Written by Julia in Puglia,
Last Modified: 15th December 2022

Long-term writer for Italy Property Guides, Julia Silk swapped southern England for southern Italy nearly 15 years ago. Here, she rounds up some of her favourite things about life there, and adds a Christmas Quiz on Italy for good measure. Buon Natale! 

There is so much to love about Italy, from the cities to the lakes and mountains. But how much do you know about its music, regions, UNESCO sites, villages, national parks, politics, wine and football?

I’ve been here nearly 15 years and am still discovering interesting things about this amazing country. The more you learn about what makes Italy tick, from its history to its traditions, the more at home and part of the community you feel.

Here are some interesting snippets of information I have discovered about Italy this year. Plus, for fun, I have included a few quiz questions to see how much you know about Italy? (Answers at the bottom of the page).

How well do you know Italy?

Italian music

Italian folk music, and the songs and dances that go with them, are still an important part of Italian life. Italy is also well known for its classical music and operas. Famous composers from Italy include Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Paganini, Rossini, Verdi, and Puccini.

One of the world’s most versatile and influential composers of music for the cinema was Ennio Morricone. The Italian composer’s scores created the atmosphere for many a spaghetti western and over five hundred other films. Who doesn’t recognise the theme tune of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”?. In contrast, Morricone also composed the beautiful “Cinema Paradiso” soundtrack, which won the BAFTA award for Best Film Music in 1990.

When it comes to singers, Andrea Bocelli is one of Italy’s most famous, selling over 80 million records worldwide. In addition, his son and daughter are following in his footsteps. In December 2022, on Andrea’s youtube channel, they shared with the world a magical Christmas performance of Christmas songs in an enchanting film called “A Bocelli Family Christmas”. It is a charming short film, full of Christmas magic.

There are also many great Italian sing-along songs, including “Volare, Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu”. Many singers have covered this song, but when was it first published?
1.            a) 1958                            b) 1965                            c) 1969

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Italy’s Smallest Region

Adding an extra sparkle and atmosphere to “A Bocelli Family Christmas” is the pretty village location of Gressoney-Saint- Jean and the nearby fairy-tale Castle Savoy. Queen Margherita of Savoy used to spend long holidays there. As a keen mountaineer she was the first woman to climb Monte Rosa.

Gressoney is in Italy’s smallest region, which borders with France and Switzerland. The region boasts 1,246 named mountains, the highest of which is Mont Blanc (4,808 m/15,774 ft). In fact, it is connected to France via the Mont Blanc tunnel. The beautiful mountains, glaciers, valleys, lakes and waterfalls attract many walkers and winter sports enthusiasts. There are also pretty villages and castles to explore.

What’s the name of the Italy’s smallest region in the far north-west?
2.           a) Lazio                b) Lombardy                      c) Valle D’ Aosta

 

The pretty village of Lillianes. But in which region, Italy’s smallest?

Italy’s UNESCO sites

A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having historical, cultural, scientific, or natural significance. In 2022 Italy had more places on the UNESCO list than any other country in the world. Mostly these are cultural sites, but there are also five natural sites, such as the Dolomites and Mount Etna.

Among the most well-known UNESCO sites in Italy are the historic centre of Rome, Venice and it’s Lagoon, the Historic centre of Florence, the Palace of Caserta, Pompeii, and the City of Verona.

Cultural heritage also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as craft skills, festivals, performing arts, and practices concerning nature.

As of the 1st December 2022 “The tradition of breeding Lipizzan horses” has earnt a place on the representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO. In Italy this practice, which concerns the breeding and conservation of the breed, takes place in the Municipalities of Montelibretti and Monterotondo, in the Tiber Valley north-east of Rome.

How many UNESCO sites are there in Italy in 2022?
3.          a) 54                b) 58                         c) 65
An albergo diffuso in a village in Lazio

An albergo diffuso in a village in Lazio

Italian Villages

In recent years some Italian villages have been revitalizing their historic centres to attract tourism. Breath taking views, local traditions, food and wine products, and a slower pace of life, all make villages an appealing place to own a property.

Identifying the need to enhance the great heritage of history, art, culture, environment and traditions present in Italian villages, The Association of Villages was born in 2001. As hundreds of villages are becoming depopulated and old buildings left empty, the association aims to protect, promote and develop the ones recognized as The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy.

What is the Italian word for village?
4.          a) Borgo                       b) Citta                 c) Piccola città

National Parks

Italy is so much more than just historic cities and villages. The landscape is so varied and breath-taking, especially when you venture off the beaten track and into one of its National Parks. You’ll discover panoramic views, forests, waterfalls, lakes and beautiful wild flower meadows. You may even spot an ibex, golden eagle, wild boar or Marsican Brown Bear.

In Italy, there are 871 protected areas. Those areas listed as National Park cover an area of ​​over 16,000 km2 (6,200 square miles), which is approximately 5.3% of the Italian national territory. Some of the most popular National Parks include Stelvio, Cinque Terre, Gran Paradiso, Majella, Gargano, Dolomiti Bellunesi and the National Park of Abruzzo. Areas around the National Parks make great locations for a holiday home.

How many National Parks are there in Italy
5.          a) 18                        b) 25                        c) 28

The National Park of Abruzzo

Politics

Italy is a parliamentary republic with a multi-party system. It has been a democratic republic since 1946, when the monarchy was abolished by a referendum. The Prime Minister is the head of the government. In Italian their position is called “Presidente del Consiglio dei ministri”.

In October 2022 Italy swore in it’s first woman Prime Minister. As head of the Brothers of Italy party, she swept to victory as part of a coalition that included Forza Italia, led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and Matteo Salvini’s League.

What is the name of the current Italian Prime Minister (December 2022)?
6.          a) Maria Montessori                b) Laura Pausini                c) Giorgia Meloni

 

Italian lakes

There are over 1,500 lakes in Italy. The most popular are the large ones that you can live near and offer numerous activities. Sports you can try on the lakes often include kitesurfing, windsurfing, sailing and canoeing. Even if you prefer to stay on dry land, the surrounding countryside is often great for hiking, horse riding, golf, cycling and rock climbing.

Our favourite Italian Lakes for active holidays and great homes for sale would have to be Lake Como, Lake Garda and Lake Trasimeno. They are wonderful places to visit year round, and during the festive season you will discover some charming Christmas markets.

Measuring 370 km2 (143 square miles) which is the largest lake in Italy
7.          a) Lake Como                b) Lake Garda                    c) Lake Maggiore

 

It’s Italy’s largest lake, but what is it called?

Property prices

After a drop in prices during the 2020 stage of the pandemic, prices have now gone back to a similar level as in 2019. During the month of November 2022, the highest average property prices could be found in the popular region of Trento Alto Adige, at €3,033 per square metre. This is followed by the north western regions of Valle d’Aosta (2,599 €/m²) and Liguria (2,536 €/m²). The popular region of Tuscany recorded an average price per square metre of 2,482.

At the cheaper end you have Molise (970 €/m²), Umbria (1,104 €/m²), Sicily (1,123 €/m²) and Abruzzo (1,286 €/m²). Very cheap properties are generally a reflection of its condition and location. Therefore, renovation costs and transport costs will need to be added to the purchase price.

But, which region has the cheapest average property price of just 921(€/m²) ? ( According to immobiliare in November 2022
8.          a) Calabria                           b) Puglia                          c) Sardinia
Winery in Chianti

Winery in Chianti

Italian Wine

Italy is the European leader for certified products, of which Italian wine is the most exported. Of 844 certified products around 526 are wine. Behind every bottle of wine is a territory full of culture and gastronomy, with a heritage so valued that places like the Cinque Terre and the vine yard landscape of Langhe have been listed by UNESCO.

It’s not only sales that benefit a wine region, it is also the tourism. Of the 28 million Italians on holiday in the summer of 2022, 39% chose food and wine-themed destinations and spent a third of their budget at the table. About 14 million tourists are linked to wine tourism each year.

How much is wine tourism worth in Italy per year?
9.          a) €800 million                b) €1.4billion                     c) €2.5billion

 

Regions of Italy

Italy has 20 regions and each region is divided into provinces. The biggest region of Italy covers 25,832 square kilometres, that is about 5 km2  larger than Wales. If you have ever thought islands are small, think again. The largest Italian region isn’t on the mainland. It is in fact the island of Sardinia. Also, in third place is the island of Sicily, covering 24,100 square kilometres.

At the smaller end of the scale, are the regions of Vale D’Aosta (3,261 km2), Molise (4,461 km2 ) and Liguria (5,416 km2). Infact, for several years there has been a running joke making fun of the small size of Molise. People started posting the hashtag #ilmolisenonesiste (Molise doesn’t exist) as a joke. All the jokes, merchandise and videos have actually brought the region to people’s attention. The phrase highlights Molise’s strengths, as being beautifully and untouched by mass tourism.

What is the largest mainland region with a total of 25,387 km2?
10.          a) Lombardy                      b) Piedmont                      c) Tuscany

Volcanoes in Italy

The three main active volcanoes in Italy are Etna, Stromboli and Vesuvius. Located on the east coast of Sicily Mount Etna is the highest active volcano in Europe (10,900 ft). It’s last major eruption was in 1928 although there have been many minor ones since then. It’s very popular with hikers and attracts thousands of tourists each year. You can even go skiing on Mount Etna.

Stromboli volcano is an island with around a thousand inhabitants. It is part of the Aeolian Islands and is popular with day-trippers. It has been erupting pretty continuously for two thousand years, with lava and gas ejected from craters just below the summit at intervals of roughly twenty minutes. To see the volcano spurt red hot lava at sunset from a boat, must be incredible.

Mount Vesuvius is one of the most studied in the world. It towers above the city of Naples, with it’s highest peak reaching 1,277 metres. With a guide, you can visit the crater and the area is a National Park. There are 11 paths around the Vesuvius National Park.

Which volcano buried the ancient cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii in 79AD?
11.          a) Vesuvius                  b) Stromboli                       c) Etna

 

Beautiful, but deadly….

Football in Italy

AC Milan have won the UEFA Champions League seven times. Most recently in 2007 against Liverpool. Only Real Madrid have beaten this record. However, other Italian teams have also won the league at some point. FC Internationale Milano have won it three times and Juventus twice.

Historically one of the most successful National football teams, Italy has won the World Cup championship four times (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006), just one fewer than Brazil. Italy’s last victory was against France in 2006. Azzurri also claimed the European title back in 2020 after a thrilling penalty shootout with England.

As you can imagine, it was a big blow to Italian fans when they didn’t even qualify for the World Cup in 2022. However, The Azzuri, as they are known to fans, have confidence in a big comeback. Italy finished third in the 2020-21 Nations League, defeating Belgium to take home the bronze. The Azzuri have already qualified for the final four of the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League, in a group with Hungary, Germany and England. Also, in March 2023 the UEFA EURO Qualifiers begin.

Italy’s first Euro qualifier match on 23rd March 2023 will be against which country?
12.          a) Ukraine                     b) England                         c) North Macedonia
Quiz Answers:
  • 1. a) 1958
  • 2. c) Valle D’ Aosta
  • 3. b) 58
  • 4. a) Borgo
  • 5. b) 25
  • 6. c) Giorgia Meloni
  • 7. b) Lake Garda
  • 8. a) Calabria
  • 9. c) €2.5billion
  • 10. b) Piedmont
  • 11. a) Vesuvius
  • 12. b) England
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