50 Interesting Facts about Italy

1Ancient Rome

Black people in ancient Rome were not discriminated against because of their skin color or physical features. They were not excluded from any profession and there was no stigma against mixed race relationships. Classical writers did not attach social status or degree of humanity to skin color.


2. Because of a lucky genetic mutation that happened during the 18th century, today 38 people in a small town in northern Italy (Limone) don't suffer from cholesterol artery-clogging, making them virtually immune to heart disease and strokes. They all smoke, they eat a lot, and they don't care.


3. In 2008, Italy spent $65,000,000 to bail out the Parmesan cheese industry.


4. In Turin Italy, you must walk your dog 3 times a day or face a fine.


5. The Italian words widely used in New Jersey differ greatly from mainstream Italian today, not because of bad "copying" but because the words came from people speaking an Italian dialect that subsequently died out in Italy.


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6Credem bank

Italy’s Credem Bank takes parmesan cheese from local producers in exchange for cheap loans (charging 3-5% interest, depending on quality) and a fee ensuring the cheese matures properly (2years) in the bank vault (cheese is sold if the loan defaults). 430,000 parmesan wheels (worth $200 million) are stored there.


7. The Mona Lisa has no clearly visible eyelashes or eyebrows. In 2007, an engineer used high-resolution scans to show the painting was originally painted with clearly visible eyebrows or eyelashes and they gradually disappeared over time, possibly because of overcleaning.


8. In Italy, it is not a crime to steal food if you are hungry and have no other means of nourishment.


9. During World War 2 the Allies discovered that the Germans were using the Leaning Tower of Pisa as an observation post. A U.S Army Sergeant that was sent to the tower to confirm the presence of German troops was impressed by its beauty and decided to not order an artillery strike on it.


10. After Spartacus’ revolt in 73 B.C.E., 6,000 slaves were crucified along a 120-mile stretch of road called the Appian Way. This equated to roughly 50 slaves per mile or roughly 1 slave every hundred feet. The mass crucifixion served as a deterrent to anyone else who thought to defy Rome.


11Preserved loaf of bread

A loaf of bread made in Pompeii in first century A.D. has been discovered by archaeologists. Impressed on it was a Roman bread stamp, which bakeries were required to use to prevent fraud.


12. Take-out restaurants existed in ancient Rome, with service counters opening onto the street to pick up food. More than 200 existed in Pompeii, and most of its homes lacked dining or kitchen areas, suggesting that cooking at home was unusual.


13. The great Italian painter Michelangelo used to burn his drawings so that people wouldn't know he had to work to achieve perfection.


14. Leonardo Da Vinci's last words were: "I have offended God and Mankind, by doing so little with my life."


15. Most Italian extra virgin olive oil sold in stores is a fraud. Nearly 70% of cheaper olive oil is not from actual olives but is cut with cheaper seed oil to lower the price, and much of the product doesn't even come from Italy.


16Archimime

In ancient Rome during funerals, a person called an Archimime would walk behind the deceased and imitate the person like they were still alive.


17. A young Italian in the 15th century fell into the side of a hill, discovering the remains of the Domus Aurea, an enormous Roman palace filled with art. Michaelangelo and Raphael visited this buried palace, inspiring their art, and subsequently the early Italian Renaissance.


18. There's an exclusive restaurant in Italy named Solo per Due that accommodates only 2 people.


19. 'Julius Caeser' was pronounced 'YOO-lee-us KYE-sahr' in ancient Rome.


20. The word quarantine is derived from the days of the Black Plague when ships entering Venice were forced to anchor offshore for forty (or Quaranta in Italian) days before being permitted to unload.


21Torpedo fish

Doctors in ancient Rome used an early form of electrotherapy to successfully treat neurological conditions such as epilepsy and migraines. They administered the charges by placing electric torpedo fish on the patient's head.


22. In the 1300s, some fellows from the city of Modena stole a bucket from the nearby city of Bologna (both in Italy), resulting in a great deal of humiliation for the Bolognese. They declared war, had a battle with around 2,000 casualties (split between both sides) and failed to reclaim the bucket.


23. After a 10 year, $40 million projects, the Leaning Tower of Pisa stopped moving for the first time in its 800-year history. The tower is now expected to stay stable for at least 200 years.


24. Toilets in ancient Rome were bad enough to warrant prayers to the Gods of fortune written on the walls. Problems included bursts of flame from the methane buildup, and biting creatures emerging from below.


25. Over 500 years ago, Leonardo da Vinci made an interesting observation about trees. Da Vinci wrote in his notebook that "all the branches of a tree at every stage of its height when put together are equal in thickness to the trunk." In other words, if a tree’s branches were folded upward and squeezed together, the tree would look like one big trunk with the same thickness from top to bottom.

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