Italy has fascinated the world for centuries. The European country is one of the most visited places on Earth and attracts millions of tourists for its food, wine, history, art and natural beauties. It is impossible to take advantage of everything it offers in a few weeks during the holidays.
After visiting Italy for the first time, it is possible to understand that the country always holds endless surprises. Italy has become one of the most influential cultures over the centuries, and there is always something new to learn about Italian culture and history. Here are some surprising facts about Italy’s history that are worth knowing.
ten No other country has so many World Heritage Sites
Traveling to any region of Italy means being surrounded by historical sites. Italy’s history dates back thousands of years, so it’s no surprise that it’s the country with the most World Heritage Sites.
According to Unesco, Italy comes first with 58 properties, followed by China with 56 places. Some of the World Heritage sites that visitors can find in Italy include the archaeological areas of Pompeii, the city of Verona, central Rome, and the Amalfi Coast.
9 Italy was Shakespeare’s favorite country
Although William Shakespeare was born in England, he was fascinated by Italy. Most people could remember Romeo and Juliet lived their love story in Verona, but they weren’t the only Shakespearean characters to live in Italy. According to the BBC, the poet and screenwriter has staged 38 plays – a third of his work – in the country, including othelloThe tames the shrew, and The merchant of Venice.
Ironically, some people say that Shakespeare never set foot in Italy and discovered the country by talking to merchants. However, others believe he spent his lost years between 1585 and 1592 in Italy.
8 What happens to Fontana de Trevis coins
The Trevi Fontana is one of the must-see places in Rome. Part of the ritual of visiting the place is tossing a coin and making a wish – and tourists take it seriously. According to some sources, the Trevi Fountain in Rome brought in US$1.5 million in 2016, with tourists throwing nearly US$3,500 into it every day.
But where does the money go? From time to time, the city withdraws the coins from the coins and the money goes to the charitable activities of the church. The money corresponds to 15% of the annual budget of Caritas Rome.
7 Italy’s last king ruled the country for less than two months
At the end of World War II, Mussolini’s regime was replaced by a monarchy led by King Umberto II in 1946. It became known as the Re di Maggio (May King), and he ruled the country for 36 days between May 9 and June 12. Umberto was forced out of office after a referendum that approved the Republican government.
After abdicating the throne, Umberto lived in Portugal and died in Geneva, Switzerland in 1983. His family recently made headlines after his descendants attempted to recover the royal jewels.
6 Italians have been eating pasta for thousands of years
It is impossible to talk about Italian gastronomy and not think about pasta. Food is an important part of Italian history, and some sources say it was introduced to Italian cuisine by Marco Polo in the 13th century, inspired by things he saw on his travels. However, while exploring the Etruscan tomb, researchers found pasta-making equipment dating back to the 4th century BC.
Italians have improved their pasta making skills over the centuries and the hunt for the best pasta dishes is a must for anyone visiting Italy.
5 Italy is home to the oldest university in the world
The University of Bologna was founded in 1088 and never closed. Known as the “nursing mother of studies”, it is the oldest university in the western world. Among its alumni are famous politicians and popes.
The place is also one of the most beautiful universities in Europe and is very popular with tourists. It is possible to visit the premises from Monday to Saturday during the day. Some highlights of the visit are the Palazzo Poggi, the Collegio di Spagna and the library.
4 Cats have rights in Italy – literally!
There is no doubt that Italians are cat lovers. In ancient Rome they were considered sacred and there were statues of cats in the city. They were the favorite animals of the goddess Diana. Cats are part of modern Rome and Largo Argentina, known as the place where Brutus stabbed Julius Caesar, is currently home to 130 feral cats.
The love of Italians for cats is still alive. There are nearly 300,000 cats in Rome and they are all protected by a law that ensures they can live where they want and cannot be taken away. The law also guarantees that the health authorities must take care of cats.
3 Italy has more than many minority languages
Obviously, Italian is the official language of Italy and is spoken by 60 million people living in the country. However, Italy has also received the influence of different cultures over the centuries and the government has defined historical language minorities including French, Greek, German, Sardinian, Albanian, Occitan , Croatian, Slovenian, Ladin, Friulian, Catalan and Franco-Provençal.
The country also has a few endangered languages and around 30 Italian dialects could disappear in the coming years. One of them is Molise Croatian, spoken by less than a thousand people in the province of Campobasso.
2 The country has a violin capital
The violin was invented by Andrea Amati over four centuries ago in Cremona. Since then, the place has held the reputation of the capital of Italian violence, and the work of artisans is recognized as one of the intangible cultural heritages of humanity.
Cremona is one of the few cities where tourists can see how craftsmen made violins centuries ago, as they have managed to preserve this art. Visitors can also sign up for one of the many workshops and learn how to make a violin.
1 Pompeii was rediscovered several centuries later
While most people have heard of Pompeii these days, the city remained unknown for many centuries. Pompeii was destroyed after the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. The city was not rediscovered until the 18th century and excavations revealed well-preserved bodies, buildings and tools. Thanks to this level of preservation, it has been possible to reimagine what life was like in Pompeii at the time, and researchers are still exploring it.
According to National Geographic, Pompeii is the “longest continuously excavated site in the world”.
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