Simplon Tunnel from Iselle, Italy, to Brig, Switzerland, opened in 1906. Construction began in 1898. It was the longest railway tunnel until 1988 when Seikan Tunnel opened, connecting the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido. Idea: Children could locate Italy and Switzerland on a map.
Italy celebrates Republic Day. It became a republic in 1946. Slightly larger than the state of Arizona, the country supports a population of 61 million people. Rome is the capital, and its mountainous interior supports olive groves and vineyards.
James Smithson, a British subject, died in Genoa, Italy, in 1829. He bequeathed his fortune to the United States, a country he had never visited. Children can learn more about him at: James Smithson. The Smithsonian Institute, established in 1846, was created from his money and personal possessions. Today the Smithsonian has nineteen museums and nine research centers. The Smithsonian houses 137 million artifacts, and 30 million people visit it every year. Children can visit its website at: http://www.si.edu.
Matterhorn was conquered for the first time by Edward Whymper and a group of climbers in 1865. Seven climbers reached the top, but four were killed on descent. The Matterhorn is one of the highest peaks located in the Pennine Alps between Switzerland and Italy. Currently around 3,000 people climb the Matterhorn per year.
Vesuvius in Italy erupted in AD 79. Clouds of sulfuric acid killed nearby inhabitants, and volcanic ash buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The cities were buried and forgotten for centuries. Children could find out how and when Pompeii and Herculaneum were discovered. Older children could visit Vesuvius.
Michelangelo’s David was unveiled in Florence in 1504. Michelangelo started working on the seventeen foot marble statue in 1501. For many years it was displayed in an open piazza, but it was moved to the Accademia Gallery in 1873. A replica was then placed in the statue’s original location.
Supernova 1604 first appeared in northern Italy in 1604. Johannes Kepler, while not the first scientist to see it, made observations of it while he was in Prague. Also known as Kepler’s Nova, the supernova, of the type to happen in the Milky Way, was the brightest star in the sky and was visible during the day for three weeks. Supernova 1604 was also observed and noted in China and in Korea.
Leaning Tower of Pisa reopened in 2001 after 11 years of repair, costing 27 million dollars. Construction was started on the bell tower in 1173, and the structure began tilting north soon after. The foundation rested on soft soil. Builders tried to compensate, but the tower began to lean in a southern direction. Several other rescues were made, but the building continued to tilt. By 1990 officials feared the building would topple, and they closed the structure to the public. The latest round of repairs seems to have worked. Slowly the workers removed soil from beneath the foundation while applying weights on the other side. Children could read Building History – The Tower of Pisa by James Barter.
Christmas is celebrated by members of the Armenian Church.
Epiphany is celebrated by some Christians. Some people believe the magi visited Jesus on this day. In some cultures gifts are exchanged, and special dinners take place.
La Befana visits children in Italy. The “Befana,” or witch, enters homes the previous night through the chimney. She leaves good children nice toys in their stockings. Bad children find coal in their stockings. The day is celebrated with parades and feasts. Children could read a classic, The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie dePaola.
North American Treaty was signed in 1949. Twelve nations formed the original North American Treaty Organization: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United States. Greece and Turkey became members in 1951, and West Germany joined in 1954. Spain became the last member in 1982. The main purpose of NATO is protection; an attack against one member is an attack against all members. Idea: Children could locate these countries on a world map and decide whether all countries benefit equally from this treaty.