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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.
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. 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. Tourists rarely, yet occasionally, got to Trieste.
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 1756, 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, 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.
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-center and the important port of Genoa which share the region's visitors with beautiful landscapes like the Lake Garda and the Lake Como.
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.
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, and Lucca also have rich cultural heritages. 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.
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.
The largest island in the country is a diverse and popular tourist island, famous for its archaeology, seascape and unique Sicilian cuisine.
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.
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 is one of the most visited cities in the world, with an average of 7-10 million tourists a year. The Colosseum (4 million tourists) and the Vatican Museums (4.2 million tourists) are the 39th and 37th (respectively) most visited places in the world, according to a recent study. Other main sights in the city include the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, St Peter's Basilica, the 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. In 2005 the city registered 19.5 million of global visitors, up of 22.1% from 2001. and also, in 2006 Rome has been visited by 6.03 million of international tourists, reaching the 8th place in the ranking of the world's 150 most visited cities.
Milan is one of EU's most important tourist destinations, and Italy's second; with 1.902 million arrivals in 2007 and 1.914 million in 2008, it places itself 42nd and 52nd respectively, 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.
Apart from Rome, Milan, Venice and Florence are the top destinations for tourism in Italy. Other major tourist locations include Turin, Naples, Padua, Bologna, Perugia, Genoa, Sicily, Sardinia, Salento and Cinque Terre. 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 forty nine 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.
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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