Since Antiquity, Italy has always been a center of knowlegde and culture, as attested by the many historic monuments, museums and galleries, as well as the fact that about half of the 20 world's oldest universities are Italian (Bologna, Modena, Padua, Naples, Siena, Rome, Perugia, Firenze, Pisa). Bologna is also the oldest university in the Western world.
Italy has also produced some of the internationally most renowned names in fashion (Prada, Gucci, Versace), design and technology (Pirelli, Ferrari and Fiat, just to name a few), yet at its heart it remains highly traditional and attached to its customs and agricultural heritage. B&B in the cities of art and farm stays or Agritourism are a good way to get a glimpse of that other side of Italy.
Emblem of the Italian Republic: a white star (symbol of Italy since the Risorgimento), a wheel (symbol of labor and progress), an oak branch (strength and dignity of the Italian people) and an olive brach (pursuit of peace by the Italian Nation).
Another fascinating aspect about Italy are the many contrasts you encounter in this country. While being the cradle of modern western civilization, it is also politically one of the youngest nations in Europe, as it did not exist as a unified country until 1861. Read more about the history of Italy.
Italy was a charter member of NATO and as a founding member of the European Economic Community (EEC) has been at the forefront of European economic and political unification. Italy is also part of the G8 (the Group of Eight), a forum for world's major industrialized (and most powerful) democracies.
Some also see a strong contrast in the seemingly very conformist way Italians dress and follow the diktats of fashion, as opposed to what seems a desorganized and choatic italian public life.
Customs, Traditions & Holidays
Eating Out & Going Out
Osterie & Locande d'Italia:
A Guide to Traditional Places to Eat and Stay in Italy