Beyond Pizza and Pasta: 32 Surprising Facts About Italy

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1Olive oil

Olive oil

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.

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

3. 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.

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

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

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6Black Plague

Black Plague

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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

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11Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

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.

12. The victims of the Pompeii eruption had "perfect teeth", which is probably linked to both a healthy diet and high levels of fluorine in the air and water near the volcano.

13. In the 17th century Italy, a set of conjoined twins were on trial for murder. Authorities arrested Lazarus Baptista Colloredo after he stabbed a man for teasing his parasitic twin brother. Though he was sentenced to death the court let him go, finding that they could not execute him without killing his innocent conjoined twin.

14. Italy only became a unified country in 1861 by consolidating several smaller states under one centralized government.

15. In Ancient Rome, if people wished to commit suicide, they applied to the Senate and, if their petitions were approved, were given free hemlock.

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16Venice Island

Venice Island

Venice Island was built on a foundation of tree trunks. 1200 years later, those same trunks still support almost all of central Venice.

17. Michelangelo's Statue of David has an unusually enlarged right hand and head because it was originally intended to be kept atop on the cathedral roof so that important parts would be proportionately visible from way below.

18. Leonardo da Vinci created plans for a "mechanized knight," a robot-like creation reliant on a system of pulleys. When these plans were found almost 500 years later and built according to Leonardo's specifications, the design worked perfectly.

19. The earliest known marketing pun was found in Pompeii on wine jars labeled "Vesuvinum". The word is a blend of Vesuvius (the volcano that destroyed the city), and vinum (Latin for wine).

20. Most pizza sold in Italy is specifically created to match the tourists' expectations of what authentic pizza is, not to match authentic Italian recipes. Tourists then go home and open up pizza shops to recreate this "authentic" experience. This is called the Pizza effect.

21Eternal love

Eternal love

In 2011, archeologists in Italy found the buried remains of a couple who have been holding hands for 1,500 years.

22. There is a 200 foot stuffed pink bunny with its entrails spilling out over a hill in Italy.

23. In 2008, "Due to a technical error" wine replaced water in dozens of homes during the Italian grape festival in Marino, Italy.

24. In 2014, a cleaning woman at an exhibition in Italy threw away artworks worth $13700 that were part of modern art installation thinking that it was trash.

25. There is a church named Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome that is lined with skeletons and has a plaque in 3 languages that reads "What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be."

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