Fun Italy Facts For Kids
Italy is one seriously interesting country, from the Ancient Romans, their awesome food, their super speedy cars and an entirely independent state that sits within Italy itself. Read on, you’ll be amazed at some of these cool facts about sunny Italy!
This is one country that is steeped in a very interesting history, from famous inventors and famous artists to the mighty Roman Empire.
History of Italy
There is a myth that the city of Rome was founded on 21st April 753 B.C. by two brothers named Romulus and Remus. Now the legend says that they were raised in a cave by a she-wolf! Can you imagine?
Maybe they behaved like wolves too. Because of this myth, the Italian wolf is Italy’s unofficial national animal.
Rome was also the capital of the Roman Empire, which was a mighty force to be reckoned with. They were the most powerful and rich empire in the world and rose to power about 2,500 years ago on 21st April 753 B.C. How did they got all that money and treasure?!
Guess who the first emperor of Rome was? Well it was none other than Augustus Caesar who took the helm in 27 B.C. Interestingly, his real name was Octavian, but he obviously thought his new found name seemed far more worthy of an important ruler.
At the height of the Roman Empire in A.D. 117, the area the Romans had conquered stretched from Portugal to Syria to Britain to North Africa. It covered 2.3 million miles (3.7 million kilometers); that’s about the same size as India and it’s about one third the size of the whole of the U.S.
That is one seriously large area to rule over! They had a population of 120 million people and ruled for over 400 years! Wow, that’s a long time.
In 476 A.D. the last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustus, was defeated and that ended their reign!
After the Roman Empire fell, Rome became the capital of Christianity. If you visit Rome you can still see the Pope today as he lives in the Vatican City. Did you know that the Vatican City is actually a country? Well it is, and it’s one of the smallest countries in the world.
During the Middle Ages, Rome only had about 13,000 residents.
In the 12th century, Italy was filled with loads of different areas that were ruled by foreigners. The Italians had enough so they decided to reclaim their land! They fought back in 1859 and eventually kicked all the foreigners out. In 1861 the Kingdom of Italy was born and it was all theirs!
Italy only became a country in 1861, 150 years ago.
In 1914, Italy sided with the UK and the US in World War I, but unfortunately they were left with hardly anything at the end of the war. A new leader came into town called Benito Mussolini. He was no man to have a chat on the side of the road with, he was a fierce dictator!
Luckily we don’t live in those times where we might have come across him! In the Second World War, he sided with Germany and Japan, but was later captured and executed.
Since the end of WWII, there have been more than 60 governments in charge of Italy. Man that’s a lot of people to listen to!
Now how is this for interesting! In the 1930s and 40s Mussolini tried to get rid of all foreign words from the Italian language. So what did he do? Well he changed them of course.
In soccer, ‘goal’ became ‘meta’ and Donald Duck became ‘Paperino’. Mickey Mouse became ‘Topolino’ and Goofy became ‘Pippo’. Although they’re not banned anymore, these words have stuck. So if you’re going to Disney Land you’re going to see Topolino and Pippo!
Before Rome became a republic and an empire, it had seven kings.
Ever heard of the Renaissance? Well, it was a period in time when great artists, poets, painters, architects, scientists, mathematicians and thinkers came alive and it all started in none other than Italy. Think Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Galileo Galilei, Alessandro Volta, Fibonacci and Donatello, who were all part of this amazing period in time.
Italy is known for the super cool buildings and their building techniques. They’ve built amazing like the Colosseum, Pantheon and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. These buildings are unique in every way!
Venice is also one of the most popular cities for tourists worldwide – I am sure you have heard of Venice before. It is very unlike most cities!
Italy finally became a republic after a vote which was held on the 2nd June 1946. They still celebrate this today!
Did you know that world famous explorers Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo were Italian? They sure had their fair share of famous people!
The name Italy comes from the word italia, meaning “calf land,” maybe this was because the bull was a symbol of the Southern Italian tribes.
The world famous Michelangelo was once thought to have painted in really drab and dull colors. But this actually wasn’t true. When his masterpieces were cleaned years of dirt and smoke from candles had faded the colors. In fact he had painted in bright colors, such as purples, greens, and pinks.
Italy is often called the Bel Paese, which means beautiful country and if you go there, or look at pictures it’s easy to see why! We’ve got some super cool geography facts for you. Read on to wow your friends with your new found knowledge.
Over 61 million people call Italy home and it is 187,242 square miles (301,338 square kilometers). If you compare that to the UK, 64 million people live there and it is only 151,366 square miles (243,610 square kilometers). Interesting, the UK has more people living there and it’s smaller! Italy is also slightly larger than Arizona.
Italy has 1.27 million foreigners living there. They clearly like it.
If you look at Italy on a map, you’ll see that it looks like a big high-heeled boot sticking out into the sea. It also looks like it’s kicking some weird shaped ball which is actually the island of Sicily. So maybe that’s the place to buy boots seeing as though they’re so famous for their clothes!
There are two completely independent states inside Italy. We’ve already mentioned the Vatican City but there’s also San Marino. How weird is that. It’s like two extra countries inside one!
Weirdly enough there’s a place called Campione d’Italia and even though it’s part of Italy it’s actually within the borders of Switzerland.
There’s one thing that could put you off going to this gorgeous country. The Italians have more earthquakes than any other Europeans.
They’ve also got two active volcanoes, Etna and Vesuvius, which could erupt at any time and are dangerous as they’re so close to big cities. Vesuvius last erupted in 1944 and caused quite a bit of damage as it destroyed loads of villages. Watch your step.
Rome is further North than New York City. So you would expect it to snow quite a lot right? Well actually it doesn’t, in Rome and Naples it only snows briefly every couple of years, while in New York you see snow all the time.
Almost 20% of Italy’s population is over 65 years old. That’s a lot of older folks.
Over 75% of Italy is mountainous or hilly. Get your hiking boots ready if you’re going here!
The highest point in Italy is Mont Blanc, in the Alps at 15,770 feet (4,800 meters) high. That’s nearly 13 times taller than the Empire State Building.
Sadly a lot of Italy’s nature has disappeared from centuries of farming and also over-hunting. Forests that were one there have gone. But in some the remote parts of the country there are national parks which still have some wilderness areas that are largely untouched by our human hands.
When birds have their annual migration to Africa, literally millions of birds have a stopover in Italy for a much needed rest.
People and Culture
Italian is Italy’s official language, which comes from the ancient Latin language. Listen carefully the next time you hear someone speaking Italian; it can sound like a song.
Have you ever noticed that Italians use their hands a lot when they’re speaking? Well there’s a reason for this; a lot of their expressions that have hand gestures which go with them, and those hand gestures have very specific meanings. Pretty cool.
It would be interesting to know what they all mean; you could make up your own language just with hand gestures.
We all know and love Italian food; it is world famous with pizza and pasta being the main ones. Who doesn’t love a good pizza or bowl of pasta?
Family is very important in Italy and the Italians celebrate loads of holidays. They all get together and eat large meals. The two most important holidays are Christmas and Ferragosto, on 15th August, when everyone heads to the beach. Easter is also very popular and loads of people gather in St. Peter’s Square in Rome to see and listen to the Pope.
Italians aren’t having many children. Who would you play with? The government and the church are worried, so they offer rewards for people to have more than one child.
The President of Italy is just a ceremonial figure – the Prime Minister is the one who actually runs the country.
Each Sunday in the small villages families will take a traditional passeggiata which means a family stroll. Probably to work off all that food.
If you go to Italy you’ll certainly hear the saying “Ars longa, vita brevis”. It means “art is long, life is short” and just shows how much the Italians love leisure time. Don’t we all like a bit of relaxing, but it seems you’ll relax a lot in Italy. Awesome.
The colors of the Italian flag represent hope (green), faith (white), and charity (red).
St. Francis of Assisi and St. Caterina of Siena are the patron saints of Italy.
Many single Italian children live at home until their 30s, even if they have a job. Imagine that, living with your parents until you’re 30. Wow.
Italians and Cars
Italians love their cars and they are very well known for the super-fast and super cool Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo and Maserati.
Perhaps you’ll get to go in one if you go there.
Italians aren’t big fans of supermarkets. They take longer to shop as they to lots of different stores to get what they want like markets, a baker, a butcher or even a farmer. Their food is super fresh, but it takes a long time. If you don’t like shopping, then don’t go shopping with an Italian.
Nobody actually knows where pizza was ‘invented’ but we do know that it was made famous in Naples in the 1860s.
No matter what language you speak, almost everybody understands the word pizza. Lucky, as no matter where you go, if you want a pizza, you can get it.
The Italians have had their fair share of inventions including the thermometer, the electric battery, the piano, the barometer, nitroglycerin, espresso machine, typewriter, eye glasses, the ice-cream cone, the violin, the cello and wireless telegraphy.
Also, the inventor of the nuclear reactor was an Italian. They seem pretty smart in this part of the world.
We know that the battery was invented by an Italian, but did you know that the word volt which is used to measure electricity comes from the name of the man who invented the battery, Alessandro Volta? Cool to tell your friends that.
The author of ‘Pinocchio’, Carlo Collodi, was Italian. So now we know where this classic story comes from. Even more interesting is that Pinocchio actually means pine nut! Hmmm, do you think he looks like a pine nut?
Over 40 million people visit Italy in a year. That makes it the fourth most visited country in the world. Who would have known!
Did you know that Italy has more hotel rooms than any other nation in Europe? At least you’ll know you have a bed if you go there.
The average Italian eats about 55 pounds (25 kilograms) of pasta a year. If you think about how light pasta is, that is one huge amount of pasta that they eat!
Amazingly Italy exports over 75% of its energy. Hope it leaves enough for itself.
Every child between the ages of 6 and 14 has to go to school. More than 90% of them attend public schools as apparently they are better for learning that private schools.
Italy has over 3,000 museums. That is a lot it would take forever to visit all of them.
Now be careful when you go to Sicily…it is famous for being the home of the scary Mafia, you don’t want to bump into any of these criminals there.
Wow, every single day more than €3,000 is thrown into the Trevi Fountain. That’s over $4000 (at the time of writing this article). That is a lot of money. It’s surprising you don’t find people digging in the water to get their share.
More than 60% of all the art treasures in the world are found in Italy.
This is a seriously cool fact…Italy holds the Guinness World Record for having the most amount of elevators. You could be going up and down these for days.
Rocco and the Truffle
In 2007 a dog named Rocco discovered a white truffle that weighed 3.3 pounds (about 1.5 kilograms). That is one big truffle and they are very, very expensive. It sold at an auction for $333,000 (USD). Another world record.
The oldest olive tree in Italy, in Umbria and is apparently over 1,700 years old. That tree has probably made very many olives in its lifetime.
The Italians weren’t too happy when the first McDonald’s opened in 1986 in Rome. People stood outside and gave away free pasta to remind people about their food heritage.
How is this for an amazing fact? The Vatican City is the only nation in the world that can lock its own gates at night. It has its own phone company, radio, T.V. stations, money, and stamps. It even has its own army, the historic Swiss Guard. For such a small place, that’s unbelievable.
From 1861 to 1985, more than 26 million people left Italy in search of a better life. Only one in four came home again. They obviously weren’t too happy.
In 2008 the Italians were worried about tourist footsteps cracking the marble of Michelangelo’s David. They suggested that it was isolated away from tourists, but this hasn’t happened. Let’s hope that the tourists tread lightly.
Soccer fans in Italy are called tifosi, meaning “carriers of typhus.” They are very well known for being rowdy and causing quite a scene. Watch out for them if you attend a soccer match where Italy is playing.
In 1454, a real human chess game took place in Italy. Rather than fighting it out, the winner would get the hand of a beautiful girl. To commemorate this event, each September in even-numbered years, the town’s main piazza becomes a life-sized chess board. Playing chess there could be a whole heap of fun.
The world’s longest land tunnel is 22 miles long (nearly 36 kilometers). It’s called the Lötschberg Base Tunnel and provides a railway link between Switzerland and Italy.
Does anyone believe in witches? Well the Sardinian islands are famous for their ‘witches’ who make potions for local people. The ‘witches’ use a secret language that they pass on to their daughters. Perhaps when you’re there ask for a special potion to be made for you. Maybe an invisibility potion.
Now imagine being made a prisoner in your own house for suggesting that the Earth revolved around the Sun? That’s exactly what happened to Galileo Galilei. The Church seemed very upset about this enough to make him a prisoner.
They did eventually apologize in 1992, a long time after Galileo had died in 1642. That took them a while. So remember to apologize when you’re wrong, don’t wait for 350 years.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa was built in 1173 and began to lean very soon after. In 2008 they tried to do a bit of reconstruction and the engineers said it would stay that way for at least another 200 years. At least you know it won’t fall on you.
Venice is certainly one of the world’s most unusual cities. It was founded over 1,400 years ago on some muddy islands in a wide and shallow lagoon. It has been sinking into the mud for centuries and often flooded. They have over 400 footbridges. Hopefully they would keep you safe during a flood.
Amazingly there are more than 500 different types of pasta eaten in Italy today. Who would have thought that there were so many varieties?
Italians are very superstitious. They try to spend the day in bed when Friday 17th comes around (not the 13th!), they change their way if a black cat crosses their path, they never walk under stairs and, when they spill salt, and they throw a handful of it behind their left shoulder using their right hand to scare the little demon that they believe stands behind them.
Unlike the rest of the world, Italians actually believe that 13 is a very lucky number and you’ll find some people that wear a charm in the shape of the number 13. These charms are meant to be very lucky and are often given to kids when they’re baptized.
As you can see, Italy is a really interesting and awesome place – and so unique. Do you have anything to add or know something cool about this amazing country? Let us know!