Facts About Italy and Italians
The emblem of the Republic of Italy is a white, five-pointed star with a red border. The star is placed on a cog wheel and framed by an olive branch and an oak branch. The star is referred to as la Stella d'Italia.
The words REPVBBLICA ITALIANA are displayed on a red tape.
1a. Italy is divided into twenty regions known as le regioni. The regions are:
Valle d'Aosta, Piemonte, Liguria, Lombardia, Trentino-Alto-Adige, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia,
Emilia-Romagna, Toscana, Umbria, Marche, Lazio, Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata,
Calabria, Sicilia, Sardegna. The capital city, Rome, belongs to the region of Lazio.
Each region is further divided into areas called le province. Each provincia has a main town (rather like a capital city for the area). Post codes and car number plates indicate the provincia to which they belong by using two letters, for example:
PI belongs to the provincia of Pisa.
SI belongs to Siena.
VR belongs to Verona.
There are also 14 province that are classed as Italian Metropolitan Cities - le Città Metropolitane d'Italia. These province include the major cities of Italy. They are: Bari (BA), Bologna (BO), Cagliari (CA), Catania (CT), Firenze (FI), Genova (GE), Messina (ME), Milano (MI), Napoli (NA), Palermo (PA), Reggio Calabria (RC),
Roma (RM), Torino (TO), Venezia (VE).
2. The Italian flag consists of three vertical stripes of equal proportion in the colours: verde bianco rosso.
It is known as la bandiera d'Italia and also as il Tricolore.
3. The patron saint of Italy is Saint Francis of Assisi - San Francesco d'Assisi. His real name was Giovanni, but he loved the French language so much that he was nicknamed Francesco (meaning - Frenchy.) He is also the patron saint of nature and animals.
4. The Italian language - la lingua italiana - is the official language of Italy, however, there are many regional dialects and languages in Italy such as il sardo in Sardinia, il napoletano in the area of Naples, il siciliano in the area of Sicily, etc.
5. The Italian national anthem is called Il Canto degli Italiani (The Song of the Italians.) It is also called Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) and l'Inno di Mameli (Mameli's Hymn) because the lyrics were written by Goffredo Mameli.
6. Italy is quite a 'new country'. It became one unified country in 1861 under a king called Vittorio Emanuele II. Before this date, it was divided into independent regions. The period of unification of Italy during the 19th. century is known as Il Risorgimento.
The date of the unification of Italy - 17 March 1861 - is celebrated every year. The 17 March is called la Festa dell'Unità d'Italia.
Vittorio Emanuele II reigned as King of a united Italy from 17 March 1861 till his death on 9 January 1878.
He was known as il Padre della Patria - The Father of the Country.
His title was Re d'Italia - King of Italy.
The last king of Italy was Umberto II in 1946 and he reigned for just over one month (most of the month of May) and for that reason he has the nickname 'il Re di Maggio' - the May King. During 1946, Italy held a referendum and voted that the country should become a republic with no monarchy. King Umberto went into exile.
7. The Italian way to say the following places and cities is-
Italia (Italy), Roma (Rome), Milano (Milan), Firenze (Florence), Napoli (Naples), Torino (Turin), Genova (Genoa), Venezia (Venice), Sicilia (Sicily), Sardegna (Sardinia),
Toscana (Tuscany), Livorno (Leghorn), Padova (Padua), Mantova (Mantua).
The capital city of Italy is Rome - Roma and its nickname is la Città Eterna, meaning 'the eternal city.' It is considered 'eternal' because it is so ancient and seems to live forever. There is also a saying: Tutte le strade portano a Roma, meaning 'All roads lead to Rome.' This is because the main roads of the ancient Roman Empire all led to Rome.
The emblem of Rome (la stemma di Roma) is a red shield with a golden crown on top. On the shield there is a golden cross and the letters SPQR which stand for the Latin words: Senatus PopulusQue Romanus. In Italian these words mean: il Senato e il Popolo Romano (Senate and People of Rome).
Some more nicknames for Italian cities:
a. la Superba (the superb one) for Genova.
b. Venice - Venezia is known as la Serenissima (the very serene one) and also as la Regina dell'Adriatico (the queen of the Adriatic).
c. Turin - Torino - is known as the magic city - la Città Magica.
un soprannome = a nickname
8. In Italy, people celebrate their name day. If you have the same name as a Christian saint or a name that is associated with a Christian saint or event, you will have a name day. The Italian word for 'the name day' is l' onomastico.
On every day of the year at least one saint's name or an event is celebrated, for example -
a. San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist) on 24 June.
Some related names are: Giovanni, Giovanna, Battistina.
b. Sant'Antonio di Padova (St. Anthony of Padua) on 13 June.
Some related names are: Antonio, Antonia, Antonella, Antonino.
c. Natale (Christmas Day) on 25 December.
Some related names are: Natale, Natalia, Natalino, Natalina.
On special occasions like name days and birthdays, people say Auguri! (Best wishes.)
9. When Italians wish somebody 'good luck' they say 'in the wolf's mouth' - in bocca al lupo.
This is rather like saying 'Break a leg!' before someone performs on stage. In other words - you are wishing something bad rather than good so as not to 'tempt fate.'
The usual way to reply is to say "Crepi il lupo" meaning - May the wolf die.
10. THE FOUNDATION OF ROME:
There is a famous Italian story about a wolf. It is the legend of Romulus and Remus (born in 771 B.C.) - the twin brothers who founded Rome. In Italian they are known as Romolo e Remo.
Their great-uncle, King Amulius, ordered that the new-born twins should be killed as he feared that one day they would overthrow him. The babies were taken from their mother and abandoned in a basket on the banks of the River Tiber - il Tevere.
The baby boys were very lucky because a she-wolf found them and looked after them as if she was their mother. She took the twins to a cave called la Grotta del Lupercale and fed them with her milk. Eventually, a shepherd and his wife found the baby boys and raised them in their home.
According to the legend, when the boys grew up, Romulus killed his brother in a quarrel over where their new city should be situated. Romulus became the first King of Rome in 753 B.C., naming the city after himself and establishing it on the Palatine Hill.
The famous statue of the baby boys drinking the wolf's milk can be seen in the museum in Rome called Musei Capitolini. In Italy this statue is known as La Lupa Capitolina.
The statue is a symbol of Rome and of the city's foundation.
The foundation of Rome is celebrated in the city each year on 21 April. This has been calculated to be the day in the year 753 B.C. on which Romulus founded it. The annual celebration is known as il Natale di Roma. There are lots of activities throughout the day in Rome, such as processions with participants dressed as soldiers and citizens of Ancient Rome.
Rome was built on seven hills called i sette colli di Roma but the first hill in the city's foundation was the Palatine Hill - il Palatino. The other hills are:
Aventine Hill - l'Aventino
Capitoline Hill - il Monte Capitolino
Esquiline Hill - l'Esquilino
Caelian Hill - il Celio
Quirinal Hill - il Quirinale
Viminal Hill - il Viminale
11. The 15th. of August is a very important Italian holiday known as Ferragosto. It was, originally, an ancient Roman celebration. It began around 18 B.C. when the Emperor Augustus declared that the month of August should be a time for resting, parties and celebration of the goddess Diana and the harvest.
When Italy became Christian, the celebrations continued. Italians still try to rest as much as possible during the month of August by taking long holidays and enjoying themselves, but instead of celebrating the goddess Diana, they now celebrate when the Virgin Mary went to Heaven - also known as The Assumption of Mary into Heaven.
Firework displays take place on the night of 15 August and people say 'Auguri di buon Ferragosto!' or 'Buone feste!' to each other.
12. I VULCANI - VOLCANOES
There are many volcanoes in Italy but most of them are not active. The word 'volcano' comes from the name of the ancient Roman god of fire (Vulcanus).
The most famous Italian volcanoes are still active:- they are Etna, Vesuvio and Stromboli.
Vesuvio is the volcano that destroyed the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 A.D.
In Italian, these towns are Ercolano and Pompei Antica. (Image below: Vesuvio)
A young Roman called Pliny the Younger wrote a very detailed description of the eruption of Vesuvio in 79 A.D. He was 17 years old when he observed the eruption and this is what he wrote:
"I cannot give you a more exact description of its appearance than by comparing it to a pine tree; for it shot up to a great height in the form of a tall trunk, which spread out at the top as though into branches. Occasionally it was brighter, occasionally darker and spotted, as it was filled with earth and cinders."
(Sixth Book of Letters, Letter 16.)
The excavation of the area allows us to see everyday Roman life around 2000 years ago. It is like a time capsule. Below you can see an excavated road of Pompei Antica and how the pedestrians crossed the roads using stepping stones. The gaps between the stones allowed the wheels of carriages to pass through. You can also see an image of pillars and brickwork of Pompeii, with the volcano in the background.
Stromboli is both a volcano and an island. It belongs to the Aeolian Islands - in Italian: le Isole Eolie. These islands lie in the area of the Mediterranean Sea called the Tyrrhenian Sea - il Mar Tirreno. The island of Stromboli lies thirty-five miles north of Sicily. In fact, it is part of the region of Sicily.
Stromboli is a very interesting volcano because it is erupting continually. It has been erupting every day for at least the last 2000 years. The eruptions are small and quick and they take place during every hour of every day. Each hour there are several eruptions or more!
At night, you can see the red glow of the lava. For this reason, Stromboli is known as the oldest lighthouse in the world. Unlike other active volcanoes, Stromboli is 'friendly' because it helps and guides sailors at night.
At one side, the slopes are black and smooth because this is where the lava and ash flow and fall. These slopes are known as 'the flow of fire' (la Sciara del Fuoco) and you can even watch the flowing lava and ash from a boat at the foot of the slopes!
The volcano Etna is larger than Stromboli and Vesuvio: in fact it is the highest volcano in Europe. It is situated on the Italian island of Sicily and is considered to be one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It erupts frequently - and thousands of people live on its slopes!
Etna has four main craters and several hundred small vents.
Below are photos of Mount Etna and dead trees (from a lava flow) on its slopes.