Italian Culture

Viareggio Carnival float
Viareggio Carnival float

Facts and fiction about Italy

On this site we don’t want to tell you all those obvious things which you can find in any good guidebook or which have been repeated ad nauseam without originality in millions of magazine articles. For all the basic information we prefer to refer you to good guidebooks or other kinds of books or films which we recommend elsewhere on the site, or follow the links to other resources below.

Vespas, piazzas, espressos, fashion, cars, design: all this is by now the staple of every writer about Italy, and everybody knows about it.

We want to give you insider, news-related information, written by Italians. Understanding the language is the key to understanding the culture. For instance, did you know that in Val d’Aosta, a small region in the north-western corner of Italy, is the European equivalent to Las Vegas, the biggest casino in Europe: Saint Vincent? And that all the mountains above 4000 metres high in the Alps range are here? Did you know that the town of Viareggio, on the Tuscan coast near Lucca, boasts one of the most beautiful carnivals in the world, with big floats created by artists parading on the seafront and people eating and dancing in the streets for Mardi Gras over a period of two weeks? Let’s talk about Pisa. Pisa is not only or even mainly the Leaning Tower. It’s a Pompeii of the sea. Something remarkable happened: 15 Roman ships were recently uncovered, which makes it the biggest discovery of the Roman fleet.

There are also some current myths about Italy, which bear very little resemblance to the facts. Let’s consider two of them.

Myth number one: since Italy is predominantly a Roman Catholic country, it must have a very high birth rate.

Italian female painter Artemisia Gentileschi
Italian female painter
Artemisia Gentileschi

Fact: Italy has the lowest birth rate in Europe and one of the lowest (if not the lowest) in the world, with 9.1 births per 1,000 inhabitants. Compare it with the UK, for which the same figure is 11.9, or Norway, 13.3.

Myth number two: in Italy women are particularly discriminated against.

Fact: Italian women have acquired intellectual respectability relatively early in history. The women of Renaissance times had achieved a high degree of intellectual and literary freedom. Never in the history of the Western world has any era so abounded in poetry written by women as the Italian Renaissance. This period of Italian history is remarkable for an enormous number of learned, talented and powerful women, who rivalled men both in art and in political life. The first woman painter of some standing in the history of Western art is an Italian, Artemisia Gentileschi, rather worshipped as an icon by contemporary feminists.

But if we want to get to times closer to ours, let’s think of the images of women that Italian cinema has conveyed or the type of actresses it has created. In the ’50s and ’60s, when Hollywood was dominated by the Marylin Monroe model of femininity of the pea-brained blonde, Cinecittà gave us Sophia Loren and Anna Magnani, impersonating on the screen figures of strong and assertive women.

Click on the following links to find a comprehensive list of books, DVDs, videos, CDs and other things on Italy, including auction items and web resources:

Click here for a list of books and other information on Italy from

Click here for a list of books and other information on Italy from