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Ciao Italia! - our favourite snippets of Italian history

07 July 2015
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Few countries in the world have such a variable, diverse and colourful history as Italy. Every time we visit, we learn new facts about Italy’s wonderful past. Here are 10 Interesting Facts for History Buffs:

1. Limone magic lemons – Lake Garda

Famous for its wonderful lemon orchards and breathtaking views, Limone also holds an incredible genetic secret. In 1979, it was noted that of the one thousand inhabitants in the town, unusually over a dozen of them were over 100 years old. Upon testing, it was found that Limone’s residents contain a rare protein in their blood that eliminates heart disease and aids longevity; many believe this is due to the high concentration of lemons in their diet.

2. The end of Italian Fascism - Lake Como

Benito Mussolini and his mistress were captured by Allied forces in Dongo and later shot in nearby Mezzegra while trying to flee from Como to the Swiss Alps.

3. Beware of sea monsters - Sicily

Those passing through the Messina strait between Sicily and Calabria are in danger of being attacked by two sea monsters Scylla and Charibdys, according to Greek mythology. They appear as beautiful nymphs, but quickly change into ugly creatures with six head, multiple mouths and glowing eyes. Watch out if you’re taking a boat trip!

4. Famous poetry – Sorrento


Sorrento was the birthplace of Torquato Tasso, the most read poet in Europe until the 20th century. Tasso wrote the famous poem La Gerusalemme liberata which depicts a mythical battle between Christians and Muslims for Jerusalem at the end of the first crusades. Tasso died just a few days before he was due to be crowned King of the Poets by the Pope.

5. It’s all a lie – Tuscany

The story of Pinocchio, which we usually associate with the Disney story, originated in Florence with a story written by Carlo Collodi in 1826.

6. A battleground – Lake Garda

The peace and tranquillity is one of the reasons that we love Lake Garda so much, but it wasn’t always so calm. There have been many famous battles fought around Lake Garda including the Battle of Lake Benacus, where the Romans defeated the Alamanni in 268; the Battle of Rivoli where Napolean’s forces battled the Austrians in 1797 and the Battle of Solferino during the Italian Risorgimento in 1859 (this bloody battle caused the Geneva Convention to form the Red Cross).

7. An Ancient Roman time capsule - Sorrento

In 79 AD when Mt. Vesuvius erupted for the first time in 1,800 years, it took the people of Pompeii completely by surprise. The city and its people were buried under 5 metres of ash as they went about their daily business, creating a natural time capsule for future generations to peer into Ancient Roman life. The first excavation began in 1748 which helped sparked the 18th century neo-classism era that looked to Ancient Rome for influence. Today 2.5 million tourists visit Pompeii each year.

8. Native language – Sicily

The majority of Sicily’s inhabitants (70%) speak Sicilian, not Italian. Reflecting the diverse history of the island, Sicilian has absorbed vocabulary from Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian and French among others to produce a language clearly distinct from Italian.

9. Parlo Italiano – Tuscany

The Tuscan dialect, formed from Latin, became modern day Italian during the Renaissance period when Tuscany was a trading hub for the rest of the country.

10. Playground to the elite – Lake Como

During the Roman Empire Lake Como was the main place for the government elite to holiday. An imperial magistrate Pliny the Younger used his extensive wealth to build two villas, ‘Tragedy’ and ‘Comedy’ on the shores of Lake Como. Today, Lake Como is still a favourite hang-out for Hollywood’s famous faces.

Discover Italy's fascinating history for yourself on one of our great Italian getaways.

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