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Facts About Italy and Italians
Part 3

31.   In Rome, there is a famous building called il Castel Sant' Angelo. - the Castle of the Holy Angel. 
It was built beside the River Tiber - il Tevere - around the year 134 A.D. by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. 
In Italian he is known as l'Imperatore Adriano.   This emperor is also famous for commanding the construction of Hadrian's Wall in the north of England.



Originally, the building was intended as the mausoleum for the emperor.  In other words, he was building his own future tomb! 

The original name for the building was il Mausoleo di Adriano - Hadrian's Mausoleum.



The emperor also arranged for the construction of a bridge to span the River Tiber and to lead to his mausoleum.  The bridge was called Hadrian's Bridge - il Ponte di Adriano.

Over the centuries, the mausoleum has also been used as a castle, a military fortress and as a prison.

According to a legend from the late 6th. century,  an angel (the Archangel Michael) was seen hovering above the mausoleum.  The angel announced to the people of Rome that the terrible outbreak of the plague was coming to an end.   Soon afterwards, the names of both the building and the bridge were changed to il Castel Sant'Angelo - the Castle of the Holy Angel and  il Ponte Sant'Angelo - the Bridge of the Holy Angel in honour of the Archangel Michael. 

A statue of the Archangel Michael - San Michele Arcangelo - was placed on the rooftop of the mausoleum to commemorate the apparition of the Archangel in the 6th century.  The current bronze statue was created by the Flemish sculptor Pieter Antoon Verschaffelt and replaced an earlier one.  It was placed on the rooftop in 1753.

Image by Michele Bitetto
Statue of Saint Michael at the top of Sa

In 1669, the famous artist and sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini was asked by the Pope to design ten statues of angels to be placed along the sides of the bridge leading to il Castel Sant'Angelo.  Each angel holds an item that belongs to the story of the Crucifixion of Jesus.The angel statues were sculpted by different artists according to the designs of Bernini

Each angel has a name:
1.  Angelo con la Colonna - Angel with the Column
(sculptor: Antonio Raggi)
2.  Angelo con i Flagelli - Angel with the Whips
(sculptor:  Lazzaro Morelli) 
3.  Angelo con la Corona di Spine - Angel with the Crown of Thorns(sculptor:  the original statue was created by Bernini and is visible in the church called la basilica di Sant'Andrea delle Fratte.  A copy of this statue was created by Paolo Naldini and placed on the bridge.)
4.  Angelo con la Spugna - Angel with the Sponge(sculptor:  Antonio Giorgetti)


Angel with the Whips


Angel with the Crown of Thorns


Angel with the Sponge

5.  Angelo con il Volto Santo - Angel with Veronica's Veil
(sculptor:  Cosimo Fancelli)
6.  Angelo con la Veste e i Dadi  - Angel with the Garment and the Dice
(sculptor:  Paolo Naldini)
7.  Angelo con i Chiodi - Angel with the Nails
(sculptor:  Girolamo Lucenti)
8.  Angelo con la Croce  - Angel with the Cross
(sculptor:  Ercole Ferrata)
9.  Angelo con il Cartiglio  - Angel with the Superscription
(sculptor:  the original statue was created by Bernini and is visible in the church called
la basilica di Sant'Andrea delle Fratte.  A copy of this statue was created by Giulio Cartari with the assistance of Bernini himself and placed on the bridge.)
10.  Angelo con la Lancia - Angel with the Lance
(sculptor:  Domenico Guidi)

The next three facts (32,33,34) are also related to the story of Jesus and The Crucifixion:

32 The real staircase that Jesus walked up for His trial can be found in Rome.   It is called la Scala Santa and it was transported from Jerusalem to Rome by Saint Helena (Sant' Elena) in the year 326 AD. 

The staircase belonged to the house where Ponzio Pilato- Pontius Pilate -  lived.

The tradition is to go up the staircase on your knees, whilst praying. 
The staircase is situated in an area of Rome called Laterano.

In English, the staircase is called the Holy Stairs.
33.  There is a very famous statue carved out of marble and situated in la Basilica di San Pietro (St. Peter's Basilica) of the Vatican City.  It depicts Jesus being held in His mother's arms after the Crucifixion. 

The sculpture is called La Pietà and it was created by Michelangelo in the years 1498 - 1499.
The Pieta by Michelangelo. Renaissance s
34 The Last Supper is called Il Cenacolo in Italian.  This event is commemorated on Holy Thursday - il Giovedi Santo.  The most famous painting of Il Cenacolo was created by Leonardo da Vinci in the 1490s.
It portrays the Last Supper of Jesus with His disciples, before His arrest, trial and Crucifixion.

Leonardo painted the moment when Jesus announces that one of His disciples will betray Him.  The disciples are reacting with surprise and disbelief.

It is painted on a wall inside the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.  
35 The Trevi Fountain - la Fontana di Trevi - is a very famous fountain in Rome, designed by the Italian architect Nicola Salvi.  It is over 26 metres high and almost 50 metres wide, making it the largest fountain in Rome.  
 The fountain was completed in the year 1762.  Its designer, Nicola Salvi, died before its completion.  The work was finished by Giuseppe Pannini. 

The fountain stands in front of a building called
il Palazzo Poli in a square called la Piazza di Trevi in a region of Rome called Trevi. 

The name Trevi originates from the words tre vie meaning 'three roads'.  

The water of the fountain comes from a restored ancient Roman aqueduct that was called Aqua Virgo.  This water was traditionally considered good for health and people would drink from the fountain.   Nowadays, the water in the fountain is not drinkable as it is recycled.

The aqueduct is also known as l'Acquedotto dell' Acqua Vergine.
Trevi fountain at sunrise, Rome, Italy.
Trevi Fountain.jpg
 The theme of the fountain is 'the sea.'

A statue of Oceanus stands in the centre.  In Italian he is called Oceano.  His chariot is being pulled by two sea horses.  One horse is wild and the other is tame, representing how the sea can change from calm to rough.

Each horse is guided by the statue of a sea god known as a triton.

There are two statues on each side of Oceanus.  One represents 'abundance' and the other represents 'health'.
The Trevi Fountain has been used in scenes of famous films such as - la Dolce Vita, directed by Federico Fellini,  Three Coins in the Fountain and Roman Holiday.

When visiting the Trevi Fountain, the tradition is to turn your back to it, close your eyes and throw a coin over your left shoulder (using your right hand) into the water.  It is believed that this will bring you the good fortune to return to Rome one day!

If you decide to throw a second coin into the fountain, this will bring you the good fortune to fall in love with someone! 
 Amore mio!
 Ti amo!
If you decide to throw a third coin into the fountain, this will bring you the good fortune of getting married! 
 Vorresti sposarmi?
How many coins (monetine) - will you decide to throw into the Trevi Fountain?  Una, due o tre?

It is estimated that around three thousand euros are collected each day from the fountain.  This money is donated to the Italian charity called Caritas.

36.   Italy is a leading country in fashion design.  Some of the most famous Italian fashion designers and fashion houses are:  Armani, Gucci, Prada, Versace, Valentino, Bulgari, Fendi and Dolce & Gabbana.

la moda
= the fashion     lo stilista = the fashion designer

In the evening, Italians love to stroll wearing fashionable clothes.  They speak to friends, sit at bars and look in shop windows.  This tradition is called la passeggiata (the stroll).  During la passeggiata, it is important to fare la bella figura - to look good!

37.   The main airline of Italy is called ITA Airways.  Its headquarters are in Rome at the principal airport called Leonardo da Vinci - Fiumicino.   The letters ITA stand for: Italia Trasporto Aereo.  

There is a second airport in Rome called Ciampino.


38.   Italy is a mountainous country.  The highest mountain in Western Europe is Monte Bianco (White Mountain) situated in the Alps - le Alpi.   Monte Bianco has a summit over 4,800 metres high. 

The mountain stands between Italy and France and its summit officially marks the border between the two countries. 

Inside the mountain there is a tunnel running between France and Italy.  The tunnel is 11.6 km long and was opened in 1965.   In Italian, the tunnel is called il traforo del Monte Bianco.

The Apennine Mountains - gli Appennini - are nicknamed 'the backbone of Italy' because they run down through the middle of the Italian peninsula rather like a spine.  In Italian, this nickname is la Spina Dorsale dell'Italia.   The Apennines are divided into three sections: northern (settentrionale), central (centrale) and southern (meridionale). 

The Dolomites - i Dolomiti - are a mountain range in north-east Italy  They have the nickname 'pale mountains' - Monti Pallidi.  They have the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site - un Sito Patrimonio Mondiale.


39.   There are some famous rivers in Italy.  The river Po flows across northern Italy and is the longest Italian river.  It is 652 km long and flows from its source in Piemonte towards the Adriatic Sea through the cities of Turin, Piacenza and Cremona. 


The second longest Italian river is l'Adige. 
It is 410 km in length and flows from the region Trentino-Alto Adige

The river runs through the city of Verona towards the Adriatic Sea. (Pictured.)

The River Tiber (in Italian: il fiume Tevere) is the third longest river in Italy.  It is 406 km in length and begins in the northern Apennine mountains, flowing through the regions of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio towards the Tyrrhenian Sea (an area of the Mediterranean Sea).

The Tiber is well-known as the river that flows through the city of Rome.  The most famous part is where it flows under the historic bridge il Ponte Sant'Angelo, (below).  There is also a small island situated in the River Tiber in the centre of Rome called the Tiber Island - l'Isola Tiberina.

Image by Willian West

The River Arno flows through the cities of Pisa and Florence.   It is 241 km in length and flows towards the Ligurian Sea (a part of the Mediterranean Sea).  The most visited part of this river is where it flows under the historic bridge called il Ponte Vecchio (meaning: the Old Bridge) in Florence. (Below.) 

Image by Vicky Tao

40.    In Italy, the youngest children attend nursery school:- la scuola materna.   At the age of six years, Italian children begin primary school:- la scuola elementare.  It is also called la scuola primaria.  There is no school uniform at Italian primary schools, but pupils must wear a long-sleeved overall on top of their clothes.  This school overall is called un grembiule and its colour varies according to where you live.  In some areas it is white.  Sometimes it is dark blue or black.   The nursery school grembiule is usually pale blue for boys and pink for girls.

 Il grembiule can be 'personalised' by attaching a motif.  


Pictured here is a typical primary school grembiule.  Would you like to dress like this at school?  What do you think your friends would look like?  The overall is worn by children until they finish their primary education at eleven years of age.

Pupils purchase a school diary - un diario - for each school year.  Italian shops stock lots of different styles and makes, especially at the end of the summer holidays, ready for the new term.  It is always a very big decision when choosing a school diary because it has to look fashionable. 


The Italian word for 'homework' is - i compiti.

At the age of eleven until fourteen years, Italian pupils attend a high school known as 'middle school' - la scuola media.  

At the age of fourteen, pupils start 'senior school' - la scuola superiore.  They stay at this school until they are nineteen years old.  When they leave this school they receive a diploma called il Diploma di Esame di Stato (also known as il Diploma di Maturità) and it is the qualification required to attend university.  

L'Università = University
The word for 'university degree' is la laurea.  This word is linked to the word 'laurel' and at Italian degree ceremonies the graduates wear a laurel wreath on their heads. This wreath is known as una corona d'alloro.

corona di alloro.jpg

Many pupils go home for lunch as this is the main meal of the day in Italy.  However, if you have a school dinner it is referred to as la mensa.  Pupils also take a snack to school - it is called la merenda.  A typical merenda is a sandwich (un panino) and a fruit juice (un succo di frutta) and it is eaten mid-morning at school.


The school holidays are called le ferie.  The summer holidays are very long in Italian schools, starting around mid-June and ending around mid September.

41.    The most widely-eaten and traditional food in Italy is la pasta.  It is believed that the Italian explorer, Marco Polo, introduced the idea of pasta to Italy in the 13th. century.  He spent many years in China and brought noodles with him when he returned to Italy.

The word pasta actually means 'paste'.  It is a paste of flour, water and sometimes egg.

Nowadays, there are hundreds of different pasta shapes available!

There are two types of pasta:  dried pasta - la pastasciutta and fresh pasta - la pasta fresca.  The dried variety is the more common one.  It has been dried hard so that it will keep for a long time.   It is packaged and stocked in supermarkets all over the world.   Fresh pasta remains soft and only keeps for a maximum of two or three days in the refrigerator. 

making pasta

Image: preparing fresh pasta.  

More information about pasta and Italian food can be found in our
Food Zone.

42.    In the north of Italy there are some very beautiful lakes.  Perhaps the most famous Italian lakes are: 
il Lago di Como, il Lago di Lugano, il Lago di Garda and il Lago Maggiore.

il lago = the lake

Image: Lake Como (Wikimedia) 

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