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Fun facts about Italy

A nation of proud heritage, effortless style, sensational food and spirited, charismatic people, Italy is one of the world's most visited countries, and with good reason. As much as we adore Italy for the winding streets of rustic Tuscany, the grand beauty of the Italian Lakes and the sunkissed culture of the Venetian Riviera, there is far more to this wonderful country than you could imagine.

Italians are inventive

We know them best for their cuisine and art, but there are more inventions that can be accredited to the Italians than you might think.

Pizza, the violin, the cello and espresso machines are obvious ones, but how about the piano, the typewriter, nitroglycerin, the battery and, so the most popular theories say, spectacles? And of course, Leonardo da Vinci was Italian, and he never let a few little complications like the technological limits of the 1500s stop him from inventing things like tanks and helicopters, at least in theory.

Italy's culture is legendary

With more UNESCO heritage sites than anywhere else on Earth, an estimated 40 million tourists visit Italy every year, which in turn provides over 60% of the whole country's income.

In Florence, it's thought that the first museum in Europe was built, way back in the Renaissance, to house the works of da Vinci and his peers. In Rome, the Colosseum stands as a testament to the antiquity that enriches Italian culture, while statistically speaking, Italy has more masterpieces per square mile than anywhere else in the world.

There's plenty of superstition

Aside from local myths like fountains we throw coins into for good luck, Italy has a host of other superstitions that lean on the more occult side. For example, the witches of Sardinia are a mysterious group of female magic users who, it is said, speak a secret language that they pass along to their daughters, keeping the old ways alive throughout the generations. It's an intriguing undercurrent of folklore that touches daily life in the region even today.

Tradition and family are fine Italian values

In Italy, they do things a certain way, and have for generations. For example, unmarried people often stay living with the family until their 30s, even when their careers and friendship circles are growing, simply because a close family unit is so important to Italian culture. They also love to see and be seen, which has led to the tradition of taking an evening stroll about town before dinner, to see who bumps into whom.

History's greatest explorers were Italian

Italy's contributions to discovering the globe are written proudly in the pages of history. Marco Polo's adventures took him to the furthest reaches of the globe, Christopher Columbus discovered the new world, and Amerigo Vespucci is thought to be the namesake of the American continent.

Yet one characteristic of Italy is how the country didn't go out and colonise the places they found, instead they weaved the finest of foreign gifts into the fabric of their culture at home.

Coffee is a prime example of that. It was brought into Italy from Turkey and the Arab kingdoms. Originally, the leading religious minds of the age warned the Pope against giving it to the Italian people, simply because its nations of origin were not Catholic.

Tasting it for himself, that same Pope declared that such a fine drink was a gift from on high that all should share, and Italy's contributions to cafe culture since that momentous day in the 1400s have been felt worldwide ever since.

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