What Is Italy Known For?

Published on: November 19, 2022 | Last Updated on November 28, 2023
An Italian hill town

Italy consistently ranks as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The country’s cultural, historical, culinary, and geographical treasures lure visitors from all over the world. 

What draws people (like us) to Italy year after year? And why would you want to go to Italy, more than anywhere else in the world?

We began creating a list of what Italy is known for, which only scratches the surface. Here are a few of the standouts:


What is Italy Known For? Scratching the Surface

What is Italy Known For? Scratching the Surface


The history of Italy, as a single country, is relatively new (Garibaldi only unified Italy in 1861), but Italy’s culture dates back more than 3000 years. 

Visitors to Italy can easily draw connections between remnants of the past and their influence on modern culture today.

Vatican City: Home of the Pope

What is Italy known for? The Vatican is located in the heart of Rome

The Vatican is located in the heart of Rome

Vatican City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the home of the Pope, seat of the Catholic Church, and the largest religious building in the world. 

Known for its art and architecture, Vatican City is the smallest fully independent city-state in the world.

Birthplace of Opera

Teatro di San Carlo, the opera house in Naples

Teatro di San Carlo, the opera house in Naples

Born in Italy during the Renaissance, the first opera was performed in Florence at the House of Medici. Italy still plays a vital role in the world of opera. 

The Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Teatro La Fenice in Venice and San Carlo Theatre in Naples are among the most famous opera houses in the world but opera houses are scattered through the country.

Range of Italian Music

Street musicians in Florence

Street musicians in Florence

While opera plays a prominent role in Italian culture and identity, Italy isn’t a one-pony show when it comes to music. 

Italian music runs the gamut from classical to jazz to pop. Italian folk music also has a rich heritage. Think: Adriano Celentano, Mina, Lucio Dalla, Eros Ramazzotti, Andrea and Matteo Bocelli, and more.

Significant Art Treasures

Street art in Dozza, Italy, a painted city in Emilia Romagna

Street art in Dozza, Italy, a painted city in Emilia Romagna

The Mona Lisa (now housed in the Louvre) and probably considered the most famous painting in the world, was created by Italian Leonardo da Vinci. 

Art lovers will find paintings, frescoes, sculptures, street art, and other treasures in almost every city and town in Italy, especially in churches and cathedrals. 

Another da Vinci masterpiece, The Last Supper, is housed at the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.

The Beauty of the Italian Language

What is Italy known for? Italian is considered the Bella Lingua (Adobe stock)

Italian is considered the most beautiful language in the world

There’s a reason it’s called the language of romance. People fall in love with the Italian language because it sounds so lyrical and is so tied to art, culture and history. In her book, La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language, author Dianne Hale called Italian “the world’s most loved and lovable language.” 

The language is made all the more colorful because it is often accompanied by hand gestures (sometimes even substituting for words). In his book Speak Italian: The Fine Art of the Gesture, Bruno Munari writes “A gesture is worth a thousand words…Italians are masters of the unspoken art.”

Iconic Architecture

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Whether governmental buildings, religious ones, or private palazzos, Italy has a rich legacy of architecture ranging in styles from classic to Gothic to Baroque and more. 

The Leaning Tower of Pisa and The Colosseum in Rome are so iconic that they are recognized around the world.


Italy has had a profound influence on style ranging from apparel to shoes and bags to eyewear to automobiles and more. It is a profound compliment to tell someone that they dress and carry themselves like an Italian, whether it is the scarf or cardigan around their shoulders that creates an aura of elegance. 

Fashion & Style

Milan is the capital of fashion

Milan is the capital of fashion

Italian brands like Gucci, Fendi, Valentino, Versace, Prada, Armani, Bottega Veneta, MIssoni, Etro, Dolce & Gabbana and Zegna are popular around the world.

Milan is considered the fashion capital of the country and these fashion houses are revered not only for their “Made in Italy” style but also for superior craftsmanship in apparel, leather goods, jewelry and more.

Fast Cars and Motor Races

The Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena

The Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena

Italy is home to some of the most famous automotive makers including Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini.

In fact, a part of Emilia Romagna has been dubbed “Motor Valley” for its auto makers, museums and car and motorcycle races (including Ducati).

Importance of the Family (la famiglia)

1919 photo of Giacomo Alberti (Riva's great grandfather) and his second wife

1919 photo of Giacomo Alberti and his family

Italian families tend to be close-knit with much of everyone’s time and attention centered around the family. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and Sundays provide an excuse for family gatherings, usually over a big meal. 

Italians also tend to maintain strong ties with extended family members (outside the nuclear family), and even embracing non-blood relatives as cugini (cousins). Yet, they are welcoming to strangers!


Italian food and drink is indeed regional—based on the ingredients, recipes and traditions that vary across its 20 regions. Many of the products are protected by EU law, which helps protect their quality and authenticity.

Rich Coffee Drinks

Food rule: Cappuccino is only a breakfast drink

Food rule: Cappuccino is only a breakfast drink

One might argue whether cappuccino or espresso is Italy’s most famous brew among the many different types of Italian specialty coffees. 

But clearly, the Italian tradition of the coffee bar serving fresh-roasted coffee drinks has become popular around the world. It was after a trip to Italy that Starbucks founder Howard Schultz brought the idea from Milan to Seattle. (As of 2021, there were 33,833 Starbucks stores worldwide.)

Outrageously Delicious Pizza 

What is Italy Known For? Pizza Margherita

Pizza Margherita

Invented in Naples, pizza made its way to America with the waves of Italian immigration and is considered the most consumed food in the world.

Other regions of Italy have flatbread food specialties that are pizza-like. In 2017, the art of making Neapolitan pizza made the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage.

Every Shape of Pasta

Pasta can be dried or fresh, made with or without eggs

Pasta can be dried or fresh, made with or without eggs

Italy has given the world hundreds of different types of pasta, each intended to be paired with a sauce of its own. The shapes of both dry and fresh pasta also vary regionally. 

World Pasta Day is celebrated on October 25 each year. (See my post on everything you need to know about Pasta Etiquette in Italy).

Holiday Cakes

Fiasconaro Mandorlet Panettone from SupermarketItaly.com

Fiasconaro Mandorlet Panettone with almonds from SupermarketItaly.com

Successive waves of Italian immigrants introduced North Americans to some of the specialty foods that are traditional during the Italian holidays. Now they are ubiquitous in bakeries and supermarkets abroad. 

Panettone is the famous Italian Christmas Cake that is served after dinner on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The leftovers make wonderful French toast and bread pudding.

Pandoro is another popular holiday cake, baked in the shape of a star with a sugary icing on top.

On Easter, Colomba Easter Bread, baked in the shape of a dove, is on dinner tables from north to south.

Italian Wines

Gancia Pink Elderflower Spritz

Gancia Pink Elderflower Spritz made with Prosecco Rose (credit: Gancia)

Italy is the largest producer of wine in the world, followed by Spain and France. Different varieties are produced in every region—from north to south. Some Italians even sip some wine for breakfast although a far more popular tradition is the after-work aperitivo

Wine tourism in Italy has been growing in popularity, too, with visitors interested in winery tours and tastings.

Delicious Gelato

Gelato is ubiquitous in Italy

Gelato is ubiquitous in Italy

Gelato (Italian-style ice cream) is another beloved Italian invention. It is generally made with more milk, less cream, less fat and less air than ordinary ice cream and is served at higher temperatures. 

Gelato is enjoyed across Italy but the Carpigiani Gelato Museum in Bologna is the only museum dedicated to this artisan specialty food.

Prosciutto, Parmigiano Cheese and Balsamic Vinegar

Carpaccio salad with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Carpaccio with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

The Emilia Romagna region is known for its PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) products that include Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Prosciutto di Parma ham, and traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena and Reggio Emilia. 

These and other unique Italian specialty foods are savored around the world.

Italian Chocolates

What is Italy Known For? Best Italian Chocolates Online

Italian Cremino Chocolates

Italian chocolates are known for their excellence because they rely on the finest ingredients. 

Until the end of the 1700s, chocolate was only consumed in liquid form by the Italian aristocracy and clergy. In 1832, the Majani workshop in Bologna was the birthplace of the first solid piece of chocolate in Italy.


The Good Left Undone is set in Viareggio, Italy

View of Viareggio (Tuscany) from the sea

Although the peninsula that is Italy is about three-quarters the size of the state of California, the country is blessed with some 4,900 miles of coastline on the Adriatic, Ionian, Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Seas, and the Sea of Sardinia and Strait of Sicily.

What is Italy known for? It’s famous for its small towns as well as its iconic cities. It’s known for its beautiful lakes, mountain chains and hills, coastal beaches, and inland waterways. 

According to U.S. News and World Report, the 20 best places to visit in Italy (ranked in order by tourists and travel experts) are:

  • Rome
  • Venice
  • Amalfi Coast
  • Florence
  • Cinque Terre
  • Tuscany
  • Capri
  • Lake Como
  • Sicily
  • Naples
  • Ischia
  • Puglia
  • Bologna
  • Verona
  • Sardinia
  • Rimini
  • Pompeii
  • Sorrento
  • Portofino, and
  • Genoa

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  • Reply
    Sheryl Kraft
    November 20, 2022 at 8:31 am

    Now I want to return more than ever!

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