18 Italian records and superlative Trivia

(updated December 22, 2017)
The world’s tallest museum, the world’s smallest restaurant, the world’s smallest car, the world’s oldest mall, the world’s oldest violin, the world’s tallest man-made waterfall and other Italian superlative Trivia.

1. World’s tallest museum

The Mole Antonelliana in Turin is the world’s tallest museum.

Originally built as a synagogue by Alessandro Antonelli in 1863, it is now used for temporary exhibitions. It stands 165.15 m tall. A broad terrace above the cupola offers a remarkable view over Turin and the surrounding area.


2. World’s tallest man-made waterfall

The Cascata delle Marmore is the tallest man-made waterfall in the world. Its total height is 165 m (541 feet). Maybe even more incredible, is that it was constructed in 271 BC. Its construction was ordered by the Roman consul Manlius Curius Dentatus, to divert the stagnant waters that were thought to bring diseases to the city of Rieti.


3. World’s oldest family owned manufacturing company

Pontifical Bell Foundry Marinelli. Photo © Slow Italy

The Bell foundry Fonderia Pontificia Marinelli in the town of Agnone, in the Appenine hills is the world’s oldest family owned manufacturing company. It was founded more than 1000 years ago. The company counts 20 employees, among which five members of the founding Marinelli family, and still uses the original wax techniques of its founders. Its bells toll in New York, Beijing, Korea, Jerusalem and South America, among other locations.

Read more: Bell Foundry Marinelli


4. World’s oldest academic botanical garden

Orto Botanico di Padova is the world’s oldest academic botanical garden that is still in its original location.


5. World’s oldest university

The University of Bologna is the world’s oldest university in continuous operation. The word ‘university’ itself was coined in Italy when the Bologna university was built in 1088. See: oldest universities of Italy.

Bologna university is not the only historic university in Italy. Of the 20 oldest universities in the world, about half are Italian. See: Oldest universities of Italy.


6. World’s smallest theater

Teatro della Concordia in Monte Castello di Vibio is the smallest theater all’italiana in the world and one of the oldest historic theaters. The typical Italian design is bell-shaped, with deep narrow hall opening to a proscenium and stage. It dates back to 1808, when nine local families decided their town needed a theater and has the Teatro della Concordia built.


7. World’s oldest surviving indoor theater

Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza is the oldest surviving indoor theater in the world. Designed by Palladio and constructed between 1580-1585, it is also one of only three Renaissance theaters still in existence, together with the Teatro all’antica in Sabbioneta and the Teatro Farnese in Parma.

Read more: Teatro Olimpico of Vicenza.


8. World’s smallest restaurant

Photo © soloperdue.com

Solo per due in Vacone (Province of Rieti) in the Lazio region is the world’s smallest restaurant with just one table, for two. The restaurant is housed in 19th century building with a vine shaded garden. If you arrive in the evening, the driveway will be lit with candles. The cuisine served is local and seasonal and a menu can be arranged in advance at the time of booking. The price to pay for this superlative experience is €250 per person, which includes not only the meal, but all the details, excluding champagne or particularly fine wines.

Info: Solo per due


9. World’s narrowest house

The narrowest house in the world in Petralia Sottana, Sicily. Photo © Marco La Rosa

The world’s narrowest house is located in Petralia Sottana (Palermo), Sicily and is known as casa du currivu (House of Spite), so named because apparently it was only built to annoy the neighbor (the owner’s brother-in-law), who lived in front and enjoyed a beautiful view from his home.


10. World’s most famous wishing well

The Fontana di Trevi is probably the most famous wishing well in the world. Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the fountain, you are ensured to come back to Rome. If you throw the coin while kissing your partner, you are ensured to come back together. An estimated 3,000 Euros are thrown daily into the fountain, which may also make this fountain one of the most lucrative in the world! The money is used to subsidize projects for Rome’s needy.


11. World’s most famous opera house

The Teatro alla Scala in Milan is probably the most famous opera house in the world, the one most associated with “opera.” Opera started in Italy at the end of the 16th century and from there the word and music tradition spread to the rest of Europe. Although the first opera work was produced in Florence in 1598, Milan’s Teatro alla Scala soon became one of the world’s leading opera houses where the greatest operatic artists have appeared since its inauguration in 1778.


12. Biggest Christmas tree of the world

Biggest Christmas tree of the world, in the Umbrian town of Gubbio.

The world’s biggest Christmas tree consists of a lighting illumination in the shape of a Christmas tree, installed annually on the slopes of Mount Ingino outside the town of Gubbio, in the Italian region of Umbria. Read more: Christmas in Italy.


13. World’s most famous violin, world’s most expensive violin and best violin of all times

The oldest confirmed surviving violin in the world, the “Charles IX”, was made by Andrea Amati from Cremona in 1564. The most famous, and certainly the most pristine violin, the “Le Messie” (also known as the ‘Salabue’) is a Stradivarius made by Antonio Stradivari in 1716. A violin created in 1574 c. by Gasparo da Salò is considered one of the best violins of all times.

Read more: Italian luthiers and famous Italian violins.


14. World’s oldest film festival


The oldest international film festival in the world, beginning in 1932, is the Venice Film Festival.


15. World’s region with the highest concentration of sports cars manufacturers

Sports cars in Bologna.
Photo by tpholland

The Emilia-Romagna is home to some world-famous automotive brands, such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and De Tomaso making it the world’s region with the highest concentration of sports cars manufacturers. The motorcycle manufacturer Ducati is also headquartered in Bologna, Emilia Romagna.

See also: Emilia Romagna


16. World’s oldest mall

Depending on the definition of “mall”, i.e. a purposely-built shopping gallery, different from a bazaar or covered market, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan is the World’s oldest mall. One of the landmarks of Milan, it also connects two other famous landmarks of the city: the Duomo and La Scala theatre. It was also the first building in iron, glass and steel in Italy, an avant-garde concept at the time when it was built.



17. World’s oldest bicycle-making company

F.I.V. Edoardo Bianchi S.p.A  is the world’s oldest bicycle-making company still in existence


18. Oldest family in the world

The oldest (longest-living) family in the world lives in Sardinia, where nine brothers and sisters have a collective age of 818 years, according to the Guinness World Records. The Melis family comprises nine brothers and sisters with the oldest being Consolata (105), followed by Claudia (99), Maria (97), Antonio (93), Concetta (91), Adolfo (89), Vitalia (81) and Mafalda (78), all of whom are in excellent health. May be another proof of how healthy the Mediterranean diet is!


Photo credits (top to bottom): Mole Antonellina featured image © Marco Saracco/fotolia; Mole Antonelliana Turin by Edgar  Barany; Orto Botanico Padova by Semolo75; Bologna by Gaspa; teatro olimpico by philip-brown and Augusto Mia Battaglia; Solo per Due © soloperdue.com; Fontana di Trevi by Monika PC; teatro alla scala by sfer; volpecar collage by Slow Italy with photos © www.volpecar.com; Venice Film Festival by Mansour Nasiri; Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele by A H T, Matthias Rohmberg and xiquinhosilva

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