Caves such as the Grotta Romanelli (Castro) and the Grotta delle Veneri at Parabita were inhabited during the Paleolithic Age.
The Grotta dei Cervi, near the village of Porto Badisco, contains paintings dating back to the Neolithic Age.
Obsidian (volcanic glass), found in Sardinia, was an important commodity around 5000 BC.
Archimedes, the famous mathematician, was born in Sicily.
The name for Italy's capital city, Rome, is derived from its legendary founder Romulus.
Before the advent of Christianity the Romans worshipped many gods and goddesses.
Spartacus was a slave who fought as a gladiator. He escaped, led a rebellion but was eventually killed in battle in 71 BC.
Many early Christians suffered death in the Roman arena because their religion conflicted with Roman religion and service in the army.
The Romans were great builders: Augustus (the first emperor) boasted that he found Rome built of brick and left it built of marble.
The Roman army was the best in the ancient world.
Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, crossed the Alps into Italy with thirty-seven elephants in 218 BC.
Cicero was a famous Roman orator and writer.
I Claudius and Claudius the God written by Robert Graves tell the story of Claudius Caesar and the early emperors.
Pompeii was destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.
Pliny the Elder wrote Natural History in 77 AD. He died in Vesuvius' eruption.
St Peter, one of the twelve Apostles and martyred in Rome, was the first of more than two hundred and sixty-five Popes.
The Holy Shroud of Turin is believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth.
Building of the Tower of Pisa was started in 1173 and completed in the middle of the fourteenth century. The Tower began to lean before it was finished as it had shallow foundations.
At the end of the thirteenth century Marco Polo, a Venetian, born on the island of Korcula (Croatia), spent twenty-five years in the court of Kublai Khan in China.
Some people think that pasta may have been invented by the Chinese as it is part of the cuisine in regions of China.
The mathematician known as Fibonacci (1170-1250) lived in Pisa.
St Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) is best known for his love of animals and nature.
Padua University - a centre of learning in the Renaissance - was founded in 1222.
In the middle of the fourteenth century the Bubonic Plague, known as the Black Death, killed one third of the Italian population.
The Medici were a prominent family from Florence who became wealthy through banking and commerce.
Niccolo Machiavelli was a famous political scientist, author of The Prince.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452- 1519) was a famous Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, engineer and scientist.
Michelangelo (1475-1564) who painted the Sistine Chapel was also a sculptor and architect.
Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), the famous explorer from Genoa, died thinking that he had reached Asia not America.
America was named after a Florentine, Amerigo Vespucci ((1454-1512), who identified North and South America as separate from Asia.
Galileo Galilei, born in Pisa in 1564, was a famous mathematician and astronomer.
Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) was a designer of musical instruments, most famous for his violins.
The volt, a unit of electrical measurement, is named after the Italian physicist, Alessandro Volta (1745-1827), who invented a device to generate static electric charges.
The 1908 earthquake in Messina killed many thousands of people.
Guglielmo Marconi was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1909 for his work on wireless telegraphy.
Enrico Fermi was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1938 for his work in nuclear physics.
On 1st January 1999 Italy was one of the eleven countries to join the Eurozone currency union.