Italy is a European country that has a rich history and culture. The country's influence on western culture, cuisine, and architecture are incomparable. Italy has the 8th biggest economy in the world and the 4th biggest in Europe. And it is also the 5thmost visited country in the world with about 64.8 million visitors every year. If you are planning to stopover in Italy, here are some interesting facts about the country.
1. Italy is one of Europe's youngest countries
It may come as a surprise given that Italy is home to several ancient empires and civilizations. But modern Italy has only been a country since 1861. After been autonomous states for more than a thousand years, Lombardy, Sardinia, Sicily, Papal states, and Rome unified within 13 years to form modern Italy in 1861.
2. The Italian flag is influenced by the French flag
The Italian flag's origin was the Cisalpine republic, which was a French satellite in northern Italy created by Napoleon. The Red and White colours came from the flag of Milan, the Green represented the colour of the uniform of the Milanese civil guard and vertical stripes inspired by the French flag. However, these colours represent something different today.
3. Italy is the country with most other countries enclaved inside
Italy has two independent countries inside itself - Vatican City and San Marino. Vatican City is the smallest country in the world, and it is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. San Marino is on the north-eastern side of the Apennine Mountains in the north-central of Italy. And it is the fifth smallest country in the world and one of the richest.
4. Roman empire shaped western civilization
The Roman empire was one of the largest empires in the ancient world that shaped modern language, religion, technology, politics, the architecture of Western civilization. The empire stretched from the north Atlantic to the Persian Gulf at its peak. After a life span of over a millennium, the empire collapsed due to political corruptions, economic crises, and class conflicts.
5. Italy has the oldest population in Europe
Italy has the highest percentage of older adults (people who are 65 or older) in Europe. 22.8% of its 60.34 million population belongs to this age category. Constantly decreasing birth rate and higher life expectancy of the country are the reasons behind Italy's large old population. However, demographers warn such a population trend could soon yield to an economic crisis.
6. Opera music was originated in Italy
Opera originated in Italy at the end of the 16th century and soon spread through Europe. Many consider "Dafne" as the first opera by modern standards. La Scala, Teatro La Fenice, and San Carlo Theatre are some of Italy's most famous opera houses. Among them, La Scala in Milan is the most significant. Inaugurated in 1778, many renowned opera artists performed at La Scala during the past 200 years. More information here
7. Naples is the birthplace of Pizza
Italian food is famous all over the world. Pizza might be the most famous Italian food in the world. Naples is the birthplace of Pizza, and the home of Margherita Pizza. The toppings, Tomato (red), Mozzarella (white), and Basil (Green), represent the colours of the Italian flag. Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Naples is one of the best restaurants for classic Margherita Pizza.
8. Italy has the most active volcano in the world
In Catania's metropolitan city, between the cities of Messina and Catania, lies Mount Etna, which is the most active volcano in the world. The volcano is in an almost constant state of activity. Mount Etna had at least 60 flank eruptions and countless summit eruptions since 1600 AD. In 2013, UNESCO added Mount Etna to the list of world heritage sites.
9. You can buy a house in Italy for $1
More than 20 towns across Italy started to sell abandoned houses for a single Euro, which is about $1.10, to revive these towns' diminishing populations. Most of these towns are far out in the countryside and experiencing depopulation for decades. Unfortunately, many of these houses are close to uninhabitable, and buyers need to have a significant investment to renovate the houses.
10. The Italian region Tuscany has 7 UNESCO world heritage sites
Italy has a total of 55 UNESCO world heritage sites. 7 out of these 55 sites are in the region of Tuscany - which is rare. Tuscany is famous for Renaissance art, architecture, vineyards, and medieval towns. The UNESCO sites are Florence city, Piazza Dei Miracoli, Towers of San Gimignano, Siena historic centre, Historic centre of Pienza, the Val d'Orcia and Medici Villas landscape pleasure gardens.
11. Italy is home to the world's first botanical garden
Founded in 1545 by the Venetian Republic, Orto Botanico di Padova is a botanical garden in Padua, a city in Italy's north-eastern part. The park, affiliated with the University of Padua, has an area of 5.4 acres. One of the main features is a palm tree that dates way back to 1585.