Italy is said to have more masterpieces per square mile than any other country in the world.
Only 20 percent of Italy is flat, about four-fifths of the country is either mountainous or hilly.
In 2007, a dog named Rocco discovered a truffle in Tuscany that weighed 3.3 pounds. It sold at auction for $333,000 a world record for a truffle.
The University of Rome is one of the world’s oldest universities and was founded by the Catholic Church in A.D. 1303. Often called La Sapienza (“knowledge,”) the University of Rome is also Europe’s largest university with 150,000 students.
Vatican City is the only nation in the world that can lock its own gates at night.
Italians suffer more earthquakes than any other Europeans. In 1693, an estimated 100,000 people died in an earthquake in Sicily. The most deadly recent quake in Italy occurred in Naples in 1980, killing 3,000 people.
At its height in A.D. 117, the Roman Empire stretched from Portugal in the West to Syria in the east, and from Britain in the North to the North African deserts across the Mediterranean. It covered 2.3 million miles (two-thirds the size of the U.S.) and had a population of 120 million people. During the Middle Ages, Rome had perhaps no more than 13,000 residents.
The highest peak in Europe is in Italy. Monte Bianco (White Mountain) is 15,771 feet high and is part of the Alps.
In northern Italy, last names tend to end in “i,” while those from the south often end in “o.” The most common Italian surname is Russo.
Over 50 million tourists a year visit Italy. Tourism is vital to Italy’s economy and provides nearly 63 percent of Italy’s national income.