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Italian Inventions


A real Neapolitan pizza is made with San Marzano tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella cooked in a wood burning oven.

Have you ever wondered what kinds of everyday things you use did Italians invent? The list of Italian inventions is a long one.  Here are Tour Italy Now’s picks for the top 10 Italian inventions.

Wireless Communication.  

You are reading this online right?  You can thank Guglielmo Marconi for that. In 1909 he and Karl Ferdinand Braun won the Nobel Prize in Physics for contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy.  In 1902 Marconi successfully sent the first transatlantic transmission from Canada to the United Kingdom.  This revolutionary technology was critical when the luxury ocean liner the Titanic sank and wireless communications were maintained for 72 hours during the rescue operations.

Barometer and Thermometer

Knowing what the weather will be like and what the temperature is on your Italian vacation is very important.  The thermometer was invented by Galileo Galilei in 1593. Galileo created a glass instrument filled with water that rose and fell as the temperature changed. Friend and student of Galileo, Evangalista Torricelli created the barometer in 1643.  The instrument measures pressure in the atmophere that can be used to predict the weather.


There are references to corrective lenses as far back as the first centuryAD found in writings of Seneca the younger. You probably know that Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals, but you may not recognize the name Giordano da Pisa who in 1280 created one of the first pairs of eyeglasses. Now some of Italy’s biggest fashion names like Gucci and Prada produce todays most stylish frames. A pair of Italian sunglasses make an excellent souvenir from your Italian vacation.


No one enjoys going to the dentist, but people have been doing just that for thousands of years.  The Etruscans, who pre-date the Romans were producing dentures made from both human and animal teeth in 700AD. A little later in about 500AD Etruscans crafted elaborate gold fixtures to attach these false teeth.


In the mid 1500’s in Amati workshop located in the northern Italian town of Cremoa, Andrea Amati is credited with creating the 4 stringed instrument that is still played today and known as a violin.  Generations of the Amati continued with this art even employing as an apprentice one of the most famous names associated with the instrument, Antonio Stradivari.  Violin makers, known as luthiers are still crafting these exquisite instruments by hand today.  You can find modern luthiers in small workshops near the Vatican, in the historic center of Naples and of course in the town of Cremoa.


While the history of pizza is long and much debated, it is hard to argue that Italy claims the prize for the best place to eat the best pizza in the world.

In 1830 in Naples, the world’s first pizzeria, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, was opened. MOre than fifty years later, in 1889, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy visited the City of Naples. A pizzaiolo named Raffaele Esposito created three pizzas in the Queens honor. The queens favorite of these new creations, was the one evoking the colors of the Italian flag — green (basil leaves), white (mozzarella), and red (tomatoes). This classic combination is still known as a Pizza Margherita and you can try it at the Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba in Naples, even today.

Espresso Machine

The hiss and whir of the machine that produces a perfect cup of coffee every time is the creation of Achille Gaggia.  In 1938 A patent for a machine that would send highly pressurized water over freshly ground coffee beans to create the desired crema that only the best espresso’s have.  The Gaggia company was founded in 1947 and is still found in bars all over Italy and the world.

Ice Cream Cone

The Italian diaspora in England and the United States are responsible for the ubiquitous crispy wafer.  Ice cream and flavored ices were sold in carts on the street in cities like Manchester, England and New York.

Ice cream cones were patented separately by two Italian Immigrant entrepreneurs in the years 1902 and 1903. Antonio Valvona, an ice cream merchant in Manchester,England patented a biscuit cup producing machine in 1902. In 1903, Italo Marchiony, an ice cream salesman in New York city filed for the patent of a machine which was a “molding apparatus for forming ice-cream cups and the like.” U.S. Patent No. 746,971


You have them in your kitchen drawer, in the kids craft supplies box and probably with your office supplies on your desk, but did you know that scissors, like the ones you use  have been around since 100 AD in ancient Roman? Made from bronze or iron the tool spread as far as the far east to China, Korea and Japan.


Modern banking can trace it’s roots back to medieval and early Renaissance Italy. Wealthy northern cities like, Lucca, Siena, Venice and Florence were established centers of commerce.

Numerous financial terms that you are familiar with come from 14th-century Florence.

The word “bank” comes from the Italian banco, which was the bench on which itinerant merchants traded. If a merchant fell on hard time, his banco was broken the origins of the term, bankruptcy.  Risk comes from Rischio the Tuscan word used for the costs incurred on, or contingencies of, a loan. It was simply a euphemism for interest, something that the Catholic Church had forbidden.

The relationship between banking and the church was a difficult one.  One of the reasons Florence became such a center of great art was that bankers donated some of their profits into the church by way of patronage to offset the perceived sin of their trade.

You can be a part of the Italian banking tradition if you use an ATM machine of the oldest operating bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena. This bank is headquartered in Siena, and has been operating continuously since 1472.

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By Priscila Siano (266 Posts)

Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She's a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients.

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