With more than 43.7 million tourists a year, Italy is the fourth highest tourist earner, and fifth most visited country in the world, behind France (76.0 million), Spain (55.6 million), United States (49.4 million), and China (46.8). People mainly come to Italy for its rich art, cuisine, history, fashion and culture, its beautiful coastline and beaches, its mountains, and priceless ancient monuments, especially those from the Greek civilization and Roman civilization. Tourism is one of Italy's fastest growing and most profitable industrial sectors, with an estimated revenue of $42.7 billion.
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:
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.
Home of the Italian Riviera, including Portofino, and of Cinque Terre. There are many historic cities in this part of Italy such asTurin, the manufacturing capital of Italy, Milan, the business and fashion capital of the country, and the important port of Genoa share the region's visitors with beautiful landscapes like the Lake Como area. |
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 and Trieste. There are also several mountain ranges such as the Dolomites in the Italian Alps and first-class ski resorts like Cortina d'Ampezzo 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.
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.
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 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 cuisine.
Large island some 250 kilometers west of the Italian coastline. It includes several popular tourist attractions and has several beaches and archaeological ruins.
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 Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the Castello Sforzesco, the Pinacoteca di Brera and the Via Montenapoleone. Most tourists visit sights such as Milan Cathedral, the Castello Sforzesco 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 rapresent 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 four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than any other country, including many entire cities such as Verona, Siena, Vicenza, Ferrara, San Gimignano, and Urbino. Ravenna hosts an unprecedented eight different internationally recognized sites.
 The Italian rail system has different train types: TBiz, EurostarItalia, Eurostar Italia AV (for Alta velocita or high speed with the ESAV logo), Eurostar City Italia, IntercityPlus, Intercity, Espresso, Interregionale and Regionale, Eurostar Italia and TBiz being the classiest. Generally speaking, for a given distance each tier costs from 40% to 100% more than the one below it. The train cars used by the TBiz and Eurostar Italia services are far newer than those used by the other types, but are not necessarily more comfortable; however many of them provide power sockets which may be useful if you plan on working on the train. On the other hand the cars used by Intercity trains might be split up into distinct, six-seater compartments. A new level has been introduced recently. It is called Intercity-plus and it is just a way to have passengers pay more than the intercity fares. Recently, many of Interegionale trains have been classified as Intercity.
The main practical difference between train types is reliability. Intercity services are generally reliable, but if you need to catch a flight, for example, it might be better to pay extra for the Eurostar Italia. Interregionale and Regionale are less reliable, and stop in many more stations along the way. The other big difference between TBiz, Eurostar Italia, Intercity Plus and Intercity with Interregionale, Regionale and Espresso services is that on the best ones seating reservation is compulsory, where every passenger has a seat allocated to him/her. This means that the train will never (theoretically) be packed with an impossible number of people, but it also means you will need to purchase tickets in advance. Actually, many passengers with tickets for other trains that take a wrong one will have to pay the cheap fine for not having a seat reservation. As a result, on major routes or peak hours, expect to find your seat taken, in this case usually a brief discussion is enough to get your seat. During commuter hours, on major north-south routes during the holidays, or before and after large political demonstrations, trains on the lower train types can become extremely full, to the point where it gets very uncomfortable, in which case you could find yourself sitting on a tiny fold out flap in the hallway, where you'll have to move for everyone passing by.
The pricier train types are usually faster, but there is not a consistent speed difference between trains. The main difference being the number of stops made along the same routes. On some routes, the Eurostar will cut the travel time in half, but on others all trains go more or less at the same speed, and taking the Eurostar Italia might be a waste of money. Just check the Trenitalia website  or the printed schedule, usually located near the entrance to each platform, to see how long the trip will take.
On long routes, such as Milan - Rome or Milan - Reggio Calabria, Trenitalia operates special night trains Treni Notte. They depart around 22.00 and arrive in the morning. Depending on the train, you may be able to choose between normal seats, couchette and sleeper cabins of different categories. Seats are cheapest, but even sleeper cabins are not prohibitively expensive and are a very relaxing way to travel long distances. Also keep in mind some trains do not provide air conditioning so bring your own water bottle during the hot summer months.
On the train schedules displayed at each station, every train is listed in different colours (i.e. blue, red, green). The arrival times are listed in parentheses next to the names of each destination. One thing to watch out for is that certain trains only operate seasonally, or for certain time periods (for example, during holidays).
The lines to buy tickets can be very long, and slow, so get to the station early. There are touch-screen ticket machines which are very useful, efficient, and multilingual, but there are never that many, and the lines for those can be very long too.
As of January 10, 2005 a smoking ban in public places went into effect in Italy. You will be subject to fines for smoking on any Italian train.
Trenitalia's Ticketless option is only available for single direct trips when booked online.A workaround is to book each train segment separately and choose the Ticketless option for each - the total cost is the same.
Italy has a well-developed system of highways in the northern side of the country while in the south it's a bit worse for quality and extent. Every highway is identified by an A followed by a number on a green backdrop. Most of the highways (autostrade) are toll roads. Some have toll stations giving you access to a section (particularly the tangenziali of Naples, Rome, and Milan, for example), but generally, most have entrance and exit toll stations. It is advisable to not lose your entrance ticket, for if one does so, one will be charged for the longest distance (example: if you are on A1 Milano-Napoli at the Milano toll station you'll be charged for the entire 700km distance). All the blue lanes (marked "Viacard") of toll stations accept major credit cards as well as pre-paid card (Viacard) that one can buy at tobacconist, Autogrill, or gas stations.
Many Italians use an electronic pay-toll device, and there are reserved lanes marked in Yellow with the sign "Telepass" or a simply "T". Driving through those lanes (controlled by camera system) without the device will result in a fine and a payment of the toll for the longest distance. Due to agreement with other countries, if you're foreigner, you'll pay also extra cost for locating you in your country.
Even if speeding is very common on autostrade,( although lot less than in the past) be aware that there are a number of automatic and almost invisible systems to punish speeding and hazardous driving, also Italian Highway Patrol (Polizia Stradale) has several unmarked cars equipped with speed radars and camera systems.
Since 2006, several sections of the Italian Highways are equipped with an automatic system called SICVE or TUTOR that check the average speed of the vehicles over a long distance (5/10 km), and the coverage is continuously improved (at the moment, signs are posted at the beginning of the section covered - full list of sections covered is here ).
A good clue of a nearby check system is when cars around you suddenly reduce speed. If you see a lot of cars keeping themselves just under the limit and nobody overtaking, you'd better do the same. Driving outside an autostrada, when cars coming in the opposite direction are flashing lights to you, you're probably driving towards a speed check.
Note that common use of flashlights may be different from your country. Flashing lights may be meant either as a warning to give way or as an invitation to go first, depending on the situation: so, please, be extremely careful in order to avoid any problem.
Speed limits are:
Italian laws allow a 5% (minimum 5 km/h) tolerance on local speed limit. Fines are generally very expensive.
Motorbikes should drive always with the headlights on, for other vehicles that applies only outside cities and on autostrade.
Drunk driving is a controversial issue. The tolerated limit is 0.50g/L in blood; being above this limit punishable by a heavy fine, licence revocation and jail time, but drunk driving is still rather common.
After several deadly accidents involving drunk drivers the checks are becoming more and more frequent and as of January 2009 the Government was planning to reduce the limit to 0.20g/L or even to 0.0g/L.
Signposts used in Italy are patterned according to EU recommendations and use mostly pictograms (not text) but there are minor differences (example: highway (Autostrade) directions are written on a green background while the white stands for local roads and blue for other roads).
As can be expected, fuel is considerably more expensive than in North America and Japan, but on par with most of the rest of western Europe. Expect to pay about €1.25 per liter for fuel.
Many tourists report  that they got fined (about €100) for entering a ZTL  (zona a traffico limitato; Limited Traffic Zone) unknowingly. ZTLs  are restricted areas in many Italian cities where vehicles are not permitted except for limited reasons between certain hours. The entrance to a ZTL is marked by signs and cameras, which go easily unnoticed by tourists driving a car. They are traps for tourists renting a car that end up receiving one or more tickets up to a year later and finding out that the fine was doubled just because of the paper work needed to send the papers abroad. Also the renting companies may charge from 15 to 50 euros to give the driver details to the police. So beware a fine might add up to 200 euros easily.
Be aware that if traveling between Trieste and Slovenia that a 'vignette' pass is required to drive on Slovenia's highways and costs 15 € for a one week pass.
Buy town bus tickets from corner stores and other shops before boarding. The payment system for most mass transit in Italy (trains, city buses, subway) is based on voluntary payment combined with sporadic enforcement. Specifically, you buy a ticket which can be used at any time (for that level of service, anyway) and when you use it you validate the ticket by sticking it into a machine that stamps a date on it.
For tourists it may be very convenient to buy daily (or multi-day) tickets that allow you to travel as much as you want in a single (or more) day. Every major city also has some type of City Card, a fixed-fee card allowing you to travel on local public transportation and visit a number of museums and giving you discounts in shops, hotels and restaurants.
Check for both these possibilities at local Tourist Offices or on the city's website (which is often of the form www.comune.cityname.it as for example www.comune.roma.it).
Hitchhiking in Italy is nowadays considered out of date. Hitchhiking is not generally recommended for women travelling alone. Hitchhiking along expressways and highways is forbidden.
Approaching Italy by sea is popular amongst several tourists. A yacht charter to Italy is a fulfilling way to experience the country. Although the yacht charter industry is smaller than one would expect for this incredibly popular tourist destination, there are many reasons to choose a yacht over a more conventional onshore approach. The Italian coast, like the French coast, attracts luxury yacht charters of the highest standards. “Touring” Italy from a private yacht is surprisingly convenient and comfortable. There are major distinct nautical regions in Italy: Tuscany, Amalfi Coast, Sardinia and Sicily. Each has its own flavor and focus. Be sure to plan your itinerary carefully as each region is rewarding in its own particular way.