordingly and navigate those crowds!

Don’t forget! We offer private guided tours. While our blog posts provide free information gained from our local experience we want you to know that we offer walking tours around Italy. If you’re planning a trip to Italy choose from one of our tours and get to know Italy like a local!

1. Christopher Colombus was Italian

The first of the facts about Italy that you must know is about Christopher Colombus. Although he sailed for Spain Christopher Colombus was actually Italian. Colombus’ real name was Cristoforo Colombo. He came from the city of Genoa, a northern city near the water famous for its port today.

2. Order your coffee in the wrong spot, pay double the price

That’s right! When ordering coffee at a café (called a bar in Italy) the price for coffee doubles if you sit down at a table. You’ll notice that Italians like to stand at the banco (the counter) so that they pay half the price.

3. Italy is a new country

Yep. Italy as we know it now was formed fairly recently in 1861, unified from different states as one single state, or better yet, a unified kingdom.

4. The Vatican City is the smallest country in the world!

The Vatican City is the world’s smallest state: 44 hectares (about 109 acres)

5. The World’s deepest pool holding a Guinness World Record is in Padua

The world’s deepest pool as of 2014 is in Padua, Italy. The Guinness World Record on the opening day, June 5, 2014, recognized it as the deepest pool in the world. It’s called the Y-40 The Deep Joy and when opened became the first and only facility for divers with thermal water.

6. 2020 marks Raffaello’s 500th death anniversary

The 500th year of the death of the great Raffaello.

7. Tuscany was named after Etruscans

The word ‘Tuscany’ is named after the ancient Etruscans hence Etruria/Tuscany

8. Julias Caesar was not murdered in the Senate House in the Forum

Julius Caesar was not murdered in the Senate House in the Forum, rather he was murdered in a make-shift Senate House at the Theatre of Pompey, 1km away. Visit it on our Rome in a Day Tour.

9. An English monk phrased the term Colosseum

The word ‘Colosseum’ was not used until coined by the English monk the Venerable Bede in the 8th century AD as he likened the broken bronze statue lying by the Colosseum to the ‘Colossus of Rhodes’

10. Venice is the most visited city in Italy

The most visited territory in Italy is the Veneto region & of course Venice. It is estimated that 20 million tourists visit Venice every year.

11. Italy has two fast trains for travel

Italy has two bullet or fast train companies: Frecciarossa & Italo

12. Etna is the most active volcano in Europe

Mt.Etna located in the city of Catania, Sicily is Europe’s most active volcano. You can see it flair up on a weeknight right from your kitchen window. Apart from displaying a nice glow in the evenings which locals enjoy, the mini eruptions can sometimes disturb nearby airports because of the ash in the air causing flight cancellations.

13. Carbonara is Rome’s most famous pasta dish

The most famous Roman dish is called the Carbonara. The story goes that mineworkers would eat this hearty dish while working. Pasta Carbonara is made only with egg, guanciale (pork cheek), pecorino romano cheese & pepper. There is NO CREAM!  Learn how to make an authentic carbonara on our Cook as the Romans Do cooking class and tour.

14. Italians don’t just eat pasta every day

Italians don’t just eat pasta.  Pasta is a small part of the overall meal. Italian meals consist of the primo ie. the first-course pasta/rice followed by the secondo (the second dish consisting of meat or fish) and a side of vegetables and salad. All of which are in smaller quantities than is common in the US/UK & Australia hence the Italian diet is extremely balanced.

15. Although they drink wine, they’re not an alcoholic culture

Italians don’t drink to excess. Italians like to drink wine with their meals but the concept of going out to get drunk’ doesn’t exist. Rather friends may meet, have a meal and a few too many glasses of wine but food & company is always the main feature.

16. Aperitivo is an Italian thing

Aperitivo is important!  In summer the Aperol Spritz from Venice one of the most popular drinks. Aperitivo is generally served with snacks. Join our guides for an authentic evening aperitivo on this Venice tour.

17. Apericena means a pre-dinner, and is the newest fad

Apericena – a fairly new offering, the apericena is like the aperitivo but with a greater abundance of food.  Often you don’t need to eat dinner after an apericena.

18. Meal times are quite late, but not Spanish late

Mealtimes: Italians generally eat lunch between 1-2 pm and dinner so earlier than 8 pm. From Rome, south mealtimes tend to be later being around 9 pm.

19. When they go out to eat they order water by the bottle

Everyone drinks bottled water at restaurants & cafes.  Bottled water isn’t expensive; you can ask for tap water but be prepared for some odd looks.

20. Italian restaurants include a cover charge if you sit down to eat

coperto or a form of an obligatory tip is actually not legal but many restaurants have this as a per-person charge (or they’ll call it a charge for ‘bread’ even if you don’t eat the bread). It’s generally around 2.5 euro per person. If this is on your bill, don’t leave any extra tip.

21. Tipping in Italy isn’t obligatory or a common practice

One of the facts about Italy that you need to know is that it’s not obligatory or common to tip as Italian servers are paid by contract, but from time to time Italians will tip if the service is extraordinary. As stated in the point above at times restaurants will also include an illegal coperto charge, so by all means don’t feel like you need to tip.

If you take a guided tour however a small tip is always appreciated as you’re supporting small businesses.

22. Italy has 20 regions

Italy is comprised of 20 regions and two autonomous provinces: Bolzano & Trento

23. Italians don’t understand the politeness of moving out of the way

It’s common for people to congregate and chat in the middle of the footpath – you’re the one that’s expected to move! Italians don’t have the same idea of space as they do in many other countries, nor do they notice their surroundings especially in lines and public spaces. You’ll have to be the one to make an effort.

24. Italians start school later than most

The Italian education system is divided into three levels: Elementari, Medie & Liceo. Italians start school at the age of 6 and finish at the age of 19. Pre-school isn’t obligatory, and kindergarten has the approach of play learning.

25. The Montessori education method came from Italy

Maria Montessori started the Casa dei Bambini in Rome in 1907 which you can still visit today.

26. Italy has 350 grape varieties

Always competing with France are the rolling hills of Tuscany and Sicily with perfect terrain for grape growing. Italy happens to have such great climate-always sunny and overall mild weather conditions that this definitely aids in successful wine production. Italy also has many volcanos which provide rich soil perfect for all kinds of fruits, not just grapes.

27. Italy has one of the longest life expectancy rates

Here is one of the cool facts about Italy. Italy has a population of just over 60 million and has one of the longest life expectancy rates in the world. The island of Sardegna is known to have some of the oldest people in the world. Their secret? They say drinking grappa and eating foods from the land is what keeps them healthy!

28. Throughout history it’s been targeted by invasions

Undoubtedly one of the most interesting facts about Italy is how invaded it has been due to its unfortunate position on the globe. Being a peninsula with countries surrounding has made Italy a target throughout history.

29. Roman Catholicism is the religion of the land

Italy is predominately Roman Catholic (78%).

30. Rome has one of the oldest Jewish communities

Rome has one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world dating back to 161 BC.

31. Rome has over 900 churches

Rome has over 900 churches; 600 of which are operational.

32. The head of the church is not St.Peter’s Basilica

The head church of the Roman Catholics is the Basilica of Saint John in Lateran in Rome; not St Peter’s Basilica. This was the first church established by Constantine & is the church of the Bishop of Rome (ie. the Pope).

33. The largest church in the world is in Italy

It may not be news to some, but to those who are not Catholic may not know that the center of Catholicism is at the Vatican, and St Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world.

34. About 11 million people visit the Vatican every year

Over 7.5 million people visit the Vatican Museums every year according to official figures however insiders estimate that it is much more, closer to 11-12 million.  If you want to avoid the crowds then book a private tour of the Vatican with one of our fully-licensed guides.

35. Rome is full of smart cars

Rome has the highest density of Smart cars in the world!

36. Italy is full of vehicle & parking restrictions

Italy is full of vehicle and parking restrictions due to the narrow roads and densely populated towns & cities. Always lookout for the ZTL signs to see if you can drive in the restricted area or not.

37. Julius Caesar created the first ZTL sign

The first ‘ZTL’ was created by Julius Caesar to ease ancient Rome’s traffic problems with too many carriages.

38. Emperor Nero didn’t actually play the fiddle while Rome burned

Emperor Nero has been credited as ‘playing the fiddle while Rome burned’ in 64AD. In fact, we know from sources that he wasn’t in Rome during the fire, rather he was in his hometown of Anzio 40 km from Rome, and fiddles didn’t exist; rather he was famous for playing the lyre. Learn more about our Rome in a Day tour here.

39. Ostia Antica was one of the most important cities in the ancient Roman world

Ostia Antica was one of the most important cities in the ancient Roman world yet often not visited. 40kms from Rome originally on the ocean and connecting to the Tiber River, this was the ‘Wall St’ of ancient Rome and where all the major trade deals for the Empire were done. Learn more on Daily Life on our Ancient Rome tour.

40. Even the Ancient Romans were organizing their trash

Did you know Rome has an ancient Roman rubbish tip? Called Monte Testaccio, it’s now a nightclub and restaurant area but is made up of thousands of broken Roman ‘amphorae’ which couldn’t be re-used.

41. The Appia Antica in Italy has one of the longest strips of straight road

The Appia Antica was built in 312BC & has one of the longest strips of straight road (64kms). The entire road stretched over 600kms to Brindisi in Puglia. Walk a section of it on our Hidden Rome Driving tour.

42. Italians don’t eat pineapple on pizza

Definitely a fun fact about Italy. Never ask for pineapple on pizza.  If you try, make sure you take a photo of your waiter/waitress’s face just to remember the moment of shock and horror. Italians do not eat pineapple on pizza. EVER. Learn what Italians order on our Trastevere Aperitivo tour.

43. Italy has 55 UNESCO sites

Italy (and China) have the most UNESCO-listed sites in the world– 55.

44. Italians were more than painters and poets, but inventors

Italians invented batteries, eyeglasses, thermometers, and pizza just to name a few!

45. Italians dress for the season, not the weather

Italians dress for the season, not for the weather. Even if you come to Italy in April & it’s a hot day, shorts aren’t appropriate. It’s still Spring. Yes, we know – it’s not logical but that’s one of the reasons we love Italy!

46. You can’t sit on the Spanish steps

As of 2019 you are no longer allowed to sit on the Spanish Steps in Rome.

47. Italians LOVE children, they bring them everywhere

Italians LOVE children!  You can sometimes find grumpy behavior from the locals in cities such as Rome, Florence & Venice but in general, if you bring along your children you’ll feel like a superstar.

Italians LOVE children. Bedtimes for children in Italy are much later – even 10-11 pm. Children are an integral part of the family unit so you’ll find they’re included in trips out rather than being left at home with babysitters.

48. Italy is gradually accepting the gay community

Italy still has a fairly small open gay community but things are gradually changing. Visit the ‘gay district’ in Rome just by the Colosseum for some great bars & entertainment.

49. Naples used to be a kingdom

Naples is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. Formerly known as the Southern Kingdom when Italy was split between the north and the south, now is a bustling hotspot with lots of passionate cooks and people with big hearts. Make sure Naples is on your bucket list! Visit it with us on our Strolling Naples’ Heart tour.

50. Even more famous than Pompeii is the Herculaneum

When visiting Pompeii, don’t leave Herculaneum off the list.  Also destroyed in the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79AD, Herculaneum is an absolute jewel & has preserved not only stunning frescoes and buildings but also organic materials such as furniture. There are also tragically many plaster casts of those who lost their lives.

Why not create your own custom tour of Italy with our expert guides? Get in touch with our friendly team today to request your complimentary itinerary.

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