Facts About Italy and Italians
Part 2

21.  There are many Italian islands.  The largest is Sicily (Sicilia in Italian).  It has a famous flag with a red and yellow background.   In the centre of the flag is a three-legged figure called La Trinacria.  This figure has the head of Medusa and is surrounded by three ears of wheat.  It is believed that the three legs represent the three corners of Sicily - as the island is triangular in shape.  The wheat represents the fertility of the land and the head of Medusa protects Sicily.

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The capital city of Sicily is Palermo.

The second largest Italian island is Sardinia (Sardegna in Italian).  The capital city is Cagliari.    Sardinia has a very interesting flag, consisting of the cross of St. George - a red cross on a white background.   In each white corner of the flag there is the head of a Moor wearing a white bandana.  The four Moors are called I Quattro Mori and they are the symbol of Sardinia.   Read more about Sardinia.

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The island of Sardinia lies in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea - il Mar Mediterraneo - just south of the French island Corsica.

The north-east coast of Sardinia is called la Costa Smeralda - the Emerald Coast.  It is a very expensive holiday destination.  In the summer months, it is visited by the yachts of royal families, and famous people.

The third largest Italian island is Elba.  It is called l'Isola d'Elba in Italian and belongs to the Italian region of Tuscany - Toscana.   The island of Elba is famous because the French emperor Napoleon I (Napoleon Bonaparte) lived there for about ten months when he was sent into exile from France in 1814.  

The flag of Elba consists of a white background, a red stripe and three golden bees.  It was designed by Napoleon.

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Some smaller islands of Italy are:  Capri, Ischia, Procida, Favignana and Lampedusa.  The island of Capri is very famous for its breathtaking landscape.  It is situated in the Bay of Naples and it is high and rocky.  One of the most visited places in Capri is the Blue Grotto - la Grotta Azzurra.  The grotto is a sea cave where the effects of sunlight give the water a beautiful, blue colour.

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22.   Venice is a city in north-east Italy.  In Italian, it is called Venezia and it is the capital city of the region of Veneto.  It is built on around 120 little islands in a lagoon of the Adriatic Sea - il Mar Adriatico.   The lagoon is called la Laguna di Venezia (the Venetian Lagoon).   The little islands are connected by over 400 bridges.  The roads are canals filled with a mixture of salt water and fresh water.  

Here you can see St. Mark's bell tower.  It belongs to la Basilica di San Marco - St. Mark's Basilica, situated in the main square of Venice: la Piazza San Marco. 

In Italian the bell tower is called il Campanile di San Marco.  It stands almost 100 metres high and is the tallest building in Venice.

St. Mark (San Marco) is the patron saint of Venice.

Image by Eugene Zhyvchik
Image by Carlos Coronado

At the top of the bell tower's spire there is a statue of the Archangel Gabriel.  In Italian, he is called San Gabriele Arcangelo.

The bell tower is considered to be the symbol of Venice.  For that reason, it has a nickname: il Padrone di Casa, meaning 'the owner of the house'.

Two interesting facts: 
1.  Originally, the bell tower was used as a lighthouse and watch tower.
2.  In 1902, the bell tower collapsed and was reduced to rubble.  It was re-built according to its original design.

Below is an old photo showing the rubble after the collapse of the bell tower in 1902.

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Due to the fact that the roads are canals, Venice is the largest car-free residential area in the world!  This proves that it is possible for a modern city to function without the existence of cars and lorries!  The main canal of Venice is called il Canal Grande - the Grand Canal (below).

Image by Christian Holzinger

The traditional way to travel in Venice is by a boat called una gondola.  The person who rows una gondola is called un gondoliere.

La gondola is made of wood, painted black and is hand-made.   The reason why they are black is because the original method to preserve the wood involved coating it in black pitch or tar.  This substance is called la pece in Italian.

One of the most famous bridges in Venice is called the Bridge of Sighs.  In Italian - Il Ponte dei Sospiri.   It is believed that the bridge was given this name because it led to a prison and the prisoners would 'sigh' as they walked across it. 

 According to a tradition and belief of Venice,  if two partners kiss as they pass under the Bridge of Sighs in a gondola at sunset whilst the bells of San Marco are ringing, they will have eternal love and happiness together!

Image by Nick Karvounis

Images:  The Bridge of Sighs.  In Italian - Il Ponte dei Sospiri.