How to recognize different types of Italian euro coins from quite a long way away.

Euro minted by the various countries have a common side, showing the value of the coin, while the other side varies for every nation. (After two years of mingling, it's quite common to get a couple of "foreign" coins with your change). The Zecca Italiana made good design choices:

  • 1 cent: the Castle of Andria, also called "Castel del Monte". It's a simple, beautiful structure towering in the middle of nowhere atop a hill in Andria, near Bari. It was probably built in the 13th century by Friedrich II of Hohenstaufen. The layout is octagonal, with an inner eight-sided courtyard, and it's surrounded by eight octagonal towers. If you ask me, good old Friedrich was actually trying to build Unseen University.
  • 2 cent: the dome of the Mole Antonelliana, built in the second half of the nineteenth century in Turin; now it's a museum. The pinnacle represented in the coin was cut in half by a storm in 1953, and was rebuilt eight years later. Any connection with the eight-obsessed Friedrich is purely coincidential.
  • 5 cent: the Coliseum, the most recognizable symbol of Rome, completed in 80 AD as a place of entertainment by Emperor Vespasiano. For those who slept during history lessons, it's the place where Russell Crowe killed all those guys in Gladiator.
  • 10 cent: the lovely face of Aphrodite from the famous painting "The birth of Venus" by Botticelli, now on display in the Uffizi Museum in Florence. The painting is also known with the beautiful name of "Venere anadiomene", meaning "rising from the waters". Vowels were free, in the old days.
  • 20 cent: a strange sculpture by Umberto Boccioni: "Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio", meaning "Unique forms of continuity in space". Boccioni was a futurist, and he tried to capture in bronze the effect of a photographer taking either multiple exposures of a walking man, or a single hit of good LSD. The statue was finished in 1913; I had never heard of it before I saw the coins.
  • 50 cent: the 1800-years old bronze statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius; you can see it in the middle of the Campidoglio in Rome. The pedestal was created much later by Michelangelo. No, not the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle; the other one. The artist who made the coin managed to create an interesting 3D-like effect for the tiles that surround the pedestal.
  • 1 euro: the Vitruvian Man, also called "homo ad circulum et quadratum", the famous drawing made by Leonardo da Vinci (still no turtle connection) representing a man inscribed in a circle and a square. If this were a beauty contest, the 1-euro coin would get my vote. I still own my first 1-euro; it has made a condom-like bulge in my wallet. I am slightly embarassed by the fact that the coin is less than an inch wide.
  • 2 euro: the aquiline profile of Dante Alighieri, the Italian poet author of the Divine Comedy ("All hope abandon..."). He was born in Florence in 1265, was exiled in 1302 (the fact that he put quite a lot of popes in his Hell might have angered somebody) and died in 1321 in Ravenna. Easily the worst choice of the lot - Dante was quite ugly, even when painted by Raphael. NO, NOT THE TURTLE.
And now for something completely different: "how to recognize different types of Irish euro coins from quite a long way away".