Beyond Pizza and Pasta: 40 Fascinating Facts About Italy

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1Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa

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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

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

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6Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

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

7. 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.

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

9. 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.

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

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11Julius Caeser

Julius Caeser

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

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. 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.

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16Ancient Rome toilets

Ancient Rome toilets

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.

17. 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.

18. 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.

19. 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.

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



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

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

23. 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.

24. 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.

25. 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).

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