Italy has always been one of the world's top three tourist destinations, forever alternating with France and Spain for the title of most visited.
For centuries now, passionate travelers have dreamed of bearing witness to the great Colosseum, the winding Venetian canals, and the leaning tower of Pisa to name just a few.
There's no denying Italy is incredibly iconic, and home to some of the world's most widely-recognized landmarks, but something we did not foresee is it would recover from the 2020-2022 lump at a record pace, and surpass 2019 tourism levels as early as now.
To freshen up your mind, Italy was the first country to be affected by the latest global crisis, which led to an effective shutdown of its tourism sector for the best part of two years. Since its reopening, however, it's been smashing it, and it seems now be more popular than it ever was.
Last year, Italian airports handled a whopping 197.2 million passengers, officially up 2.1% from the pre-crisis reference year, and you may be wondering what is it about Italy that has captured the hearts of so many tourists:
The Fascinating Culture
Perhaps the main reason why tourists flock into the Italian peninsula year after year, and one we simply can't just brush over, is its inestimable value to humanity, and our modern civilization, as a global capital for the culture.
To put it simply, Italy's rich cultural tapestry is an endless source of fascination: its early Roman History, rich medieval heritage, and great contribution to the arts, most notably via the Reinassance movement, has left the modern-day nation littered with World Heritage Sites.
To be more precise, UNESCO lists as many as 59 points of interest in Italy, 53 of which are cultural, and only 6 natural, the most out of any country in the world, not to mention the countless ones that are under consideration.
You could spend a lifetime taking trips to Italy and still never see it all.
Some of the top hotspots include the city of Rome and its monumental arena, the Amalfi Coast, a beautiful stretch of coast interspersed with colorful historic towns, the archaeological zone of Pompeii, an ancient city ravaged by volcanic ash, the increasingly popular beach zone of Puglia, and the floating city of Venice.
The Best Cuisine In The World
If you're fantasizing about an Italian getaway at some point this year, sampling traditional food extensively is likely to be at the top of your list of priorities, especially when Italy is best known to offer tourists an unforgettable gastronomic journey.
None of that sad-looking, barely-any-toppings, pre-cooked peperonni and ham American mess: think deliciously-fluffy, nonna cooked Neapolitan pizze drenched in homemade olive oil, topped with freshly-caught, salted anchovies and sugo di pomodoro.
You can also get lost in the centuries-old pasta tradition, as there are around 350 different types of pasta, and each has a distinct mode of preparation.
Three of the most iconic are the classic tagliatelle alla Bolognese, native to the city of Bologna, the spicy pasta all'Arrabbiata, and authentic carborana, which contrary to popular belief, does not contain cream.
Don't get us started on the dessert menu: soft pistacchio gelatos, chocolate-filled cannoli, the coffee-infused tiramisu cake, and other regional gems like frittela, deep-fried cakes dough balls coated in sugar typically served during carnival in the Veneto region.
According to the Taste Atlas Awards, the reference ranking for assessing the quality of traditional food, Italian is the best in the world, trumping every other delectable ethnic cuisine – Japanese, Greek, Portuguese, Chinese, Mexican, French and Spanish simply don't stand a chance.
Italy Is A Year-Round Destination
As if the culture and culinary traditions weren't enough to get you enamored with Italy, the country is incredible regardless of the season.
Though most Americans would visit over summer, inspired by Instagrammable gelato cones, the balmy Mediterranean weather, and a summery Lake Garda, the country has plenty to offer even in the off-season.
Venice is one such destination that is, in fact, best experienced in February, when carnival festivities are at its peak, and locals flock into the magnificent Piazza San Marco in colorful, flamboyant costumes. Furthermore, winters in Rome are just ideal for sightseeing.
The narrow streets are busy year-round, and there's just no escaping getting photobombed at Fontana di Trevi even if you're up at five in the morning, but there is no overpowering, dry heat bearing down on your shoulders, which means you get to wander about at leisure without feeling as if you're on the brink of a heatstroke.
There are no beaches or seas warm enough for sunbathing and swimming anywhere in Italy in the colder months, but if you're not keen on sightseeing, which we believe to be highly unlikely if Italy's been on your radar, maybe skiing and wooden cottages set against frozen sceneries could pique your interest.
In that case, Northern Italy, near the borders with Austria and Switzerland, will blow your mind: look up The Dolomites on Google and thank us later.
Italy Is Fighting Overtourism
And That's A Good Thing For Tourists!
Finally, Italy has gone above and beyond to tackle overtourism in recent years, from banning Airbnbs in historic centers, to introducing a whole ticketing system in the UNESCO-listed City of Venice, to curb the influx of visitors.
At first we were upset about it, but the more we mulled it over, we came to the conclusion the fact that one of the world's most-heavily touristed countries is limiting tourism is actually a good thing, at least for those of us who are there for the cultural immersion, and cannot cope with surging crowds of Instagrammers and daytrippers.
Italy has re-emerged from the 2020-2022 crisis adamant in moving to the next stage of tourism, when high-value experiences and quality take precedence over quantity and massification, and we are already seeing the positive impact of these combative measures against overtourism across a number of cities.
Venice is no longer a cruising port nor a day-trip destination – if you intend on visiting for the day and not staying overnight, you have to pay an entry fee on certain dates.
Elsewhere, tourists who sit on the Spanish Steps in Rome and block the passage can get issued an eye-watering $270 fine, and Florence is banning short-term vacation rentals in its UNESCO-protected Renaissance Old Town.
In a way, Italy is preserving itself for future generations, and ensuring foreigners who are completely oblivious to the culture, and are merely there for the perfect Portofino selfie, know they are not welcome and the vanity flex can cost them $300.
The Italian Association of Airport Management report gave us confirmation that Italy has fully recovered as a destination, and it's on track to becoming more relevant than ever.
It also informs us Rome Fiumicino, Milan's Malpensa and Bergamo airports, Naples International Airport, Venice's Marco Polo, and Catania, in Sicily, are the top five busiest hubs and, thus, most popular destinations for tourists arriving in the country.
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