Dennis Jarvis,

Italy is such a warm place in its climate, culture, and people. But many don’t realize that it has actually only been a united country since 1861! It is currently the fifth most visited country in the world, and is only around the size of the state of Arizona.

Italy has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country, coming in at 50 unique locations. (Many of which should be destinations when you are planning a trip there.) Europe actually has three active volcanoes, and they are all in Italy.

If you think of pizza when you think of Italy you’re right on target, the delicious dish was first invented in Naples back in 1860. And pasta has been eaten in Italy since at least the fourth century B.C.! Gelato is another local favorite, and the average Italian eats about half a pound of bread each day. The ice cream cone was actually invented in Italy, saving many a paper cups.

Another thing you probably associated with Italy is wine. The country is in fact the world’s largest exporter, so yes they take their wine pretty seriously over there. The average Italian drinks about 26 gallons of wine each year. Espresso is another popular drink, and around 14 billion of them are consumed each year. Cafes and restaurants are all over the place and frequented by locals and tourists alike. The service industry is actual responsible for a whopping 70 percent of the Italian economy.

The Roman Catholic Church is based in Italy, and while 95 percent of Italians are Roman Catholic, only around 30 percent of them go to church regularly. Many Italians still get exorcisms when they feel the need, and there is an island called Poveglia in Italy that is thought by most to be incredibly haunted. It is estimated that over 100,000 have died on the small island, thanks to its history of attack, a plague quarantine spot, and a place to send mentally ill people. In 2014 it was announced that a 99 year lease was taken out on the island with hopes that the mental asylum be turned into a hotel.

While Vatican City is technically in Italy, it is actually a country itself and the smallest one out there. In addition to Vatican City Italy touches borders with Austria, France, San Marino, Slovenia, and Switzerland. San Marino in Italy is the oldest republic in the world, having been around since 301 A.D. It has the oldest continuous constitution in existence.

Interestingly Italians are thought to have very large families, but these days the country has one of lowest birth rates and the average person has less than two children. Even so it is still one of the more populated countries. Still today more than a third of Italian men between the ages of 30 and 35 still live at home with their parents, that’s quite normal. And here’s an interesting thought…one third of all Italians have never used the internet.

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