You'll see the national flag of Italy everywhere you go in the country, and not just flying from buildings! Since the days of ancient Rome, flags and coats of arms have held a special place in the symbolism and culture of Italy. The present-day national flag is no exception.
Look out for it making an appearance in clothes, shoes, pasta, pizza, salads - even gelato! It's such an important part of life in Italy that it's worth knowing something about it before you visit.
Italy's flag: Colours
It's a three-coloured flag. also called tri-colour (in Italian, 'Il Tricolore' pronounced "Eel Tree-col-aw-ray"). The three vertical stripes are the same size, and the colours are green, white and red. The green stripe is always placed nearest to the flagpole.
Meaning of the Italian flag colours.
Its military origins have encouraged some to think that its design is based on the colours of Milan (red and white) and the Milanese civic guard (green). There's also a religious interpretation whereby green represents hope, white, faith and red, charity.
But that's a bit mundane for the people of Italy. Italians prefer a more romantic explanation.
The most popular - which has become the accepted fact - is that the colours represent Italy itself: white for the snowy Alps and other mountain regions; green for the plains and the hills; and red for the blood spilt in the Italian wars of independence.
Which is right? Whichever you choose!
The Italian Flag: When's it used?
As in any country, the flag is flown at ceremonial occasions and on government buildings.
It's unusual for Italians to fly their flag on their houses or in their garden in the way families in the United States do.
The exception to that is when the national football (soccer) team is doing well in any tournament. At that point, you'll see the flag everywhere: draped from windows, flying from cars and wrapped around supporters.
The Italian Flag and Food!
But in Italy, the flag is used for much more than just for flying. They don't make a big deal of it, but Italians love their flag, and love to show it - although almost always in a cleverly understated way.
Its colours feature in everything from footballs to ice cream, pizza and salads. It's most in evidence at football matches, it flies from public buildings, it's used as a design feature for clothing and all manner of private and civic celebrations.
And often in the Italians, their other great love is food.
Pizza Margherita was originally made in Naples for a visit of Queen Margherita of Savoy, in the colours of the Italian flag. So, red tomatoes, white mozzarella cheese and fresh, green basil. It remains a firm favourite amongst the many pizzas eaten in Italy today. You're bound to see it during your stay - give it a try. It's simple and simply delicious!
And then there's that other food standard, the Caprese Salad. Same ingredients: tomatoes, mozzarella, basil. Usually served arranged in those coloured rings on a plate. Sometimes, though, with a variation on how it's served.
But never a variation in the colours. Caprese salad is always in the Italian flag colours. If there's any added colour, it's not a true Caprese.