Top 10 Amazing Facts About Italy
We’re happy to have you join us as we stop off in bel paese d’Italia - the beautiful country of Italy! This Mediterranean is a wonder filled with exciting culture, distinguished people, fascinating history, and pizza and spaghetti! We’re here to explore many of those facets with these ten amazing facts about Italy.
The Mythological Rise of Rome
During the 9th century BC, it is alleged the Latini tribe inhabited what would later become Rome, but the origins of the great city are said to be ingrained in the mythology of the twin sons of Rhea Silvia, fathered by either Mars or Hercules. After being sentenced to death for Silvia’s betrayal of her celibacy vows, the twins were spared by a servant and left to experience a series of events, including being nurtured by a she-wolf, that lead to the founding of their own cities on opposite hills: Palatine and Aventine. A quarrel between the twins ended with the death of Remus and the founding of Rome on April 21st, 753 BC. Whether rooted in this mythology or not, the once prodigious kingdom sits as a relic metropolis with specks of history strewn amidst a modern city.
Records Held by Italians
This may come as a surprise to you, but 250 Italian chefs hold the record for the longest pizza ever made. The 6,079-foot or 1,853-meter long pizza beat out the prior record of 5,234 feet or 1,595 meters, which was also held by Italians. In October of 2015, Italy also took the Guinness World Record for the largest cake sculpture, which depicts the peninsula in a most delicious fashion. Other records include the fastest speed while skiing, the largest structure built from interlocking bricks, and most consecutive head spins at 49 twirls in a row. Saving the most delicious for last, Italy also holds the record for largest tiramisu, which weighed in at 6,647 pounds or 3,015 kilograms.
Italians are a passionate ethnicity. Some are also fairly superstitious. Mix those two together and you get a country full of people that think the Evil Eye is a viable means of causing harm to your enemies. For outsiders, it’s a bit humorous, but to pure-blooded Italians, some of these fantastical superstitions can really ruin a person’s day. If you’re looking to curse someone with impotency, you’ll use the Corno or Devil’s horn. When placing bread out, you always want to place it face up to avoid bad luck. Have a bird in the house or a peacock feather in your possession? You’ve pretty much guaranteed yourself a spell of misfortune. There’s even an island in the Mediterranean Sea, the region of Sardinia, where witchdoctors still practice with ancient, herbal medicines and remedies.
Inventions from Italy
Like famous and notable people, there are many significant inventions designed and crafted from Italian blood, sweat, and tears. One of the most important contributions came from Teressa Bellissimo in 1964 when she came up with the idea of the buffalo wing! Alright, so she was Italian-American and maybe buffalo wings aren’t that important; but they’re delicious! True wonders of science from Italy that actually did impact the world do include Evangelista Torricelli’s barometer in 1643, Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta’s first electrical battery of the 1800s, and Galileo Galilei’s thermoscope, which would later develop into the thermometer. You’ll also find that the mechanical typing machine, hydrofoils, early parachutes, the decompression chamber and even the Caesar salad have Italian origins.
The Fame of Italy
Read through Italy’s history and you’re going to come across plenty of names that may ring a bell, including the Italian-born fashion designer, Giorgio Armani, the high-energy actor Roberto Benigni, and even the planet-finding astronomer Galileo Galilei, but notable names like these barely scratch the surface of the Fame of Italy. From early history philosophers like Dante Alighieri and explorer Christopher Columbus to modern day soccer player Andrea Pirlo and celebrity chef Giada de Laurentiis, to list every worthwhile, famous Italian would take more time than we have, so here is a list instead!
Cuisine, culture, and tourist attractions may be a big part of what makes Italy such a gorgeous country, but without the massive amount of different types of fauna and wildlife, it would be missing a big part of its natural beauty. Over 57,000 species have been recorded on the peninsula, including one of the smallest mammals in the world, the Etruscan shrew. Making up almost 98% of the 57,000 species are invertebrates like the Italian stinkbug, Cleopatra butterfly, and European praying mantis. Off the coast of the Adriatic, Mediterranean, Ligurian, and Ionian seas, Italy sports a variety of Annelids, mantis shrimp, Portuguese man ‘o war, Mediterranean starfish, and broad-clawed porcelain crab.
If you think the architecture in Italy is beautiful, just wait until you start to survey some of the art. We touched on the Sistine Chapel and the Statue of David, and while these alone are impressive works of a creative mind and steady hand, there is so much more out there to be appreciated. The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, The School of Athens by Raphael, Primavera by Sandro Botticelli, The Judgment by Michelangelo, Masaccio’s Holy Trinity – each of these pieces are inspired timeless works. Italy’s role in the arts is also passive, as its beauty and reverence served as the backdrop to many of the English-born William Shakespeare’s works.
Attractions of Italy
Being in the top 5 most visited countries in the world, you can assume that Italy has a lot to offer for tourists to see. As a land filled with so much history, a good portion of your sightseeing is going to be spent taking selfies in front of relics of an ancient past. One of the most iconic structures found in Italy is the Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheatre. This oval theater was once a bustling center of entertainment in ancient Rome, the sight for thrilling gladiatorial combat. Playing opposite the Colosseum’s bloody history are religious points of interest, such as the Pantheon, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Florence Cathedral, St. Peter’s Basilica and the beautiful Sistine Chapel. You’ll need to plan out your tour of Italy to see if you’ll have time for the Grand Canal, Uffizi Gallery, the statue of David, and many other eye-catching attractions.
True-blooded Italians are often heard referring to the food they cook like it has its own personality. They take pride in every morsel and consider their cuisine to be a part of their heritage. Have your doubts about how serious natives are about their pasta? In 1986, when McDonalds introduced its first restaurant in Italy, protesters stood outside of the establishment and served spaghetti. Accompanying the thin pasta in a list of Italian staples, you’re going to find olive oil, which is often used as a marinade or salad dressing; a selection of cheeses, like mozzarella, Parmesan, ricotta, and Gorgonzola; and, of course, red tomato sauce.
The Birth of Pizza
Since it’s on my mind and my stomach is already growling, let’s dive right into the reason some of you may have stopped off on this trip with us – the pizza! Forget Chicago, Detroit, and New York-styled pizza, they’re an Americanized representation of real Italian pizza. Now, it’s said that a form of pizza and foods similar to pizza have roots all the way back to the late 900’s AD and in the early Middle East, but the pizza we know and love today used to be served a bit sweeter and on a softer dough known as schiacciata. Another sort of “origin story” stems from Naples in 1889, when pizza maker Raffaele Esposito allegedly came up with the “Pizza Margherita” for Queen Margherita of Savoy and King Umberto I.