Italy Country Study 2018-03-08T01:43:50+00:00

Welcome to Our Italy Country Study!

The Books:

Note: Every one of these books I found at our public library, except this version of Pinocchio. Any version of Pinocchio is absolutely fine. If you cannot find each and every folk or fairy tale, do not worry, but try to locate all of the biographies and the books related to cities, which include the Magic Tree House books. (If you cannot find these particular biographies about Michelangelo, DaVinci, or Galileo, try to find others.)

Just in case the Amazon book links didn’t load on your computer, here is a typed book list:

The Thread of Life: Twelve Old Italian Tales – Vittorini
Strega Nona – dePaola
The Mysterious Giant of Barletta – dePaola
Papa Gatto: An Italian Fairy Tale – Sanderson
Pinocchio – Collodi
Petrosinella: A Neopolitan Rapunzel – Stanley
Count Silvernose: A Story from Italy – Kimmel
This is Rome – Sasek
Olivia Goes to Venice – Falconer
Carnival at Candlelight (Magic Tree House) Pope Osborne

Vacation Under the Volcano (Magic TreeHouse) – Pope Osborne
Ancient Rome and Pompeii (Magic Tree House Fact Tracker) – Pope Osborne
Monday with a Mad Genius (Magic Tree House) – Pope Osborne
Leonardo da Vinci (Magic Tree House Fact Tracker) – Pope Osborne
Along Came Galileo – Bendick
Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei -Sis
Stone Giant: Michelangelo’s David and How He Came to Be – Sutcliffe
Mona Lisa: The Secret Smile – Galli
Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer – Byrd

Introduction to Italy:

To introduce your children to the splendor and grandeur of Italy, begin your adventure with the following video.

Mapping Italy:

1Mapmaking is such an exciting project for children. Not only is your child learning the geography of Italy in a much more memorable way than fill in the blank maps, but also she is learning an historic art form. I find that my children truly learn and retain their geography when they create their own maps, as they are having a visual, kinesthetic, and artistic experience while learning the geography of the region.

Materials needed: A cutout of Italy you made in preparation (sketch Italy on a large piece of paper (we use 12 x 18) and cut it out for your children to trace) large watercolor paper, colored pencils, watercolors, waterproof India ink black pen, atlas or computer.

Day 1: Begin
Begin by looking at an atlas of Europe with your children. Have them locate Italy on the map. Ask them what they think it looks like (a boot). Ask them to find the capitol city (Rome). Have them name the surrounding countries.
Using your previously prepared cutout of Italy, have your children trace the country onto their page, centering it as much as possible.
Have them title their map, “Italy.”
Outline all of the land in India ink and then outline Italy’s borders.
Watercolor Italy green (or any color you would like), the surrounding countries grey, and the waters blue. Label Italy, Sicily, and any surrounding countries that show up on your map (France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia).
Draw a compass rose on the map.

Day 2: Large Bodies of Water 
Look on a Map with your children and locate the Mediterranean Sea. Have your children label it on their map.
Now notice the smaller seas (The Ligurian Sea, The Tyrrhenian Sea, The Ionian Sea, The Adriatic Sea). Have your children label them on their map.
Notice the most visible gulfs around Italy ( The Gulf of Venice, The Gulf of Taranto, Gulf of Genova). Have your children label them on their map.
Between Italy and Sicily there is a narrow strip of water. That is called a strait. This particular strait is called the Strait of Messina. Have your children label it.

Day 3: Major Cities and The Vatican City
Find Rome and label it as the capitol city by making a star in a circle. Then find Naples, Milan, Florence, Pisa, and Venice on the map. Have your children label them on their map. After you learn about Italy, you can draw in little icons of landmarks next to the cities (Such as a gondola next to Venice).
Find The Vatican City. Explain to your children that this is actually an independent state and it is the smallest independent state in the world. Have your children label it on their map.
To read more about The Vatican City click here.

Day 4: Rivers and lakes
Click here for a reference river map of Italy. Using a blue colored pencil, have your children draw the major rivers of Italy on their map and label them with their India ink pen.
There is a cluster of lakes in Northern Italy in the Lake District. The largest lakes are Garda, Maggiore, Como, Trasimero, Bolsena. Click here to see them on a map. Have your children draw them on their map.

Day 5: Mountain Ranges
There are two major mountain ranges in Italy. The Apennine, which runs down the entire peninsula, and the Alps, which are in the north. This map shows the two major ranges. Have your children make little upside down Vs to indicate mountains all along the two ranges and label them.
Locate Mount Vesuvius on the Map and label it. Draw a little volcano icon next to it.

Day 6:
Make a map key-
Use upside down Vs to symbolize mountains, a blue line to symbolize rivers, and a circle with a star inside to symbolize the capital city.

Wildlife Map of Italy:

2Learning about the wildlife of the country you are studying is equally as important as learning about the geography and cultures, as hopefully we are raising a generation that will contribute to the well being of our planet, the protection of species, and the preservation of wildlife. There is no better way to contribute to that goal than to nurture in our children, from a young age, a respect and admiration for nature and wild life. Below is a wonderful full length nature documentary about the wildlife of Italy. Watch the video with your children and then help them make their own Wildlife Map of Italy.

Materials- a cutout of Italy (the same cutout used for the first map), a large piece of thick paper, (we always use watercolor paper so that these projects last), colored pencils, india ink pen, and either block crayons or watercolors.)

-Trace Italy onto your paper
– Outline Italy in a dark green colored pencil and outline the bordering countries in brown to emphasize Italy on the map.
– Label the major seas.
– Use this link to learn about animals native to and common in Italy. Have your child pick her favorites and draw pictures of them on her map in the region they inhabit. If you have watched the nature documentary below that features Italy’s wildlife, she may want to select animals that were featured in it (If you click on any of the names of the species, you can see a picture of the animal). If your child does not enjoy drawing, you have the option of printing pictures off the computer and having her glue them in.
– Use this link to learn about plant life in Italy. Click on some species and allow you child to choose her favorites to draw on her map.
– Use either colored pencils, watercolors, or block crayons to gently color the land green and the water blue.
– Have your child title the map, “Wildlife of Italy.”

Flag of Italy:

1Materials: Paper, red, green, and black markers.

Show your children a picture of the Italian Flag and explain to them that the colors have meaning. The green represents hope and joy, the white represents peace and honesty, and the red represents strength and valor.

Help you children draw a picture of the flag of Italy and write the meaning of the colors below each color.

Religion in Italy:

The majority of Italians are Catholic Christians and as the Vatican City is within Italy, it is a special place for Catholics all over the world.

To read more about religion in Italy click here.

Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii:

Read Vacation Under the Volcano and Make a Salt Dough Volcano!


Materials needed: A bottle, ingredients for salt dough below, and ingredients for eruption below.

Ingredients and directions to make the salt dough:
3 1/2 cups of flour
3 cups of warm water
6 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup of salt
3 TBS vegetable oil
food coloring to make the color you want your Mt. Vesuvius to be
(If the dough is too fluid, add more flour. To make brown food coloring we mixed all the primary colors together.)

– Mix all of the ingredients together and knead until smooth.
– Mold the dough around your bottle to make it look like a volcano.

How to make your volcano erupt:
1. Put 3 tablespoons of baking soda in your volcano
2. Add  a bit of red/ orange food coloring to a 1/2 cup of vinegar
3.  Pour the vinegar into the volcano and watch it erupt
(Each person will have a different size bottle- if your volcano doesn’t erupt well using these measurements, you probably need to use more baking soda and vinegar to make it erupt.)

Rome: Mosaics and Stained Glass Windows

To introduce your children to Rome, watch the video below and read the book listed at the top of the page, This is Rome.

Make a Roman Mosaic:



The ancient Romans were prolific in their mosaic making and they left mosaics all over their empire. To view pictures of ancient Roman mosaics, click here. Print a few of these examples of Roman mosaics, and show them to your children. Then they can make a mosaic of their own.

Materials: beans and lentils of different colors, glue, heavy paper

After looking at examples of Roman Mosaics from the link above, have your children think of a simple picture to make for their mosaic. Then have them lay a thick layer of glue on their paper and begin their mosaic. My daughter made a fish mosaic and my son made a turtle mosaic.

Stained Glass Window Project:

By now, after watching the videos and reading the books, your children have heard a lot about the Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica. Cathedrals are homes to some stunningly beautiful stained glass windows. Click here to see pictures of stained glass windows from St. Peter’s Basilica. Then have your children make their own stained glass window.

Materials: black puff paint or black paint mixed with Elmer’s glue, watercolor paper, watercolors

-Have your children draw a picture on the watercolor paper.
-Have them go over the pencil drawing with the black puff paint.
-Allow it to completely dry.
-Have them watercolor their picture.

Venice: Venetian Masks and Gondolas

Read Carnival at Candlelight and Make a Venetian Mask:

Watch the video below to introduce your children to Venice and read the book, Olivia in Venice.

Carnival is an annual festival in Venice, during which people wear elaborate masks and costumes. The festival ends with the Christian celebration of Lent. To read more about Carnival, click here.

After reading, Carnival at Candlelight, from the Magic Tree House Series, watch the video below to see the magnificent masks of Carnival.

To make your own mask:
We purchased plain masks from You can also cut out a mask shape from construction paper and decorate it.

Make a Gondola Snack:

This is SO fun. Click on this link for instructions to make a delicious gondola snack!

Cooking a Traditional Italian Dinner:

Cooking day is, by far, my children’s favorite country study activity. For our first Italian cooking day we decided to make spaghetti with homemade spaghetti sauce, caesar salad, and garlic bread. I must note that one thing we always do during our cooking sessions is play music from the country we are studying. While we were cooking this meal, we listened to Andrea Bocelli. To have your home filled with the sounds and smells of Italy will really bring the country to life for your children.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce Recipe:

Either 3 cans of organic peeled tomatoes (28 oz.) or about 11 tomatoes peeled
5 cloves of garlic
4 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried thyme
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese

-In a food processor, blend the tomatoes until pureed
-Saute the chopped or crushed garlic in the olive oil for a few minutes
-Pour the tomatoes, dried basil, thyme, salt, and pepper into the large pot or pan
-Bring to a slight boil and then turn down the heat to simmer for 3 hours. After about 1 hour, cover the pot.
-Pour in the parmesan cheese about 20 minutes before eating.

Make sure to save some of the spaghetti sauce for pizza making day!

Garlic Bread Recipe:

Italian bread or any other long bread
crushed garlic
olive oil
chopped fresh parsley

-Slice the bread in half the long way
-Spread a thick layer of salted butter on it
-Saute 1 tablespoon of garlic in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil for a few minutes (don’t let it brown)
-Either brush the olive oil and garlic over the bread or take spoonfuls and spread it over the top
-Sprinkle chopped parsley on the top

Broil on high until it becomes golden brown

Caesar Salad:

We took a short cut with this and bought ready made dressing.
Just chop up romaine lettuce, pour on the dressing, mix, sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and add croutons.

Cooking Traditional Italian Pizza:

Click here for a great pizza dough recipe. Have your leftover homemade spaghetti sauce from spaghetti day ready, as well as mozzarella cheese and any toppings your children would like to add.

Then follow the directions on the recipe and enjoy!

Leonardo da Vinci:

Read the Magic Tree House Book, Monday with a Mad Genius, as well as the companion Fact Tracker, Leonardo da Vinci. I have also found some wonderful picture book biographies about Leonardo da Vinci listed at the top of this page.

Our library carries the, Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists DVDs. Check if your library carries them. If so, watch the dvd from this series about Leonardo da Vinci.


Read the book Stone Giant, and if your library carries the DVD shown above, Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists- Michelangelo, watch that as well. Then make your own sculptures from soap with your children.

Make a Soap Sculpture:

Materials: 1 bar of Ivory soap, tools such as clay tools or a butter knife

Have your children decide on a simple thing to sculpt. My children and their friends sculpted bunnies, guinea pigs, and fire bolts. Then have them use their tools to sculpt the shape in the soap. It is helpful to use a toothpick to outline the shape of what they want to sculpt into the soap first.  I have been told Ivory is especially good for soap sculptures as it is very soft.

Galileo: Make Your Own Telescope

14Read about Galileo in the book, Starry Messenger.

Make Your Own Telescope:

You can either gather the materials on your own: 2 tubes (1 narrower than the other so one can fit inside the other), 2 lenses that will fit in the tubes (1 convex and 1 concave), and either duct tape to cap the ends or end caps.

We ordered a Telescope Kit. Click here to order it. Then assemble.

Music and Dance of Italy:

The music and dance of a country truly makes the culture come alive. It is a great idea to spend time daily listening to the music from the country you are studying. From accordions to opera, you will thoroughly enjoy the music of this richly artistic culture.

Italian Waltz – Accordion

Italian Folk Music

Italian Folk Dance- Tarantella

Another Tarantella Folk Dance

Andrea Bocelli- Miserere

The Three Tenors