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We have got all kinds of interesting trivia on the country shaped like a boot!
Basic Facts About Italy
Italy is located on a peninsula that juts into the Mediterranean Sea.
It is recognizable from space because the country is shaped like a high-heeled boot.
It is 116,348 square miles, which makes it a little larger than the state of Arizona.
Italy’s official name is the Italian Republic. Its capital is Rome.
The Italian flag has three vertical bars of color, green, white, and red (from left to right).
Italy’s population is over 60 million people.
Now that you know some basic facts about Italy, let’s move on to some fun facts about Italy!
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1. The Smallest Land Mammal Lives in Italy
The Etruscan shrew is the smallest land mammal by weight. It weighs only 1.8 grams.
That means that two paperclips are heavier than an Etruscan shrew!
The shrew is also small in size. Its only about 4 cm long (excluding its tail). It could sit on your thumb.
Although the Etruscan shrew is small, it has a fast metabolism.
It has to eat twice its body weight every day (it eats mostly bugs).
2. Two Months Are Named for Famous Italians
The Roman Empire lasted around 1000 years, and the heart of the empire was in Rome, Italy.
Two of its most famous emperors have months of the year named after them.
July stands for Julius Caesar. The month got its name in 44 BC/BCE.
August is for Augustus Caesar, named in 8 BC/BCE.
3. Its National Tree Is the Strawberry Tree
No, strawberries do not grow on trees, but the fruit of this tree strongly resembles strawberries.
The strawberry tree, or corbezzolo in Italian, has white flowers, red fruit, and green leaves.
Unlike most trees, the fruits and the flowers grow on the tree at the same time.
According to Virgil, a famous Italian named Pallas sacrificed his life to help found Rome.
His body was laid to rest on a bed of strawberry tree branches.
The colors of the strawberry tree (green, white, and red) make up the colors of the Italian flag.
4. The Trevi Fountain Is a Serious Moneymaker
In the heart of Rome sits the beautiful and iconic Trevi Fountain.
Tourists flock to see the magnificent marble fountain and its statues of gods and horses.
Another reason people love the Trevi Fountain? It’s famous for granting wishes.
Legend has it that if you turn your back to the fountain and toss a coin over your right shoulder into the water, you will return to Rome.
If you toss a second coin, you will find love on your return.
If you toss a third coin, you will be married in Rome.
You can see why tourists throw so many coins!
Every year over 1 million Euros find their way into the fountain. That’s over 1 million dollars!
Workers regularly clean the coins out of the fountain and donate them to charity.
5. Pinnochio Is Italian
The author of Pinnochio, Carlo Collodi, first published the story in parts in an Italian newspaper.
The original story of Pinnochio varies from the Disney version.
The goal of the original was to warn children not to misbehave (like Pinnochio does) and to encourage them to attend school (Pinnochio keeps skipping out on his education).
6. One of Italy’s Artistic Wonders Is Threatened by Its Visitors
The Sistine Chapel in Vatican City was painted by Michaelangelo, and it is an artistic masterpiece.
The walls and ceiling are covered with breathtaking and symbolic frescoes.
The Sistine Chapel receives up to 20,000 visitors a day and 5 million visitors per year.
To protect the paintings, visitors are not allowed to take photographs (the light from the camera flashes can bleach the paint).
However, the sweat, carbon dioxide, and skin flakes from 5 million people are damaging the paintings.
Not only does sweat increase the humidity of the chapel, but lactic acid from sweat also travels through the air and sticks to the walls and ceilings.
Carbon dioxide from people’s breath leaves a thin white powder on paintings.
Skin flakes and hair adhere to the paintings in a layer of grime.
To combat these threats, visitors will be cooled and vacuumed before entry.
A state of the air ventilation system will help keep humidity and chemical levels in check.
7. There Is a Country Inside the City of Rome
Vatican City is the home of the Catholic Pope and the headquarters of the Church.
Its 1000 acres are considered their own country. It has its own zip code, postage stamp, and national anthem.
It became a sovereign nation in 1919. Vatican City has 700 full-time residents.
In Vatican City, you will find monuments and art galore, as well as the famous St. Peter’s Basilica.
8. Italians Invented the Violin
Andrea Amati invented the first violin in the 1500s in the city of Cremona.
Later in the same city, Antonio Stradivari became the most famous violin maker of all time.
Today a Stradivarius violin sells for as much as 20 million dollars.
Italians invented other instruments, too, including the viola, cello, double bass, harpsichord, piano, and mandolin.
9. There Are 500 Types of Italian Pasta
Italians have been making fresh pasta for over two thousand years.
The first pasta was the lagane noodle (that’s where we get the word “lasagna”), but it was baked, not boiled.
When Arabs invaded in the 700s, pasta spread throughout Europe and the East.
Don’t picture pasta with tomato sauce! These recipes involve honey, cinnamon, and raisins.
It wasn’t until the 1800s that we find recipes for pasta with tomato sauce.
Today, Italians eat an average of over 50 pounds of pasta per person per year!
10. You Can See Galileo’s Thumb in Florence
The famous Italian astronomer, physicist, and engineer, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) had his burial spot all picked out: in the Basilica of Santa Croce next to his ancestors.
Unfortunately, after his death the Pope protested.
Galileo had questioned the teachings of the Catholic Church by proposing the sun was at the center of the solar system (not the Earth).
Galileo’s body was laid to rest in a small side room away from the main church.
95 years later, public opinion on Galilleo had changed.
Now the Church celebrated him (since he had been proven correct in his astronomical findings).
They erected a monument to him in the main body of the church.
Before they reburied him in this new spot, they removed a tooth, his thumb, and two other fingers.
Today you can visit Galileo’s tomb and see his fingers and tooth in a glass case.
Read More About Italy
If you liked these fun facts about Italy, you can read more about the country.
This picture book for kids has fun facts and photographs of Italy’s most iconic sites.
The Italian language is so beautiful, and this book has 50 top phrases every kid (and adult) should know.
This travel guide features 80 pages of photos and loads of information about Italy.