You’ve probably seen the usual tourist attractions in Italy, from Venice to Sicily. That doesn’t mean you’re done with the country, as there may still be a lot you haven’t seen yet—from the funny to the weird. Here are 5 offbeat sights in the country that you may want to check out:
L’importuno di Michelangelo, Florence
Sure, most tours of Italy cover Michelangelo’s major works such as the Sistine Chapel. But the esteemed artist also has a cheeky side, exemplified by this piece of street art. The Importuno is merely an etching of a man’s profile into the walls of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
According to legend, this was the likeness of a man who often stopped Michelangelo for a chat. The artist did not enjoy those conversations, however. So one day, while that man was talking to him, Michelangelo was so bored that he etched the man’s face on the brick. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Fontana dei Matti (Fontana del Bargello), Gubbio
Yes, this fountain looks plain at first sight. But what makes it unique is a ritual performed at its site—a ritual to certify you as a Madman of Gubbio. To get this peculiar distinction, simply dip your finger in the fountain and run around it three times, assisted by a local. Once you’re done, you can now earn this distinction (with certificates that can be purchased nearby).
But how did this custom originate? Sources say that mad doesn’t exactly mean crazy; it is simply a rank equivalent to a joker or a court jester.
Pyramid of Cestius, Rome
Italy is the last place you’d expect to see an actual pyramid. But just right near one of Rome’s major train terminals is this structure, built during the time when Rome conquered Egypt.
Once rumored to be the final resting place of Romulus and Remus, this pyramid was actually built for a nobleman, Gaius Cestius. It was constructed between 18 and 12 BC, during a time when Egyptian designs were in vogue.
The Dragon’s Rib, Atessa
While many dispute that this bone actually came from a dragon—some say it’s from a mammoth–it’s definitely something to check out in this quaint town. Legend has it that the dragon once lived between the old towns of Ate and Tixa, the forerunners of Atessa. The villagers then sought the help of Saint Leucio, bishop of Brindisi, who had slain the dragon in his own city. The saint came to the rescue, killing the beast.
As a mark of gratitude, the two towns erected the Cathedral of Saint Leucio on the spot where the dragon died. It now houses the rib today, in a case of glass and iron.
Borgo Medievale (Medieval Village), Turin
In a country full of medieval buildings, many of which are being maintained or restored, you’d think that they won’t need another one. That’s not the case for Alfredo D’Andrade, a Portuguese architect, who had this entire medieval village constructed in 1882.
Located inside Valentino Park, this collection of buildings is modeled after famous ones in Piedmont and the Valle d’Acosta. The area also hosts activities to illustrate medieval life. So just in case you don’t have enough time to visit the real villages in the region, then check out the Borgo Medievale.
Which other offbeat tourist attractions in Italy should be in the list?