Aside from pizza, mafia, and mandolino, Italy is responsible for the development of many products the world couldn’t function without. Coffee, of course, is the main one, but also vital things like Spritz, motorways, banks and…Spritz.
Here are 12 more.
1. The Jacuzzi
I was amused by meeting a Dr Jacuzzi here in Italy until I realized the jacuzzi bath was actually named after its inventor Candido Jacuzzi. While we may consider it to be the height of hotel luxury, Jacuzzi originally designed the bath for his son who was born with arthritis.
2. Expanding our waistlines
It’s not just the carby staples like pizza and pasta, it’s the fried fish, fried cheese, fried pastry, fried cream…Italy has a surprisingly Scottish cuisine at times. But not to worry, Italy also invented the solution…
It may be a little drastic but if it means not dieting. Although it was French surgeon Dr. Yves-Gerard who performed the first liposuction operation, the invention of the technique is credited to two Italian gynecologists, Arpad and Giorgio Fischer in 1974.
One of my clearest memories of holidays to Italy as a child was the joy at finding the mini Nutella sachets at the hostel breakfasts. And stashing them for mid-morning snacks. We have to thank the Ferrero company for this creation and, somewhat ironically, war rationing. Pietro Ferrero’s bakery was in Piemonte, an area famous for its hazelnut production. Postwar, chocolate was in short supply, so in his first experiments with the paste from 1946 he used hazelnuts to bulk out the chocolate. In 1964 the creamy chocolate spread as we know it came onto the market developed by Pietro’s son Michele, which uses an incredible 25% of the global supply of hazelnuts. It’s perhaps at its best overfilling a crispy croissant and accompanied by a strong cappuccino.
5. Espresso Machine
In fact, we should really just be thanking Italy for making mornings bearable. Along with the Nutella croissant, those heavenly places known as bars in Italy can whip you up a creamy cappuccino or forcibly-awakening espresso in a matter of minutes thanks to the espresso machine. It was first built and patented by Turin-based Angelo Moriondo in 1884 and later improved by Luigi Bezzera in 1903 in Milan.
6. On the whole still refusing to sell ham and pineapple pizza
Apart from in extremely touristy restaurants, the Italian ability to understand what good food is has meant the Hawaiian pizza is still very much derided here, thank goodness. Not that they can’t get experimental, you can have an entire rock pool of mussels crowning your pizza, or replace the tomato sauce with cream of truffle, or just plonk a giant ball of burrata on top.
This vehicle company had two brainchildren, which presumably secured success for decades. The first is the Vespa (wasp) scooter, a triumph for many reasons. Not only does it look great on a postcard (or to be more up to date, an Instagram photo), but both in Italy and in Britain, notably during the Mod craze, it became a symbol of liberty for young people. Lesser known internationally, but the Queen of Tuscany’s narrow, steep roads, is the Ape (bee). This three-wheeled miniature truck buzzes around the cypress dotted landscape with ease, while tourists scratch wing mirrors and create traffic jams with their four-by-fours.
This quotidian fashion actually originated in Genoa as practical working clothing for sailors. Gênes is the French name for Genoa, and the possible origin of the word ‘jeans’. Although becoming a popular symbol of youth rebellion and then a fashion item in the 50s and 60s, it seems their worker origins remain significant for the older generations in Italy. It is relatively rare to see an older man in jeans when not engaged in some kind of manual labour like making salami or repairing his old Fiat 500.
9. Italian Police
They drive Lamborghini cars, their uniforms are in equal measures terrifying and arousing, and when they’re not fighting crime they seem to spend a lot of time giving helpless female tourists directions accompanied by a smile and a wink. The world is very grateful.
10. The Shopping Centre
Aside from fairly useful things like roads, sewers, and concrete, the Romans gave us the first shopping center, namely Trajan’s Market in Rome. It was built by Apollodorus of Damascus in 100-110 AD and can still be visited today.
11. The Americas
Or rather their discovery by Europeans. Italian born Cristoforo Colombo and his crew were, of course, the initiators of the European exploration and colonisation of the Americas. However, it was explorer Amerigo Vespucci who gave his name to the continents. It was first used by German cartographers Martin Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringmann who decided to use the name ‘America’ on their 1507 map of the world, in honour of Vespucci.
One immediately thinks of the Fiat 500, the original version of which can be described as no less than an icon. But if you go to the wild countryside of Campania or the snow-covered towns of the Apennine hills you will likely meet the Fiat Panda 4×4, a tenacious little car they should probably adopt in the army because it seems to be able to go literally anywhere and, with an Italian driving, at breakneck speed. Fiat is the largest automobile manufacturer in Italy and its founder, Giovanni Agnelli, became so rich he had a helicopter pad on the roof of his offices.