In 2007 a mongrel dog called Rocco led his owner Cristiano Savini to a 3.3lb white truffle which was buried almost 3 feet underground in a wood in Tuscany. It was the largest truffle unearthed in half a century and sold for a world record of more than £165k at auction. Incredibly Savani said the truffle was a ‘gift from God’ and donated all the proceeds to charity, while Rocco had to settle for a new kennel.
When McDonalds opened its doors in Rome in 1986 thousands of Italians got their culinary knickers in a twist over the ‘degradation of Italy’. In protest they held a demonstration with celebrities, singers, actors and politicians rallying with supporters and cooking free fresh spaghetti for everyone. Clearly the Italians did not realise at the time just how good a double cheeseburger tastes when you’re stumbling out of the local disco. A carbonara after a rake of pints, however, would be messy to carry and realistically that amount of creamy sauce is only going to lead the way to chunder town.
Major badass and all-round revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi. After spending 12 years as a sea dog he joined the Italian Unification Movement in 1834 and went about trying to sort out Italy as a unified world power. This did not please the Austrians and Garibaldi bailed to South America rather than get hung for treason. He was there for 14 years and was still well up for a bit of a freedom-fighting scraps, so Garibaldi aided the Uruguayan gauchos in their fight against Argentina. He won many battles and consequently secured Uruguay’s freedom.
After taking on Rome in 1848, Austria in 1854 and Sicily in 1859 Garibaldi managed to piss off plenty of people including the Austrians, the Pope and the French, but he also managed to finally unify Italy in 1860. Overall a pretty lairy individual who loved a fight and is regarded a hero across Europe.
The second most successful team in the history of the World Cup, so clearly, pretty damn hot. They have won four titles and finished runners-up on two further occasions. In 1910 they won their first international match, beating France 6-2 in Milan and the 4,000 spectators threw cigarettes on to the pitch as reward for the players. A tradition you’re unlikely to see in Rio despite the desires of Jack Wilshere.
Italy won the first two World Cups they entered in 1934 and 1938 before picking up a European Championship on home soil in 1968 and winning a third World Cup in 1982. They made it four World Cup successes in 2006 by beating France on penalties as Marco Materazzi laid the smack-talk on Zinedine Zidane. The Azzuri crashed out in the group stages in 2010 after a humiliating defeat by Slovakia, but they were beaten finalists in Euro 2012 and were undefeated in qualifying for Rio, proving they are far from finished at the top level.
Acceptable National Stereotype
Stylish, beautiful, suave people blessed with a fiery passion and fabulous cuisine
Unacceptable National Stereotype
Melodramatic, loud fascists who can’t drive and spend too much time gesticulating with their hands
Don’t be surprised if…
Despite an aging squad and defensive style, they’re still knocking around in the latter stages. They love a big tournament.
Odds to win World Cup 2014: 25/1