What Is Italy Known For?

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There is something to appeal to everyone in Italy as the landscape is extremely varied. For a start, it has a long Mediterranean coastline, where hundreds of thousands of sun and sea lovers flock every summer. In the north of the country, the Alps attract skiers during the winter, while the lakes are a hot spot for both families and celebrities. In the south, there are active volcanoes, such as Mount Vesuvius, which destroyed the city of Pompeii, now a highlight of many classical tours.

Italy has a long history, beginning with the Etruscans in the 9th century BC, followed by the Ancient Romans in the 3rd century BC. If you are interested in ancient archaeological sites, you will be in your element in Italy. Going a little further forward in time, we come to the Renaissance, and Florence is believed to have been its birthplace in the 15th century. In the major cities, museums and churches housing spectacular works of art by such artists as Michelangelo and Raffaello abound. Italy is the fifth-most visited country in the world, so what makes it so popular? Here’s what Italy is known for.

What Is Italy Known For

1- Artists and Sculptors

Michaelangelo's David
Artists and sculptors are what Italy is known for.

Italian painters and sculptors have created famous works of art that you can see in museums such as the Uffizi and Accademia galleries in Florence and the Vatican Museums in Rome.

The Renaissance was a golden era of art in Europe and a time when many of the greatest artists created masterpieces that have lasted the centuries.

This period was during the 15th and 16th centuries.

The number of artistic works created was so vast that you would need weeks to see them all.


One of the greatest sculptors of this time was Michelangelo, who created the famous statue of ‘David’ that is a massive 5.17 metres (17 feet) tall and carved out of a single block of marble.

The famous statue is in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence and attracts many visitors every day.

It stands on an anti-seismic base because it has been damaged by earthquakes.

Another famous sculptor was Bernini, who created ‘Apollo and Daphne’ and ‘The Taking of Proserpina’, both of which are housed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome.

Famous painters of the Renaissance period include Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Titian, and Caravaggio.

Michelangelo and Raphael are particularly known for their works in the Vatican Museums.

Michelangelo painted the famous ceiling in the Sistine Chapel which is awe-inspiring and includes scenes from the Book of Genesis.

The magnificent Creation of Adam shows God reaching out to hold Adam’s hand, signifying the beginning of humanity.

2- The Vatican City

Vatican Gardens
The Vatican is what Italy is known for.

The Vatican is the spiritual centre of the Roman Catholic Church and has been the home of the Pope since the 14th century.

Although it is in the centre of Rome, it is an independent state covering 40.46 hectares (100 acres), making it the smallest country in the world.

It has a flag, passports, car registration plates, an army, and a football team despite there only being 618 citizens.

The Vatican City has an astounding collection of art in different buildings, including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums.

The Vatican Museums include 54 separate museums so be prepared to stay all day or return on another day.

The highlight of the Vatican Museums is the Sistine Chapel, with its ceiling painted by Michelangelo commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1508 and took Michelangelo four years to paint.

I recommend visiting the Vatican City even if you’re not a Roman Catholic as the artwork is awe-inspiring but it can be very crowded so try to get there early in the day.

You may even be lucky to see the Pope on his balcony, as I did many years ago. Book your tickets to the Vatican Museums here.

3- The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower In Pisa, Italy
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is what Italy is famous for.

When the Leaning Tower of Pisa was built, it was meant to be straight, however, the ground was made of clay and wasn’t strong enough to support the building.

This led to it leaning, and although it has had restoration work performed, it still leans.

This phenomenon has made it a tourist attraction with many people keen to have their photos taken standing next to it.

Building started in 1173, and it took over 200 years to build.

It leans around 5.5 degrees to the south, measures 60 metres (196.85 feet) and has eight floors and 293 steps.

It isn’t hard to climb the tower but be aware that it has a spiral staircase, and you could get a bit dizzy so take it slow.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of four buildings that make up the Campo del Miracoli (Field of Miracles).

The others are the Cathedral, the Baptistery, and the Campo Santo, all of which are worth visiting.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is at Duomo Square, 56126 Pisa. Skip the lines and reserve entry to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Cathedral.

4- The Colosseum

Colosseum Rome Italy
The Colosseum is what Rome, Italy, is most known for.

Of the many ancient sites in Rome, one of the most famous is the Colosseum.

Built in 72 AD, under the rule of Emperor Vespasian, it is the largest ancient amphitheatre in the world.

During its heyday, it held up to 80,000 spectators.

Just imagine the noise and excitement.

The Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests, animal hunts, reenactments of battles and plays.

At times it was also used for executions, which certainly drew a fascinated crowd.

All of this ceased in the early Middle Ages and the Colosseum was then used to house workshops, homes and Christian shrines.

It was even a fortress at one time but these days, it is a tourist site that attracts around 6 million visitors a year.

I highly recommend visiting it if you are in Rome and if you can, take the evening tour as the Colosseum is lit up and looks even more stunning than during the day.

5- The Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast Ravello Italy
The Amalfi Coast is what Italy is known for

The Amalfi Coast is a stunning stretch of coastline in the Campania region and a popular holiday destination for honeymooners and couples.

Don’t be surprised to see celebrities enjoying the facilities that the resorts offer.

The Amalfi Coast stretches for around 50 km (31 miles) or rocky coastline but there are plenty of beautiful beaches to be found.

Some are so secluded that you might have them to yourself.

Famous resorts along the Amalfi Coast include Positano, Ravello, Amalfi, and also Sorrento, which is where you can catch a boat to the beautiful island of Capri.

One of the most stunning stretches of the Amalfi Coast is between Salerno and Sorrento where you will find many mansions to oogle at.

Who could live in such beautiful houses? You will also see terraced vineyards and lemon orchards.

The grapes are used to make famous Italian wines while the lemons are an important ingredient in the popular Italian digestif, Limoncello.

6- Opera

La Scala Opera House, Milan, Lombardy
The opera is what Italy is known for.

Opera originated in Italy at the end of the 16th century and spread throughout Europe.

Opera is still popular the world over, and in Italy, you will be able to experience some of the best performances.

There are famous opera theatres in the country where you can enjoy an opera, though be sure to book in advance as they sell out quickly.

Notable opera houses include La Scala in Milan and the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in Rome.

Many opera composers were Italian, and these include Verdi, who wrote La Traviata; Puccini, most famous for La Boheme and Madama Butterfly; and Rossini, who wrote the comic opera, The Barber of Seville.

Many Italian opera singers have become well-known throughout the world and these include Enrico Caruso, Luciano Pavarotti, and Francesco Malapena.

7- Cinque Terre

Peaceful Fishing Village Of Riomaggiore
Cinque Terre is what Italy is famous for.

Cinque Terre is a collection of five villages built close to each other along the Liguria coastline in northwest Italy.

These villages have colourful picture-perfect buildings, with fishing boats moored in little harbours and trattorias serving freshly caught fish and pasta with pesto sauce, which was invented in the region.

The villages are connected by the Sentiero Azzuro hiking trail, which is well-worth exploring as the cliffside trail gives magnificent views out to sea.

It isn’t a difficult trail so don’t be worried that you won’t make it.

Each village in Cinque Terre is different.

Monterosso offers a sandy beach compared to the pebbly beaches of the other villages as well as a hiking trail along the mountain behind the beach.

It’s another good spot for great views and photographs.

The village of Riomaggiore is particularly known for producing some of the best wines in Italy, such as the Sciacchetra DOC dessert wine.

It also has many olive groves and produces excellent extra-virgin olive oil.

Corniglia is the oldest of the five villages and the only one that isn’t right by the sea.

It is 100 metres (328 feet) above sea level and has some beautiful vineyards surrounding it.

It too produces excellent wines.

8- Venice

Summer Day In Venice
Venice is a city Italy is famous for.

Venice is one of the most romantic cities in Europe, another being Verona, the setting for Romeo and Juliet, and, of course, Paris in France.

Venice is often called ‘The Floating City’ or ‘The City of Bridges’, as it is made up of 118 islands connected by 400 bridges and 170 canals.

So why is it romantic? Well, to start with, you can take a trip on the canals in a gondola.

A Venetian gondola is a flat-bottomed rowing boat operated by a gondolier.

There can’t be much that is more romantic than being rowed through the canals of such a beautiful city.

Then, afterwards have a candlelit meal in one of the many restaurants overlooking the canals.

When it comes to sightseeing, St. Mark’s Square is the highlight of Venice and is a must-see.

Here you will find St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace to explore and there are plenty of cafes to enjoy an Italian espresso while people-watching.

There are several museums to be found in Venice, including the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and the Galleria dell’Accademia, which houses works of art from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

9- Vespas

Scooter Vespa Parked On Old Street In Rome
Vespas are what Italy is known for.

The Vespa is a scooter that has quickly become part of Italian culture because they are easier to manoeuvre through the busy streets of Italian cities than to drive a car.

Cars are often stuck in traffic jams while Vespas weave in and out of them.

The Vespa became popular because it was used in films set in Italy, such as the 1953 ‘Roman Holiday’ with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck and the 1960 ‘La Dolce Vita’, directed by Federico Fellini.

It was first produced in 1946 and there are now around 35 versions, with millions sold each year.

Some tour operators offer Vespa tours around Italian cities which are fun and allow you to see more in a shorter time than if you were stuck in a car or coach.

Recommended tours:

10- Pizza, Pasta and Gelato

Beautiful Italy Food Pictures
Pizza, pasta and gelato are food Italy is known for.

Italy is renowned for good food. Pizza, pasta and gelato are well-known and popular choices.

Pizza can be found the world over, but nothing can match the pizza produced in Italy.

In the 19th century, the Margherita pizza was the first pizza invented, although there is some evidence that there was something like a pizza in ancient times.

In 1889, chef Raffaele Esposito created a pizza for Queen Margherita of Savoy, using three colours to make it resemble the Italian flag.

He used a red tomato sauce, white mozzarella and green basil leaves.

He named the pizza after her, and the Margherita is the most popular pizza produced in Italy.

If you wanted a pizza with pineapple in Italy, the chef would look at you in horror!

When it comes to pasta, there are around 300 different shapes used in Italy, including spaghetti, penne, rigatoni, linguine, tagliatelle and ravioli.

There is also a wide variety of sauces, often identified with different parts of the country.

For example, carbonara is from Rome, pesto is from Genoa and Bolognese is from Bologna.

However, pasta isn’t generally eaten as the main course in Italy.

It is a separate course between the starter and the main.

When it comes to sweet things, Italy is famous for gelato, a type of ice cream that is lower in fat and air and served at a higher temperature than typical ice cream, making it softer.

It was invented in the late 17th century and is not usually made in factories but in artisanal dessert shops.

There are at least 5,000 dessert shops in Italy that produce this delicious dessert.

Recommended tours:

11- Wine

Panorama Of Wine Fields In Italy
Wine is what Italy is known for.

Italy has an excellent reputation in wine production and currently produces more wine than any other country.

Tuscany is one of the regions that produces the best wines, and here you will find Chianti, Bolgheri Sassicaia, and the sweet dessert wine, Vin Santo.

It is home to some of the country’s top winemakers, for example, Ornellaia, whose bottles sell for over 100 euros a piece.

Other popular wines include Valpolicella and Langhe from Veneto, and Marsala, a sweet red wine, from Sicily.

Many of the wineries are open to the public for a tour and a tasting, after which you are, of course, welcome to buy your favourite bottle of wine.

12- High-End Fashion

Milan Italy Sketch Elements
High-end fashion is what Milan, Italy known for.

Italy is well-known the world over for designer clothes, with brands such as Prada, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Fendi and Versace all being native to Italy.

Milan is the fashion capital of the world, and the high-end fashion district is Quadrilatero della Moda, which means Fashion Square.

All the major designer brands are here, making it one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world.

Milan is one of the four cities in the world to hold a fashion week, the others being New York City, London and Paris.

Milan Fashion Week is held twice a year.

In February/March, the autumn and winter fashions are shown, and in September/October, the spring and summer clothes are displayed.

Milan buzzes at these times, with not only fashion shows but also parties and parades.

It is a good time to visit the city.

13- Pompeii

Extraordinary Landscape Of Pompeii, Italy
Pompeii is what Italy is known for from Roman times.

Pompeii was an ancient Roman city that was destroyed by a massive eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

It is a massive site near the Bay of Naples which is still being excavated.

It takes at least a day to see everything if not more and you can visit either on your own or with a tour.

Apart from the buildings, you will see the calcified bodies of both people and animals who were frozen as they tried to escape the lava flowing into the city.

It may be horrific, but it does give you an idea of the fear the people felt as they tried to escape, much more so than if you just toured the buildings and streets.

Highlights of Pompeii include the Roman Forum and Amphitheatre, which were the main public areas of the city.

The House of Vetti is interesting as it’s decorated with beautiful frescoes and mosaics.

You can also see homes, brothels, restaurants and shops, giving you an idea of how the ordinary person lived.

14- Luxury Cars

Old Racing Car In Rally Mille Miglia 2022
Luxury cars is what Italy is famous for.

Italy is famous for producing luxury sports cars, and the most renowned brands are based there, such as Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini.

There are several museums dedicated to luxury cars in different parts of the country.

If you like Ferraris as I do, head to the Ferrari Museum.

As well as seeing a stunning exhibition of these beautiful cars, you can take a tour around the Ferrari factory and drive a Ferrari in a professional racing simulator.

The National Automobile Museum has 30 exhibition rooms showcasing more than 200 cars and the development of cars in Italy and the rest of the world.

Italy produces Alfa Romeo and Fiat cars, both of which are stylish.

One of the most iconic cars is the Fiat 500, which is still being produced after six decades and symbolises the Dolce Vita era of Italian life in the 1960s, just like the Vespa scooter.

Recommended tour: Rome: Vintage Fiat 500 Cabriolet Private City Tour

15- The Italian Lakes

Lake Como From Villa
The Lakes is what Italy is known for.

Italy is also famous for its lakes in the north of the country and are sought-after holiday retreats.

Lake Garda is the largest of the lakes and is beautiful, particularly because it is surrounded by the Alps.

The lake acts as a solar panel and the mountains as an insulator, meaning that the lake has a mild climate all year round.

The grapes grown here produce particularly good wine.

Look out for the white Lugano and the red Bardolino.

The olive oil is also very special.

The lakes Como and Maggiore have high-end hotels surrounding them and attract the rich and famous, who also buy homes here.

These lakes have stunning mountain and lake views, so it isn’t surprising that homes here are sought after.

The towns and villages lying on the lakes are beautiful, such as Cannero on Lake Maggiore, which has a sandy beach and a castle.

The mediaeval town of Malcesine on Lake Garda has a cable car to Monte Baldo and a castle.

Food popular in the lakes includes freshly caught fish, risotto flavoured with saffron, and polenta topped with cheese.

These dishes can be found in both high-end restaurants and trattorias, and anything in between.

Recommended tour: From Milan: Lake Como and Bellagio Private Boat Cruise

World Map With Magnified Italy

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Irena Nieslony
Irena Nieslony was born in Windsor, England but now lives on the island of Crete, Greece, in a small village called Modi near the city of Chania. She has visited 32 countries in Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Africa. Her favourite country is Tanzania as she loves wildlife and was lucky enough to see ‘The Big Five”. She also loves Egypt, as ancient history intrigues her, the southern states of the US and the cities of Memphis, Nashville, and New Orleans for music. She has a B.A. Honours degree in English and Drama from Westfield College, University of London. She has been writing for over 13 years and has 13 novels, 7 short stories and thousands of articles published.