What do Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Pavarotti and Christopher Columbus all have in common? They’re trailblazers, of course, in their respective fields. But at the end of the day, they all hail from the southern European country of Italy. And they’re not alone. Italy is home to 61 million people—people who, past and present, have pushed the boundaries to create some of the world’s most awe-inspiring works of art, fashion, food, architecture, and music.
It’s no wonder, given the endless inspiration offered by the nation’s diverse landscapes, from the Alps and surrounding lakes in the north, to plains and hills where grapes and olives grow, and rugged, volcanic mountains in the south.
Italian is the official language of Italy, however, it’s important to note there are several different dialects spoken depending on the region, some of which include—but aren’t limited to—Milanese, Venetian, Sardinian and Calabrian.
In Italy, there’s a cultural sacredness in both family and food. Elders are respected and honored, and extended families come together often. Special occasion or not, they take their time to carefully prepare each element of a meal—using local ingredients from farmers and vendors they likely know by name. Then, they savor each bite of those meals slowly, enjoying red wine or sparkling water, and one another’s company.
Italian artistic cappuccino in a bar of italy
A typical Italian breakfast is devoid of the eggs or bacon we may see in the US, and instead consists of coffee or cappuccino along with a brioche or another sweet pastry. Cappuccinos or lattes are reserved for morning pleasure only, and in fact, most Italians would think you crazy to drink them at any other time, especially with a meal. It is common to consume caffeine after meals later in the day, but at that point, it’s got to be espresso or macchiato.
Several small courses are incorporated into lunch and dinner, and usually start with a rice or pasta dish. Contrary to many Italian-American ways when it comes to food, it’s against “the rules” to consume bread before or alongside a pasta dish. You are “allowed,” however, to use a small piece of bread (“Fare la scarpetta”) to scoop up delicious sauce lingering on the plate at the end of a meal. A second course often consists of protein and vegetables, and if a salad’s on the menu, salad dressing, as we know it, won’t be. Instead, Italians use the finest olive oil and vinegar to combine themselves. A typical course may end with fruit or gelato, another source of Italian culinary pride.
People with Venetian Carnival mask in Venice
Italians celebrate several major Catholic holidays such as Christmas and Easter, but right up there with them is Carnevale. For centuries, towns big and small across Italy drop everything in the days leading up to Lent, to cook and share great food, dress up in masquerade, dance and enjoy parades.
Italy is the birthplace of opera and in a country with such a strong national identity the genre’s music and drama holds its cultural significance and popularity today. Sports also play a big role in Italian culture, and favorites to participate in and watch include soccer, cycling, rugby, car racing and skiing.
Now take our quiz on Italian history and culture. Viva L’Italia!
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What year did Italy become a united country?
Italy became a united country in 1861. It has had a cultural and social influence on Europe and the Mediterranean for thousands of years.
What is the likely origin of the name “Italia”?
Which of the following is NOT a civilization that once existed in what is now Italy?
Ancient Italy was once home to Villanovan, Graecian, and Etruscan civilizations. The Celts were a part of what is now Ireland.
Which pair of twins are the legendary founders of Rome?
According to legend, twin brothers Romulus and Remus founded Rome in 753 BC. It was then ruled by seven kings who fought to systematically expand their territory.
Which Italian city was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance?
The Italian Renaissance developed in the Tuscan city of Florence, and was a rebirth of art and culture that had been forgotten during the Dark Ages in Europe.
What event had a major influence on post-Renaissance Italy?
The Black Death, or plague, repeatedly struck Italy through the 17th century and had a major influence on the population.
When did the Vatican become an independent state within Rome?
Vatican City was created in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty, which allows it to remain an independent city-state surrounded by Rome.
Which form of government existed in Italy after unification in 1861?
Italy was officially a Monarchy from 1861 until 1946 when the Italian Republic was created.
On which side was Italy’s Facist government under Mussolini during WWII?
The Italians sided with the Axis powers in WWII, which led to their defeat.
Who is the current elected leader of Italy?
Matteo Renzi won the 2014 election. He is the youngest prime minister in modern Italian history.
I went to Italy and Greece with Teen Missions and I loved Italy! Super fun to evangelize in front of the Coliseum!
I went to Italy and Greece with TM as well! Gabrielle and I are making a video about it.
i like trains
This was interesting. It showed how much information I retained from my Edgenuity classes!