italy facts

10 Surprising Italy Facts You Never Knew About

Have you thought about paying Italy a visit the next time you’re on vacation? If you are, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of the country before you go.

We thought we had a pretty good idea of the basics of Italian culture and history before we started researching for this post. But we were surprised at how many fun and interesting facts we had no idea about.

So if you’re interested in learning more about Italy, read on. We’ve uncovered our 10 favorite Italy facts for you.

1. It Was a Part of Ancient Greece

Syracuse, a city in Sicily, was once the largest city in Ancient Greece, equaling Athens in size. Romans actually used to call Sicily and the foot of the boot of Italy “greater Greece” because so many Greeks lived there for a long time.

In fact, pockets of Greek culture and language are in Sicily today. A tiny community, Girko, speaks a kind of Green that comes from the colonies of Magna Graecia.

2. It’s Home to Europe’s Oldest University

This might be one of the best-known facts about Italy, but it’s still pretty cool. It’s home to Bologna University, the oldest known university in the world.

Bologna University was founded in 1088 and has been in operation ever since. In fact, out of the top 10 oldest universities in the world, Italy is home to 4 of them. This number is higher than any of the other countries in the ranking.

3. Football Fans Are “Carriers of Typhus”

Pretty much every place on earth has a love affair with football (the European kind, not the Amerian kind.) But Italian football fans are so fanatic that people call them “Tifosi.” This literally translates to mean “carriers of Typhus.”

Is that just a nicer way of saying that their love of football is “infectious?”

4. Cats Have Rights

Romans adore their cats so much that they’re considered a “biocultural heritage.” Anyone who is found guilty of killing a cat, whether it’s owned or stray, could face a hefty fine and three years in prison.

Rome is home to about 300,000 cats, and they’re the only residents that can explore the ruins at all time of day or night.

Also, in 2011, a cat inherited over 10 million euros after its 94-year-old owner died, which made it the third richest animal in the world. The owner left her whole estate to the cat under the care of a nurse, because apparently Italian law doesn’t allow animals to inherit money directly.

5. The Police Force is Fast

Italian car thieves have to think twice when they see local police behind the wheels of one of the fastest cars in the world. Granted, there are only several Lamborghini Huracan police vehicles in use in Italy, but where else in the world can you see that?

6. They’re Superstitious

There’s a lot of evidence that Italians are the most superstitious among all Europeans. Here are just some of the things they practice to keep bad juju at bay:

  • Drop olive oil in a bowl of water to check for the Evil Eye
  • Wearing an amulet to ward off curses on manliness
  • Place a loaf of bread face up to not offend Jesus Christ
  • Don’t let the broom touch your feet when someone is cleaning the floor if you’re single
  • If you hear a cat sneeze, no good luck for you

These are just some of the examples of strange Italian superstitions that you’ve probably never heard of.

7. Active Volcanoes

Mount Etna, Stromboli, and Vesuvius are the only active volcanoes in Europe. All three of them have erupted at least once in the last 100 years, Etna has erupted in 2015.

It also sits on a fault line and deals with a lot of earthquakes throughout history.

You can read more about interesting Italy locations to visit here.

8. They Love Pasta

Everyone loves pasta, but no one loves pasta as much as Italians do. In fact, the average Italian eats over 55 pounds of pasta every single year.

And they don’t typically eat the store bought pasta. They make the fresh egg pasta from scratch. Who can blame them? It’s really that good.

8. Gelato is Healthier than Ice Cream

Gelato is actually much healthier than the stuff we buy in bulk at the grocery store. It’s made with fresh, all natural ingredients and it contains 70% less fat than factory-made ice cream.

Because of all this, it contains a LOT fewer calories as well. And because there’s less air in gelato, it has a more intense flavor.

9. Tiramisu Means Something

Tiramisu is Italy’s most famous dessert outside of Italy. It was born in 1971 in the Venetian town of Treviso.

It was initially thought of as a dessert that would stimulate customers because of its high egg and sugar content and the caffeine from strong espresso coffee. The name “tiramisu” means “pick-me-up” in Engish.

10. “Mammismo” is Messy

More than half of Italy’s male population between 24 and 35 still live at home with their parents, according to a study done a few years ago.

This trend is causing a lot of men to put off marriage and family raising until they’re much older.

In fact, even the Catholic church believes that “mammismo,” or the classic attachment between Italian men and their mothers, is one of the biggest detriments to marriage in Italy today.

More Italy Facts

Italy is an incredibly old country, and as with anything up there in years, it develops a lot of quirks.

We hope you found these Italy facts as surprising and fun as we did.

For more fast facts and life hacks, visit our blog today!