Fast cars to Latin lovers: Italy's top 15 cultural exports
This beguiling peninsula has produced an incredible wealth of cultural exports.
By John Walsh
Some might say Loren, some Lollobrigida, some Bellucci, but of all the Italian screen goddesses who dominated post-war western cinema, it was Ms Cardinale who took the Garibaldi.
2. La dolce far niente
8. Federico Fellini
11. Ancient Rome
It dominated western Europe for 1,200 years, starting as a collection of settlements around the river Tiber, and growing into an empire that stretched from Britannia in the west to Egypt and Syria in the east and comprised a Greater Europe from Constantinople to Africa. It began as a kingdom, evolved into a republic for 500 years, then an empire when Julius Caesar's heir Octavian took the name Augustus. Its 480-year imperium was a byword in autocratic rule, corruption, decadence and personal folly, until it was overrun by barbarians. But the Roman world laid down for subsequent generations the rules of how to live and was the first triumphant experiment in both domestic civilisation and world domination.
His name translates prosaically as "Jack Newhouse", but Giacomo Girolamo Casanova is a byword for heartless womanising. Neglected by his parents, he pursued careers in law, church, army, gambling and playing the violin. His main occupation, however, was playing the nobleman and having intrigues. Blasphemy, seduction, fights and scandals landed him in prison. This reckless adventurer, lover and serial scoundrel meekly ended his days a librarian in Bohemia.
14. Leonardo da Vinci
Perhaps the most diversely talented person who ever lived, Leonardo has a CV like nobody else's. During his heyday in the late 15th century, he produced workable designs of a motor car, a tank, a helicopter, a calculator, a bobbin-winder and a machine for testing the strength of wire. He made vital discoveries in medicine, optics and hydrodynamics. He played the lyre brilliantly. He redesigned the dome of Milan cathedral. He worked for the Borgias as a military architect. And he painted a handful of astonishing masterpieces and, incidentally, the most famous portrait in the world.
Known as The Divine Ponytail and feted almost as much for his satanic good looks as his magical footwork, Baggio was the finest embodiment of the golden age of Italian football in the 1990s. His speed, his agility and his ability to find impossible angles made him a legend. He appalled goalkeepers by sending shots sailing in over their heads rather than past their arms. Once, in a feat of genius, he took a corner kick and scored. It's just as well he ballsed up the most important kick of his life – the deciding penalty in the 1994 World Cup final against Brazil – or we'd have had to conclude that he was superhuman.