Looking for the best facts about Italy? Well, look no further, because I’ve put together the ultimate list of fun Italy facts that’ll truly blow your mind!
For a country that dates back as far as Italy does, it’s no wonder there’s so many weird, wonderful and wanderlust-inducing facts to learn about it.
It’s jam-packed with thousands of years of history, is home to some of the world’s most famous sights, is the birthplace of many of our favourite foods and sees millions of tourists visit year round for city, seaside and snowfield getaways.
Italy has it all and more, and these 80 facts about Italy will show you exactly why.
Now, as the Italians say – Andiamo!
Fun Facts About Italy
“Move to Italy. I mean it: they know about living in debt; they don’t care. I stayed out there for five months while I was making a film called ‘Order Of Death,’ and they’ve really got it sussed. Nice cars. Sharp suits. Great food. Stroll into work at 10. Lunch from 12 till three. Leave work at five. That’s living!” – John Lydon, The Sex Pistols.
1) Italy is identifiable on a world map thanks to its distinctive “boot” shape. The island of Sicily looks like a ball the boot is kicking. Italians are fanatics for soccer, so it only makes sense.
2) Sport is big business in Italy, with football (soccer) being the most popular. The Italian soccer team is one of the world’s best. Italians also excel in Formula 1 and cycling.
3) Italy is comparable in size to its European neighbours – The Netherlands and Belgium – combined, the UK or for Americans, the state of Arizona.
4) The lowest temperature ever recorded in Italy was in 2013. The temperature dropped to -49.6C at mountainous Busa Fradusta Nord in the far north of the country. The highest temperature ever recorded in Italy was in Sicily. The mercury hit 48.5C in 1999.
5) Residents of Milan make the most of all Italians, earning an average wage of €36,252 annually. Rome is a close second, clocking in at just over €30,252.
6) The first shopping mall ever built was constructed in Rome in 110 AD!
7) The myth of the “vomitorium” has its roots in Ancient Rome. Many believe that well-to-do Romans vomited in public between meals to make space for more food. The jury is still out on whether these puke parties really happened…
8) British literary legend William Shakespeare wrote prolifically about Italy, but it’s commonly believed he never even visited the country! Some of his greatest masterpieces are based in Italy. Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona and The Merchant of Venice takes place in – you guessed it – Venice. Then there’s Julius Caesar, The Taming of the Shrew, Antony and Cleopatra… the list goes on.
9) Italians love rubbing a statue for superstitious reasons. In Florence, visitors rub the nose of the boar “Il Porcellino” at the Straw Market in order to return to the city or put a coin in his mouth for good luck. In Verona, tourists rub the statue of Juliet Capulet’s right breast for good luck. In Turin, students rub the little finger of Christopher Columbus’s statue to pass exams. In Pisa, visitors rub the lizard sculpture at the Cathedral for good luck. You get the picture.
10) In Italy, the number 13 is actually considered good luck. It’s the number 17 that Italians consider bad luck.
Interesting Facts about Italy
“You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” – Giuseppe Verdi
11) Europe has three active volcanoes, and they are all in Italy! They are Etna, Stromboli and Vesuvius – the latter notorious for burying the city of Pompeii during its 79 AD eruption. But it is actually Mount Etna, on the island of Sicily, that is the most active volcano in Italy.
12) Italy shares its borders with six countries – France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, San Marino and of course, Vatican City, which lies within Rome.
13) Some of the most famous natural and manmade landmarks in the world are located in Italy. These include The Colosseum, The Trevi Fountain, The Vatican, The Spanish Steps (all in Rome), The Leaning Tower of Pisa, The Duomo in Florence, the ruins of Pompeii and the Venice canals.
14) Italy has two small countries within it! These are Vatican City in Rome, the headquarters of the Catholic Church, and San Marino in Northern Italy.
15) Italy’s population is mostly Christian, with the majority of these identifying as Roman Catholic.
16) The coastline is Italy is renowned for its beauty, and stretches almost 8000km. Beautiful locations include the Italian Riviera and the Amalfi Coast, including breathtaking coastal towns Sorrento and Positano.
17) Italy also has many stunning islands to explore and is a summer hotspot for visitors from across the globe. Island highlights include Capri, Sardinia, and Elba, which all boast turquoise waters, sprawling beaches, hot summers and a fantastic mix of historical and modern attractions.
18) You can see Galileo’s middle finger in Italy – true story! It’s on display at the Museo Galileo in Florence.
19) The Trevi Fountain in Rome sees tourists tossing coins every day into the fountain for good luck. The fountains earnings? An annual turnover of 1.4 million Euros, which is collected and split between various causes, including homeless shelters.
20) The Italian Mafia’s earnings make up 7% of the countries GDP.
Italy Facts for Kids
“Un bimbo che non gioca, felicita ne ha poca”. -Italian proverb. (Translation: A child that doesn’t play, has little happiness.)
21) The currency of Italy is the Euro. It discarded its traditional Lira for the widely used EU currency in 2001.
22) Italy has the most number of earthquakes of any country in Europe.
23) The wolf is the national animal of Italy.
24) The population of Italy is 62 million (as of 2019.)
25) The capital city of Italy is Rome.
26) The Italian flag is three stripes in red, white and green. These colours symbolise charity, faith and hope (respectively).
27) The Italian language is most similar to French, followed by Spanish. While the English language has 26 letters, traditional Italian only has 21.
28) Italy cares for cats. They have a “no kill” law, designed to protect homeless and stray cats. Cats are free to roam wherever they find themselves, including around major landmarks like the Colosseum in Rome and all across Venice. There’s also many cat shelters designed to care for those that need it. The most respected Roman shelter is the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary, which is ironically on the exact site where Julius Caesar died.
29) The oldest university in the world is in Italy. The University of Bologna opened in 1088 and still operates today. Italy loves to set records, so it’s no surprise that The University of Rome is actually Europe’s biggest – with 150,000 students!
30) Italy has more official UNESCO heritage sites than any other country on Earth. There’s currently 53 in Italy alone.
Food Facts About Italy
“Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.” – Sophia Loren
31) You may be shocked to learn that as much as they love it, Italians didn’t invent pasta! Arab merchants actually brought it to Italy in the 13th century, and it was originally cooked with honey and sugar. Now, there’s over 600 different pasta shapes in existence.
32) Pizza was invented in Naples in the 19th century. Raffaele Esposito created the “Pizza Margherita”, which represented the Italian flag colours through its cheese, basil and tomato base.
33) Historians believe the early concept of “fast food” started in Ancient Rome. Street vendors sold food everywhere at all hours, and most people of the time ate out instead of at home.
34) Gelato is an Italian treasure, and gelateria’s can be found on almost every street corner in most Italian cities. The art of gelato-making takes many years to master, and has been considered a highly skilled trade across Italy for generations. There’s even a university in Italy that trains budding gelato masters!
35) Cheese is central to most major Italian dishes, including pizza and pasta, and the country has invented some fantastic cheeses. These include mozzarella, pecorino, Gorgonzola, ricotta, bocconcini and Parmesan.
36) There’s a FREE 24 hour operating wine fountain in the wine region of Abruzzo. It’s the creation of a local winery. To Abruzzo!!!
37) The average Italian consumes more than 50 pounds of pasta each year. Most Italians eat pasta at least once a day.
38) Italy, much like many European countries – especially those in the Mediterranean – treat lunch as their main meal of the day. They take a long lunch and often spend it with their families.
39) Italian coffee is respected as some of the best in the world, but the addition of milk to most roasts is something only the rest of us do. Italians only drink milky coffees in the morning, with most sticking to black coffee or espresso the rest of the time.
40) National “Eat Italian Food Day” is every February 13. Mark that one in your calendar.
Fascinating Facts About Rome
“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.” – Augustus, Roman Emperor
41) The nickname for Rome is “The Eternal City”.
42) Rome was founded in 753 BC by brothers Romulus and Remus. While the beginnings of Rome are still mostly a myth, many landmarks of Rome pay homage to its supposed start through art.
43) The population of Rome is 2.9 million as of 2019, the largest city population in Italy.
44) Rome is home to 280 fountains and 900 churches.
45) The toga is often associated with Ancient Rome, but few know it was actually a symbol of status. Only free men who were Roman citizens were entitled to wear the toga, but today…college students all over the world do.
46) The life expectancy of those in Ancient Rome was anywhere from 20-30 years. Luckily, times have changed. The average Italian lives until 82 on average.
47) The city-state of Vatican City, within Rome, has a permanent population of between 800-1000 residents – the Pope being one of them. This makes it the smallest independent state in the world by population, and its area only covers around 0.17 square miles.
48) Rome is a relatively safe city, with offences such as pickpocketing making up the bulk of reported crime. Many pickpockets and thieves operate around popular tourist attractions and landmarks, so be aware of your surroundings at all times.
49) The Bocca Della Verità (“Mouth of Truth”) marble sculpture was made famous in the Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday, and today many tourists visit to try their luck at inserting their hand into the lion’s mouth, just like Audrey did. Superstition says that he bites off the hand of liars. It’s a fun tradition and centrally located near The Roman Forum.
50) Rome has a museum dedicated completely to pasta. I want to go to there.
Italy Facts About Art & Culture
“The Creator made Italy by designs from Michelangelo.” – Mark Twain
51) Italy is famed for its fashion, with many Italian brands now household names. These include Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Armani, Gucci and Valentino.
52) Italian artists throughout history are some of the most well known across the globe. Some renowned Italian artists are Leonardo Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Raphael, Donatello (hello Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 90’s flashbacks) and Botticelli.
53) Some of the most famous pieces of art in the world were created by Italian artists and remain in Italy for visitors to enjoy today. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in The Vatican is Michaelangelo’s masterpiece, as is the Statue of David, which is on display in the city of Florence. Perhaps the most famous Italian artwork is the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, but that’s on display in The Louvre in Paris. Da Vinci’s Last Supper is also historically important, and on display in Milan.
54) Great art in Italy has been the subject of many attempted burglaries or acts of vandalism. In 1981, a Hungarian-Australian vandalised Michaelangelo’s iconic sculpture, Pietà, in Vatican City. Laszlo Toth used a hammer to remove the arm, nose and eyelid of the statue of Mary and Jesus in front of stunned onlookers. Despite this, he only spent two years in a psychiatrist facility in Italy before being deported to Australia.
55) While all Italian cities have been the foundation of great art and fashion, Milan has a firm reputation as the cultural epicentre of all things creative. Milan Fashion Week is one of the world’s biggest fashion festivals, and the city was where many of the greats honed their craft.
56) Many stars of both classic and modern cinema hail from Italy. Some names you might recognise? Sophia Loren, Isabella Rossellini, Roberto Benigni and Monica Bellucci, for starters.
57) Some Italian films have bridged the cultural gap and become hits in Hollywood. Probably the most famous Italian language film is Life is Beautiful from 1998. The film scooped the Academy Awards, with director and star Roberto Benigni causing a stir with his chair-leaping theatrics when accepting his Best Actor Oscar.
58) Approximately 80% of the world’s recognised pieces of great art are held in Italy. All the more reason to visit!
59) Leather production is another craft Italy is world famous for. Italian leather is considered superior to other countries, due to the traditional processes it goes through that have been used for centuries. You can experience the process of leather making in Italy for yourself, with many tanneries running workshops or demonstrations. Florence is a city that prides itself on its leather and you can pick up a genuine leather bag or jacket at a bargain at many of its markets.
60) If you’re an art connoisseur, there’s many major museums in Italy that will thrill you. The Uffizi Gallery and Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, Vatican Museums in Vatican City, The Borghese Gallery & Museum in Rome and the Museo Egizio in Turin should all be on your list!
Historical Facts About Italy
“You should see the Colosseum Spaniard. Fifty-thousand Romans… watching every movement of your sword… willing you to make that killer blow. The silence before you strike and the noise afterwards. It rises. It rises up… like a storm. As if you were the thunder god himself.” – Proximo, Gladiator
61) The Roman Empire, one of the greatest in all of history, ended in 395 AD after a reign of around 500 years. At its height, the vastness of the Roman Empire spanned 4.4 million km (estimate), and ruled over 57 million people.
62) Gladiators regularly fought for their lives for the entertainment of Roman leaders. These battles happened across much of the Roman Empire, but many associate Rome’s Colosseum with the most highly regarded events of the time.
63) While Italy is now a democratic republic, it’s long history has meant it’s seen its fair share of governments. Some names you may recognise include tragic figure Julius Caesar, terrifying dictators Nero and Caligula and self-appointed Emperor, Frenchman Napoleon Bonaparte.
64) Roman leader and recognisable name even today, Julius Caesar, contributed to the rise of the Roman Empire. But it’s his love triangle between Egyptian Queen Cleopatra – with whom he had one child – and Roman General Mark Antony, that is one for the history books. Caesar was assassinated by several Roman Senators who plotted to overthrow the dictator.
65) The Emperor Caligula is one of the most feared and insane figures from history – and for good reason. At the height of his power, he murdered or exiled almost all of his family, tortured prisoners and appointed his horse a Senator. It should come as no surprise that he was assassinated at age 29.
66) Italy only became one nation as recent as 1861. Before that, after the fall of the Roman Empire, it was a series of kingdoms and independent states.
67) The Colosseum was the largest amphitheatre ever built for the time, and seated 50,000 spectators. Its opening in 80 AD was marked by 100 days of games, which included gladiator battles and wild animal fights. For over 400 years, the Colosseum was the centre of entertainment in Rome, before falling into neglect and disrepair. Now it still stands in the heart of Rome as an iconic world landmark and a heavily-trafficked tourist destination.
68) The historical eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the subsequent destruction and burial of the ancient city of Pompeii is a famous historical story. But while it was buried under metres of ash and pumice in 79 AD, it wasn’t until 1748 that it was rediscovered. The volcanic debris had preserved much of the town and 2600 of its residents bodies, leaving it frozen in time. Now over 2 million annual visitors make their way to the excavated UNESCO listed city to see the incredible relics for themselves.
69) During the First World War (1914-1918), Italy fought on the side of the Triple Entente/Allies (Britain, France and Russia), choosing not to support its ally Germany. However the Second World War (1939-1945), Italy was lead by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and was part of the “Axis” which included Germany and Japan.
70) Benito Mussolini was the Italian Prime Minister From 1922 until 1943. He was executed alongside his mistress and other ministers and officials by partisans in the final days of WW2 in 1945. Their bodies were displayed in Milan for people to hurl stones and spit at.
Facts About Venice
“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.” – Truman Capote
71) Venice is a city in the north of Italy that is characterised by a series of 100 small islands surrounded by canals and lagoons. It is on the Adriatic Sea.
72) Venice was originally built on its maze of canals and lagoons to protect it from foreign armies.
73) Venice has had many nicknames given to it over the years. Just a few include “City of Bridges”, “Queen of the Adriatic”, “The Floating City” and even simply, “City of Water”.
74) From around 600 AD to 1797, Venice was its own country, and named The Republic of Venice. When Napoleon became Emperor, this independence came to an end.
75) The actual permanent population of Venice is relatively small compared to other Italian cities, with around 60,000 residents. This was once a much larger figure, but with the influx of tourists, the costs to maintain a Venetian home, regular flooding and sinking and overall prices, it is expected that Venice will one at exist only as a tourist attraction and not as a place to live.
76) Gondolas are a recognisable part of life in Venice, and there are over 350 in Venice ferrying tourists around in traditional style.
77) One of the narrowest streets in the world can be found in Venice. It measures just 53cm wide!
78) Venice’s bridges are also famous, and there are almost 500 across the city. Venice’s bridges to add to your bucket list include the Rialto Bridge and the Bridge of Sighs.
79) Venice is slowly sinking, and experts estimate at a rate of 1-2 mm a year.
80) Every February, Venice comes alive for “Carnevale”, a fortnight-long celebration where people across the city wear ornate, colourful Venetian masks. This is a centuries old tradition, and draws approximately 3 million tourists to Venice’s shores.
What are some of your favorite Facts About Italy?
I could literally write thousands more fun Italy facts and figures, but I wanted to keep it under 100! If you think I need to add any specific fact, stat, or figure, please do let me know! Italy is one of my favorite countries in the world (and I even used to live there!
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