Not only is Italy one of the most popular tourist destinations in the entire world, but it is also one of the ancient foundations of civilization. With a rich culture and history, Italy is admired far and beyond for its attributes. It is a country filled with interesting heritage, delicious food, sophisticated wine, crystal clear lakes, sandy beaches, rocky mountains, and even ancient Roman ruins. There is no way you won’t fall in love with Italy on your visit! While most visitors mostly stay in popular cities like Rome or Venice, there is actually plenty more to discover about this beautiful European country! Countryside villages of Italy are just as beautiful as its bustling cities, and you do not have to fight crowds to admire the unknown beauty. To help you get a better grasp on what to look for during your next trip to Italy, we have prepared this list of Top 10 Hidden Secrets about Italian Culture and Traditions, which shows some of the lesser-known facts about this country!
Popular Roman ruins
Everybody has heard of the Colosseum or the Pantheon - the most globally recognizable parts of Italian culture and traditions. These ancient buildings are some of the few Roman buildings that have actually been preserved over thousands of years and are still in good condition! However, while most tourists visit only the most popular Roman ruins, there is actually a lot of hidden ones to explore, of which most tourists have no idea. For example, the port town of Herculaneum is a fascinating sight to see. The ancient town was destroyed by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius and was covered in volcanic ash for years, similarly to the famous city of Pompei. The town has been preserved perfectly under the ash, leaving most of the ancient buildings intact. The city was discovered in the year 1709, during the construction of a well.
Italy interesting cities
When it comes to Italy, there is really a lot to choose from when it comes to interesting cities. While Rome or Venice are definitely staples of Italian culture and traditions, they are also frequently swarmed by hordes of tourists, making the trip to those big cities a rather unpleasant experience. We recommend visiting Rome, Venice, and Florence outside the season, as the prices are definitely smaller and you won’t be waiting in lines for ages. If you want to catch some of the warm sun during the Italian summer, we recommend visiting the less obvious tourist destinations, such as Verona. The city is famous for being the setting of Romeo and Juliet, and it houses a magnificent city center that was built back in medieval times. Another less obvious city to visit would be Bologna, which is widely recognized for its beautiful architecture, tasty cuisine, and friendly people.
Region of Tuscany
The Italian countryside is perhaps even more gorgeous than what the cities can offer. The beautiful region of Tuscany is often considered as one of the prettiest places around the entire world, with its rolling hills and nesting houses. It is home to Florence, Siena, and Pisa, which are some of the most romantic cities in Italy. The whole region is filled with modest yes beautiful cathedrals, which are very often adorned with gorgeous works of art. We also recommend visiting the colorful Umbria, one of the lesser-known regions of Italy. While Umbria does not border the sea, so you won't be able to find any beaches there, it fully compensates for this with its charm. The towns roll with the landscape, which is filled with orchards and fields. Moreover, it is one of the only places in Italy where you can find truffles, which are served in many restaurants with homemade pasta and authentic Italian sausages.
Natural beauty plays a huge part in Italy’s popularity as a tourist destination. The country is filled with gorgeous rolling landscapes, but one of its most distinctive features are its lakes. They are scenic and idyllic, filled with reflective crystal water and surrounded by mountain ranges. Because of the warm Italian climate, lakes make for perfect places for sunbathing and camping, as the weather is almost always sunny and warm. One of the most picturesque lakes of Italy is Lake Como, which was the shooting place of one of the James Bond movies. The nearby city, located at the shore of the lake, is filled with colorful buildings and surrounded by mountains and a lush forest. The deep and wide Lake Como features plenty of romantic boat trips, which are the most comfortable way of experiencing the natural beauty of Italy. If you look closely enough, you can get a glimpse of the beautiful Belle Epoque villas, which are located by the shore.
Historic center of Rome
If you’re looking for attractions, Italy is filled with all kinds of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, over a fifty in total. Italy actually holds the record for the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world! One of such sites is the famous historic center of Rome, which hosts the beautiful Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well. For a great family trip, we recommend visiting the archeological sites around the city of Pompei, which was buried under lava and volcanic ash almost two thousand years ago. The city was only discovered in the 16th century, and the works to uncover the city took over two hundred years. Pompei is also the perfect place to see an almost intact ancient city - the foundation of Italian culture and traditions.
Alps and Dolomites
While most of the tourists visiting Italy think only about the beaches on the coast, the geography of Italy is actually very diverse. It features three active volcanoes: Etna, Stromboli, and Vesuvius, which are the only active volcanoes in all of Europe. Due to its peculiar location, Italy is also the country with the most earthquakes out of all European countries. The north of the country is filled with snowy peaks and glaciers, separated by green rolling valleys. The Alps and Dolomites are some of the most popular mountain ranges for skiing enthusiasts in Europe. As you venture to the south of Italy, you will see more and more flat plains, filled with green fields and vineyards and crossed by small rivers. Finally, the southernmost part of Italy is where the volcanoes are at - Vesuvius on the mainland, and the rest at the surrounding islands.
While the Greek culture separated art from politics and preferred to stay within the sphere of secular values, Romans had their culture filled with gorgeous sculptures and majestic paintings. Not only were Romans creative artists, but they were also inventors, as it was the ancient Romans who pioneered portraits, historical paintings, and painting landscapes. Art was used to picture the power of the Roman Empire, but that soon changed during the Christianization of the country, after which art was meant to be created in service to the church. During the Renaissance, Italy became the leading country in the whole world when it came to cultural influence - with artists and inventors such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and others, Italy quickly became the number one topic among the royal courts of the world. Nowadays, Italy still continues to produce amazing modern art, the biggest collection of which can be seen at the National Gallery of Modern Art.
Famous Italian food
Italian restaurants are a common sight in almost every part of the world, but no foreign place offers the truly authentic experience of Italian cuisine. The Mediterranean dishes are savory, light, and filled with fresh herbs and vegetables. One of the famous Italian food inventions is pasta, of which you have undoubtedly heard. However, every region of Italy has its own special variety of pasta. Rome, for example, serves primarily pasta alla carbonara, which is prepared from eggs and cheese, often mixed with meat made from pork cheeks. The most famous part of the Italian cuisine, however, is definitely pizza, which originates from Naples and is usually served as a simple dish with few toppings and thin, crunchy dough. The most popular toppings for pizza in Italian cuisine are mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, basil, garlic, and olive oil.
Did you know that Italy actually produces a third of the bottles of wine sold in the entire world? Most of the wine made in Italy is exported all over the world, and the Italian culture and traditions of winemaking began almost four thousand years ago, as the Mediterranean climate provides the perfect conditions for growing wine. Italy was also the place where prosecco was invented, which is a widely popular alternative to champagne, as it is way more affordable. Every year, over 100 million bottles are sold all over the world. It is also a quick wine to make, as it does not age long. However, while most of the wine goes to export, the locals love wine as well. On average, an Italian drinks as much as 54 liters of wine every year!
Things to do in Italy
Festivals and carnivals play a huge part in Italian culture, as people come together to celebrate with tasty food, loud music, and colorful costumes. The famous Carnevale, which takes place between January and February in Venice, swallows the entire city as it turns into one huge masked ball. You can witness water parades, concerts, and an abundance of street performances for free, but prepare to pay a lot for a ticket if you wish to visit one of the masked balls.