The Italians have long been among the world’s most ingenious and technologically advanced inventors. Let me tell you about eight of their best inventions and how, when it comes to innovative solutions, the Italians just keep on giving.
Great invention 1: Aqueducts
If we go all the way back to ancient Rome, one of their best and earliest creations was the aqueduct. Designed to channel water using the force of gravity alone, aqueducts transported water from distant sources to ensure a supply to rapidly growing cities.
Aqueducts were created when the Romans discovered a way to set an arch on top of two tall pedestals without support beams so that it could span over walkways and meander across town and country. This trademark design feature was also used in building sewers, which took human waste out of the city without contaminating drinking water. The abundance of water in Roman aqueducts, combined with run-off water from local streams, was used to flush the drains and sewers to keep them clean.
Great invention 2: Jacuzzi
In 1949, an Italian man called Candido Jacuzzi invented the whirlpool bath and it made his name a household commodity. Mr. Jacuzzi developed the design because his 15-month-old son developed rheumatoid arthritis and doctors recommended hydrotherapy. At the time, the only facilities available were large communal tubs in hospitals and so Candido designed a pump that could be used in a bathtub.
Within a few years the pump was available to buy commercially, and the Jacuzzi whirlpool bath was fitted in increasing numbers, both indoors and out, at leisure centres, health clubs and eventually in private homes.
Great invention 3: Telephone
The world over, Alexander Graham Bell is widely recognised as the father of the telephone—after all, it was his design that was first patented. However, he was not the first inventor to come up with the idea of a communication device like this. In fact, Antonio Meucci, an Italian immigrant, began developing the design of a talking telegraph or telephone much earlier, back in 1849, but didn’t have the money to permanently patent the invention.
A vote by the US Congress in 2002 prompted jubilant revels through Italy, upon the ruling that that here forward Bell would not be recognised as the inventor of the telephone. Instead, an incredible 113 years after his death, historians won their battle to persuade the House of Representatives to recognise the mechanical inventor, Antonio Meucci, as an illustrious innovator and pioneer of modern telephones.
Great invention 4: Espresso machine
Extensively recognised as the Kings of coffee, the Italians are to thank for the invention of the espresso machine. Though there were surely innumerable patents and prototypes of the machine, the method that would lead to espresso, is usually attributed to Angelo Moriondo of Italy—who was granted a patent in 1884.
The patent described a ‘new steam machinery’ for the instantaneous creation of a coffee beverage—a method which is still applied (and enjoyed by commuters) today.
Great invention 5: The ice-cream cone
Of all the Italian inventions this must be the one we’re most grateful for. The understated, but ever-useful, ice-cream cone! The first cone was produced in 1896 by Italo Marchiony. Having emigrated from Italy, he invented his ice cream cone whilst living in New York City and a patent was produced in December 1903.
Although Italo Marchiony is credited with the invention of the cone, a similar creation was independently introduced in 1904 by Ernest A. Hamwi, a Syrian waffle vendor, just a year after Marchiony’s patent was secured.
Great invention 6: The flying machine
Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) was a leading intellectual of the Italian Renaissance. Known for his timeless works ‘The Last Supper’ and the ‘Mona Lisa,’ he was also a sculptor, military engineer, architect, inventor and draftsman.
While best remembered for his masterpieces of art, much of da Vinci’s life was dedicated to the study of aviation. Da Vinci was truly absorbed by the possibility of flight and this inspired much of his ingenuity. It comes as no surprise then that one of his most famous inventions is the flying machine (also called the ‘ornithopter’) which he devised around 1485. Although it’s unlikely it ever flew, the enterprise is revered as being ahead of its time.
Great invention 7: Electric battery
The first electric battery was invented by an Italian scientist called Alessandro Volta. Now an invaluable piece of technology for the modern world, powering everything from smartphones, laptops and electric cars, this creation is still at the forefront of technological advances.
Volta’s battery (known as the Voltaic Cell) played a vital role in advancing scientific understanding of matter and energy in the 19th century. To this day, we refer to the electromotive force as “volts” owing to the electric battery’s creator, Alessandro Volta.
Great invention 8: The YOYO hose
With a long string of incredible inventions behind them, including the first water transport system in the world, it’s no coincidence that the Italians have come up roses with another invention to stand the test of time: A newly fashioned lightweight, compact and self-extending watering system known as the YOYO hose.
The newly employed material and dynamic design enables users to store the compact product easily without having to compromise on hose length. It’s so compact when not in use that it can be hung unobtrusively next to the garden tap or concealed in a terracotta pot on the patio. There’s no doubt that this lightweight, durable, anti-kink gardening commodity can be added as yet another one in a long list of incredible Italian inventions.