If you’re planning a trip to Italy or just teaching about the culture, remember that children learn best when they can relate and have fun. When teaching children facts about Italy, present what they can understand and connect it to things they already know.

Where Is Italy?

View of Italy from outer space
View of Italy from outer space

Italy is in southern Europe, to the right of France. On a map it looks like a boot sticking out into the Mediterranean Sea. Sicily is a large island of Italy that looks like a football being kicked by the boot. Sardinia is Italy's second largest island and is located directly south of the French island of Corsica. Elba is a small island of Italy and is located near the knee of the boot.

Geography and Climate

View of coastal village of Vernazza on the coastline of Cinque Terre, Italy
View of coastal village of Vernazza on the coastline of Cinque Terre, Italy

The northern part of the country is dominated by the mountain chain known as The Alps. The Alpine climate is cold in winter. Warm winds from the Mediterranean Sea bathe southern Italy with milder weather, and hot winds from Africa sometimes make summers hot. Italy’s capital city of Rome was also for many centuries the capital of the ancient world. Rome is home to the Colosseum, which is the amphitheater where gladiators fought, and also Vatican City, an independent city-state where the pope, head of the Roman Catholic Church, resides. Milan is Italy’s next largest city where many famous fashion designers live.

Pizza

Margherita pizza
Margherita pizza

Flatbreads, the forerunner of modern pizza, were served by street vendors in Naples during the 1700s and 1800s. It was an easy-to-make, inexpensive food that poor people could afford. Pizza was first made simply of bread topped with garlic, butter and salt. No one knows when tomatoes were added, but some think marinara sauce got its name because Italian fishermen ate pizza for breakfast and "marinara" is related to the Italian word for "sailor." When Queen Margherita came to Naples in 1889 the pizza she was most most fond of was garnished with red tomatoes, basil and soft white cheese. Since then, this type has been called Margherita pizza.

Sports

Panoramic view of Val Di Fassa ski resort in northern Italy.
Panoramic view of Val Di Fassa ski resort in northern Italy.

Soccer is the national sport of Italy and the country has won the World Cup championship four times and has been runner-up twice. Bicycling is popular in Italy, which hosts many bicycle races and tours. Some of the world’s best bikes are manufactured in Italy and Belgium is the only country that has won more World Cycling Championships than Italy. Snow skiing is also popular, and the Italian Alps are a favorite destination for downhill skiers from all over the world.

Unusual Sights

Place of Miracles in Pisa with the leaning tower
Place of Miracles in Pisa with the leaning tower

The city of Venice in northeastern Italy consists of 120 islands surrounded by canals. People travel by boat or on foot over a network of 400 pedestrian bridges. Another unusual sight, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, was constructed on soft soil and after the first three stories were built, it began to lean. Construction was halted and the tower was not completed until over 100 years later.