History of Italy
About 40,000 years ago, modern humans arrived in the Italian peninsula. The region was inhabited by several different ancient people such as the Etruscans. The Mycenaean Greeks arrived during the 17th and 11th centuries B.C. and in the seventh and eighth centuries BC, they established colonies in the south and on Sicily.
Rome developed from an agricultural society into the Roman Empire which took over the entire Mediterranean region during its years of existence. Many parts of Western civilization today are based on this society, including the legal system and the arts. In 395 A.D., the enormous Roman Empire split into Western and Eastern Roman Empire. The Western Roman Empire broke up in 476 A.D.
During the Middle Ages, after years of invasions, the Italian peninsula was split between the Holy Roman Emperors, whose supporters were called the Ghibellini, and the popes, whose supporters were the Guelfi. The struggle for power between these two parties led to the division of the Italian peninsula into many sections. Venice and Genoa, among other coastal regions, became leaders in international trade. Sicily was conquered by the Arabs and became an Islamic state from 965 to 1072.
During the recovery from the Black Death of 1348, which killed a third of Italy's population, the Italian Renaissance emerged, peaking in the mid-sixteenth century. The city-states in northern Italy began feuding, and some swallowed up the areas around them, becoming larger, stronger territories that were called Signoria (regional states). The largest ones that emerged were Florence, Milan, and Venice, which eventually agreed to a peace treaty, the Peace of Lodi in 1454, which lasted about forty years. In the lower regions of Italy, the land was divided into the Papal States and Naples.
The Italian Wars lasted from 1494 to 1559 when the Habsburg dynasty took control. Northern Italy went on to become part of the French Empire, while southern Italy was all part of Naples, ruled by Napoleon's brother-in-law, Joachim Murat. Italy was restored after the Congress of Vienna in 1814.
The unification of Naples and Sicily was declared on March 17, 1861, a result of the efforts of Giuseppe Garibaldi, becoming a nation-state. In 1866, Vittorio Emmanuele II allied with Prussia and launched the third war of Italian independence, fighting to regain control of northern Italy from Austria - and Italy was then fully united.
Italy began colonizing in Somalia, Eritrea, Libya, and Dodecanese at the end of the nineteenth century. During World War I, Italy stayed neutral but joined the Entente, in return, receiving the regions of Trento, Trieste, Gorizia, Gradisca, Istria, and northern Dalmatia from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire.
Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini rose to power in the 1920s, later allying with Nazi Germany, leading to Italy's defeat in World War II. Italy's monarchy was then replaced with a democratic republic in 1946, and Italy became a charter member of NATO and the European Economic Community (EEC).
Geography of Italy
A boot-shaped country, the Italian Peninsula extends into the Mediterranean Sea and is surrounded on 3 sides by seas which gives it a unique beauty. The diverse and exquisite nature of the Geography of Italy accounts for its charm and is one of the reasons why it's such a popular traveler's destination.
The geographical features of Italy are varied; the Tyrrhenian Sea envelopes the country at the south-western corner, while the country's north-eastern parts have the boundary of Adriatic Sea. The Ionian Sea meets the country at its south-eastern parts and at the north-west, the Ligurian Sea encircles the country.
There are two prominent mountain ranges in Italy: the Apennines and the Alps. Considered as the backbone of the country, Apennine mountain range surrounds the north-western region of the country. This is also where it meets the Alps. Both these ranges have a shape of an arc. This sort of topography also makes Italy's northern boundaries stronger against invasions from other countries.
Mont Blanc, also known as Monte Bianco, is the highest mountain summit of Italy, being 5,781 feet (4,810 meters) above sea level. It has two famous volcanoes. One of them is Mount Vesuvius (1,281 m) which is currently in a dormant state. Mount Etna (3,326 m), the other volcanic peak in Sicily, is however very active but seldom poses threat to the inhabitants of Italy.
Besides the panoramic seas and mountains, there are also bucolic plains and valleys in the country. Padan Plain contains the river Po (405 miles) which is one of the longest rivers in the country. Many of its tributaries flow down from the Apennines and the Alps. Secchia, Trebbia, Dora Baltea, and Mincio are some of its tributaries that bring alluvial deposits in the plains and thus, make it more fertile and appropriate for cultivation. Some other notable Italian rivers include:
- Tiber or Tevere
Italy is also considered a land of lakes. The biggest lake in Italy - Lake Garda covers a land area of 370 km². Mention may be made of some other lakes in the country, too, like:
- Lake Como
- Northern Italy
- Lake Maggiore
- Lake Bracciano
- Lake Iseo
- Lake Trasimeno
- Lake Bolsena
All these lakes are arrestingly alluring attractions for tourists all around the world.
More or less, the Geography of Italy is such that it has led to the growth and development of the tourism industry in the country. Travelers from all over the globe visit this place to glance through its picturesque sceneries. This is a land which receives real admiration and acclaims from the ardent nature lovers.
Italy Culture and Traditions
Italy is Europe's 6th most populous country and owing to its cultural diversity, it has made incredible contributions to the world of music, architecture, cuisine, and art. Italians are known for indulging in good things in life and living life to the fullest.
Culture and Traditions
Italy's culture is very broad. The birthplace of opera and ballet, it's no question that Italy is a major cultural force that's favored by many people all around the world. It's the heartland of art, beauty, and knowledge, and its people are well known for being welcoming, sociable, and indulgent.
Here is a list of traditions and customs that are common in Italy:
Traffic in major cities is generally chaotic with drivers being impatient and have a disregard for other vehicles on the road.
Conversation is an art form and Italians are often found in cafes, piazzas, or restaurants engaged in deep and loud conversations regarding a whole range of different topics. Talking loudly and animately defines how Italians immerse in discussions.
Italians are very straightforward and will not hold back any of their opinions or convictions which other nationalities might take as an attack.
Dining and eating are taken very seriously, which explains their 1-2 hour lunch breaks with most stores closing at 12noon and reopening at 2 in the afternoon.
Italians love being outside and on the streets - if they don't see a neighbor for a long time, they usually ask where that person has been hiding.
The piazza is the central meeting point of Italian culture and people are often seen walking, sitting, and conversing in the square in the morning, afternoon, and after dinner.
Art and Architecture
Italy is home to half of the world's greatest art treasures and known for its wide range of architectural achievements. There are over 100,000 monuments all over the country, 54 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and large numbers of visual art pieces that are found in almost every corner in its major cities.
Italy's art history is part of the world's art history - with the Italian Renaissance considered as the golden age of painting. Famous painters and artists of the time include Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Paulo Uccello, Titian, and a number of many others. Redefining fine art with the use of perspective and the science of anatomy, the Italian Renaissance gave birth to the most famous and most recognizable pieces of artworks the world has ever known.
Such famous artworks include Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel, his David statue, and Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper and the world's most prized painting, the Mona Lisa.
Italy is also home to the finest works of Western architecture, such as the Colosseum, the Milan Cathedral, St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Italian literature rose to prominence with Dante Alighieri's masterpiece, the Divine Comedy. Literary Petrarch created the sonnet, and among the most famous philosophers in the world were Italian - Niccolo Machiavelli and Giambattista Vico. The most celebrated children's book in all of Italy is The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, published in 1883, and stands as one of the most famous and beloved children's stories in the world.
Italians value education, as evident by its free and required education system for ages 6 to 16. They also take good care of their people with a healthcare system that's second best in the world. Because of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, Italians are extremely family-oriented.
With Milan as the foremost fashion capital of the world, clothing, and dressing in Italy take on a whole new form. You won't find laid-back and casual dressing in the major cities - a need to dress up with proper and decent shoes is essential. Though there are no dress codes in the cities, Italians show great respect for traditions. Dressing up in Italy requires well-fitted clothes that give off a polished look. When going out, it is expected that people dress up, such as no shorts for men and no flip flops for women.
One of the world's most favored food, Italian cuisine is based on the Mediterranean diet of pasta, fish, and vegetables. The world's best pizzas are found in regional parts of the country, as well as the best wines in the world, and the best desserts. Characterized by simplicity, most Italian dishes are made from 4-8 ingredients only - with an emphasis on quality of ingredients rather than quantity.
Gelato is a world-famous Italian type of ice cream, while tiramisu is another Italian favorite for dessert. With cuisine that's based on local and familial traditions rather than by concoctions of chefs, Italian food is homey, filling, and gastronomically pleasurable.
With celebrations that adhere to national and religious events, Italy is a country full of celebrations. Here are some of its popular festivals:
- The Venice Film Festival
- The oldest international film festival in the world, it is held in Libo Island in Venice and contested by the most
- prestigious filmmakers in the world.
This is a pre-Lenten carnival found in many places in the country. The most famous one is found in Venice with parades of people in elaborate costumes and masked balls. Tens of thousands of people each year visit here.
Battle of the Oranges
Every 3rd week of February in the northern city of Ivrea, willing participants are grouped into 9 teams that hurl oranges at each other. A fun and humorous tradition that's based on 2 historical events, it's the perfect example of Italians halting time to enjoy life.
About 93% of the country's population speaks Italian which is also Italy's official language. There are a large number of dialects which are spoken in the country, such as Friulian, Sardinian, Sicilian, Neapolitan, Piedmontese, Ligurian, Calabrian, and Venetian.
Italians have also left a lasting impression on Hollywood. Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Leonardo DiCaprio, John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Sylvester Stallone, Susan Sarandon are some of the Hollywood actors with Italian roots.
Things to do in Italy
Italy is truly a traveler's delight. The nation is home to friendly people and has a history spanning many millennia. Other than a scrumptious cuisine and amazing scenic beauty, there is so much to see and do in Italy that you would require more than a lifetime to fully explore it.
One of the most fascinating cities in the world, Rome is an amalgamation of the ancient and the modern architecture. Here you would find modern architecture rubbing shoulders with ancient structures such as the Colosseum, where bloody gladiatorial battles were held during the Roman times. Other places to visit here are the Roman Forum and the Pantheon, the two great icons of the Roman times.
A wonder of the world, Venice is one of the most visited cities in the world. So, if you are in Venice, take a Gondola ride. On the way, you would get a glimpse of amazing Baroque buildings as well as majestic bridges.
Here you would come across amazing ancient Roman and Greek Ruins. A visit to the Valley of Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, would surely round off your trip.
Uffizi Gallery in Florence
Uffizi Gallery in Florence is a must visit. Called the 'heart of the Renaissance', the gallery comprises amazing masterpieces that would leave you bewildered. On display are works by Titian, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio.
Exploring the ruins is a must for every tourist. Here, you would also come across some well-preserved ruins.
Take a trip to the Vatican and have a look at some eye-catching monuments such as the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
Visitors from around the world visit Italy just to gaze at the amazing Leaning Tower of Pisa.
A major tourist attraction, the construction of the cathedral began in 1296 and was completed in 1436. The cathedral complex, which is located in Piazza del Duomo, comprises Giotto's Campanile and the Baptistery.
Catacombs of Rome
The Catacombs of Rome are underground burial places. There are at least 40 catacombs in Rome and these are some of the oldest as well as the longest underground tunnels in the world.
Take a trip to Mt Etna and explore the largest active volcano in Europe. From here you would also get majestic views of Sicily.
Italy Travel Facts
Rome, the capital city, has a famous historical site around every corner, from the Colosseum to the Pantheon and the Vatican.
Florence has famous landmarks and works of art housed in its museums and galleries.
The city of Venice, located in the northeastern part of Italy, is listed as a World Heritage Site.
Italy has 7,400 kilometers (4,600 miles) of coastline which is one of the longest in Europe.
You have to believe us when we say that there's no end to interesting facts on Italy.
Top Tourist Attractions in Italy
1. Leaning Tower of Pisa
: The tower was built over a period of 177 years. Its construction started in 1173 and soon it began to tilt due to a poorly laid foundation. The tower was completed in the late14th century.
: A thriving city some 2,000 years ago, Pompeii was destroyed and buried when the Vesuvius volcano erupted in 79 AD. The town was covered by ash and soil and was preserved in its state from that day.
3. The Colosseum
: Situated in Rome, the Colosseum is one of the largest and most famous amphitheaters that remind the world of the Roman Empire.
4. The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore
: A crown jewel of Florence, the construction of this beautiful cathedral began in 1296 and completed in 1436.
: It is a small town located on the Amalfi Coast. The coast is known around the world for its scenic landscape, rugged terrain, and picturesque towns.
Last Updated on: February 20, 2019