Fun Facts About Italy For Kids: History And Culture Of The 'Bel Paese'

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Feb 29, 2024 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Oct 22, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Fact-checked by Niyati Parab
Canal in Venice, Italy.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 11.1 Min

The country of Italy in southern Europe consists of a peninsula with the Alps mountain range defining its northern borders and several islands surrounding it.

The largest and the capital city of Italy is Rome. Italy shares its land borders with Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland, France, San Marino, and Vatican City, the smallest country in the world.

Italy boasts a rich cultural wealth and is the fifth most visited country in the world. With the majority of the population comprising Roman Catholics, Italy is also the sixth most populous country in Europe. The old name of the country was Italia which is believed to be about 3,000 years old. Italians are known for their vibrant culture and lifestyle which is strongly influenced by the country's illustrious history, geography, climate, and traditions. Be it food and fashion or art, architecture, and religion, Italy has a lot to offer. So, let's find out more about Italy and the Italians from these interesting facts about Italy!

If you like this article by Kidadl, why not also read fun facts about Peru andfun facts about India.

Italy: Its Nickname And What Makes It So Famous

Italy is globally famous for its rich history, culture, food, luxury cars, and lifestyle. Read these facts about Italy to know what makes the country so famous!

Located in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy is easy to spot on the world map due to its peculiar shape. The peninsular country is shaped like a boot, with three smaller peninsulas contributing to the typical shape. While Gargano forms the spur of the boot, Calabria forms the toe, and Salento makes up the heel. Rightly so, Italy has been nicknamed 'lo Stivale', which translates to 'the boot.' Moreover, the Italian landscape is dotted with lofty mountain ranges, alpine lakes, and beautiful coastlines, which has earned it another nickname, 'Bel Paese,' meaning 'beautiful country.'

Italy is home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, which includes both architectural wonders and natural landmarks. Moreover, Italy is a hotspot of active volcanoes, with Europe's three active volcanoes located in the country; these are Mount Etna, Mount Vesuvius, and Mount Stromboli. Of these, Mount Etna is situated on the island of Sicily and keeps erupting frequently. Mount Vesuvius is located in Naples, the largest city in southern Italy. Even though it last erupted in March 1944, Mount Vesuvius is known for being one of the most destructive volcanoes in history. The aftermath of its catastrophic eruption in 79 CE is still visible in the ancient city of Pompeii.

Another popular Italian landmark is the beautiful Trevi Fountain or Fontana di Trevi in Rome. Thousands of tourists visit the Trevi Fountain every day and throw in coins for luck. In fact, it is estimated that about 3,000 euros worth of change is thrown in the fountain every day! Speaking of fountains, Italy also has a free wine fountain. The small Italian town of Caldari di Ortona has a free wine fountain or Fontana del Vino that has a 24-hour flow of locally grown red wine!

The great playwright William Shakespeare has immortalized Italy through his literary work. Did you know that the settings of some of the Bard's most iconic plays are based in locations in and around Italy? While Tuscany and Florence feature in 'All's Well That Ends Well,' the tale of 'Romeo and Juliet' is based in Verona. 'Much Ado About Nothing' is set in Messina, Sicily, whereas the iconic 'Julius Caesar' is centered in Rome. The setting of much of the action that takes place in 'Othello' and 'The Merchant of Venice' is in Venice.

Besides, Italy is home to some of the most famous Renaissance painters and sculptors. Italian authors such as Francesco Petrarch, Giovanni Boccaccio, and Dante Alighieri have made a permanent mark in the history of literature. Among their exceptional literary works, Dante's 'The Divine Comedy' is quite famous. Italy is also known for some of the world's most acclaimed luxury car brands, such as Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and Fiat. Moreover, some of the world's most high-end fashion brands, such as Prada, Giorgio Armani, Fendi, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and Versace, to name a few, are creations of Italian designers.

A Look Into Italy's History

Facts about Italy are incomplete without its grand history that has had a significant contribution in shaping the culture of the country we know today.

The history of Italy can be broadly classified into two major periods, the Roman Empire that spanned from 27 BCE - 476 CE and the post-Second World War democratic republic of Italy. The transition of one period into the other is dotted by numerous historical events, including the Renaissance phase from circa 1400-1600 CE.

After the Italian city of Rome conquered peninsular Italy between the fifth-sixth centuries BCE, the Roman Empire spread its domination over Western Europe and the Mediterranean region. However, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century BCE, the regions previously under its control broke up into smaller parts, which also included the Papal States under the Catholic Pope's governance. With the arrival of the eighth and ninth centuries, Italy saw the emergence of various city-states centered around trade. Prominent among these were Florence, Genoa, and Venice, which also incidentally spurred the birth of the Renaissance.

In the 19th century, Napoleon Bonaparte established the short-lived Kingdom of Italy, and it led to the country witnessing powerful movements for unification. After hundreds of years of foreign domination and political divisions, the country was finally unified in 1861, giving birth to the Kingdom of Italy as a great power.

Benito Mussolini took power over Italy as a fascist dictator in 1925. He formed an alliance with Adolf Hitler of Germany and took Italy into the Second World War. However, his decision led to his downfall, and the Italian dictator was captured and executed in 1945. Other notable Italian rulers are Julius Caesar and Giuseppe Garibaldi. Caesar was a general, statesman, and one of the most famous ancient Romans. He won a civil war to become the sole ruler and dictator of the Roman Republic from 49-44 BCE and played an important role in the rise of the Roman Empire. Giuseppe Garibaldi was a prominent Italian general, republican, and patriot who played a critical part in the unification of Italy and the creation of the Kingdom of Italy.

Modern Italy has been a unitary parliamentary republic since June 2, 1946. The Italian language is the official language of Italy, and the Italian flag is a vertical tricolor flag with the colors green, white, and red.

The Globally Famous Italian Cuisine

Italian food forms an integral part of Italian culture. So, there is no way you could miss interesting Italy facts about what the Italians eat!

Italian cuisine is greatly influenced by the country's history, traditions, as well as the local and seasonal availability of ingredients. Moreover, every region in Italy has its own culinary specialties with strong impacts of the region's climate, geography, history, and economy. Indeed, if you are traveling to this beautiful country and need some travel tips, trying out the Italian delicacies would make it to the top of the list!

One of the most iconic dishes of Italy is pizza. It has a flat, usually circular base of oven-baked bread with a delightful topping of cheese, tomato sauce, meats, vegetables, and a variety of other ingredients. The Italians broadly classify pizza into two types - the thin and crusty Roman variety and the Neapolitan pizza, which is comparatively thicker.

Pasta is another popular Italian dish with great variety in terms of composition, shape, production method, and shelf life. Italians usually group the different pasta shapes into plain and stuffed pasta or short and long pasta. They are usually made from durum wheat, semolina, water and may or may not contain eggs. A popular, oven-baked pasta dish is lasagna. It consists of alternate layers of sheet-like pasta and a mixture of cheese, various sauces, vegetables, or meat.

Another iconic food of the Italians is the risotto. It is a rice dish, where the rice is cooked to a creamy consistency and is loaded with various ingredients like parmesan cheese, butter, onion, meat, and fish. Focaccia is another bread dish cooked in a way quite similar to pizza. It is a kind of flatbread seasoned with herbs, olive oil, cheese, and vegetables. The Alba truffle or white truffle is another exquisite delicacy found almost exclusively in Italy. Truffles are basically edible mushrooms and come in different varieties differing in their price, texture, color, aroma, and taste.

An important ingredient of most Italian dishes is cheese. Although there are hundreds of different varieties, some of the best-known Italian cheese types include mozzarella, ricotta, and parmesan. Gelato is a popular Italian ice cream. However, unlike the usual ice creams that you would find elsewhere, gelato is completely free of preservatives and is made from fresh and natural seasonal ingredients. While this was only a sneak peek into the diverse cuisine of Italy, there are many more mouthwatering delicacies that the Italians have created over time that are worth trying for anyone visiting the country.

Flag of Italy hanging on the balcony.

Venice: The Italian City Of Canals

Venice is the capital of the Veneto region in northern Italy. Check out these fun facts about Venice, Italy, to know why it is known as the city of canals.

Venice is one of the most spectacular cities in Italy, or rather, in the world. The city is dotted with breathtaking architectural landmarks, waterways, and lagoons. Scattered with beautiful churches, museums, palazzos, galleries, restaurants, and picturesque canals, Venice is truly a treat for travelers.

The city of Venice is made up of 118 different islands, each with its own landmarks and characters. The islands are situated in a coastal lagoon and are connected by 400 bridges and 170 waterways. Adding to the charm of the canals are the historic gondolas or boats that form a common mode of transportation through the city's labyrinth of waterways. However, becoming a gondolier is not an easy feat since only 3-4 new gondolier permits are issued each year!

Did you know that the common greeting term 'ciao' has its roots in Venice? In fact, the word originates from the Venetian greeting 's-ciào vostro' that translates to '(I am ) your slave.' Another lesser-known fact about Venice is that most of the city's buildings are constructed on fossilized wooden platforms that form the underwater foundation.

The city's most important waterway, the Grand Canal, is 2.5 mi (4 km) long and 16 ft (4.9 m) deep and carries a major chunk of the city's daily traffic. Besides, the city is home to Marco Polo, the traveler known for his fascinating accounts of the Silk Route. Venice is also home to the world's first public casino, the Casino di Venezia dating back to 1638.

Rome: The Eternal City And The Italian Capital

Rome, they say, was not built in a day. But what you can do in a day is read these fun facts about Rome, Italy.

Rome is the capital city of Italy and the center of many actions since the establishment of the Roman Empire. It is thought that Rome was founded by Romulus in 753 BCE. Rome is also known as the Eternal City because the ancient Romans believed that regardless of how many empires rose or fell and what fate the world met, Rome would stand strong forever. No doubt, the ancient Romans were quite right.

An interesting fact about Rome is that the city's cats are protected by law and have a right to live freely wherever they want. Also, did you know that the Roman emperor Gaius Caligula was known for his questionable deeds such as talking to the moon and feeding prisoners to wild animals? He even allegedly made his horse a senator! Talking of peculiarities, it is said that flamingo tongues were a popular delicacy in ancient Rome!

Rome is one of the most beloved tourist destinations in the world. While the iconic Trevi Fountain is only one of the attractions, the city houses a number of other landmarks such as the Colosseum, the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, and the Pantheon, to name a few. Vatican City, the smallest country in the world, is a city-state in Rome and also the seat of the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

Florence: The Cradle Of Renaissance

The city of Florence in Italy is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here are some fun facts about Florence, Italy.

Florence was the epicenter of Renaissance culture, all credits to the influential Medici family. The Medicis were great patrons of literature, art, and architecture and commissioned famous Renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and other renowned painters and sculptors of the era. The talent and skill of the Renaissance artists are visible in the numerous architectural marvels of the city such as the Florence Cathedral, Basilica of San Lorenzo, Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Palazzo Vecchio, and the Piazza Della Repubblica, to name a few.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for fun facts about Italy then why not take a look at where does pizza come from or Mozart facts

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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