Around the World: Italy Unit Study

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We are almost finished with our school year and Italy was one of our last countries to study. My kids were so excited to study Italy next because “pizza and pasta mom!” Haha.

As we get into these countries with a very rich and long history, there are so many different things you can do. As we studied Italy we learned all about gondolas, Michaelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, Italian frescos, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and of course the food.

We always begin our studies by looking at the country in the book Maps and labeling the map in our notebooks. We paint the country’s flag and read lots of fun information in DK Countries of the World. Just reading this book helps my kids see lots of different things in each country and helps me see what they are interested in learning. For Italy, my son was SO excited to learn more about Formula 1 racing that he usually watches with his Dad on the weekends. We read more about its history online, and he did an art tutorial HERE for his notebook.


There are lots of great picture books about Italy and these were some of the ones we enjoyed the most. As you learn about each country, grab a tourist book from your library. The upper left book on Italy was FULL of so many pictures of the city and surrounding landscapes. We don’t read these books, but my kids love to look through them anytime and will read some of the captions for the photos.


My kids were really interested in learning about the gondolas and the water ways as a way of transportation in Italy. These were 3 great books we loved about gondolas and Italy. My kids thought Olivia Goes to Venice was hilarious!

We read more online and watched a few YouTube videos. We learned so much about gondolas and were surprised by the strict city rules they have to comply with. For a project, we drew a city landscape and water way with oil pastels/crayons and painted over them with watercolor paint. When the paint dried, they lightly sketched the outline of a gondola and glued pasta on it. We thought this was a fun way to tie in pasta to our artwork on Italy. (I printed a clip art gondolier from Goggle images and glued him down before adding the pasta.) I don’t have a finished photo, but after the pasta dried, they painted the top of the pasta gondola black. According to city rules, all gondolas must be painted black. This law was passed all the way in the 17th century to eliminate competition of the fanciest gondola between nobles. They can have fancy elaborate fabric, etc. for their seating, but the gondola itself must be black.

Michaelangelo/ Sistine Chapel

We spent about 2 days learning all about Italian artist Michaelangelo. We looked at a lot of his different work in DK The Arts book and watched some amazing videos online about the Sistine Chapel. I taped a piece of paper to the underside of our school table and had my kids create a picture. They could choose any topic, but they had to draw it and color it. Wow, this was a powerful exercise! Their appreciation for Michaelangelo grew SO much when they realized how hard this was (and he didn’t even paint laying down!)

We also watched some fun videos HERE and HERE.

Next we made Italian frescos to see how he painted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. A fresco is a technique of painting on wet plaster. Michaelangelo would paint on the wet fresco sealing in the paints with the setting of the plaster, making the painting an integral part of the wall. As it dries it also tends to crack. To create your own Italian fresco art you can use Plaster of Paris and some water mixed together, but we just made our own version of plaster with flour, water, and glue.


  1. Mix 2 cups flour, 1 cup water and 1/2 cup white glue. (This makes a lot so is enough for multiple children.)
  2. Mix well and pour a circle onto a square of burlap. Be sure to line your table or work surface with parchment paper as well. Let dry for about 4-6 hours.
  3. When it is hard enough to paint on but still wet, use watercolors to create your design. My son painted a bowl of fruit and my daughter painted a sundial design.
  4. Let it fully dry and watch as it lightly cracks. You can cut away the edges of the burlap.

We didn’t have time to learn more, but here are some great books for other Italian artists, scientists, and explorers.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

My kids choose to learn about the Leaning Tower of Pisa for their Italian landmark. We watched a tour of it on YouTube and THIS video, read about how it was built, and did THIS drawing in our notebooks. I had them write 1-2 sentences on what they learned about it or why it is leaning. Then I challenged them to build one out of magnatiles.

Of course throughout our study on Italy we had spaghetti for dinner and made some homemade mini pizzas. To celebrate finishing, we had a movie night to watch the movie Luca and had a gelato taste testing. We got regular ice cream and some gelato in the same flavors from the grocery store. They got a big scoop of each, taste tested the difference, and chose their favorite one.

That’s a wrap on Italy. It was fairly simple as we are getting run down at the end of the school year, but we still had a great time and learned a lot of interesting facts.

We have one last country left for our Around the World studies- England!

After I share our England blog post I will be putting together a “master” blog post that has direct links to every country we studied this year. Then you can bookmark that one post and have access to all the great things we learned about for each country. Coming soon!

I hope your having a great end of your school year!

– Lindsay

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