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With more than 46.1 million tourists a year, Italy is the fifth highest tourist earner, and fifth most visited country in the world, behind France (79.5 million), United States (62.3 million), China (57.6) and Spain (56.7 million). People mainly visit Italy for its rich art, cuisine, history, fashion and culture, 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. Tourism is one of Italy's fastest growing and most profitable industrial sectors, with an estimated revenue of 136.1 billion.

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, less cultural visits would also be made, and several tourists came 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, 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.

Regions

North-West Italy

Regions: Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardia and Valle d'Aosta

Home of the Italian Riviera, including Portofino, and of Cinque Terre. There are many historic cities in this part of Italy such as Turin, the manufacturing capital of Italy, Milan, the business and fashion capital of the country, Bergamo, with its medieval city-centre and the important port of Genoa which share the region's visitors with beautiful landscapes like the Lake Garda and the Lake Como.
Milan Cathedral is a busy tourist spot in Milan. It is the world's 4th biggest cathedral and took over five centuries to complete.

The Italian Alps (Valle d'Aosta)
North-East Italy

Regions: Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige / Südtirol and Veneto

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, Bologna, Ferrara, Piacenza, Parma, Ravenna 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.

Central Italy

Regions: Lazio, Abruzzo, Marche, Tuscany and Umbria

This area is possibly the most visited in Italy and contains many popular attractions. 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, Umbria's population is small but it has many important cities such as Perugia and Assisi. 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.
Venice - The City of canals

The Colosseum, Rome's second and the world's 39th most popular tourist attraction, with 4 million tourists a year and Lucca also have rich cultural heritages.
Southern Italy

Regions: Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania and Molise.

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 and Ravello, Apulia, which includes the historic town of Lecce and villages composed of trulli, and the beaches and sights of Calabria, as well as up-and-coming agritourism make this less visited region become increasingly popular.

Sicily

The largest island in the country is a diverse and popular tourist island, famous for its archaeology, seascape and unique Sicilian cuisine.

Sardinia

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.
Florence and the River Arno, with Ponte Vecchio in the foreground
Calabria

Despite the wonderful seas that surround Calabria and the cultural and historical heritage, Calabria hasn't attracted many tourists. An example of cities with big historical heritage are Sibari, which has the "Sibari archeological site" that actually shows the ruins of the 3000 year old city of Magna Graecia "Sybaris" and Rossano, on the Jonio sea which has the Codex Purpureus, a 5th-century gospel, wonderful sea and even mountains. On Tirrenian Sea we find Tropea, with wonderful sea and Pizzo Calabro, famous in Italy for its particular ice cream. Then there's Reggio Calabria; the poet Gabriele d'Annunzio said that Reggio Calabria has the best kilometer in Italy. He was talking about Reggio Calabria's promenade.

For detail information about Italy please click on Italia Tourism


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