20 Interesting Facts about Italian REGIONS: Journey through History, Art and Traditions

Big or small, every Italian region has its own facts that make it unique and special! Buckle up and get ready for take-off, we’re about to take a virtual trip from north to south to discover them all!

What makes Italian REGIONS Unique?

In this article we’ll take a virtual trip from north to south to discover interesting facts about the Italian regions. Are you ready? Let’s go!

Valle d’Aosta

Valle d’Aosta is the smallest Italian region and lies between the Alps. Precisely between these mountains is located ‘Colle del Gran San Bernardo’ (Great St Bernard Pass), from which the breed of dog San Bernardo takes its name. But what’s the history behind it?

On the Great St Bernard Pass, as far back as the year 1100, there was a hospice run by monks where passers-by were welcomed to rest and shelter from the cold before resuming their journey.

The monks used large dogs to rescue travellers in the snow or fog, to transport food and drink, to defend themselves against thieves and to operate certain machines. Over the centuries they kept crossing different breeds until they obtained the current St Bernard, perfect for living in the mountains.

Umbria

Umbria is called “the heart of Italy”, because it’s the most central region of our country.

But that’s not all! The heart is also a symbol of love and it’s in this land that the Saint associated with love was born: Saint Valentine.

Originally from Terni, Saint Valentine is a Christian saint and martyr. He was also bishop of the same city where he’s still celebrated as patron today.

Here it’s also possible to visit the Cathedral where he not only celebrated Mass, but married young lovers fleeing their families to escape hostile fates and marriages of convenience.

Liguria

Liguria is known for its typical cliffside villages overlooking the sea.

Movies set in Italy often feature scenes set in these places. Did you know that Disney even set an entire film there?

Needless to say, we’re talking about an animated film, ‘Luca’. Have you watched it?

It tells the story of Luca, a young Italian sea monster who can take on human form and who befriends Alberto, a courageous fellow sea monster of his age. Together, the two go out to discover the world of humans.

The story takes place in the village of Portorosso, in Liguria. This village does not actually exist but is inspired by the villages of Cinque Terre.

Feel like visiting Liguria? Discover our tips on what to see and do in Cinque Terre!

Molise

Italians often jokingly refer to Molise as ‘the region that doesn’t exist’ because it’s a very small region that isn’t often heard of. Did you know that?

Nonetheless, Molise also has some interesting facts about it. For example, it hosts ‘the village of bells’, Agnone, where bells of excellence have been produced for centuries.

In a foundry there, bells are still made for churches in Italy and around the world. The Popes themselves, during the 1900s, requested the manufacture of bells to celebrate special occasions. This art has been perfected over the centuries and has been handed down for generations.

Lombardia

Did you know that stracciatella ice cream was born in Lombardia? Have you ever tried it? It’s an ice-cream flavour with milk, cream and dark chocolate chip.

It was 1961, at Caffè La Marianna. In Bergamo.

Enrico Panettoni, an emigrant from Tuscany and owner of the café, invented stracciatella ice cream.

As of today, La Marianna still produces stracciatella with the same machines used in the 1960s!

Trentino Alto Adige

Trentino Alto Adige is the region in Italy that produces the most apples, and Italy is among the countries that produce the most apples in Europe. If you visit Trentino Alto Adige you’ll see apple orchards everywhere, since the climate and terrain of this region are perfect for growing this fruit.

Every year, production is about 1.5 million tonnes in the entire Trentino Alto Adige region, which is about 15% of European production and about 70% of national production.

The varieties that have obtained the PGI quality mark (Protected Geographical Indication) are “Golden delicious”, “Red delicious”, “Gala”, “Fuji”, “Morgenduft”, “Renetta”, “Granny smith” and “Pinova”.

Puglia

A unique UNESCO site is located in Puglia, more precisely in Alberobello.

This small town is famous for its typical white stone houses with cone-shaped roofs, called trulli. These buildings date back to the 15th century and today there are more than 1500 of them.

The roofs of these houses are decorated with symbols made of lines with mysterious meanings: they are thought to be lucky charms linked to paganism, such as the cross and the sun, or magical symbols, such as the zodiac signs.

Veneto

Among the first words you learn in Italian is definitely ‘ciao‘.

Did you know that this greeting comes from the Venetian dialect, the local language spoken in the Venezia area?

Ciao‘ originates from the word ‘schiavo’ (slave) which people used to greet each other, as if to say “I’m at your service”.

Ciao‘ began to be used throughout Italy during the 1800s and spread to other parts of the world thanks to the great Italian immigration to other countries such as the United States, Germany and South America.

In some countries this word is spelled differently, according to the local language: in German it’s spelled ‘tschau‘ and in Portuguese ‘tchau‘. But what matters is that it comes from Italy, and more precisely from Veneto!

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Wait a minute… Didn’t we just say that Venezia is in Veneto? Then why does this region contain the word ‘Venezia’?

Its name comes from the name the Ancient Romans gave to this area, namely Venetia et Histria, which also included some territories in present-day Slovenia and Croatia, so the name has little to do with the city of Venezia we know today.

Lazio

Did you know that in Lazio there’s a town known as ‘the dying city’?

Its real name is Civita di Bagnoregio. It’s a typically Italian town, built on a mountain more than 2,500 years ago.

The problem is that the mountain on which the town is built is made of friable rock which easily erodes with water and wind, and is therefore destined to disappear. That is why the city is called like that.

As of today, this town still exists, although it’s almost uninhabited (it only has about ten inhabitants). That is why you should visit it soon!

Bear in mind, however, that the only way to reach it is to walk over a 300-metre bridge, as no means of transport are allowed.

Emilia Romagna

The famous Italian flag was born in this region, although with different purposes and characteristics from those of today.

In 1797 the Cispadane Republic was born in Reggio Emilia, a milestone in modern Italian history that contributed to the birth of the Democratic State about 60 years later.

It was on this occasion that the tricolour flag (with horizontal stripes and a symbol in the centre) made its first appearance: the people of Reggio are very proud of it and opened the Museo del Tricolore, a museum open to the public free of charge, in 2004.

Sicilia

Palermo has been elected European Capital of Street Food.

In a recent ranking by Forbes, Palermo was included among the five cities in the world with excellent street food, ranking first in Europe.

In particular, the magazine praised the quality of Palermo’s fried food, arancine (fried rice balls), as well as other traditional local dishes such as panelle with chickpeas, pane ca meusa (traditional bread with veal spleen), and frittola (fried veal offal).

Toscana

Everyone knows that Toscana is the home of culture, art and literature. It’s no coincidence that it’s the birthplace of Dante Alighieri. By the way, did you know that there is a day to celebrate him?

It’s Dantedì, a national day dedicated to Dante Alighieri, celebrated in Italy every year on March 25th.

However, Tuscany has also contributed to other things.

For example, did you know that, in 1339, the city of Florence was the first European city to pave its streets? Yes, it was the first to have paved streets.

The idea came from the rich banks and merchants of the time. Florence started a ‘fashion’ that, through the funding of Florentine bankers, influenced the rest of Europe.

Marche

Have you ever noticed that this region is the only in Italy to have a plural name?

Charlemagne and the emperors after him had entrusted a number of feudal lands to the nobles of this region, which were called “marchesati”, and this is where the current name of the region comes from.

The name may also have a Germanic origin that can be traced back to the word ‘Mark’, meaning border… Because, geographically, Marche marked one of the borders of the Holy Roman Empire.

Abruzzo

Did you know that Abruzzo has special constructions that can only be found there?

These are the Trabocchi (or trabucchi), large constructions made of platforms overlooking the sea, anchored to the rock by pine trunks that remain suspended over the water and are called antennae, which in turn support enormous nets.

In the past, these striking structures were used for fishing or as safe havens.

Today, on the other hand, trabocchi are home to high-class restaurants, offering the opportunity for suggestive dinners overlooking the sea.

Campania

The region of pizza also has an interesting fact about it, namely the legend of the witches of Benevento. It’s a story that dates back to at least the 13th century.

According to popular belief, there was a place in Benevento where all the witches used to gather: a walnut tree, called ‘Il Noce di Benevento‘.

During the day, witches looked just like regular women, but at night they would take flight and sing this magic song:

“Unguento, unguento

portami al noce di Benevento

sopra l’acqua e sopra il vento

e sopra ogni altro maltempo.”

“Ointment, ointment take me to the walnut-tree of Benevento, above the water and above the wind, and above all other bad weather.”

They were believed to be capable of doing horrible things such as causing miscarriages or deformities in babies.

Basilicata

If you go to Matera, you’ll notice that in many souvenir shops you can find stamps to put on bread.

This souvenir actually has a very important historical value: in fact, until the 1960s, Matera’s women kneaded bread at home and then left it to the young village boys who had the task of baking it and returning it once ready.

Since the number of families was so large, the custom arose of putting a stamp or one’s initials on the dough so that there would be no confusion when returning it and each family would receive its own bread.

Calabria

Calabria is the only place (in the world!) where bergamot, a fruit derived from the orange, grows. It has an intense fragrance and is less sweet than an orange.

Bergamot is known to be “the fruit of health” because it has many beneficial properties for our body. It’s a natural stress reliever, gives energy, is a remedy against hair loss and is anti-inflammatory.

But why does it only grow in Calabria? Calabria has the perfect soil and climate for this fruit that needs a lot of sun and water.

Sardegna

Have you ever thought of visiting a beach with pink sand? In Sardinia you can do just that!

This magical beach is located on the island of Budelli. The sand there has this unique colour thanks to a microorganism that has changed the composition of the sand over time, making it turn pink.

Given the uniqueness of this phenomenon, there are many rules to ensure that it’s not ruined. In fact, it’s not possible to walk on the sand or swim, but only to watch the beach from a distance. Moreover, it’s forbidden to take sand away from the island.

The island is also famous for being the place where people live the longest: it has entered the Guinness World Record for the high number of people who live to be over 100 years old. The reasons for this phenomenon are unknown, but it is thought to have something to do with genetics, climate, community and stress-free lifestyle and physical activity.

Piemonte

Turin was loved by Nietzsche.

He stayed in Turin from September 21st, 1888 to January 9th, 1889. It was a short period, but it was enough for the philosopher to fall in love with the city and its people.

He wrote to friends:

“There’s nothing bad to say about Turin: it’s a magnificent and singularly beneficent city. The problem of finding hermit-like quiet in extraordinarily beautiful and wide streets, within the best accommodation a city can offer, close, indeed very close, to its centre – this seemingly insoluble problem for large cities is solved here. Silence is still the rule here; animation, the «big city», is somewhat the exception. And all this with almost 300,000 inhabitants.”

The end of Nietzsche’s stay in Turin was definitely tragic, with an event that some believe marks the moment of his mental collapse.

On January 3rd, 1889, the philosopher, leaving his house, saw a coachman violently whipping and kicking his horse. Nietzsche, shocked by this unmotivated ferocity, ran to stop the man and, with tears in his eyes, began to hug and kiss the horse.

The philosopher was taken back to his room, still distraught as he shouted that he was “Dionysus” or “Jesus Crucified”.

It isn’t known whether this anecdote is true, what is known historically is that on that day, Nietzsche fainted in Carlo Alberto Square and that from then on he began writing to his friends, relatives and famous people of the time the so-called “madness notes”, letters in which he signed himself as “Dionysus” or “the Crucified”.

On January 9th, his friend Overbeck, a Protestant theologian and his former teacher, arrived in Torino to take Nietzsche away and have him treated in a psychiatric clinic in Basel.

Planning a trip? Discover 10 INCREDIBLE places to see in Turin!

If, on the other hand, you want to improve your Italian in preparation for a trip to the Belpaese, you can book individual Italian lessons with me (Graziana Filomeno) on italki!

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