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MAP: Which parts of Italy will get the most tourism this summer?

Italy’s tourism sector is on its way to post-pandemic recovery. But how many visitors will the country get this summer - and where are they going? Here’s a look at the data.

Italian beach, Lampedusa
The beach is going to be Italians’ favourite holiday destination in 2022. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

The Covid-19 pandemic has literally battered the Italian tourism sector. In 2019, before the virus hit, some 96 million international tourists visited the country and tourism alone accounted for 13 percent of national GDP.

All that, of course, came to an abrupt halt in early 2020, when the country lost a staggering 120.6 billion euros because of travel restrictions and an estimated 337,000 people were put out of work.

Italian tourism recovered slightly in 2021, but visitor numbers were still far below the norm as many international travel requirements remained in place for much of the year. 

So far, 2022 seems to have brought about a much-awaited change in trend, with the end of nearly all Covid-related measures and the return of international visitors putting a smile back on the faces of many business owners and tourism workers. 

“2022 is going to be the year of our resurgence,” Italy’s tourism minister Massimo Garavaglia had told Corriere della Sera in April. The data gathered by market research institute Demoskopika seem to prove him right. 

Over 92 million people – both residents and international arrivals – are expected to travel to an Italian destination over the course of 2022, marking a 43 percent increase on last year.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

Italy, Lake Garda

Lake Garda is one of the most sought-after Italian destinations and is especially popular among international holidaymakers. Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP

Tourism this year is expected to be worth around 26 billion euros in tax contributions to state coffers. If confirmed, this would represent a 11.8 percent rise compared to 2021.

It nearly goes without saying that not all Italian regions will benefit equally, as both local and foreign holidaymakers will be spread unevenly across the stivale.

According to Demoskopika, the five most visited regions by total number of arrivals will be Veneto (15.2 million arrivals), Trentino-Alto Adige (11.3 m), Lombardy (10.1 m), Emilia-Romagna (9.8 m) and Tuscany (9.3 m).

Tourism to these areas alone is expected to generate a total of 16.5 billion euros, equal to around 62 percent of Italy’s prospective tourism revenue. 

Conversely, Umbria, Abruzzo, Calabria, Aosta Valley and Basilicata will be the five least visited regions, attracting just about 6.5 million visitors between them.

But, beyond regional differences, what are the single most sought-after Italian destinations?

Data collected by private research institute Zucchetti show that the three most popular holiday spots across the country are Lake Garda, Emilia-Romagna’s Adriatic Riviera and Puglia’s Salento peninsula.

Veneto’s coastline and Tuscany’s ‘Etruscan Coast’ beaches follow in fourth and fifth place respectively.

Interestingly, Lake Garda is the only top-five tourist destination to register more international bookings than national ones, with foreign visitors (mainly German, Dutch and American) making up about 84 percent of the tourism demand in the area.

Emilia-Romagna’s Riviera and the Salento area are also expected to welcome large numbers of foreign visitors, albeit in far smaller figures compared to Lake Garda (28 and 20 percent of the local demand respectively). 

Aside from seaside and lakeside destinations, major art cities are the next most popular vacation spot among stranieri.

According to Roberta Garibaldi, CEO of ENIT (Italian National Tourist Board), “art cities have suffered a lot over the past couple of years” but the data for the upcoming summer are “promising”.

Venice, Rialto bridge

Venice will be one of the most visited Italian art cities as it is expected to welcome 5.3 million foreign tourists. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Rome will lead the pack as it is set to receive 5.4 million foreign visitors (mostly from the US, UK and Spain), thus marking a whopping 239-percent increase on last year and contributing to 10.4 percent of Italy’s total international tourism. 

Venice will follow closely with a total of 5.3 million foreign tourists (23 percent of them will travel from Germany). 

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

Finally, Milan and Florence will sit in third and fourth place respectively, with the former set to welcome 2.8 million foreign nationals and the latter expected to receive 2.6 million.

But, art cities won’t be a hot commodity among foreign tourists alone as 18 percent of Italians are planning to spend the holidays in a città d’arte.

As for other popular holiday spots, Italians’ favourite destination will once again be the beach, with seaside locations expected to welcome 57 percent of local holidaymakers.

Nearly one in four (23 percent) will instead opt for a ‘holiday in nature’, travelling to the mountains, countryside or lakes.

Regardless of the chosen destination, it will be a very ‘patriotic’ summer for many Italians as, of the 30 million residents (equivalent to 51 percent of the national population) who are planning to go on holiday in the coming months, nine in 10 will stay in the country.

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What you need to know about Italy’s free museum Sundays

Want to see the Colosseum or Michelangelo’s David for free? You can on Italy’s free museum Sundays.

What you need to know about Italy’s free museum Sundays

People across Italy will be able to visit museums for free once again this Sunday, August 7th, under the nationwide Domenica al Museo or ‘free museum Sundays’ scheme allowing ticketless entry on the first Sunday of every month.

First introduced in 2014, the offer was suspended during the coronavirus pandemic amid concerns about crowding but reinstated in April 2022.

READ ALSO: What to do in Rome this August

As tickets for major historical sites and museums in Italy often cost upwards of €15 per person, there are big savings to be made and the free Sundays scheme is understandably popular among both tourists and residents.

The remaining dates for the year are: August 7th, September 4th, October 2nd, November 6th, and December 4th.

Where can I go?

The scheme applies to hundreds of state-run museums, archaeological parks and monuments, including world-famous sites like the Colosseum, Pompeii, Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia, the Reggia di Caserta and Trieste’s Miramare Castle.

The offer does not apply to sites that are run by local authorities rather than the state, though many cities run similar initiatives of their own.

READ ALSO: Nine ways to get into trouble while visiting Venice

Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

How do I book a free ticket?

In many cases you don’t need to and can simply turn up and walk in.

However, some venues such as Rome’s Galleria Borghese require advance booking, so it’s always wise to find the attraction’s website and check the rules before you go.

Are there any Covid restrictions?

Right now the Italian government does not have any health restrictions in place for museums.

The culture ministry recommends visitors wear masks, but this is no longer obligatory.

Individual venues – as well as local authorities – can however set their own requirements, so it’s another thing you may want to check before your visit.

Will museums be overcrowded?

This really depends on where you go. Italy most famous attractions always draw huge crowds in summer – free entrance or otherwise – while lesser-known spots or those outside the major tourist areas may be less chaotic.

But frankly, it’s likely to be busy in most places. The scheme was cancelled in 2019 (and then reinstated after a change of government) due to concerns about long queues and overcrowding – long before anyone had heard of Covid-19.

Some sites capped visitor numbers when the scheme was initially reinstated in spring but it’s unclear how many still do this.

What else should I know?

You can find a full list of the sites included and links to further information for each on the Italian culture ministry’s website here.