Italy has been fascinating the world for centuries. The European country is one of the most visited places on Earth and attracts millions of tourists for its gastronomy, wine, history, art, and natural beauties. It is impossible to enjoy everything it offers in a couple of weeks during holidays.

After visiting Italy for the first time, it is possible to understand that the country will always have endless surprises. Italy has emerged as one of the most influential cultures through the centuries, and there is always something new to learn about Italian culture and history. Here are a few surprising facts about Italy's history that are worth knowing.

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10 No Other Country Has So Many World Heritage Sites

Traveling to any region in Italy means being surrounded by historical sights. The history of Italy dates from thousands of years ago, so it is no surprise that it is the country with the most World Heritage Sites.

According to Unesco, Italy tops the list with 58 properties, followed by China with 56 places. Among the World Heritage Sites visitors can find in Italy are the archaeological areas of Pompei, the city of Verona, the center of Rome, and the Amalfi coast.

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9 Italy Was Shakespeares Favorite Country

Although William Shakespeare was born in England, he was fascinated by Italy. Most people might remember Romeo and Juliet lived their love story in Verona, but they were not the only Shakespeare characters to live in Italy. According to BBC, the poet and screenwriter set 38 plays - one-third of his work - in the country, including Othello, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Merchant of Venice.

Ironically, some people say Shakespeare never set foot in Italy and he learned about the country by talking with merchants. However, others believe he spent his lost years between 1585 and 1592 in Italy.

8 What Happens To The Fontana de Trevis Coins

The Fontana de Trevi is one of the must-go places in Rome. Part of the ritual of visiting the place involves throwing a coin a making a wish - and tourists take it seriously. According to some sources, Rome's Trevi Fountain made US$1.5 million in 2016, as tourists throw nearly US$3,500 into the fountain every day.

But where does the money go? From time to time, the city removes the coins from the coins and the money goes to charitable activities of the church. The money corresponds to 15% of Caritas Rome's annual budget.

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7 Italy's Last King Ruled The Country For Less Than Two Months

When World War II ended, Mussolini's regime was replaced by a monarchy ruled by King Umberto II in 1946. He became known as Re di Maggio (May King), and he ruled the country for 36 days between May 9 and June 12. Umberto was forced to leave the position after a referendum that approved the republican government.

After abdicating the throne, Umberto lived in Portugal and died in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1983. His family recently made the headlines after his descendants tried to reclaim the royal jewels.

6 Italians Have Been Eating Pasta For Thousands of Years

It is impossible to talk about Italian gastronomy and don't think about pasta. Food is a huge part of Italy's history, and some sources claim it was introduced to Italian cuisine by Marco Polo in the last 13th Century, inspired by things he saw during his travels. However, while exploring the Etruscan tomb, researchers found pasta-making equipment that dates back to the 4th century B.C.

Italians have improved their pasta-making skills through the centuries and chasing the best pasta dishes is a must-do for anyone visiting Italy.

5 Italy Is Home To The Oldest University In The World

The University of Bologna was founded in 1088 and has never closed its doors. Known as the 'Nourishing Mother of the Studies,' it is the oldest university in the Western world. Among its alumni are famous politicians and popes.

The place is also one of the most beautiful universities in Europe, and it is popular among tourists. It is possible to visit the place from Monday to Saturday during the daytime. Some highlights of the visit are the Palazzo Poggi, Collegio di Spagna and the library.

4 Cats Have Rights In Italy - Literally!

There is no doubt Italians are cat-lovers. In Ancient Rome, they were considered sacred and there were statues of cats in the city. They were the favorite animals of goddess Diana. Cats are part of Modern Rome and Largo Argentina, known as the place where Brutus stabbed Julius Caesar, are currently home to 130 feral cats.

The love of Italians for cats is still alive. There are nearly 300 thousand cats in Rome and they are all protected by a law that guarantees they can live where they choose and cant be removed. The law also assures that health authorities have to look after the cats.

3 Italy Has More Than Many Minority Language

Obviously, Italian is the official language of Italy and is spoken by 6o million people living in the country. However, Italy also received the influence of different cultures through the centuries and the government has defined historical languages minorities, including French, Greek, German, Sardinian, Albanian, Occitan, Croatian, Slovene, Ladin, Friulian, Catalan, and Franco-Provencal.

The country also has some endangered languages and thirty Italian dialects might disappear in the coming years. One of them is Molise Croatian, spoken by less than one thousand people in Campobasso province.

2 The Country Has a Violin Capital

The violin was invented by Andrea Amati more than four centuries ago in Cremona. Since then, the place held the reputation of Italy's violing capital, and the artisans' work is recognized as one of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Cremona is one of the few cities where tourists can see how craftspeople made violins centuries ago, as they managed to preserve this art. Visitors can also enroll in one of the many workshops and learn how to make a violin.

1 Pompeii Was Rediscovered Many Centuries Later

While most people have heard about Pompeii nowadays, the city has been undiscovered for many centuries. Pompeii was destroyed after Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. The city was only rediscovered in the 18th Century and the excavations revealed well-preserved bodies, buildings, and tools. Thanks to that level of preservation, it was possible to reimagine the life of Pompeii back then and researchers are still exploring it.

According to National Geographic, Pompeii is the "longest continually excavated site in the world."

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