With some of the world’s most impressive art, architecture, food and scenery, it’s little wonder that Italy tops so many traveller’s bucket lists. From ancient cities and soaring mountains to fine wines and traditional pizza, you could explore this fascinating country for years and still not discover everything. We’ve dug up 15 fun facts about Italy to get you started.
1. Italy has a free wine fountain
A free wine fountain sounds like the stuff of dreams – but it’s a very real thing in Caldari di Ortona in Italy. The small town has a free wine fountain that flows 24-hours a day with locally grown red wine. The fontana di vino can be found in the Dora Sarchese vineyard, which sits on the Italian pilgrimage route of Cammino di San Tommaso.
2. Italy is the fifth most visited country in the world
Italy received over 62 million international visitors in 2018, making the country the fifth most visited in the world. Some of our favourite places to visit are the iconic cities of Rome, Pisa, Florence and Milan, along with gems like Lake Como, Assisi, Verona, Sorrento and the beautiful Isle of Capri.
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3. All three of Europe’s active volcanoes are in Italy
We already knew Italy is a smokin’ hot country, but did you know Italy is a hotspot for volcanic activity? All three of Europe’s active volcanoes, including Etna, Vesuvius and Stromboli.
Mount Etna is located on the island of Sicily. It last erupted in 2018, but you can see a plume of white steam rising from the peak. Mount Stromboli is currently active, although it’s located on its own island off the coast of Sicily.
Meanwhile, the notorious Mount Vesuvius is located in Naples and hasn’t erupted since 1944 when it caused major destruction. The volcano is also responsible for one of the most catastrophic eruptions in history in 79 B.C. You can still see the destruction caused by the volcano in the ancient city of Pompeii.
4. Italians invented pizza in Naples
The first modern pizza, with a tomato base, was made in the Campania region of Naples in 1860. Since then, it has become one of the most beloved foods on the planet. Although the humble pizza has gone through many changes over time, the world’s most delicious pizza can still be found in Naples today. Buon Appetito!
5. Italy has the most UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world
One of the most interesting fun facts about Italy is that it’s packed with historic treasures. As of 2019, Italy is home to 55 UNESCO World Heritage sites. They tie with China as the country with the most UNESCO sites in the world. With gems like the Colosseum in Rome, the city of Pompeii, and the glorious Amalfi Coast, it’s no wonder the country receives millions of visitors each year.
6. Italians have eaten pasta since the 4th century B.C.
Pasta is a crucial part of Italian culture, with many of the world’s best pasta dishes created in Italy. And they’ve had time to perfect their craft. Evidence suggests that pasta dishes in Italy date back as far as the 4th century B.C. after historians found paintings in a pre-Roman Italian tomb thought to depict pasta-making equipment.
Whether you prefer a creamy carbonara or a classic spaghetti bolognese, we guarantee you will eat the world’s finest pasta in Italy.
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7. There are over 1,500 lakes in Italy
The lakes of Italy are stunning, and there are over 1,500 of them scattered across the country. Surrounded by the snowy Alps and golden beaches, you can spend hours enjoying the beauty of Italy’s lakes. Sail with the stars on the famous waters of Lake Como and Lake Garda. Or explore the smaller gems like Lake Iseo and Lake Ledro.
8. Italians consume 14 billion espressos each year
It’s well known that Italians adore their coffee. But did you know that they enjoy 14 billion espressos each year? That’s impressive for a country with a population of just over 60 million. Most Italians drink their daily coffee in local cafés and over 20,000 Italians work as baristas. Many people also get their fix at home, with the average household consuming 37kg of coffee each year.
9. You can find the world’s smallest country inside Italy
One of the tiniest fun facts about Italy is that there’s a whole other country inside it! Spanning just 44 hectares, the Vatican City is around one-eighth the size of New York’s Central Park. This makes it the smallest country in the world.
The mini city-state is located within Rome and packed with some of the world’s most famous monuments. Tens of thousands of visitors stream into the Vatican City each day to see historic sites like St Peter’s Cathedral and the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo in 1512.
10. One-fifth of Italy is covered in hills and mountains
You can climb to the top of the world in Italy, with around 25% of all land in Italy being hilly or mountainous. The country also boasts some of the world’s most spectacular hiking trails.
The highest mountain in Italy is Mont Blanc, which rises 4,808 metres above sea level. It’s also the highest mountain in the Alps, a stunning mountain range that spans 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) across eight countries including France, Switzerland, Monaco, Austria, Liechtenstein, Slovenia and Germany.
11. Italy is the world’s largest wine producer
This fun fact about Italy may entice wine-lovers to visit. The country produced an enormous 54,800 hectolitres of wine in 2018, just beating out France at 49,000 hectolitres. Italy is also one of the world’s largest exporters of wine. They exported a staggering $7.3 billion worth of wine in 2018, with the majority going to the US, the UK, and Germany. Saluti!
12. Italy has a low birth rate and the oldest population in Europe
Italy has one of the world’s oldest populations, with 23% of the population aged over 65 years, and a median age of around 45 years. The country also has one of the lowest birth rates in the western world.
More people are waiting longer to have children, while many other couples are having fewer children or no children at all. The government has recently introduced some incentives to encourage people to have more than one child in an attempt to stabilise the birth rate.
13. Tourists throw €3,000 into the Trevi fountain every day
Thousands of tourists flock to the beautiful Fontana di Trevi where they throw coins for luck – a whopping €3,000 worth of change each day. In 2016, an estimated €1.4 million (US$1.5 million) was thrown in the fountain. The money was collected and donated to charity, including subsidizing a supermarket in Rome for those in need.
The tradition of throwing coins into the fountain stems from a local legend that says if you toss a coin from your right hand over your left shoulder, you will return to Rome one day. The 1950s film “Three Coins in the Fountain” inspired a second legend that says if you toss two more coins, you’ll find a new romance and have a gorgeous Roman wedding.
14. Rome is over 2,000 years old – but Italy is one of Europe’s youngest countries
Italy is less than 200 years old; However, the capital city of Rome is ancient. The city was founded in 753 BC and has a history dating back 28 centuries. The Romans named the city after the Roman Empire, which began in 27 BC and ruled over much of Europe and North Africa until 395 AD.
The region was then divided into separate states, which didn’t unify until 1861. That’s when the Kingdom of Italy we know today was founded.
15. The Italians have over 2,500 types of cheese
One of the most delicious facts about Italy is that they have the highest variety of cheeses in the world. It’s one of Italy’s greatest gifts to the world, with over 2,500 traditional cheeses. Some of the most popular include parmesan, mozzarella, ricotta, provolone and gorgonzola.
The country is the third-largest cheese producer in the European Union, behind France and Germany. If you’re a cheese fanatic, head to Lombardy where they make 77 varieties of cheese. We know where to go for our next cheese and wine night!
Do you know any fun facts about Italy? Have you ever visited this fascinating country? Let us know in the comments below…