Interesting Facts About Italy
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1.  In Italy, most people celebrate their name day.  If you have the same name as a saint, you will have a name day. 
Just like on your birthday, you receive presents. 
The word for 'name day' is onomastico.  On every day of the year at least one saint's name is celebrated. 
On special occasions like this, people say Auguri!  (Best wishes.)

 2.   Italians take their food very seriously.  The main meal of the day is at lunch time.  The word for 'the lunch ' is il pranzo.
You start with l'antipasto (nibbles like olives, cheese and salami)
then you have.....
il primo (the first course which is pasta or minestrone) then
il secondo (the main course which is meat or fish with salad or vegetables)
then there is fruit and perhaps a dessert (un dolce).
Finally there is espresso coffee.

3.  In Italy, they eat lots of things that are not usually eaten in the UK, for example, snails, horse, donkey, goat, rabbit and hare, wild boar, sea urchin, sea snails, octopus, squid, peacock.......

4.  You only drink milky coffee (like cappuccino and caffellatte) first thing in the morning for breakfast. 
The word for 'breakfast' is la prima colazione.
You dunk cakes and biscuits into the milky coffee. 
You can also make a 'soup' by mashing your biscuits into the cup of coffee and eating it with a spoon.   
Italians do not drink milky coffee at any other time of day.

5.  In Italy, trifle is called zuppa inglese - English soup.
Swiss roll is salame farcito - stuffed sausage.
Plain sponge cake is pan di Spagna - Spanish bread.
Fruit salad is macedonia di frutta.
Sea food is frutti di mare - fruits of the sea.

6. Before eating a meal, Italians say to each other
'Buon appetito!' 
This means 'Good appetite!' and it is wishing everyone a good appetite so that they enjoy their meal.
Italians often say that 'a good appetite develops whilst you are eating' - 'L'appetito vien mangiando.'

7.  When you wish somebody 'good luck' you say 'in the wolf's mouth' - in bocca al lupo. 
This is a bit like saying 'Break a leg!' before someone performs on stage.  In other words - you are wishing something bad rather than good so as not to 'tempt fate.'

There is a famous Italian story about a wolf bringing good luck.  It is the story of Romulus and Remus (born in 771 BC) - the twin brothers who founded Rome.
Their great-uncle Amulius had ordered that they should
be killed as he feared that one day they would overthrow him as king. The servant who was ordered to kill the babies decided to hide them on the banks of the River Tiber instead. 
The baby boys were very lucky because a she-wolf found them and looked after them as if they were her
own babies. 

She carried them in her mouth to a safe place and fed them with her milk. 
  When the boys grew up, Romulus killed his brother in a quarrel and became the first King of Rome in 753 BC.

Romulus and Remus and the wolf
(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

Above is a famous statue of the baby boys drinking the wolf's milk. 
Various replicas of the statue have been made, but the original can be seen in the museum in Rome called Museo Capitolino.  In Italy this she-wolf statue is known as La Lupa Capitolina.

To read another famous Italian wolf story, click HERE. 

8.  In Italy, most shops close for lunch until 4p.m. or 5 p.m.  Then they open again until around 8 p.m.  In the summer, some shops stay open until very late at night.  

  9. When you enter a bank in Italy there are lots of things that you have to do. 
 First, you have to place your metal possessions in a locker outside the bank - this means that you have to place your keys, coins, watch, jewellery, mobile phone, belt, in fact anything that contains  metal, inside the locker. 
Next, you stand in the entrance porch where you are scanned
(just like at an airport) by a metal detector.  Only one person at a time can enter the porch.
When the metal detector confirms that you are carrying no metal, a green light will flash 

and the electronic door will open for you to enter. 

Once you are inside the bank, you will probably find that it takes a very long time until you are served.  It is well known that you can spend hours waiting to be served in Italian banks!  Some people collect their queue ticket, go to do their shopping and return to the bank later to find that their ticket number is just about to be called!
(Luckily, there are also cash machines known as Bancomat.) 

10.  Italy is famous for its art. Some famous Italian artists are:

Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Giotto, Raffaello,
Caravaggio, Bernini.

Painting by RaffaelloPainting by BotticelliMona Lisa by Leonardo da VinciPainting by CaravaggioPainting by Giotto

(Paintings above from left to right by: Raffaello, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Giotto.)

To read about the famous Italian artist Michelangelo,

To read about Leonardo da Vinci, click HERE.

To read about the artist Caravaggio click HERE

11.  Italy has some very famous architecture, for example,
The Leaning Tower of Pisa,
Saint Mark's Basilica and its famous bell-tower in Venice,
St. Peter's Basilica in Rome,
The Colosseum,
The Arena of Verona,
The Trevi Fountain,
The Spanish Steps,
Il Ponte Vecchio in Florence
Il Castel Sant'Angelo
Il Ponte Sant'Angelo....
(Image of Il Ponte Vecchio, from Wikimedia Commons.)

To read about the famous bridge called Il Ponte Vecchio,

(Image of the interior of Il Colosseo, from Wikimedia Commons.)

VeniceFacts about Venice
(Images of La Basilica di San Marco and Il Campanile, in Venice. 
Source:  Wikimedia Commons)
11.  The number 17 is unlucky in Italy.

 12.   The national football team wears a blue shirt and is known as 'the blues.' (Gli azzurri.) 
The word for 'football' is 'il calcio', which also
means 'the kick.' 
One way to cheer for the Italian team is to say Forza Azzurri!

 13.    There are three types of police in Italy -
La polizia
(the general police force),
I carabinieri (the Italian army police) and
La Guardia di Finanza (police who check that everyone is paying the correct taxes.) 
They all carry guns.  They all work in boats too, to keep
an eye on activities at sea.

 14.    The most well-known provider of Italian television channels is RAI.  This stands for Radiotelevisione Italiana. 

 15.   The Italian flag is green, white, red.  There are two versions of the meaning of these colours -

a.  Green = hope, white = faith, red = charity
b. Green = the Italian landscape, white = the snow of the Alps, red = the blood of the Italian people.

16.  In Italy, pupils attend school from 8.30a.m. till lunchtime
six days a week - including Saturdays. 
The youngest children attend nursery school (scuola materna)
Then, at the age of six years, pupils begin primary
school (scuola elementare)
At the age of eleven, they attend high school, known as 'middle school' (scuola media).
At the age of fourteen, pupils start 'senior school' (scuola superiore).  They stay at this school until they are nineteen years old.  When they leave this school they get a diploma.  This diploma is the qualification required to attend university.  


(Above: a typical primary school overall for a girl.  All boys and girls at primary school must wear one of these overalls.  The overall is called un grembiulino.  Would you like to dress like this at school? What do you think your friends would look like?)

Pupils purchase a school diary (un diario)
for the school year.  In 'il diario' children write notes about the homework they have to do. 
The word for 'homework' is i compiti.

The summer holidays are very long in Italian schools. 
They start in mid June and finish in mid September.


  17.   On the last day of Christmas (6 January) the Christmas witch - La Befana - brings a stocking filled with presents and sweets to good children.  Naughty children are warned that they will receive a stocking filled with coal!  
(To find out more about Christmas in Italy click HERE.)

la Befana

18.  The patron saint of Italy is Saint Francis (San Francesco) of Assisi. 
His real name was Giovanni, but he loved the French language so much that he was nicknamed Francesco (meaning - Frenchy.)  He is also the patron saint of animals because it is said that he talked to them. 
It is believed that he wrote the earliest known piece of Italian literature in 1226 - a poem called Cantico di Frate Sole (also called Cantico delle Creature.)  

In addition, Saint Francis was the person who invented the tradition of the Christmas crib (il presepe) in 1223.
Saint Francis
(Image of Saint Francis. Painting by artist Vincenzo Foppa, c1430-c1515,
from Wikipedia Commons, source: The Yorck Project.)

To find out more about Christmas in Italy, click HERE.
To read more about Saint Francis, click HERE.

19.  On New Year's Day it is considered lucky to wear the colour red and to eat lentils.

20.  In Italy, workers are usually paid monthly and pay day is the 27th of the month.  This monthly pay day has a nickname in Italy: 'San Paganino.'
Italian tradition

21.  The 15th of August is a very important holiday known as Ferragosto. 
It was, originally, an ancient Roman celebration.  It began around 18 BC when the Emperor Augustus declared that the month of August should be a time for resting, parties and celebration of the goddess Diana and the harvest. 

When Italy became Christian, the celebrations continued.  Italians still try to rest as much as possible during the month of August by taking long holidays and enjoying themselves, but instead of celebrating the goddess Diana, they now celebrate when the Virgin Mary went to Heaven.  

Firework displays take place on the night of 15 August and people say  'Auguri di buon ferragosto' or 'buone feste' to each other.

(Below is a statue of the goddess Diana, visible at Le Musée du Louvre, Paris. 
Image from Wikimedia Commons.
Statue of Diana

22.  Italians say Mamma mia! (meaning- my mummy) when they want to say 'My goodness!' 

23.  At Italian weddings, the bride gives to each guest five sugared almonds in a little, decorated lace bag. This is called a bomboniera. 
Each sugared almond represents something lucky, for example,
good health, wealth, happiness, fertility and long life. 
They are also given at christenings, first holy communions and

24.  It is usual for babies to be named after their grandparents.  They are NOT named after their parents.
Italian traditions

25.  The pizza was invented in Naples during the 18th century. 
Originally, it was just a dry, flat bread and was considered food for poor people.
During a tour of her country in 1889, Queen Margherita of Italy tried some of the flat bread.  She liked it so much that she ordered her chef to prepare various types of pizza for her.  He decided to make a pizza containing the three colours of the Italian flag with mozzarella cheese (white), tomato (red) and basil (green).  He then named the pizza in her honour - Pizza Margherita.  It became one of her favourite foods.

pizza Margherita     Queen Margherita

(Image of La Regina Margherita, from Wikimedia Commons.)

26.  In Italy, it is considered unlucky to change your bed linen on Friday.
It is also considered unlucky to place bread loaves and bread rolls 'upside down' on the table.

27.  In Italy, it is considered unlucky for babies to hold a key or a flower before their first birthday.

28.   The city of Milan is famous for designing clothes.  Some of the most famous Italian fashion designers are Armani, Gucci, Prada, Versace, Valentino and Dolce & Gabbana.

29.  Italy is famous for producing cars.  Some of the most famous makes are Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Fiat. 
Originally, Lamborghini was a maker of tractors with powerful engines.  Their symbol is 'a  charging bull', representing 'power.'
Lamborghini tractor Lamborghini sports car 

The sports car called Ferrari Testa Rossa actually means - Ferrari Red Head.  The Ferrari symbol is 'a horse'.

30.  In Italy, there are many dialects but every region speaks standard Italian too.

31.  Opera began in Italy.  The word 'opera' actually means 'a work.'  The first opera was called Dafne, composed by Jacopo Peri in 1598.  The first great composer of opera was Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) and his works are still performed today.
Nowadays, the most well-known Italian composers of opera are Verdi and Puccini.  Other opera composers are Mascagni, Bellini, Donizetti and Leoncavallo.

The most important opera houses in Italy are Teatro alla Scala in Milan and L'Arena di Verona - an open-air arena for summer performances.

Arena di Verona
(Image above - Arena di Verona, from Wikimedia Commons.)

(Image above - Teatro alla Scala, from Wikimedia Commons.)

An individual song in an opera is called un' aria.  After listening to an aria, or at the end of the opera, Italian spectators call out Bravo! (meaning 'good.')  If they want to hear the performance again, they shout 'Bis!' (meaning 'twice.')

Italian music, italian music, Italian music, italian music, Italian music, italian music, Italian music, italian musicTo hear the famous Italian opera singer Luciano Pavarotti singing an aria from  the opera Rigoletto by the composer Verdi, go to Track 43

To visit Claudia's Italian Opera Zone, click HERE.

32.  In the evening, Italians love to stroll wearing fashionable clothes.  They speak to friends, sit at bars and look in shop windows.  This tradition is called la passeggiata.

33.  At Christmas, Italians eat a special bread-cake called il panettone. 
At Easter, they eat a special bread-cake called la colomba. 

34.  The famous Italian dessert called Tiramisù actually means 'Pick me up.' 
The Italian dish called Saltimbocca (slices of veal rolled up with ham and sage) actually means 'Jump into mouth.'

35.  Many of Shakespeare's plays are based on Italian stories.  'Romeo and Juliet' is from the town of Verona. 
Other Shakespeare plays related to Italy are - The Merchant of Venice, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Othello, Julius Caesar, Titus Andronicus, Coriolanus,  The Winter's Tale,  The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest.
Below is a photo of the balcony in Verona which is said to be the real balcony where Romeo and Juliet would secretly meet each other.  In Italian, they are called Giulietta e Romeo.

Romeo and Juliet real balcony
(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

36.  The Italian national anthem is called Il Canto degli Italiani (The Song of the Italians.)  It is also called Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy.)
Italian music, italian music, Italian music, italian music, Italian music, italian music, Italian music, italian musicTo hear the Italian anthem go to  Track 31

 37.  Italy is quite a 'new country'.  It became one unified country in 1861 with a king called Vittorio Emanuele II.  Before this date, it was divided into independent regions.  The unification of Italy is known as Il Risorgimento.
The last king of Italy was Umberto II in 1946 and he reigned for just one month. During 1946, Italy had a referendum and voted that the country should become a republic with no monarchy.  King Umberto went into exile.

38.  Italian teenagers love to ride i motorini (scooters).  At sixteen years of age, they can take the test and, if they pass, they obtain their driving licence.
Italian life

The most famous Italian scooter is called 'vespa' - meaning 'wasp.'  It was originally designed in 1946 by the Piaggio Family.  Enrico Piaggio thought that its shape was like that of a wasp, so it was called 'vespa.'

vespa scooter 
(Image of a Vespa scooter, from Wikimedia Commons.)      

39.  There are around thirty volcanoes in Italy but most of them are not active. The word 'volcano' comes from the name of the ancient Roman god of fire (Vulcanus).
The most famous Italian volcanoes are still active:-  they are Etna, Vesuvio and Stromboli.  Vesuvio is the volcano that destroyed the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum in A.D. 79.   

    (Image of Pompeii, with volcano Vesuvio in the distance. 
Image from Wikimedia Commons.)     

 A young Roman called Pliny the Younger wrote a very detailed description of the eruption of Vesuvio in A.D 79.  He was 17 years old when he observed the eruption and this is what he wrote-   "I cannot give you a more exact description of its appearance than by comparing it to a pine tree; for it shot up to a great height in the form of a tall trunk, which spread out at the top as though into branches.  Occasionally it was brighter, occasionally darker and spotted, as it was filled with earth and cinders." 
(Sixth Book of Letters, Letter 16.) 
In the map below, the black mark shows the area affected by the eruption of 79 A.D.

Eruption Vesuvius
(Source:  Mapmaster, Wikimedia Commons.)

Below is a photo of Vesuvio's crater.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons, author: Pastorius.)

The volcano of Stromboli is one of the Lipari Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and it lies thirty-five miles north of Sicily.  In fact, it belongs to Sicily. 
It is a very interesting volcano because it is erupting continually.  It has been erupting every day for at least the last 2000 years.  The eruptions are small and quick and they take place during every hour of every day.  Each hour there are several eruptions or more. 

At night, you can see the red glow of the lava.  For this reason, Stromboli is known as the oldest lighthouse in the world.  Unlike other active volcanoes, Stromboli is 'friendly' because it helps and guides sailors at night.  At one side, the slopes are black and smooth because this is where the lava and ash flow and fall.  These slopes are known as 'the flow of fire' (La Sciara del Fuoco) and you can watch the flowing lava and ash from right next to the slopes if you are in a boat. 
To read a story about Stromboli, click HERE.

Amazingly, people live on Stromboli - on the slopes where the lava does not fall.  There is a little port with fishing boats, houses and buildings.  Below is a photo of Stromboli.

(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

Etna is larger than Stromboli and Vesuvio:  in fact it is the highest volcano in Europe. It is on the Italian island of Sicily and is considered to be one of the most active volcanoes in the world.  It erupts frequently - and thousands of people live on its slopes!
Etna has four main craters and several hundred small vents. 
  Below is a photo of Mount Etna.  Read a story about Etna.

(Wikimedia Commons)

40.  When having a telephone conversation in Italian, the very first word that both people have to say is Pronto!  (meaning - ready) This is even before saying 'Hello.'
Italian conversation 

  41.  The word Ciao (pronounced chow) means both Hello and Goodbye.  Ciao! Ciao! means Bye! Bye!

42.  On the night of 10 August (Saint Lawrence's night) Italians look at the sky hoping to see a shooting-star as this is considered to be lucky.  Saint Lawrence is the Patron Saint of Rome.  Below is a picture of Saint Lawrence at his trial - standing before the Emperor Valerian in the 3rd Century.  The shooting-stars are believed to be 'sparks' from the fire of his execution.
     Saint Lawrence''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''s trial 
(Image from Wikipedia.  This painting is the work of artist Fra Angelico, also known as Il Beato Angelico, c.1385-1455.)

43.  When someone sneezes, Italians say Salute! (meaning Health!).
Salute! also means 'Cheers!' (when you drink).

44.  When you enter someone's house or property in Italy, you have to say Permesso! which means that you are asking permission to do so.

45.    In Italy, gold is normally 18 carat.  It is traditional to give gold jewellery as a gift at weddings and christenings. 

46.  On Christmas Eve, Italians eat a big, special evening meal.  Usually, this takes place just after midnight in order to welcome the beginning of Christmas Day and the birth of the baby Jesus.
Then, they eat another big meal at lunchtime on Christmas Day!

Whenever Italians feel that they have eaten too much they say that they are 'pieno come un uovo' which means that they are 'as full as an egg.'

To find out more about Christmas in Italy click HERE.

47.  Pasta is the most important food in Italy.  It means 'paste' because it is a paste of water, flour and sometimes egg.  It can be either 'dried' or 'fresh.' 
To see a pasta recipe click HERE.

 48.  The Ancient Romans ate a form of pasta called 'lagane'.  It was baked in the oven and is the origin of the word 'lasagne.'

49.  The Arabs brought dried noodles to Sicily in the 8th Century.  These noodles developed into Italian dried pasta.

50.  There are hundreds of different shapes and types of Italian dried pasta.

51.  The original name for 'spaghetti' was 'maccheroni.'  The word 'spaghetti' actually means 'strings.'
Before the existence of pasta factories, people made their own spaghetti and would hang it outside to dry.  Below is a photo of people in Palermo, Sicily, hanging out spaghetti to dry.

(Image from Wikimedia Commons.  Photograph: 'Palermo. Fabbrica di maccheroni' by Giorgio Sommer, 1834-1914.)

52.  The Agnesi family opened the very first pasta factory near Genova in 1824.  A few years later, the Buitoni family opened their pasta factory. 

53.  The pasta known as 'tagliatelle' (it looks like flat spaghetti) was created by a chef in honour of Lucrezia Borgia's long blond hair.  Lucrezia lived from 1480 till 1519.  She was also known as Lucrezia d'Este and was Duchess of the town of Ferrara.

Lucrezia Borgia
(A portrait of Lucrezia Borgia.  Taken from Wikimedia Commons. 
Artist unknown.)

54.  In Rome, in a wall of the church called Santa Maria in Cosmedin, there is an ancient marble sculpture called La Bocca della Verità (the mouth of truth). It is believed to be either an ancient Roman drain cover or part of an ancient fountain. 

In the Middle Ages, it became the tradition to use this sculpture as a lie-detector. 

A person was forced to speak whilst placing their hand inside the open mouth of the sculpture.  They were told that if they did not speak the truth , the sculpture would bite off their hand!  For that reason,  people made sure that they told the truth!

La Bocca della Verita
(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)
To read a story about 'the mouth of truth' click HERE.

55.  Italy has won the World Cup four times.  The last time was in 2006.
 Italia - Il Campione del Mondo, 2006! 
Sadly, they did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup so they won't be taking part.  Che peccato!

56.  The Italian way to say the following places and cities is-
Italia (Italy), Roma (Rome), Milano (Milan), Firenze (Florence), Napoli (Naples), Torino (Turin), Genova (Genoa),
(Venice), Sicilia (Sicily), Sardegna (Sardinia),
(Tuscany), Livorno (Leghorn), Padova (Padua)., Mantova (Mantua).

57.  In the south of Italy, there is a dance called the tarantella.  It comes from the town of Taranto where there are lots of large spiders called tarantula.  The tradition is that you will be protected from the spider's bite if you dance the tarantella.  It is a very lively dance for couples.

Italian music, italian music, Italian music, italian music, Italian music, italian music, Italian music, italian musicTo hear a tarantella go to track 33 .

58.  Every year there is an important song competition called Zecchino d'Oro (the Golden Sequin).  It is a bit like the Eurovision Song Contest but all of the songs are for children and most of the singers are children.  It is held in Bologna, Italy and has existed for over sixty years.   Each year there are seven Italian songs and seven foreign songs. The winning song receives the Golden Sequin Award.  Italian families love to collect the CDs of the songs.  Click HERE to see some videos.

59.  The national Italian airline is called Alitalia. 

60.  There are different categories of 'eating place' in Italy.
Ristorante - serves all foods but not pizza.
Trattoria - serves all foods but not pizza. This is an 'informal' restaurant where you may be expected to share your table with strangers.
Pizzeria - serves pizza.
Agriturismo - a restaurant on a farm, serving home-produced food.
Tavola calda - self-service restaurant, literally meaning 'hot table.'
Rosticceria - a 'take-away' serving roast meat, especially chicken.
Paninoteca - a sandwich bar.
Spaghetteria - serves pasta.

Sometimes an eating place can be a combination of categories, e.g.-
Ristorante-Pizzeria, Bar-Paninoteca, Bar-Pizzeria, etc..... 

61.  The most valuable painting in the world is the Mona Lisa by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci.  It was painted in the early 16th Century.  Italians call this painting La Gioconda.  It is believed that the woman in the painting is Lisa Gherardini - the wife of wealthy Florentine businessman Francesco del Giocondo.
Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
(Image - Wikimedia Commons.  Portrait visible at Le Musée du Louvre, Paris.)

62.  Some of the most well-known Italian newspapers are - La Stampa (The Press), Il Corriere della Sera (The Evening Post), La Repubblica (The Republic), Il Sole 24 Ore (The Sun 24 Hours), Il Messaggero (The Messenger). 

La Stampa is owned by the Agnelli family who also own Fiat Automobiles.

63.  In Italy, there is a 'tooth mouse' instead of a 'tooth fairy.'

tooth mouse

64.  The smallest country in the world is the Vatican City, inside Rome.  It is an area covering just 108.7 acres, surrounded by a wall.  Its ruler is the Bishop of Rome, also known as The Pope.  This little city is the home of the Roman Catholic Church.
It is guarded by the smallest and oldest army in the world-The Swiss Guard. 
The Vatican City has its own post office, fire brigade, police service, supermarket,  railway station, bank, electricity generating plant, newspaper, publishers, radio and television centre, and internet site.
Below is the flag of the Vatican City, a photo of the Swiss Guard and the Vatican coat of arms.

Flag of the Vatican City   The Swiss Guard   Vatican coat of arms
(Image of Swiss Guard from Wikimedia Commons. 
Photo by Arnaud Gaillard.)

65.  The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a famous bell tower in the city of Pisa.  In Italian it is called La Torre Pendente di Pisa. 
It was built over a period of 174 years. 
Construction began in 1173.
It is the bell tower of the Cathedral of Pisa.  It was built in three stages and is made of white marble.  During the building of the third stage, the tower began to sink and to lean to one side due to poorly laid foundations.

Leaning tower of Pisa
Image from Wikimedia Commons. 

Inside the Cathedral of Pisa you will see the relics of
San Ranieri, the patron saint of Pisa.

66.   Venice is a city in Northern Italy.  It is built on 122 little islands which are connected by about 400 bridges.  The roads are canals of sea water.  The traditional way to travel in Venice is by a boat known as a gondola.  
Because the roads are actually canals, Venice is the largest car-free residential area in the world.  This proves that it is possible for a modern city to function without the existence of cars and lorries.
There is a law in Venice that, to be a gondolier, you have to be Venetian.  In the past, there were thousands of gondolas but now there are just a few hundred.  The gondola is made of wood, painted black and is hand-made. 

(Photo by Carlo Naya, 1818-1882.  Wikimedia Commons.)

According to the tradition of Venice, couples travelling by gondola must kiss as they pass under every bridge.  This will bring them eternal happiness!

        Rialto Bridge  
(Image from Wikimedia Commons.  The Rialto Bridge in Venice. In Italian it is called Il Ponte di Rialto.)  

Bridge of Sighs 
(Image from Wikimedia Commons.  The Bridge of Sighs.  In Italian - Il Ponte dei Sospiri.  It was given this name as it was part of a prison building and prisoners would 'sigh' as they were led to the prison and the bridge was their final view of the outside world.)

67.  Venice is famous for producing beautiful, coloured glass, especially in the part of Venice built on the island of Murano. 

68.  The largest Italian island is Sicily (Sicilia in Italian).  It has a famous flag with a red and yellow background.  The red represents the town of Palermo (the capital city), the yellow represents the town of Corleone.  The land all around Corleone is yellow because it is covered in golden hay during the summer.
In the centre of the flag is a three-legged figure called La Trinacria.  This figure has the head of Medusa. 
It is believed that the three legs stand for the three corners of Sicily - as the island is triangular in shape.
The flag of Sicily (below) has existed since 1282.

flag of Sicily

69.  The second largest Italian island is Sardinia (Sardegna in Italian).  The capital city is Cagliari in the south of the island.
It has a very interesting flag, consisting of a red cross on a white background and the heads of four Moors (I Quattro Mori.)  Below is the Sardinian flag

flag of Sardinia
To learn more about Sardinia click HERE.

70.  The third largest Italian island is Elba (Isola d'Elba in Italian.)  
It belongs to the Italian region of Tuscany and is famous because the French emperor Napoleon I lived there for nearly ten months when he was sent into exile from France in 1814.  
The flag of Elba consists of an orange/red stripe and three gold bees.

flag of Elba

Two more Italian islands are Capri and Ischia.

71.  Italy produces a lot of olive oil.  Olives and olive oil are a very important part of the Italian diet. 
In Tuscany (in the area of Magliano) there grows a very famous olive tree.
It is believed to be over three thousand years old!  It is known as 'The Witch's Olive Tree' ( L'Olivo della Strega) because it has always attracted a lot of attention and witches used to gather around it, believing that the tree had special powers. 

Italian olives
(Photo of olives, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Traditionally, olives are first picked on the 1st of November (All Saints' Day - il giorno d' Ognissanti in Italian). 
The period of their harvest lasts until mid-December. 
To make olive oil, the olives are pressed.  The oil produced from the first pressing is considered the best, with the strongest flavour.  It is called 'Extra Virgin' - meaning that it is the purest form of the oil.
The land where olive trees grow is always kept very clean.  At the time of the harvest, the olive-pickers lay down netting (usually green coloured) on the ground underneath the trees. 
There are two ways in which to pick olives. 
1. Special machinery clasps the branches and vibrates, causing the olives to fall.  They drop onto the fine netting which is then lifted, trapping the olives but letting other unwanted particles fall through the net to the ground.
2.  Instead of using machinery, you pick them by hand, standing on a ladder if you cannot reach.

72.  Olive oil is used in most Italian cookery.  A popular and simple way to eat spaghetti is to coat it in olive oil with finely chopped garlic and chilli pepper.  This dish is called Spaghetti all'aglio, olio e peperoncino.  It is very quick to prepare!

73.  In Italy, both Fathers' Day and Mothers' Day are celebrated on dates that are different to those of the UK. 
Fathers' Day (La Festa del Papá) is on Saint Joseph's Day on 19 March, and Mothers' Day (La Festa della Mamma) is on the second Sunday of May. 
In Italy, there is also a Grandparents' Day (La Festa dei Nonni) on 2 October.





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