You might very well be one of the over 50 million tourists who visit Italy each year, and if so, then you probably know a lot about the Colosseum, the Vatican, Florence’s Duomo, and the canals of Venice. Here are some lesser known facts that may prove interesting, even to those experienced travelers.
Did you know…?
*Venice restaurants pride themselves on offering fresh fish on their menu every evening. Since the fish merchants at the pescheria close down on Sundays and Mondays, anyone ordering seafood on Monday evening is getting fish that is at least two days old.
*Italy has a population of over 58 million people, as of the 2010 census.
*The Pope’s bodyguards at the Vatican are the elite Swiss Guard, who are citizens of Switzerland and must meet certain criteria for the prestigious position. They must be unmarried, Roman Catholic, between the ages of 19 and 30, and be at least 5’7″ tall.
*Education is mandatory in Italy to the age of 15. The University of Bologna, founded in the year 1088, is the oldest university in Europe.
*At one time Sicily was the largest Greek city in the world. Ancient ruins of Greek architecture can be found especially in Siracusa, on the southeast region of the island.
*Italy has the lowest birth rate and fertility rate in the world, and 90% of Italians are Roman Catholic. Only about one third are practicing Catholics today.
*Michelangelo’s famous Pieta, in St Peter’s Basilica, is his only work of art that he signed.
*Venice has an ordinance, dating back to the 17th century, requiring that all gondolas be painted black, except if they are owned by a high official. Previous to this, the gondolas were painted in bright colors. The gondolas in Venice are hand constructed, made from eight different woods including oak, cherry, fir, lime, walnut, mahogany, elm, and larch.
*Many different dialects are spoken in Italy, and the official language is Italian, which originated from the Tuscan dialect. The Vatican official newspaper is called L’Osservatore Romano.
*Within Italy’s borders are two independent republics, the republic of San Marino, and Vatican City. Italy’s highest point is Mont Blanc, at an elevation of 4748 meters. Italy has the most volcanoes in all of Europe.
*The number 64 bus in Rome is the most common place in Italy that pickpockets target. The route is popular with sightseers, as it runs from Stazione Termini, the main train station, to St Peter’s Square at the Vatican.