A tribute to Italy
Great Italian Inventions
Countless studies of ancient times reveal
an incredible number of technological
achievements developed centuries and
even milleniums ago that are still used in our
One civilisation which contributed more
than it’s fair share of innovations was that of
Ancient Romans. You may not realize it but
many of the things we all take for granted
in everyday’s life have their roots in Rome.
Here are just a few examples.
Roads - Circa 500 BC
The old proverb “all roads are leading to Rome” stems
from the fact that they originally sort of did, or rather
they came from Rome.
In Great Britain, there were no road prior to the Roman invasion who created a network of straight, solid
highways built on foundations of clay, chalk and gravel
with larger flat stones laid on top. Original Roman roads
are still intact all around the Mediterranean Basin, and
some are still being used.
Aqueducts - 312 BC
Romans enjoyed public toilets, underground sewage systems, fountains and
public baths. None of these innovations
would have been possible without the
aqueducts. First developed around 312
B.C., these engineering marvels used
gravity to transport water along stone
lead and concrete pipelines from rivers
into city centers. Hundreds of aqueducts eventually sprang up throughout
the empire, some of which transported
water as far as 60 miles away from the
Central Heating System - Circa 15 BC
Winters would be all but unbearable for many of us if we did not have our hard-working boilers and radiators. Would you imagine central heating was already used
by the Romans over 2,000 years ago ? The Roman central heating surely worked
differently, but the result was the same. A ground level furnace was used to create
hot air which circulated beneath a thin floor raised up on pillars of tiles, it was
Angelo Moriondo presented
the first espresso machine, that
he build and patented, at the
Turin Exhibition in 1884. He was
granted a patent in May 1884.
His espresso machine was then
called «new steam machinery
for the economic and
of coffee beverage». While
Espresso can now be found
around the world, we have
no doubt the best ones are
still being served in Italy and
particularly in Rome.
Circa 200 BC
Triumphal arches are one of the most
influential and distinctive types of
architecture associated with ancient
Rome. Thought to have been
invented by the Romans, the
triumphal arch was used to commemorate victories, the death of a
member of the imperial family or the
accession of a new emperor.
Triumphal Arches can be found
around the world from Paris to
Moscow, Munich, Bucharest, Mexico,
London, New York….
The Eye Glasses - 1280
Salvino D'Armato degli Armati, a native from Florence, is credited as
being the inventor of the eyeglass even if it is said that it is actually
Salvino D’Armati’s father, Armato who invented it. Either way, the
invention now offers corrective benefits to millions of people all over
the world. Today, the global leader in eyeglasses is Luxottica, an
Italian company that manufactures, among other brands Ray-Ban,
Persol, Oackley, Chanel, Ralph Lauren….
The Combustion Engine
Late 1851 or early 1852 Eugenio Barsanti, a
mathematician and Felice Matteucci, an
engineer and mechanic and hydraulics
expert partenered on a project to exploit the
explosion and expansion of a gaseous mix of
hydrogen and atmospheric air to transform
part of the energy of such explosions into
The Shopping Mall - Circa 100/110 BC
Believe it or not, the concept of the world’s first Shopping Center is not American! It appeared in ancient
Rome. The earliest example of public shopping mall was the Trajan's Market built by Apollodorus of Damascus. This semi-circular building can still be visited today and visitors can clearly see the line up of shops in this
multiple story building located in the center of Rome .
The Anemometer - 1450
The Anemometer was developed by Leon Battista Alberti in
- The anemometer has changed little since its
development in the 15th century. The same invention is still
being used today in the maritime, weather forecast and
aviation worlds to measure the strength of the wind, even if it
is not much of a concern when onboard a Canados !
Concrete - Circa 25 BC
Opus caementicium (Roman
concrete) was made from quicklime, pozzolana and an aggregate of pumice. Its widespread
use in many Roman structures
was a key part of what is now
known as the Roman Architectural Revolution. One of the most
impressive applications was the
construction of the 4535 metric
ton, 6.4 metre thick dome at the
Pantheon in Rome, which can
still be visited. The recent descoveries in Cesaera, Israel, of a
Roman port proved that the
Romans where also mastering
Corpus Juris Civilis
Subpoena, habeas corpus, pro
bono, affidavit - all these terms
derive from the Roman legal
system, which dominated
Western law and government
for centuries. The basis for early
Roman law came from a code
that formed an essential part
of the constitution during the
Republican era. First adopted
around 450 B.C, Roman law
remains hugely influential and
is still reflected in the civil laws
of several world's nations.
The Jeans - Circa Late 1600’s
The jean fabric was invented in the city of Genoa,
Italy and soon appeared in Nimes, France. Gênes,
the French word for Genoa, became "jeans". In
Nimes, weavers tried to reproduce jean but instead
developed a similar twill fabric that became known
as denim, from de Nimes, meaning "from Nimes".
The Latin Alphabet - Circa 700 BC
The Latin alphabet, also known as the Roman alphabet, is an evolution from
the visually similar version of the Greek Alphabet. The Etruscans adopted and
modified the Cumaean Greek alphabet. The Etruscan alphabet was adopted
and modified by the ancient Romans to write the Latin language becoming the
foundation of many languages worldwide.
The Helicopter - 1930
Even if the original vision of the helicopter is to
be credited to Leonardo da Vinci’s 15th Century
Aerial Screw, and despite claims from Russians and
Americans, they did not invent this flying machine.
It is Corradino D’Ascanio’s bladed rotating flying
machine called the D’AT3 that set the standard
for helicopters to come. He also created the first
moped engine for Ferdinando Innocenti, and
then went on to help Enrico Piaggio produce the
original Vespa in 1946.
The Carburetor - 1876
The carburetor was invented by Luigi De Cristoforis, in
- The first carburetor was then developed by
annother Italian, Enrico Bernardi at the University of
Padova in 1882, for his Motrice Pia, the first petrol
combustion one cylinder engine. Carburators are still
being used in lots of 2 and 4 strokes engines
your tender is powered with…
Toilets - Circa 200 BC
In Rome, street corners were equipped with large pots for people
to urinate into so that the liquid could be collected. In some
multi-story buildings, which we still call condominium, a system of
pipes was channelled down to ground level where excrements
were collected to be used as fertiliser. Ancient Roman public
bathrooms consisted of long stone benches with holes every few
feet for people to seat. Beneath the toilets flowed water flushing
away the waste into a sewage system called the Cloaca Maxima. Some part of the antique Roman sewage system is still being
used today in some areas of the city.
The Moped - 1946
It is in 1946 that the central office for inventions, models and makes of the
Ministry of Industry and Commerce in Florence, delivered Piaggio with a
patent for a "motorcycle of a rational complexity of organs and elements
combined with a frame with mudguards and a casing covering the whole
mechanical part". This design became the Vespa, one of the most popular
The Banking System - 1149
The banking system and organization we are using today was
created with the Bank of San Giorgio opened for business in
Genoa, Italy, in 1149. Genova was at that time one of the world’s
wealthiest city due to its intense maritime trade developments.
The world’s oldest bank still in activity is also Italian. It is the Monte
Paschi di Siena that was founded in 1472 in Siena, Toscana.
The Cardan Shaft - Circa 1560
Gerolamo Cardano was considered the greatest mathematician of
the Renaissance. He was one of the key figures in the foundation of
probability and invented several devices including the combination
lock, the gimbal and the Cardan shaft, which is still used today in
the engine room of your yacht...
Milestones - Circa 300 BC
Milestones were originally made from granite, marble, or
whatever local stone was available. They were widely
used by Roman Empire road builders. The first Roman
milestones appeared on the Appian way. At the centre
of Rome, the «Golden Milestone» was erected to mark
the presumed centre of the empire. Romans came up
with this invention to measure the distances of the roads.
The Golden Milestone inspired the « Zero Milestone » in
Washington, D.C., intended as the point from which all
road distances in the United States should be reckoned.
The Pizzeria – 1738
Established in 1738 as a stand for peddlers, Antica Pizzeria
in Naples is considered the world’s first pizzeria when it was
opened as a restaurant in 1830. They would make pizza
in wood-fire ovens and bring it onto the street. The pizzas
were generally simple, with toppings such as oil and garlic.
The Piano - 1698
Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the
modern piano. He was employed by
Ferdinando de Medici, Grand Prince of
Tuscany, as the Keeper of the Instruments. He was an expert harpsichord
maker, and was well acquainted with
the body of knowledge on stringed
The Galleons - Circa 1500
Originally, this new type of sailing ship were built a the begining
of the 16th century. It was called Gallioni and used to protect
Venice against pirates. By the second half of the century,
Galleons were already seen around the Mediterranean. Their
architecture gave them an unprecedented level of stability in
the water, making them faster and more maneuverable.
The Desktop Computer - 1964
It is good to remind neither IBM nor
Apple invented the desktop computer. It was invented by Pier Giorgio
Perroto and produced by Italian manufacturer Olivetti. The Programma
101 was the first commercial «desktop
computer» and was presented to the
public at the 1964 New York World's Fair
while production started in 1965. The
Programma 101 was priced at $3,200.
About 44,000 units were sold, primarily
in the US.
The mp3/mpeg - 1988
Leonardo Chiariglione and his team at
the Moving Picture Expert Group is the
inventor of the MP3 format. Originally
called MPEG and later known as MP3,
both of which are things we couldn’t
have DVD and satellite television without.
The Barometer - 1643
Evangelista Torricelli is credited with inventing the barometer in 1643,
but historical documentation also suggests Gasparo Berti, an Italian
mathematician and astronomer, unintentionally build a water barometer sometime between 1640 and 1643. This invention was, and still
is widely used in the maritime world.
Bound Books - Circa 50 BC
For most of human history, literature took the form of unwieldy clay tablets and scrolls.
The Romans streamlined the medium by creating the codex, a stack of bound pages
that is recognized as the earliest incarnation of the book. The first codices were made
of bound wax tablets, but these were later replaced by animal skin parchment that
more clearly resembled pages..
The Radio - 1895
Even if James Clerk Maxwell showed mathematically
that electromagnetic waves could propagate through
free space and the effects of electromagnetic waves
were observed before and after Maxwell's work by
many inventors, it is Guglielmo Marconi, who in late
1894 began pursuing the idea of building a wireless
telegraphy system based on Hertzian waves. Marconi
gained a patent on the system in 1896 and developed
it into a commercial communication system.
- Typewriter - 1575
In 1575 printmaker, Francesco Rampazzetto, invented the «scrittura tattile»,
a machine to impress letters on papers.
In 1802 Italian Agostino Fantoni developed a particular typewriter to enable
his blind sister to write while it is in 1808
that the typewriter as we were to know
it was invented by Pellegrino Turri.
- The Calendar – 46 BC
Without the Romans we would not even
know today’s date...or, maybe we
would but it would be called something
different. The Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC splited
the year for the first time into 365 days,
divided into 12 months, with a leap day
added to February every four years.
As at Canados, sticking to our contractual delivery dates is a prinicple, we
know exactly the number of days in a
- Electrochemical Battery - 1800
Alessandro Volta build and described
the first electrochemical battery, also
known as the Voltaic pile, in 1800. It was
made of a stack of copper and zinc
plates, separated by brine-soaked paper disks, that could produce a steady
current for a considerable length of
- The Carbon Paper - 1801
It might sound like a strange thing to
the young generations, but this invention has been used worldwide for almost two centuries. In 1801 Pellegrino
Turri invented the carbon paper to provide the ink for his mechanical typing
machine, one of the first typewriters.
- The Jacuzzi - 1963
An Italian immigrant to the United States
of America, Enzo Jacuzzi, invented the
Jacuzzi whirlpool bath for his 15-month-old son who was born with rheumatoid arthritis. He developed a pump that
enabled a whirlpool to be created in a
bath as a hydrotherapeutic device for
The jacuzzi we will install on your boat
did not change much in its conception
- The University - 1088
Almost 1000 years old, the University of
Bologna is the world’s oldest university
in the world. It is still open to these days
and has been continuously since 1088.
The university was made famous for its
teaching of canon and civil law, and later became central in the development
of medieval Roman law.
- The Newspaper - 1556
It is in Venice that the government
realised there was a need for accessible information that could be rotated
around towns, cities and further afield.
Thus, it started to put together a monthly publication called the Notizie Scritte,
a handwritten newsletter that reported
political, military and economic news.
- The Casino - 1638
The first known gambling house, later
called casino, that was comparable
business as we know it today was the Ridotto, established in Venice, in 1638 by
the Great Council of Venice to control
gambling during the carnival. It was
closed in 1770 as the city felt it was impoverishing the population.
- Eau De Cologne - 1708
The first Eau de Cologne was a spirit-citrus perfume launched in Cologne in
1709 by Giovanni Maria Farina, an Italian perfume maker from Santa Maria
Maggiore Valle Vigezzo.
He wanted to invent a fragrance that
reminded him of an «Italian spring morning after the rain». He named his fragrance Eau de Cologne, in honour of
his new hometown.
- The Denture - Circa 700 BC
It as early as the 7th century BC, that
traces of the first denture were discovered. The Etruscans, the inhabitants of a
region now called Toscany, made partial dentures out of human or other animal teeth and bones fastened together
with gold bands.
- The Opera - 1597
Rome born Jacopo Peri was a composer and singer whose carrier span
between the Renaissance and Baroque epoca, and is the inventor of the
He wrote the first opera, Dafne in 1597,
and also Euridice in 1600 that is still
The Paddle Boat - Circa 1490
Centuries before Mark Twain wrote
about paddleboats on the Mississippi
River, Leonardo Da Vinci applied his
knowledge of mechanical engineering
to build a craft that was fast and easy
In this design, sailors worked the pedals
to turn rotating paddles and move the
boat rapidly over the water.
Electroplating, a manufacturing technique invented by Luigi Brugnatelli in 1805. Liposuction, medical procedure invented by Dr
Giorgio Fischer in 1974. Medical Thermometer, invented by Sanctorius in the early 1600s Epidemiology, a discipline invented by Girolamo Fracastoro in the mid 16th C. Montessori education developed by Maria Montessori in 1907. Nitroglycerin, first synthesized
by Ascanio Sobrero in 1847 Parachute, Leonardo da Vinci - 1485 Polypropylene was discovered by Giulio Natta and began to be
manufactured in 1957. Perspective Linear was first invented by Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi, in Florence. Science academy, first scientific society was founded in Naples in 1560 by Giambattista della Porta. Quick release skewer attaching a wheel
to a bicycle was invented by Tullio Campagnolo in 1927. Stem cells as vectors for Gene Therapy. In 1992 Doctor Claudio Bordignon
performed the first procedure of gene therapy. Tontine a form of life insurance developed by Lorenzo De Tonti in 1653. Watermark.
This medieval innovation was first introduced in Fabriano, Italy, in 1282. Welfare. The earliest form of welfare, the lex frumentaria instituted dates back to 122 B.C., a law that ordered Rome’s government to supply its citizens with allotments of cheaply priced grain.
Some Great Italian People
Italy and Rome in particular were the birth
place of some of the world's most famous
people. Some of them shaped the world
while some other defined theories or inventions that we are still using.
Leonardo da Vinci
Born on April 15, 1452, in Vinci,
Italy, Leonardo da Vinci was
the epitome of a “Renaissance
man.” Possessor of a curious
mind and keen intellect, da
Vinci studied the laws of
science and nature, which
greatly influenced his work as
a painter, sculptor, architect,
inventor, military engineer
and draftsman. His ideas and
body of work - which includes
"Virgin of the Rocks," "The Last
Supper" and "Mona Lisa" - have
influenced countless artists
and made da Vinci the
greatest inventor and
visionary of all times.
He was a remarquable politician and general.
He was instrumental provoking a series of events
that led to transform the Roman Republic into the
In 60 BC, he led a political alliance that dominated
the public life for several years. Caesar’s victories
in the Gallic War completed by 51 BC, extended
Rome's territory as far as England and Germany.
In 49 BC he illegally entered Roman Italy under
arms and Caesar’s victory in the civil war he
ignited put him in an unrivaled position of power
After assuming control, he began a program of
social and governmental reforms, including the
creation of the Julian calendar.
In 44 BC, he was killed by a group of rebellious
senators led by Marcus Junius Brutus.
Born February 15, 1564, in Pisa, Gelileo Galilei was
a mathematics professor who made pioneering
observations of nature with long-lasting
implications for the study of physics. He also
constructed a telescope and supported the
Copernican theory, which supports a
sun-centered solar system. Galileo was accused
twice of heresy by the church for his beliefs,
and wrote books on his ideas.
He died in Arcetri, Italy, on January 8, 1642.
Explorer and navigator Christopher Columbus was born in
1451 in the Republic of Genoa, Italy. His first voyage into the
Atlantic Ocean in 1476 nearly cost him his life. Columbus
participated in several other expeditions to Africa. In 1492,
Columbus left Spain in the Santa Maria, with the Pinta and
the Niña along side. He has been credited for opening up
the Americas to European colonization.
Born in 1874, Guglielmo Marconi was a Nobel Prize-winning
physicist and inventor credited with the groundbreaking work
necessary for all future radio technology. Through his
experiments in wireless telegraphy, Marconi developed the
first effective system of radio communication. In 1899, he
founded the Marconi Telegraph Company. In 1901, he
successfully sent wireless signals across the Atlantic.
Marconi shared with Karl Braun the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics.
He died in Rome in 1937.
Born September 30, 1964, in Città di Castello, Monica Bellucci
started modeling as a teenager. She soon moved on to acting,
appearing in big-screen projects like Bram Stoker’s Dracula
(1992). Bellucci continued to demonstrate her talents with
acclaimed roles in such films as L'Appartmente (1996) and
Malèna (2000). In 2003, she appeared in the
sci-fi hits Matrix. Bellucci has continued to land
interesting roles, including James Bond movie Spectre.
Giuseppe Verdi was born in Italy in 1813, prior to Italian
unification. Verdi produced many successful operas,
including La Traviata, Falstaff and Aida, and became known
for his skill in creating melodies and his profound use of
theatrical effect. Additionally, his rejection of the traditional
Italian opera for integrated scenes and unified acts earned
him fame. Verdi died on January 27, 1901, in Milan, Italy.
Marco Polo was born in 1254, in Venice, Italy. He traveled
extensively with his family, journeying from Europe to Asia
from 1271 to 1295. He remained in China for 17 of those years.
Around 1292, he left China, acting as consort along the way to
a Mongol princess who was being sent to Persia. His book
"Il Milione" describes his travels and experiences and
influenced later adventurers and merchants.
Explorer Amerigo Vespucci was born
March 9, 1451, (some scholars say
1454) in Florence. On May 10, 1497,
he embarked on his first voyage.
On his third and most successful
voyage, he discovered present-day
Rio de Janeiro and Rio de la Plata.
Believing he had discovered a new
continent, he called South America
the New World. In 1507, America
was named after him.
He died of malaria in Seville,
Spain, on February 22, 1512.
Michelangelo was born March 6, 1475, in Caprese. Born to
a family of moderate means in the banking business,
Michelangelo became an apprentice to a painter before
studying sculpture. What followed was a remarkable career
as an artist in the Italian Renaissance, recognized in his own
time for his artistic virtuosity. His works include the "David" and
"Pieta" statues and the ceiling paintings of Rome's Sistine
Chapel. Michelangelo lived most of his life in Rome, where
he died in 1564, at age 88.
Born on March 4, 1678, in Venice, Italy, Antonio Vivaldi was ordained
as a priest though he instead chose to follow his passion for music.
A prolific composer who created hundreds of works, he became
renowned for his concertos in Baroque style, becoming a highly
influential innovator in form and pattern. He was also known for his
operas, including Argippo and Bajazet. He died on July 28, 1741.
Marcus Aurelius was born on April 26, 121 and was chosen by
Emporer Hadrian to be his eventual successor. In 161, Aurelius took
control of the Roman Empire along with his brother Verus. War and
disease threatened Rome on all sides. Aurelius held his territory,
but was weakened as a ruler after the death of his brother Verus.
His son Commodus later became co-ruler in 177, only three years
before Aurelius died on March 17, 180.
Maria Montessori was born on August 31, 1870, in Chiaravalle,
Italy. In 1907 she was placed in charge of the Casa dei Bambini
school. By 1925, more than 1,000 Montessori schools had
opened in the United States. By 1940 the Montessori movement
had faded, but it was revived in the 1960s. During World War II,
Montessori developed Education for Peace in India,
and earned two Nobel Peace Prize nominations.
She died May 6, 1952, in Noordwijk aan Zee, Netherlands.
Born on July 11, 1934, in Piacenza, Italy, Giorgio Armani is an iconic clothing designer
who has expanded his empire to include restaurants and hotels. His popularity skyrocketed in America in the 1980s when his men's “power suits” appeared frequently
on the television series Miami Vice and in the 1980 film American Gigolo, which starred
Richard Gere in Armani's signature suit.
Born on October 12, 1935, on the outskirts of Modena, tenor Luciano Pavarotti made
his debut at the Teatro Reggio Emilia in 1961, performing as "Rodolfo" in La Boheme.
He then made his international debut at the Royal Opera House in London in 1963.
Pavarotti went on to become a hugely popular and internationally known opera star,
achieving a large following due to his recordings and television appearances, and
ultimately helping expand the popularity of opera worldwide. He passed away in Modena in 2007, at the age of 71.
Italian actress Sophia Loren was born in Rome September 20, 1934. Raised in poverty,
she began her film career in 1951 and came to be regarded as one of the worlds
most beautiful women.
Loren won the Best Actress Academy Award for the film Two Women in 1961 and an
Academy Honorary Award in 1991. Married to producer Carlo Ponti for 50 years until
his death in 2007, Loren lives in Geneva, Switzerland.
Giovanni da Verrazzano
Giovanni da Verrazzano was born around 1485 near Florence. Around 1507, he began
pursuing a maritime career, and in the 1520s, he was sent by King Francis I of France to
explore the East Coast of North America to open a route to the Pacific. He made landfall near what would be Cape Fear, North Carolina. Verrazzano eventually discovered
New York Harbor, which now has a bridge named after the explorer. After returning
to Europe, Verrazzano made two more voyages to the Americas. On the second, in
1528, he was killed and eaten by the natives of one of the Lower Antilles, probably in
Enzo Ferrari was born February 18, 1898 in Modena, Italy. At the age of 10 he witnessed
Felice Nazzaro's win at the circuit of Bologna in 1908, an event that was to inspire him
to become a race car driver. Ferrari started searching for a job in the car industry and
started as test-driver for C.M.N. (Costruzioni Meccaniche Nazionali), a Milan-based
car-maker. He was later promoted race car driver and made his competitive debut
in the 1919. In 1920 Ferrari left C.M.N. to race for Alfa Romeo. In 1924 Ferrari won the
Coppa Acerbo at Pescara, a success that encouraged Alfa Romeo to offer him a
chance to race in much more prestigious competitions. Ferrari continued racing until
1932, before he left Alfa Romeo to found Scuderia Ferrari.
Style, design, luxury and technologies,
Italian companies you know.
AgustaWestland helicopters • Piaggio Aerospace • Armani, Berluti • Borsalino •
Bottega Veneta • Brioni • Bulgari • Canali • Roberto Cavalli • Dolce & Gabbana
- Etro • Fendi • Salvatore Ferragamo • Frette • Gucci • Kiton • La Perla • Loro Piana
- Max Mara • Moschino • Cesare Paciotti • Panerai • Prada • Sergio Rossi • Tod's •
Trussardi • Valentino • Ermenegildo Zegna • Bertone • Ferrari • Lamborghini •
Maserati • Pagani • Pininfarina • Zagato • Bertone • Giugiaro • Scaglietti •
Alcantara • Alessio • Brembo • Momo • Omp • OZ • Pirelli • Sparco • Alessi • Illy •
Lavazza • Segafredo • Cerruti 1881 • Roberto Coin • Corneliani • Gianfranco Ferré
- Alberta Ferretti • Moschino • Prada • Nina Ricci • Trussardi • Valentino • Beretta
- Gianni Versace • Ermenegildo Zegna • STMicroelectronics • Campari • Ferrero •
San Pellegrino • Segafredo • Iso Rivolta • Costa Crociere • Aprilia • Ducati • Vespa •
Moto Guzzi • MV Agusta • Bulgari • Damiani • Persol • Zanussi • Technogym • Alessi
- Artemide • B&B Italia • Cassina • Jacuzzi • Boffi… Canados •