As an epicenter for delectable food, fascinating history, and vibrant culture, Italy is one of the favorite tourist destinations on the planet. From the rustic beauty of Sicily to the mythical grandeur of Rome, Italy boasts more than a few places that virtually every world traveler has on their bucket lists to see. If you have been considering a journey to Italy, the first thing you should do is gain a grasp on the language.
Udemy offers a course called “Speak Italian Like an Italiano,” which can teach you everything you need to stay on your toes in Italy, from ordering food at restaurants to writing and reading in Italian with seamless ease. Once you have a grasp on the language, however, it’s time to learn a bit more about the country you will be visiting. With that in mind, here are a slew of interesting facts that will educate you about Italy and perhaps even highlight a few potential vacation spots.
Food & Drink Facts
It’s no secret that Italy is known around the world for its incredible cuisine, and for good reason. The country has a rich culinary history that has given us many of the dishes we eat every day in the United States, from pizza to pasta. In addition to specific dishes, though, Italy may well also qualify as the worldwide capital of cheese. While Paris, France is typically thought of as the ultimate destination for cheese lovers, Italy’s rich cheese history cannot be denied. Parmesan cheese, the quintessential pasta topper, originated in the Italian region of Parma, and Italy has given the world a slew of other cheese, from Mozzarella and Provolone to Ricotta and Gorgonzola, all the way to Asiago and Pecorino Romano.
Needless to say, if you are cheese lover, Italy is the place to be, and what better beverage to go along with cheese than wine. Just like France, Italy balances its rich cheese culture with a vibrant and long-standing vino industry. Today, most sources acknowledge Italy as the world’s second largest wine producing nation (after France, naturally). However, the fact that Italy comes in second place as far as wine is concerned is no knock against the many varieties of red and white grapes grown on this sun-soaked peninsula.
In fact, Italy has been producing wine for millennia, with ancient civilizations even referring to the region as the “land of wine.” Nowadays, studies estimate that one in every 50 Italian citizens plays some role in grape harvest each year. In other words, you can’t travel Italy without encountering countless wine experts and tasting innumerable different vino varieties. Take Udemy’s course on wine pairing so that you always know which wines to pair with your meals (or, if you’re a real wine enthusiast, the other way around).
Another fun fact about Italy’s food culture involves truffles, rare mushrooms or fungi that add huge bursts of flavor to any meal and are generally considered to be incredibly valuable as a result. In 2007, a Tuscany-based dog named Rocco sniffed out a massive truffle that weighed 3.3 pounds. It later sold for $333,000 in an auction – $100,000 per pound, and the largest sum of money ever paid for a truffle.
While Italy is generally considered a rustic, exotic, or even nostalgic place – with its delicious cuisine, wellsprings of wine, and gorgeous landscapes instilling in many a feeling of being “out of time” – the country has played host to numerous inventions and technological innovations. In addition to introducing the world to pizza, cheese, ice cream (or gelato, rather), Italy also gave the world the espresso machine (as well as the coffee beverage it creates), the thermometer, the typewriter, the battery, the artificial heart, the radio, and many other innovations.
In addition to these inventions, many modern or near-modern concepts were dreamed up centuries ago by legendary artist and visionary, Leonardo da Vinci. Ball bearings, life preservers, gear shifts, parachutes, flying machines, boats, screws, mechanical weaponry, and even automobiles were all ideas that have been discovered in da Vinci’s drawings. Even if the famed artist isn’t credited with the invention of all of these innovations, the fact that he had ideas for them in the 1400s and 1500s – centuries before they found their way to the consumer marketplace – is one of Italy’s most fascinating pieces of history.
Arts & Culture
As the origin point for the Renaissance, Italy was primed in the 14th, 15th, 16th, and even 17th centuries for massive artistic creativity. The aforementioned Leonardo da Vinci was just one of many visual artists to hail from the country. In addition to da Vinci, perhaps the most famous artists from the Italian Renaissance were Raphael, a noted painter and architect; Donatello, a sculptor; and Michelangelo, a sculptor, painter, architect, engineer, and poet, most known for the Sistine Chapel, which remains a tourist destination and a lightning rod of Italian culture to this day. (Interestingly, these four artists would also be the namesakes for the titular characters in the popular 1980s comic book, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.)
However, Italy’s artistic history isn’t just defined by famous visual artists. On the contrary, the nation provided fertile ground for virtually all of the forms that we today recognize as “classical music.” From opera to the very ideas of the “orchestra” and the “symphony,” Italy has long been a country rife for significant musical development. From virtuoso violinist Antonio Vivaldi to opera titans like Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini, all the way to Claudio Monteverdi, the creator of opera himself, Italy birthed a larger concentration of famous classical and baroque composers than perhaps any other country on the planet. And while Italy isn’t generally considered a source of the cutting edge in music anymore, the country was the birthplace of the disco sensation that so captivated the world in the 1970s.
Geography & Geology
Everyone knows that the Italian peninsula approximates the shape of a boot, but there are numerous facts about the country’s geographical and geological sprawl that are less known around the world. For instance, Italy isn’t even remotely flat, with nearly 80 percent of the nation is covered by hills or mountains. It is also frequently forgotten that Italy is situated on a tectonic plate fault line, making it one of the least stable geological places in the world. As a result of its fault line location, Italy plays host to a greater number of volcanoes than any other country in Europe (include legendary mountains like Etna and Vesuvius). Volcanoes aren’t the only geological concern faced by Italian citizens, however. On the contrary, the country is frequently wracked and rocked by earthquakes, with one of the deadliest quakes in history taking 100,000 lives in 1963.
If you visit Italy, you simply have to take in a soccer game, where the infectious fan culture is simply something that has to be seen and heard to be believed. As the most popular sport in Italy, soccer routinely captivates countless citizens around the country. The biggest soccer hub is San Siro Stadium, a Milan sporting venue with an 85,000-person capacity. The stadium, as the home of the Italy national football team, is also the home of much national glory: though the British introduced Italians to the game of soccer in the 1800s, Italy has since surpassed their mentors, winning four World Cup titles. Only Brazil has more World Cup championship wins.
You know that scene in the first Harry Potter film where Harry, Ron, and Hermione participated in a life-sized chess game? Something similar happens in Marostica, Italy on a biennial basis. During September in even-numbered years, the town turns is main square or piazza into a life-sized chess board. The significance behind this fun and idiosyncratic occasion relates back to an oft-remembered event from the town’s history. Legend states that in 1454, Marostica actually played hosted to a human chess game, with the winner claiming the hand of a lovely young lady. Such customs are out of date now, but if you’ve ever wanted to play a life-sized game of chess, Marostica is the place to be.
Planning Your Visit
As you can see, Italy is a place with many fascinating traditions, pieces of history, experiences worth experiencing, and sights worth seeing. If you have been thinking of taking a vacation to Italy, whether for a family adventure, a romantic Honeymoon getaway, or just a chance to take some time off from work, then now is the perfect time.
Use the above facts and locations to help you plan your trip, or read this blog on Italy travel tips to make sure that you are ready for the planning, packing, attractions, customs, and food about to come your way. If you want to take the vacation of a lifetime to Italy but need to do so on a budget, be sure to check out our travel hacking course for advice on cheap travel. Finally, enjoy your trip, but don’t forget to take lots of pictures and keep a journal so that you remember all of your amazing adventures after you come home. Udemy offers a course on keeping travel journals that can help you to preserve everything in writing so you can make the mental return trip to Italy time and time again.