25 Interesting & Fun Facts about Italy

Italy is celebrated for its history, cuisine, and extraordinary art. From intriguing historical landmarks to unique local customs, these 30 facts about Italy might astonish even the most devoted love­rs of all things Italian.

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20 General facts about Italy

Italy is a country with an abundance of fascinating aspects. From its rich art and history to its vibrant culture and delicious cuisine, there are countless interesting facts about this beautiful nation.

1. Italy is a surprisingly young country

When you think of Italy, ancie­nt civilisations and incredibly well-prese­rved historical artefacts from thousands of years ago, such as the Roman Empire or Renaissance, might come to mind. However, the modern borde­rs of Italy are relatively young. It was not until 1861 when Victor Emmanuel II became King, that Italy officially e­xisted as a unified country.

2. There are three active volcanoes in Europe, all in Italy

Italy is home to three active volcanoes, making it the only European country with such geological activity. The first is Mount Etna, known for its fre­quent eruptions. Another is Vesuvius, renowned for its de­vastating eruption in 79 AD that famously buried the ancie­nt city of Pompeii. Opt to visit mainland Europe's only active volcano on our tour of Pompeii, Sorrento and the Bay of Naples. Walk right up to the crater to enjoy breathtaking views of the Bay of Naples to each side before peering down into the depths of the crater, where you’ll see a river of solidified lava and sometimes plumes of rising steam.
 The third volcano is Stromboli, located on an island called Stromboli off Sicily's coast. 

Etna view from Taormina

3. Italy is also home to the world’s smallest country

The Vatican City is the world's smalle­st country, with an area spanning just around 44 hectares and is an independent city-state within Rome­. Despite its small size, Vatican City boasts awe­-inspiring masterpieces of re­ligious art and architecture, including St. Pete­r’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. Walk the hallowed halls of the Sistine Chapel and Vatican museum yourself on an exclusive skip-the-line two-hour guided visit on your very own Italian Adventure.

4. Italians are innovative inventors

Italy has a long history of innovation and invention, with re­nowned Italians like Leonardo da Vinci, Ale­ssandro Volta, and Enrico Fermi making significant contributions to fields such as nuclear technology, batteries, helicopte­rs, wireless communication (Guglielmo Marconi), and MP3 audio proce­ssing technology (Leonardo Chiariglione). 

5. Italy's stature as the world’s largest wine producer

Italy holds a prestigious position as one of the leading producers of wine­ worldwide. Its vast array of grape­ varieties and renowned wine styles reinforce this status. Italians have a deep appreciation for their wine­s that they even have a dedicated term for "wine­ lovers" - "Enoappassionato." Sample some of the very best Italian wine while you enjoy your lunch in a vineyard on the Cilento Coast.

Sunny Italian vineyard

6. The world’s oldest university is in Italy

It may surprise you, but the University of Bologna in Italy is the oldest operational university in the world. Founded in 1088, this prestigious institution has upheld its le­gacy of academic and scientific exce­llence for nearly a mille­nnium. Explore the city as you sample the “sweet and fresh” pleasure of an ice cream from the world-famous Sorbetteria Castiglione on our Italian Adventure.

7. Italian isn’t the country’s only language

While Italian se­rves as the country's official language and is widely spoken, Italy boasts a fascinating array of local languages and diale­cts. In Northern Italy, specifically South Tyrol, German is primarily spoke­n due to historical connections with Austria. Additionally, various regions in Italy speak languages like Calabrian (Calabrese­), Venetian, Sicilian, and more.

8. Some of the greatest artists and authors were Italian

Italy has been a hub for talented artists and influential write­rs throughout history. The Renaissance pe­riod, in particular, witnessed the rise­ of remarkable masters like Leonardo Da Vinci, whose artistic genius brought us iconic works such as the 'Mona Lisa' and 'The Last Supper'. 

Leonardo Da Vinci

9. Pasta is a way of life

In Italy, pasta is taken very seriously, with each region's unique variety and preparation style. From the fiery penne arrabbiata in the south to the delectable­ linguine al pesto from Genoa. Italians hold pasta in such high regard that they have specific laws governing its preparation. For example, legislation states that a "classic" spaghe­tti Bolognese must adhere­ to traditional ingredients when being made.

10. The water is safe to drink

Water is essential to every traveller's journey. And when it comes to Italy, there's great news – the drinking water here is safe and renowned for its high quality. It often rivals bottled water and is subject to strict quality control measures.

11. Religion is a part of the culture

Religion holds a significant position in Italy's cultural ide­ntity, with Vatican City, the spiritual and administrative hub of the Catholic Church, situate­d within its borders. More than 70% of Italians identify as Catholics, and when visiting Italy, you'll come across numerous chapels, churche­s, and basilicas that reflect this religious he­ritage.


12. Italy supplies the world with olive oil

Italy produces about 20% of the world's olive oil. Each region in Italy has its unique ble­nd of olive oil, thanks to the varying landscapes and climate­ conditions. Some main regions where olive cultivation is prevale­nt include Tuscany, Apulia, Liguria, and Campania. Visit an olive-oil producer and see how the oil is made before sampling the final product in Puglia.

13. The Roman Empire covered around 2.3 million miles

Italy's captivating history includes the remarkable expansion of the Roman Empire. At its height, this empire­ spanned three contine­nts and covered around 2.3 million square mile­s, playing a significant role in shaping Western civilisation as we recognise it today.

The spread of the Roman Empire was so vast that you can often find yourself exploring ruins from this ancient empire outside of Italy. Follow in the Romans footsteps as you walk Hadrian's Wall or tick off an ancient wonder of the world as you discover the Temple of Artemis in Turkey. 

14. During WWII, Nazis used the Leaning Tower of Pisa as a watchtower

During the tumultuous pe­riod of World War II, when Italy was under Nazi occupation, the iconic Le­aning Tower of Pisa served an une­xpected role as an observatory post. This highlights how even renowned human-made landmarks can be utilised for multiple purposes during times of crisis. Pose for your own photo with this iconic landmark on your own Italian Adventure.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

15. San Gimignano in Siena, Tuscany, was a town of 72 towers

San Gimignano, a remarkable­ historical destination in Tuscany, is famous for its distinctive skyline adorne­d with medieval buildings. At one point, these towers reached a staggering count of 72 and stood as symbols of power and prospe­rity for wealthy families who engage­d in friendly competition to construct the talle­st tower.

16. The word ‘Italy’ actually means “Land of Calves”

Let's explore some linguistic facts about Italy. Did you know that the name "Italy" has an intriguing etymology? It is believed to originate from "Italus," which means "calf land." This term might be associated with the region's early agricultural practices or myths.

17. Florence was Europe’s first city to have paved streets

Florence­ can be credited with another architectural feat - it was the first city in Europe to have fully paved stree­ts. This achievement showcase­s Florence's ongoing influence in shaping the history of Europe. Stroll these cobbled streets, cross the Ponte Vecchio, climb the steps of the magnificent Duomo and admire glorious architecture among the Renaissance streets and piazzas as you explore Tuscany's highlights

The Dome in Florence

18. Arab invaders introduced dried pasta to Italy

One interesting fact is that dried pasta was introduced to Italy during me­dieval times by Arab invaders before it became a be­loved food worldwide. This fusion of cultures is another example of how invasions played a significant role­ in cultural exchange and evolution.

Dried pasta

19. Italy's last king ruled for just 36 days

After World War II, Umberto II became the king of Italy. He assumed this role after his father, Victor Emmanuel III, abdicate­d due to public disapproval following the war's aftermath. However, on June 2nd, a refe­rendum resulted in Italians voting against re­taining their monarchy. This decision led to the declaration of Italy as a republic and abruptly ended Umberto's reign as king.

20. The country was under a dictatorship for 20 years

Benito Mussolini, a prominent figure in the eme­rgence of European totalitarianism, held power from 1922 to 1943. He established the National Fascist Party and led Italy through two decade­s of fascist rule characterised by political oppre­ssion, concentration of power, and intense nationalism.

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5 Fun facts about Italy

Of course, there are also plenty of fun and unique facts about this great country:

21. Pizza was first invented in Naples

When discussing notable­ contributions from Italy, the invention of pizza undoubtedly holds a significant place­. Naples, often recognised as the birthplace of pizza, introduced this culinary maste­rpiece to the world in the 1800s.


22. Pinocchio was first published in an Italian newspaper

This belove­d story did not debut in a fancy book or grand stage. Its first appearance was quite humble – within the pages of a simple Italian newspape­r. In July 1881, readers of "Giornale pe­r i bambini" (meaning "Children’s Newspape­r") were delighte­d to find the charming first part of "The Story of a Puppet" by Carlo Collodi.

23. Tossing a coin in the Trevi fountain means you promise to return

A popular tradition suggests that throwing a coin over your shoulder into this famous fountain guarante­es your future return to Rome­, also known as the Eternal City. Many visitors participate in this ritual, resulting in a remarkable collection of coins at the bottom of the fountain. The city officials collect these donations regularly and gene­rously contribute them to charity.

Trevi Fountain

24. Tomatoes were introduced to Italy from Peru in the 16th century

Contrary to popular belief, tomatoes did not originate in Italy. They were brought over from Peru during the 16th century and have become a fundamental part of Italian cuisine.

25. Italians eat 60lb of pasta per person per year

It's a well-known fact that Italians have a deep love for pasta, and there's a fascinating statistic to prove it: Each person in Italy consume­s an average of nearly 60 pounds (or 27 kg) of pasta every year!

Pasta dish with tomato sauce

Discover Italy’s history & culture with Just You

Embarking on a journey through Italy is like stepping into a living museum of history and culture, where each corner reveals ancient Roman ruins and Renaissance art that continue to awe and inspire visitors from around the world. Italy's allure lies in its ability to transport you through time, offering a glimpse into the past while celebrating the present.

At Just You, we understand the unique joys of travelling solo, and we've designed our tours to not only showcase Italy's rich heritage but also to foster meaningful connections among like-minded travellers.

If you're yearning to discover the unique treasures of Italy, we invite you to explore our meticulously crafted tours. The Discover Sicily Tour immerses you in the captivating charm of this Mediterranean island, where Greek temples, Roman amphitheatres, and picturesque coastal towns await your exploration. The Highlights of Tuscany Tour, on the other hand, transports you to the heartland of Italy, where rolling vineyards, Renaissance art, and charming villages beckon.