Today’s episode about the famous things across the globe is about Italy, so we have asked our fellow travel blogger Annalisa of “Travel Connect Experience” What is Italy famous for? This is her awesome response!
Italy is usually very high up on the bucket list of every traveler. Besides being one of the most visited countries in the world, Italy is also a top destination for retirement and long-term travel. In this post, we explore some of the characteristics that make Italian culture stand out and so appealing to foreigners. But Italy is more than an amazing tourist destination and we will also explore the other things that made Italy famous worldwide.
10 Things Italy is Famous for
#1 Natural Beauty and diversity
With a surface of 301.340,00 square kilometers, Italy is a relatively small country and yet, it displays an extremely variegated geography, a puzzle of landscapes that will take your breath away. The snowy capped Alps, mountains with the tallest peaks in Europe, give way to a land of big lakes formed by the wearing away of glaciers and to the fertile Po valley. Keep going South, and you’ll meet hilly regions with pastures, vineyards, olive groves, and the Appennini mountains full of wildlife. In central and southern Italy, lush gorges with volcanic lakes, stunning shorelines, and islands surrounded by crystal-clear blue water are awaiting…
Italian outdoors has something beautiful to offer at any season of the year, for every type of traveler, from ski tracks to sunny beaches and hiking trails.
#2 Italian cuisine
Exquisite and creative, Italian cooking is held in great esteem all over the world. Dishes like the pizza Margherita, pasta, gelato, and lasagna, found success beyond the Italian borders. Italian restaurants abound in every big city and touristic area in most of the countries.
The fortune of Italian cuisine plunges its roots in the Italian culture. Eating delicious, elaborate dishes is a big deal for the common Italian. Italians put taste before anything else. Eating well in Italy means to have those foods that make your mouth water only at the thought of them, and to consume them slowly, sitting for hours around a table with friends and family. Eating isn’t an activity that one should perform on their own: as all the fundamental things in life, needs to be shared with loved ones.
The number of traditional Italian dishes is incredible. To try authentic Italian food, you need to visit Italy. Each of the 20 regions of Italy has traditional foods, but Emilia Romagna is considered the most culinary region of all.
#3 Strong regional identity
Regional identity is quite a thing in Italy. The most evident distinction is the language. There are dozens of dialects spoken locally, and 9 of them are officially recognized as “languages”: Friulian, Piedmontese, Lombard, Ligurian, Venetian, Emilian, Neapolitan, Sardinian, and Sicilian.
Half of the Italian regions speak a dialect that someone who only knows the standard Italian wouldn’t understand! Every region also boasts of different traditions when it comes to cooking styles and local festivals. Regional diversity ultimately is what makes the macro Italian culture so rich and interesting, a continuous source of discoveries for both foreign and local travelers.
#4 The Roman Empire
Italy is famous for the pivotal role that the Roman Empire played in the development of Western Civilization. If you visit the monuments in Rome’s historical center, you will hear echoes of the events that extended the city’s power from the tiny Palatine Hill to most of contemporary Europe, the Middle East, and the northern coasts of Africa.
Historians ascribe Rome’s political success to an impeccable military organization and to the willingness of its enemies to surrender part of their sovereignty in exchange for efficient infrastructures. The Romans built roads, aqueducts, amphitheaters like the Colosseum and palaces first in Italy, then in all the provinces of the Roman Empire, where you can still admire them. The epicenter of this empire remained in Rome, Italy, until about the 5th Century AD.
#5 The tie between mother and son
One of the most popular stereotypes about Italian culture is the tenacious bond existing between the Italian mother and her son. Women from different countries who moved to Italy and married Italian men have reported a tendency of their partners’ mothers to interfere with their partner’s private life.
Truth is, Italian mothers are protective and somehow controlling towards both sons and daughters. This cultural nuance though is more evident in men, and it certainly is a widely accepted social phenomenon. The middle-class Italian mother would wish for her son to stay in the nest as long as he likes and, when he’s got a family, to perform phone calls daily and to arrange a family lunch at least one time per week…
This is a two-way process because it’s also true that the Italian men tend to shy away from being totally independent: even when they’ve left the native house, they often visit their parents to stock up on mom’s delicacies, to deliver the week’s laundry and collect a bag of freshly ironed clothes…
#6 Artistic masterpieces and masters
Italy is first and foremost famous for its huge contribution to the history of Arts. The ages that produced most of the masterpieces you’ll see in the Italian and international museums are the Renaissance and the Baroque (15th to the 18th Century).
In the 15th Century Italy, there was an economic boom, and the few families detaining power, like the Medici, the Sforza, and the Papacy, summoned the most brilliant artists of the time at their courts. Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Botticelli, and Bernini are just a few of the personalities working tirelessly to create paintings, frescoes, sculptures, and architecture.
If you stroll around in the major Italian art cities like Florence and Rome, you’ll have many chances to appreciate their works.
#7 Italian design
The creativity of Italian artists was worthy of international recognition also in the 20th Century. Italian designers realized some of the most iconic objects of modernity, their style being studied and imitated all over the world.
The design fields showcasing the best examples of contemporary Italian creativity are furniture, car and motorcycle design, technology design, interior, exterior, and garden design, fashion design.
Some of the brilliant products designed in Italy during the last Century are displayed at the MOMA in New York, like the Vespa and the Arco Lamp. In the sector of automobile design, brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati stand out as models of elegance, luxury, and velocity. Italian fashion designers are also very popular: Prada, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace… The international fortune of Italian haute-couture has impacted the everyday life of the common citizens: most of the Italians love to spend a considerable part of their salary in clothes and accessories, and they strive to be elegant even on the simplest occasions.
There is a common belief that Italy is one of the most passionate countries in the world. Italian men are known for being incredibly charming, while Italian women are sensual and fiery.
This is not only a cliché. Italians value the expression of feelings. Possessiveness is a common theme in relationships. Flirtation is always around the corner. In spite of the presence of the seat of the Catholic Church, Italians are hot-blooded and pursue romance in and outside their marriages.
Among the Italian women who are considered an example of feminine beauty and sensuality you’ll find the movie stars Sofia Loren, Monica Vitti, Isabella Rossellini, and Monica Bellucci. Some popular masculine icons are Alessandro Gassman, Marcello Mastroianni, Kim Rossi Stuart, and Raoul Bova.
#9 Italy is the birthplace of the Opera
The passionate nature of Italians, their tendency to fully express emotions is reflected in the artistic tradition of the “melodramma”, which has evolved in what we today call “Opera”.
The melodramma started developing in Italy in the 17th Century. It consists of a theatrical performance entirely accompanied by singing and music. At first, this form of art was an exclusive entertainment of the elites and performed as a part of elaborate celebrations on the occasion of weddings and birthdays. The fortune of the Opera reached the rest of Europe in the 18th Century, while today the Opera is popular in every country.
Italy holds the record for the number of opera houses (62) and is considered the most prestigious place to study Opera singing and composition. Two of the Opera houses you shouldn’t miss on your trip to Italy are the theater “La Scala” in Milan and the “San Carlo” in Naples.
#10 The Mafia
On a not so positive note, Italy is famous for the “Mafia”.
The Mafia is a criminal organization with a pyramidal structure that has connections and power in every political and economical aspect of the country. The origins of the term “Mafia” are unclear, while its epicenter is identified with the Italian region of Sicily, which is the biggest island of the Mediterranean Sea, a top-notch summer holiday destination.
The Mafia became internationally popular after the production in America of the movies of the Padrino trilogy. Those films, besides making Sicily famous, communicated the idea that there’s something inherently hip or “tough” about this criminal organization and the Italian families that rule it.
In Italy, the feeling is quite different. The duel between the state and the Mafia has continued for more than 100 years. Every Italian knows that there’s a state inside the state, that has numerous leaders and different names in each of the Italian regions (Camorra, ‘Ndrangheta, Sacra Corona), and that in southern Italy the criminals are as powerful as the government.
During the 1980s and 1990s, the biggest operation against the Mafia took place in Italy. After a strenuous fight, the two bravest judges involved in this crusade, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, were murdered.
They became martyrs of justice and are considered some of the most prominent figures of Italian contemporary history.
About the Author
Annalisa is a 30 something Italian with a passion for slow travel, distant cultures, and spirituality. She works as a freelance translator, language teacher, travel blogger, and planner from a tiny house in the countryside outside of Rome. She visited many countries in South East Asia and lived in China for 6 years. Her blog Travel Connect Experience tells about the places and communities she loved during her travels and has a focus on Rome and Italy
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