Italy is one of the most famous countries in the world for its rich culture, beautiful landscapes and incredible cuisine. It’s home to the soaring Alps and rocky Dolomites in the north; inland lakes such as Como, Maggiore and Iseo in the middle of the country; three active volcanoes; and the vast Po River valley which spans its length. It also boasts a rich literary heritage with such names as Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio and Machiavelli among others.
Italians are renowned for their warmth and friendliness as well as the importance they place on family life. Most businesses are still family-owned and run, including a large number of trattorias (casual eateries), ristorantes and enotecas. Family gatherings are important, with the extended family being brought together for meals and celebrations. There is a strong sense of hierarchy and respect within the Italian culture, with elders being respected and deferred to by younger generations. This is reflected in the way people interact with each other, with greetings being enthusiastic yet somewhat formal.
Food is a central part of Italian culture, with local specialties such as pasta, pizza and gelato gaining international fame. The country is also a major wine producer, with its most famous regions being Tuscany and Piedmont. Many wine tours take visitors through the vineyards and wine-production facilities to learn about the process, and there are also many opportunities for tasting.
Sport is a big part of Italian culture too, with soccer the most popular sport. There is a strong tradition of soccer in Italy dating back to Roman times, and you can see top teams in action at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Motor racing is another exciting pastime, with the Italian Grand Prix being held at the Monza circuit just north of Milan.
As you’d expect from a nation with such a long history, Italy is rich in art and architecture. Some of the most iconic monuments in the world are located here, such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Colosseum in Rome.
For those with a more contemporary interest, Italy has some of the best film and music in the world. The country has produced some of the most influential directors, including Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio de Sica, Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni, as well as legendary singers like Luciano Pavarotti.
Italy’s cosmopolitan cities offer a fast-paced lifestyle that suits their business-orientated culture, while the more rural areas have a slower pace of life. There is some tension between the north and south of the country, with northerners sometimes feeling they are economically supporting the more backward southern area. However, these differences are dissipating as economic circumstances improve across the whole of the country. The population is overwhelmingly Christian, with the majority being Catholics. There is a strong emphasis on education and family values, and the country has an excellent health care system. In addition to this, many Italians enjoy a healthy lifestyle, with many practising a healthy diet and enjoying a good level of physical activity.