Have Italy on the brain? In this huge guide, you'll learn 80 facts about Italy, including travel, food, expat, culture, national symbols, politics and more. Plus lots of photos and videos.
80 Facts about Italy
In this huge guide, you'll learn what to expect on your trip (or move) to Italy? Have a question? Ask it in the comments below. I'll do my best to answer every one. Did I miss something? Please add it in the comments!
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Basic Facts About Italy
1. What is Italy’s official name
Officially, Italy is known as the Italian Republic. In Italian, it is Repubblica Italiana.
2. What is Italy’s population?
According to the latest figures from the United Nations, the current population of Italy is 59,242,024.
3. Where is Italy located?
Italy is located within the central part of southern Europe. The country is a peninsula.
To the south, Italy touches the Mediterranean Sea, and it is bordered on the east by the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea. Its western shores lie on the Ligurian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Map of Italy
4. What time is it in Italy?
Italy is in the Central European timezone (GMT+1).
5. When does the sun set in Italy?
Because of it's distance from the equator, this varies during the year.
- During the winter months, the sun sets in Italy at around five or six in the evening.
- Over the summer months, the sun sets there at around nine in the evening.
6. What are citizens of Italy known as?
In English, the citizens of Italy are known as Italians.
In Italian, they are called italiani.
Interestingly, many citizens of Italy have a strong link to their family and to their family's land, and they may identify themselves first by the region in which they were born.
Here's what residents of each city call themselves:
- Florence: fiorentino
- Genoa: genovese
- Milan: milanese
- Naples: napoletano
- Palermo: palermitano
- Pisa: pisano
- Rome: romano
- Venice: veneziano
7. What is the capital of Italy?
The capital city of Italy is Rome, known in Italian as Roma.
8. What is life expectancy in Italy?
The average life expectancy in Italy is 82.8 years old.
- Italian males can expect to live 80.5 years
- Italian females have a life expectancy of 84.9 years.
These figures make Italy the country with the eighth highest life expectancy in the world.
9. What religions are in Italy?
Roughly 80% of Italians profess to be Christian, and one-third of these are practicing Catholics.
The remaining 20 percent of the population is a mixture of Muslim, agnostic, and atheist.
10. Common misspellings of Italy
You'll laugh, but some of the most common misspellings of Italy in English are litghly and itirly.
Some people also mistakenly spell it as Italian or Etaly.
Facts About Italy Travel
11. How's the weather in Italy?
The weather in Italy can vary depending on whether you are in the northern, central, or southern part of the country.
- Northern Italy: In the north, temperatures (in Fahrenheit) average in the 40s and 50s in the winter and spring, while they are in the 50s and 60s in the central part of the country. In the summer and fall, temperatures in the north are in the 60s to 80s, and those in the central region are in the 70s and 80s.
- Southern Italy: In the southernmost part of Italy, temperatures in the summer average in the 80s, and the fall and winter months are generally in the 60s to lower 70s.
12. What is the best time to visit Italy?
Summer is definitely the most popular time to visit Italy. The weather can be very hot, particularly in Sicily, and museums and other attractions are very crowded.
The fall and spring seasons tend to be more affordable, and the weather is pleasant enough for plenty of outdoor activities and sightseeing.
While the winter weather may be too cold for some travelers, you might consider focusing on southern Italy for warmer weather.
13. What is Italy’s currency?
As a member of the European Union, Italy uses the euro (€) as its currency.
14. Do I need a power adapter when I visit Italy?
If you are not using European devices, you will need a power adapter in Italy. Something like this one.
Typically, all you will need for most devices, including computers and cell phones, is an adapter plug. This plug enables you to connect your devices to the wall outlets in Italy.
If you are using devices that run on a different voltage than the one in Italy (such as American hair dryers or curling irons), then you will need both an adapter plug and a voltage converter.
If you do not have a voltage converter and try to use an American hair dryer in Italy, you may short circuit the electrical system.
15. What plugs are used in Italy?
Italy uses plugs that are used throughout the rest of the European Union. These plugs have two round pins.
If you have devices from France, Spain, or another European country, these devices will be able to be plugged directly into Italian electrical outlets with no problems.
16. What are Italy’s international airports?
Italy has numerous international airports. These include two in Rome, and there are also two international airports in Milan.
The major cities of Catania, Florence, Genoa, Parma, Palermo, Naples, Turin, Venice, Verona, Pisa, Bologna, Perugia, and Trieste all have international airports.
17. What languages are spoken in Italy?
The official language spoken in Italy is Italian. The country also has a large population of Catalan speakers.
More than 30 different regional languages and dialects are spoken throughout the country. These include Sardinian (primarily spoken on the Italian island of Sardinia), Tabarchino, and Sassarese.
18. How many tourists visit Italy every year?
More than 420 million tourists visited Italy in 2017, the most recent year for which figures are available. Approximately 14 percent of these tourists were from Germany.
American, French, and British tourists accounted for an estimated three percent each. The most popular tourist destination in 2017 was the city of Rome.
19. What are Italy’s most popular landmarks?
The most popular Italian landmark for tourists is the Colosseum in Rome.
Other beloved attractions include Pompeii, the canals in Venice, the Trevi Fountain, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Lake Como, and the Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.
Tourists flock to the Amalfi Coast, and Vatican City is a particularly treasured pilgrimage site for Catholics. St. Mark's Basilica in Venice and the Roman Forum in Rome are both inspiring attractions, too.
20. Is Italy a safe place to visit?
Italy is currently ranked as the 34th safest country out of 162 countries studied in recent safety research. It is a safe country for female travelers, and violent crime is extremely low.
The most common safety risk when traveling to Italy is pick-pocketing, and visitors should take care to guard their passports, wallets, and phones carefully. Like other European countries, civilians in Italy are not allowed to own or use guns.
21. What are Italy’s 10 best beaches?
In the 2018 Travelers' Choice Awards from TripAdvisor, the top 10 highest-rated Italian beaches were:
- Spiaggia dei Conigli (Lampedusa, Sicily)
- Tropea Beach (Tropea)
- La Pelosa Beach (Stintino)
- Cala Goloritze (Baunei)
- Porto Giunco (Villasimius)
- Bay of Silence (Sestri Levante)
- Cala Mariolu (Baunei)
- Spiaggia di Cala Rossa, Isola di Favignana (Aegadian Islands, Sicily)
- Spiaggia di Maria Pia (Alghero)
- Marina Piccola (Capri)
22. What are the most famous events in Italy?
Italy has a number of major festivals throughout the year that visitors can enjoy.
In the winter or early spring, one of the most well-known festivals is Carnevale (Carnival, a celebration similar to Mardi Gras). Celebrated in many towns throughout Italy, the most famous Carnevale festival is in Venice.
In the summer months, visitors may wish to see the Festa della Madonna Bruna, held on July 2nd in the city of Matera. The festival includes a procession through the city and concludes with fireworks. Another beloved festival is La Quintana, a medieval jousting festival held on the first Sunday of August in the town of Ascoli Piceno.
Visitors to the small Sicilian town of Caltagirone should check out the Infiorita Festival that takes place during the last two weeks of May. During the festival, 142 ceramic steps in the town center are covered with floral arrangements. On July 24th and 25th, the stairs are beautifully lit with candle displays in honor of St. James, the town's patron saint.
Geography Now! Italy Video
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Geography of Italy
23. How large is Italy?
By land mass, Italy ranks as the 72nd largest country in the world, and nearly 40 percent of the country is comprised of mountainous terrain.
In total, the area of the country is 116,350 square miles (301,340 square kilometers). It is about the size of New Mexico.
24. What World Heritage Sites are in Italy?
In 2017, Italy had 54 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
49 of these were cultural landmarks, and the remainder were natural sites.
Examples of some of the Italian World Heritage sites include the city of Verona, the Amalfi Coast, Mount Etna (a volcano), the late Baroque towns of the Val di Noto, and the historic city centers of the towns of Florence, Naples, Venice, Siena, Rome, and Pienza.
25. What is Italy’s largest city?
According to the population, the largest city in Italy is Rome. It has a population of nearly 2.4 million people.
26. What are Italy’s major cities?
Major cities in Italy are Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin, Palermo, and Genoa.
Other large cities include Florence, Catania, Bari, and Bologna.
27. How many provinces in Italy?
Italy has 20 regions. These are divided into 110 provinces and 8,101 comuni (municipalities).
28. What is the highest elevation in Italy?
The highest elevation in Italy is at 4,808 meters and is located on Mont Blanc (Bianco), known in English as White Mountain. This mountain is part of the Graian Alps region.
29. Does Italy have a lot of mountains?
Yes, nearly 40 percent of Italy is mountainous.
Some of the most famous mountains in the country include Bianco (Mont Blanc), Monte Cervino (Matterhorn), Breithorn, Gran Paradiso, and Mont Dolent.
30. How many islands in Italy?
The total number of Italian islands is over 450.
Of these, an estimated 350 are sea islands, 13 of which are archipelagos.
100 of Italy's islands are classified as lagoon or lake islands, and the nation also has a handful of river islands, including the Isola Tiberina in the Tiber River in Rome.
31. What are the top 10 famous places in Italy?
10 of the most iconic places to visit in Italy include several in Rome. These include:
- Colosseum (Rome)
- Trevi Fountain (Rome)
- Roman Forum (Rome)
- Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano) is famous as the second-largest Catholic cathedral in the world.
- Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence
- Mount Etna volcano in Sicily
- Rialto Bridge in Venice also attract attracts visitors
- Cathedral of Monreale, near Palermo, Sicily, is another iconic spot for tourists
- Leaning Tower of Pisa: no trip to Italy would be complete without a visit to the famous leaning tower of Pisa.
- Ponte Vecchio in Florence. Spanning the Arno River, it is the oldest bridge in the city and dates from 1345.
32. How many national parks in Italy?
Italy has a total of 24 national parks that cover an area of more than 5,843 square miles. The parks are managed by the Ministry of the Environment and account for 5% of the total land mass of Italy.
The list below provides a sample of some of the nation's most iconic national parks.
- Gran Paradiso National Park (established 1922, Italy's oldest national park)
- Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga
- Cilento, Vallo di Diano, and Alburni
- Alta Murgia
- Isola di Pantelleria
- Dolomiti Bellunesi
- Cinque Terre
Politics of Italy
33. What type of government does Italy have?
The government of Italy is a parliamentary republic form of government, and it has executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
In June 1946, Italy abolished its monarchy, and the country became a democratic republic with its own constitution.
Currently, the leader of the Italian government is President Sergio Mattarella; he took up that position in 2015.
34. How stable is the current government?
While government stability has declined in Italy over the past three decades, the current government is considered to be quite stable.
35. How many national political parties are in Italy?
In the 2018 general election in Italy, there were 11 major national parties.
These included the Democratic Party, the Five-Star Movement, League, Forza Italia, More Europe, Brothers of Italy, Free and Equal, Together, Power to the People, Popular Civic List, and CasaPound Italy.
Business in Italy
36. What is Italy’s largest export?
In 2017, the most recent year for which figures are available, Italy's largest export was machinery, including computers. This accounted for 19.7% of the country's total exports.
37. What are Italy’s major exports?
Apart from machinery and computers, Italy's other major exports include vehicles, electronics, pharmaceuticals, plastics, iron, steel, mineral fuels (including oil), and furniture (including bedding and lighting).
Italy is also a major exporter of non-knitted, non-crocheted clothing.
38. What is the minimum wage in Italy?
In Italy, there is no national minimum wage.
Instead, some economic sectors set minimum wages through unions. The majority of unions have set the minimum wage at approximately seven euros per hour.
39. Who are Italy’s major trading partners?
Germany, China, and France are the countries from which Italy imports the largest amount of goods (approximately 33 percent of all imports).
In terms of exports, Italy exports the majority of its goods to Germany, France, and the United States.
Food in Italy
40. What food is most popular in Italy?
Pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, and gelato are all iconic, beloved dishes up and down the country. To drink, Italians love coffee and wine.
41. What kind of food is traditional in Italy?
Traditional Italian food includes lots of pasta, bread, tomato sauce, and cheese.
Simple pasta dishes such as spaghetti with meatballs or other toppings, pasta with cheese and fresh black pepper, lasagnas with various fillings, pizzas, and hot or cold sandwiches known as paninis are all traditional.
For dessert, tiramisu and gelato are all considered classic dishes from the country.
In the southern part of the country and on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, traditional cuisine uses a lot of fish and seafood.
42. What can you eat and drink in Italy?
You can eat and drink just about anything in Italy.
While the country loves its traditional favorites, a variety of ethnic cuisine is also served there. For example, you can find restaurants that serve American, Spanish, and Japanese food.
43. What is Italy's national dish?
One of the lesser-known facts about Italy is that its national dish is actually a sauce. Known as Ragu alla Bolognese (or just Bolognese), it is a tomato sauce with beef meatballs.
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44. What is a typical dinner in Italy?
In Italy, lunch is the biggest meal of the day.
Dinner (supper) tends to be lighter. Traditionally, it usually consists of pasta, pizza, or bread and might include some seafood or salad. Today, Italians enjoy trying ethnic cuisine for dinner, so they may eat couscous or even sushi for dinner.
45. What is the most popular drink in Italy?
Both wine and coffee are extremely popular in Italy, so much so that it's hard to say which is more popular.
Italians love having strong espresso and other coffee throughout the day, even in the evenings, and they often have wine with lunch and dinner.
46. What do the locals eat for breakfast?
Breakfast in Italy is the lightest meal of the day, and it's normally very simple. For example, it might include toast with jam, some yogurt, or possibly just some fruit.
47. What is the main dish in Italy?
Pizza and pasta are the main dishes in Italy, and they are available in many variations depending on the location you're in.
In the southern part of Italy, pasta and pizza are normally served with seafood toppings, and in the northern and central parts of the country, heavier cream sauces and beef or chicken are more likely to be used. Olive oil features in most of the main dishes served in the country.
48. What food and drink is Italy famous for?
Italy is famous for its pasta, pizza, coffee, wine, and desserts.
Italians usually group pasta according to length (short or long) and whether they are plain or stuffed. Most pasta are made from white flour, but pasta made from whole wheat and beans are becoming more popular. Some types of pasta are called different names in different regions of the country.
Spaghetti, linguine, vermicelli, and penne are a few of the major pasta types. Pizza in Italy is classified as either a Neapolitan type or a Roman type. The Neapolitan type has a thicker crust, while the Roman type has a thinner crust. Additional distinctions are made between so-called red pizzas (those that have tomato sauce, cheese, and other toppings) and white pizzas (focaccia bread with toppings but without tomato sauce). Some of the most famous coffee drinks in Italy are cappuccino and espresso, and wines include both red and white varieties.
Famous desserts include gelato, tiramisu, and panettone, a sweet Milanese bread served at Christmas.
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49. What fruit is Italy famous for?
Lots of citrus fruits grow in Italy, particularly in its Southern areas and in Sicily.
The country has many groves of various citrus fruits, including several different types of oranges, lemons, and limes that are used to make limoncello and other liquors and syrups.
One of the most famous Italian fruits is cedro, known in English as citron. This fruit is sweeter than a normal lemon, and Italians use it on top of bruschetta or in salads.
50. What can you not eat in Italy?
You can find most foods in Italy. However, the country does not typically use ice for drinks, so you may want to bring an ice cube tray from home to make ice during your stay. In smaller towns, it can be difficult to find vegan food options, so those following special diets may need to do some research in advance of their trip.
51. Can I drink the water in Italy?
Yes, the tap water in Italy is completely safe to drink. However, some people who have underlying health conditions or take medication may find that drinking tap water in a foreign country causes stomach upset. If this occurs, bottled water is readily available in stores.
Language in Italy
52. What are the official languages in Italy?
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If you are heading to Italy on a trip, an Italian phrasebook is a great idea. If you are planning on moving to Italy, you will probably want even more. We've had great success with the Pimsleurs Language program.
53. What language are road signs in Italy?
Most road signs in Italy are in Italian only.
However, in some areas, bilingual signs are used. For example, German is included on road signs in South Tyrol (an area where German is widely spoken), and French is included on signs in the Aosta Valley region (an area where French is widely spoken).
On the island of Sardinia, signs are posted in both Italian and Sardinian, the local dialect.
Wildlife in Italy
54. What animals live in Italy?
Italy has nearly 5,000 species that are native to the country.
Some of the interesting mammals in the area include the Italian wolf, the Mediterranean monk seal, the Alpine marmot, the Corsican hare, and the Sardinian long-eared bat. The European owl moth is only found in the southern part of the country.
Unique amphibians and reptiles in the nation include the Italian newt and the Italian frog, the brook chub, the Sicilian wall lizard, the Aeolian wall lizard, and the Sicilian green toad.
55. What dangerous animals are in Italy?
Italy has a number of venomous snakes. These include the asp viper and the horned viper.
More of a pest than a danger, the country is also home to processional caterpillars. These caterpillars travel in long lines and only move in groups. They tend to make nests in fir trees.
56. Are there any deadly spiders in Italy?
Yes, both brown recluse and black widow spiders live in Italy, and their bites can cause severe pain. If left untreated, a bite from one of these spiders may be fatal.
The country also has tarantulas and a spider known as the violin spider, both of which are venomous and should be avoided.
Plant Life in Italy
57. What is Italy national flower?
One of the most fun facts about Italy that surprises tourists is that there are several national flowers for this country.
Officially, the white lily is the nation's national flower. However, the traditional and symbolic flower of the country is the white rose. In addition to the white lily, the white poppy also serves as a symbolic religious flower in Italy.
Yet, Italians themselves consider the violet to be the most popular flower symbol in the nation.
58. What types of vegetation are common in Italy?
Italy has three different vegetation zones.
- In the highest zone, mostly around the Alps, commonly seen vegetation includes trees such as the cypress, cherry laurel, evergreen cork oak, and European olive. Shrubs and flowers such as rhododendron, primrose, dwarf juniper, and green alder are also typically seen.
- In the southern portions of the country near the Mediterranean Sea, the holm oak and Aleppo pine trees are plentiful. Olive trees are common, and there are also large quantities of feather grass and white asphodel in the meadows of Calabria.
- In Sicily, papyrus grows as a freshwater plant.
59. What crops are grown in Italy?
In addition to citrus fruits, crops such as potatoes, sugar beets, corn, rice, and wheat are grown in Italy.
National Symbols of Italy
60. What is the symbol of Italy?
The national symbol of Italy is the stella d'Italia (star of Italy).
This symbol dates from ancient times. Today, most Italians associate it with “towered Italy,” an ancient allegorical representation of the country.
61. What is the national tree of Italy?
One of the lesser-known Italy facts is that the country has two national trees.
Both the olive tree and the oak tree are considered to be Italy's national trees.
62. What is Italy's national bird?
The national bird of Italy is the Italian sparrow.
63. What is Italy's national animal?
Many Italians consider the wolf to be the country's national animal.
Wolves are the most prevalent wild animals in the country. Legend has it that Romulus and Remus, twin brothers credited with the founding of Rome, were both raised by a female wolf who protected them from other animals.
64. What is Italy's national sport?
Football (known as soccer in the United States) is considered to be Italy's national sport.
Culture in Italy
65. What are some of the different cultures in Italy?
Italy is a multicultural country with diverse customs.
The primary language is Italian, and French, German, and local dialects are also spoken.
Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion and 20 percent of the country is either Muslim, agnostic, or atheist.
Pasta, pizza, olive oil, and seafood are some of the most well-loved foods in the nation.
Italians tend to be very fashionable, and traditional dress is generally worn only for special ceremonies. Traditional dresses tend to be very brightly colored with lots of red and green.
66. What is the population of Italy?
The current population of Italy is just over 59 million.
67. Is Italy's population increasing or decreasing?
The population of Italy has been decreasing over the last few years.
Between 2017 and 2018, the population decreased at a rate of -0.12 percent. Between December 2018 and February 2019, the population decreased at a rate of -0.13 percent.
68. How many immigrants live in Italy?
Approximately five million legal immigrants currently live in Italy.
69. Where do the immigrants in Italy come from?
The majority (23 percent) of immigrants to Italy are from Romania. Immigrants from Albania, Morocco, China, and Ukraine also make up a large percentage of Italy's immigrant population.
Italy Immigration and Expat Facts
70. What is the best place to live in Italy?
Expats moving to Italy typically need a place that is affordable and that has good English-speaking or international schools. They also need a location that has a high-level of easily-accessible healthcare and resources for families.
With that in mind, the areas listed below are popular choices for many foreigners.
71. What are the requirements to live in Italy? How can I immigrate to Italy?
Americans and non-EU citizens can stay in Italy for 90 days on a tourist visa. To live in Italy longer than that, an individual will normally need to have a job offer in Italy or be a student at an Italian university, a retiree, or a foreigner transferring his or her job to Italy as part of an inter-company transfer.
To immigrate to Italy, you must apply for a visa in advance of your arrival. You can apply at your nearest Italian consulate, and the consulate can provide full details of possible immigration routes that may be available to you.
72. How do you become a citizen of Italy? Is it hard to become a citizen of Italy?
The process of gaining Italian citizenship is long and hard. To become a citizen of Italy, a United States citizen must live in Italy for a minimum of 10 years, and the length of time is similar for nationals of other non-European Union countries.
Beyond that, the path to citizenship can be very complex, and it is best to get personalized advice about your individual immigration situation. Italy allows dual-citizenship with the United States and many other countries.
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73. Is it easy to get permanent residency in Italy?
No, it is not easy to get permanent residency in Italy, but the process of doing so is worth it.
Citizens of the European Union must live in Italy continuously for five years before they are eligible to apply for permanent residency in Italy. The time period varies for citizens of non-European Union countries, and it is sometimes longer than five years.
74. How long can I live in Italy?
How long an individual can live in Italy depends on his or nationality and which visa he or she holds.
Generally, citizens of the European Union can live in Italy more easily than non-European Union citizens. One of the most common visas issued by the Italian government is the long-stay visa. This visa is good for 91 to 365 days and is issued for study, work, or permanent residency.
To determine more about how long you can stay in Italy, check your visa status or ask your Italian consulate.
75. How long can I stay in Italy without a visa?
People who travel to Italy for the purpose of tourism will be issued a visa on arrival at the port of entry. For Americans, Canadians, Australians, and others from non-European Union countries, a 90-day stay is the maximum permitted under this visa.
For any other type of visa, including a study or work visa, applications must be made in advance of travel; these visas are not issued at ports of entry.
76. How can I work in Italy?
To work in Italy as a non-citizen, you will need a work permit. To obtain this permit, you must be sponsored by an Italian employer, and they must file all of the necessary papers on your behalf.
Certain jobs are also subject to a quota system that limits the numbers of permits that will be issued for these jobs each year. University professorships and some types of performing arts jobs are exempt from the quota system.
77. What percentage of Italy are immigrants?
Currently, an estimated 8.3 percent of Italy's total population is comprised of immigrants.
78. How many expats are in Italy?
Today, there are approximately five million expats living legally in Italy.
Holidays in Italy
Understanding the details of these customs will make it easier to plan your trip.
79. What are some popular Italian Christmas traditions?
Italians celebrate Christmas for 12 days. The celebrations start on Christmas Eve (December 24th) and end on Epiphany (January 6th). A fish supper is normally eaten on Christmas Eve, and Babbo Natale (the Italian version of Santa Claus) makes the rounds on this night.
The presepe, an ornate nativity scene, is typically the central focus of most Italian Christmas decorations, and nearly every town has its own presepe display. Traditionally, bonfires are held in town squares throughout the country on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, the main meal is meat-based.
80. What are some of Italy's Easter traditions?
Easter (Pasqua in Italian) celebrations typically begin during Holy Week, the week before Easter Sunday, and they include large, solemn religious processions. These are held in major cities and small towns across the nation, and the Pope leads a special procession at the Colosseum in Rome.
In the city of Florence, Easter Day is celebrated with a tradition known as the explosion of the cart (Scoppio del carro). Just before the Easter Sunday mass, a decorated cart filled with fireworks is taken to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore by two white oxen. After mass, the priest throws a dove-shaped rocket into the cart, igniting a beautiful fireworks display. This is then followed with a parade by performers dressed in medieval costumes.
Have a fact about Italy to share? Join me in the comments!