Tourism in Italy
With 63.2 million tourists a year (2018), Italy is the fifth most visited country in international tourism arrivals. People mainly visit Italy for its rich culture, cuisine, history, fashion and art, its beautiful coastline and beaches, its mountains, and priceless ancient monuments. Italy also contains more World Heritage Sites than any other country in the world (55).
Tourism is one of Italy's fastest growing and most profitable industrial sectors, with an estimated revenue of €189.1 billion.
People have visited Italy for centuries, yet the first to visit the peninsula for touristic reasons were aristocrats during the Grand Tour, beginning in the late 17th century, and flourishing in the 18th century.
Rome, as the capital of the powerful and influential Roman Empire, attracted thousands to the city and country from all over the empire, which included most of the Mediterranean, Northern Africa, mainland Great Britain (England) and the parts of the Middle East. Traders and merchants came to Italy from several different parts of the world. When the empire fell in 476 AD, Rome was no longer the epicentre of European politics and culture; on the other hand, it was the base of the papacy, which then governed the growing Christian religion, meaning that Rome remained one of Europe's major places of pilgrimage. Pilgrims, for centuries and still today, would come to the city, and that would have been the early equivalent of "tourism" or "religious tourism". The trade empires of Venice, Pisa and Genoa meant that several traders, businessmen and merchants from all over the world would also regularly come to Italy. In the 16th and early 17th century, with the height of the Renaissance, several students came to Italy to study Italian architecture, such as Inigo Jones.
Real "tourism" only affected in Italy in the second half of the 17th century, with the beginning of the Grand Tour. This was a period in which European aristocrats, many of whom were British, visited parts of Europe; Italy, Greece and other Mediterranean places were amongst the most popular. This was in order to study ancient architecture and the local culture. The Grand Tour was in essence triggered by the book Voyage to Italy, by Roman Catholic priest Richard Lassels, and published in 1670. Due to the Grand Tour, tourism became even more prevalent - making Italy one of the most desired destinations for millions of people. Once inside what would be modern-day Italy, these tourists would begin by visiting Turin for a short while. On the way there, Milan was also a popular stop, yet a trip to the city was not considered essential, and several passed by, or simply stayed for a short period of time. If a person came via boat, then they would remain a few days in Genoa. Yet, the main destination in Northern Italy was Venice, which was considered a vital stop, as well as cities around it such as Verona, Vicenza and Padua.
As the Tour went on, Tuscan cities were also very important itinerary stops. Florence was a major attraction, and other Tuscan towns, such as Siena, Pisa, Lucca and San Gimignano, were also considered important destinations. The most prominent stop in Central Italy, however, was Rome, a major centre for the arts and culture, as well as an essential city for a Grand Tourist. Later, they would go down to the Bay of Naples, and after their discovery in 1710, Pompeii and Herculaneum were popular too. Sicily was considered a significant part of the trail, and several, such as Goethe, visited the island.
Throughout the 17th to 18th centuries, the Grand Tour was mainly reserved for academics or the elite. Nevertheless, circa 1840, rail transport was introduced and the Grand Tour started to fall slightly out of vogue; hence, the first form of mass-tourism was introduced. The 1840s saw the period in which the Victorian middle classes toured the country. Several Americans were also able to visit Italy, and many more tourists came to the peninsula. Places such as Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples and Sicily still remained the top attractions. As the century progressed, fewer cultural visits were made, and there was an increase of tourists coming for Italy's nature and weather. The first seaside resorts, such as those in the Ligurian coast, around Venice, coastal Tuscany and Amalfi, became popular. This vogue of summer holidays heightened in the fin-de-siècle epoch, when numerous "Grand Hotels" were built (including places such as Sanremo, Lido di Venezia, Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi). Islands such as Capri, Ischia, Procida and Elba grew in popularity, and the Northern lakes, such as Lake Como, Maggiore and Garda were more frequently visited. Tourism to Italy remained very popular until the late-1920s and early-1930s, when, with the Great Depression and economic crisis, several could no longer afford to visit the country; the increasing political instability meant that fewer tourists came. Only old touristic groups, such as the Scorpioni, remained alive.
After a big slump in tourism beginning from approximately 1929 and lasting after World War II, Italy returned to its status as a popular resort, with the Italian economic miracle and raised living standards; films such as La Dolce Vita were successful abroad, and their depiction of the country's perceivedly idyllic life helped raise Italy's international profile. By this point, with higher incomes, Italians could also afford to go on holiday; coastline resorts saw a soar in visitors, especially in Romagna. Many cheap hotels and pensioni (hostels) were built in the 1960s, and with the rise of wealth, by now, even a working-class Italian family could afford a holiday somewhere along the coast. The late-1960s also brought mass-popularity to mountain holidays and skiing; in Piedmont and the Aosta Valley, numerous ski resorts and chalets started being built. The 1970s also brought a wave of foreign tourists to Italy in search of a sentimental trip Villoresi old charm -The Trip to Italy, since Mediterranean destinations saw a rise in global visitors.
Despite this, by the late-1970s and early-1980s, economic crises and political instability meant that there was a significant slump in the Italian tourist industry, as destinations in the Far East or South America rose in popularity. Yet, by the late-1980s and early-1990s, tourism saw a return to popularity, with cities such as Milan becoming more popular destinations. Milan saw a rise in tourists, since it was ripening its position as a worldwide fashion capital.
The table below shows the distribution of national and international visitor nights spent in the 40 most tourist area of Italy in 2017.
Italy overall had 420.63 million visitor nights in 2017, of which 210.66 million were of foreign guests (50.08 percent). With 37.04 million nights spent in hotels, hostels or clinics, the Metropolitan City of Venice has the most visitors.
|Rank||Province/Metropolitan City||# of nights
|32||Pesaro and Urbino||3,295,759||729,067||Marche|
|rest of Italy||79,247,316||42,531,760|
Semi-temporary data on tourist presences in 2018
According to regional data, in 2018 tourism presences in Italy amounted to 429 million (212.5 million residents and 216.5 million non-residents).
|# Rank||Region||# of nights in 2018|
Arrivals by country
Most visitors arriving in Italy in 2018 were citizens of the following countries:
|Total international visitors||63,195,203|
Home of the Italian Riviera, including Portofino, Sanremo, and of Cinque Terre. There are many historic cities in this part of Italy: Turin, the manufacturing capital of Italy, Milan, the business and fashion capital of the country and the important port of Genoa are the most popular tourist destinations of the area. Other cities like Aosta, Bergamo, Brescia and Como have a rich cultural heritage, which share the region's visitors with beautiful landscapes such as the lakes Garda, Como and Maggiore. There are also important ski resorts like Sestriere, Courmayeur, Breuil-Cervinia, Livigno and Bormio.
This part of Italy also boasts several important tourist attractions, such as the canal-filled city of Venice, the cities of Verona, Vicenza, Padua, Trento, Bolzano, Cremona, Bologna, Ferrara, Mantova, Parma, Ravenna, Cesena, Rimini and Trieste. There are also several mountain ranges such as the Dolomites, the Carnic and Julian Alps and first-class ski resorts like Cortina d'Ampezzo and Madonna di Campiglio. These four regions offer much to see and do. The area has a unique cuisine, including wines and dishes such as Prosecco and Tiramisu in Veneto and Cotechino, Ragu and Parma ham in Emilia Romagna, San Daniele ham and D.O.C. wines in Valpolicella, Lake Garda, Valdobbiadene, Trentino and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
This area is possibly the most visited in Italy and contains many popular attractions as well as sought-after landscapes. Rome boasts the remaining wonders of the Roman Empire and some of the world's best known landmarks such as the Colosseum. Florence, regarded as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, is Tuscany's most visited city, whereas nearby cities like Siena, Pisa, Arezzo and Lucca also have rich cultural heritages. Umbria's population is small but it has many important cities such as Perugia and Assisi. For similar reasons, Lazio and Tuscany are some of Italy's most visited regions and the main targets for Ecotourism. This area is known for its picturesque landscapes and attracts tourists from all over the world, including Italy itself. Pristine landscapes serve as one of the primary motivators for tourists to visit central Italy, although there are others, such as a rich history of art.
Southern Italy (also called Mezzogiorno) is well known for the cuisine, that offers a wide choice of food at lower prices. It is also known for the pairing of Mediterranean clime with the beautiful beaches of each region, an important element for local tourism. Naples is the most visited city in the area, and the ruins of Pompeii are the most visited sights. Other important tourist destinations include the Amalfi Coast, Ravello, Benevento, Caserta, Salerno and Pozzuoli. The natural parks of Abruzzo, the greenest region in Europe, include the Abruzzo National Park, the National Park of Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga the Maiella National Park and Sirente-Velino Regional Park which attract thousands of visitors due to more than 30 protected Nature Reserves and the presence of 75% of all Europe's living species. Apulia, which includes the historical cities of Lecce and Bari and villages composed of trulli; like Calabria it is famous for its coasts. Basilicata is very famous for so-called Sassi di Matera. The main city of Molise are Campobasso and Isernia, the most important sight is the Basilica of Castelpetroso. Calabria coasts are very appreciated by tourists; the capital city is Catanzaro but its most populated city is Reggio Calabria.
The largest island in the country is a diverse and popular tourist island, famous for its archaeology, seascape and unique Sicilian cuisine. There are many important cities such as Palermo, Messina, Catania. An important sight is Val di Noto that offers a lot of Late Baroque cities built after the catastrophic earthquake of 1693.
Sardinia is a large island some 250 kilometers west of the Italian coastline. It includes several popular tourist attractions and has several beaches and archaeological ruins. It's also known for its beautiful beaches, that are one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
The most popular cities in Sardinia are: Cagliari, Sassari, Alghero, Olbia and Porto Cervo. Porto Cervo,located in (Costa Smeralda),it's one of the richest and most expansive tourist destination in Sardinia and in Italy.
Italy has some of the world's most ancient tourist resorts, dating back to the time of the Roman Republic, when destinations such as Pompeii, Naples, Ischia, Capri and especially Baiae were popular with the rich of Roman society. Pompeii is currently Italy's third the world's 48th most visited tourist destination, with over 2.5 million tourists a year
Rome has become increasingly popular as a tourist destination globally. 45.6% from 2006 (6.03 million), Rome hosted 8.78 million international tourists in 2014, placing itself as the 14th most visited city in the world. Popular tourists attractions in the city include the Colosseum, St Peter's Basilica, the Pantheon and so on, all of which are part of the World Heritage property. Other main sights in the city include, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Roman Forum, Castel Sant'Angelo, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Spanish Steps, Villa Borghese park, Piazza del Popolo, the Trastevere and the Janiculum.
Milan is one of Europe's most important tourist destinations, and Italy's second; with 6.05 million international arrivals as measured in 2014, it placed itself as the 24th most visited city in the world. According to a particular source, 56% of international visitors to Milan are from Europe, whilst 44% of the city's tourists are Italian, and 56% are from abroad. The most important European Union markets are the United Kingdom (16%), Germany (9%) and France (6%). According to the same study, most of the visitors who come from the USA to the city go on business matters, whilst Chinese and Japanese tourists mainly take up the leisure segment. The city boasts several popular tourist attractions, such as the city's Duomo and Piazza, the Teatro alla Scala, the San Siro Stadium, the Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery, the Sforza Castle, the Pinacoteca di Brera and the Via Monte Napoleone. Most tourists visit sights such as Milan Cathedral, the Sforza Castle and the Teatro alla Scala, however, other main sights such as the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, the Navigli and the Brera district are less visited and prove to be less popular. The city also has numerous hotels, including the ultra-luxurious Town House Galleria, which is the world's first seven-star hotel, ranked officially by the Société Générale de Surveillance, and one of The Leading Hotels of the World. The average stay for a tourist in the city is of 3.43 nights, whilst foreigners stay for longer periods of time, 77% of which stay for a 2-5 night average. Of the 75% of visitors which stay in hotels, 4-star ones are the most popular (47%), whilst 5-stars, or less than 3-stars represent 11% and 15% of the charts respectively.
Naples is one of the oldest cities of the western world. Its historic city centre is the largest in Europe is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Naples is also near the famous volcano Vesuvius and the ruins of the ancient Roman towns of Pompeii and Ercolano. Before italian unification it was the capital of Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and the most important and populated city of Italy. Naples is well known for cuisine, especially for pizza. In the city there are many tourist attractions, such as the Royal Palace, the basilica of Santa Chiara, the Gesù Nuovo (New Jesus) church, Castel dell'Ovo, the Castel Nuovo, the Castel Sant'Elmo, the city's Duomo, the Real Teatro di San Carlo (the oldest continuously active opera house in the world), the Palace of Capodimonte, the Naples underground geothermal tunnels, the Via Tribunali, Spaccanapoli street, the Veiled Christ (one of the world's most remarkable sculptures), the various catacombs around the city (for example the Catacombs of San Gennaro, or the Fontanelle cemetery, or the Catacombs of Saint Gaudiosus), the Umberto I Gallery and the Via Toledo with its metro considered one of the most beautiful of Europe. The Archaeological Museum of Naples is the most important in the world regarding Roman history, also include Egyptian and Greek finds. It is the home of the Federico II, the oldest public and secular university in the world, and of the L'Orientale, the oldest school of Sinology and Oriental Studies in Europe. Naples also boasts one of the most picturesque waterfront promenades, and charming locations at Gaiola Island and Marechiaro. Close to Naples there are a myriad of world-renowned tourist attractions such as the Amalfi Coast, Capri island, Ischia island, Procida island, the picturesque city of Sorrento, and the city of Salerno.
- Florence (Firenze)—the city of Renaissance. This city is known for its architecture and art and for the impact it has had throughout the world. Florence is also home to Michelangelo's famous statue of David. Home to many other well-known museums of art.
- Palermo—ancient capital of the kingdom of Sicily and of the Holy Roman Empire under Frederick II. It is noted for its history, gastronomy and architecture; the particularity of the city (such as the rest of the island) is that is a meeting point of Greek, Roman, Arabian, Norman and Aragonian cultures.
- Bologna—home of the first university in the western world. This city has a rich history, culture, and technology. Bologna is well known for its cuisine.
- Bari—is well known as a port and university city as well as the city of Saint Nicholas. Capital of Apulia and second most important economic centre of Southern Italy after Naples.
- Genoa (Genova)—it was one of the most important medieval maritime republic. Very wealthy and diverse city. Its port brings in tourism and trade, along with art and architecture. Genoa is birthplace of Columbus and jeans.
- Pisa—one of the medieval maritime republics, it has lots of medieval palaces and squares. Home to the unmistakable image of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Very touristy city. Famous too for the University "La Normale".
- Turin (Torino)—first capital of Italy, after being the capital of Kingdom of Sardinia (actually Piedmont-centred), what had promoted national reunification. Home of the FIAT, the most important industry in Italy, Turin is a well-known industrial city, based on the aerospace industry and, of course, automobile industry. Home of the 2006 Winter Olympics. Home of both Juventus and Torino Football Clubs.
- Venice (Venezia)—known for its history (the most important, beside Genoa, Amalfi and Pisa, of the medieval maritime republics), art, and world-famous canals. it is home to Island of Murano, which is famous for its hand-blown glass. St. Mark's Square is where most of the tourists converge and it can get very crowded in the summertime. Due to increased tourism, in November 2016, Venetian authorities expressed their consideration on imposing a tourist limit on the city in order to prevent overcrowding and the degradation of the city's heritage sites.
Other popular destinations
Apart from Rome, Milan, Naples, Venice, and Florence are the top destinations for tourism in Italy. Other major tourist locations include Turin, Verona, Bari, Padua, Bologna, Messina, Perugia, Palermo, Genoa, Sicily, Sardinia, and Salento. Two factors in each of these locations are history and geography. The Roman Empire, middle ages, and renaissance have left many cultural artifacts for the Italian tourist industry to use. Many northern cities are also able to use the Alps as an attraction for winter sports, while coastal southern cities have the Mediterranean Sea to draw tourists looking for sun.
Italy is home to fifty UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than any other country, including many entire cities such as Verona, Siena, Vicenza, Ferrara, San Gimignano, Urbino, Matera, Pompei, Noto and Siracusa. Ravenna hosts an unprecedented eight different internationally recognized sites.
Hotel categories in Italy
In Italy there is a broad variety of hotels, going from 1-5 stars. In 2005, there were 33,557 hotels with 1,020,000 rooms and 2,028,000 beds. The number of hotels, according to their rating, in 2005, went like this:
7-star hotels: 1 with 25 rooms (the Town House Galleria located in Milan).
5-star hotels: 232 with 20,686 rooms and 43,150 beds.
4-star hotels: nearly 3,700 with 247,000 rooms and 502,000 beds.
3-star hotels: 14,500 with 483,000 rooms and 940,000 beds.
2-star hotels: 5,000 with 116,000 beds.
1-star hotels: 2,000 with 157,000 beds.
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