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The tourism restrictions Italy is planning this summer

The Local Italy
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The tourism restrictions Italy is planning this summer
Tourists walks to the Spiaggia Dei Conigli beach in the southern Italian Pelagie Island of Lampedusa. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

With Italy's tourist numbers set to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023, some towns are bringing in measures to limit the impact of overtourism.


The numbers of foreign visitors coming to Italy doubled in 2022 compared to 2021, according to data from Bankitalia, raising hopes that 2023 could see a return to pre-pandemic numbers.

But for smaller town and villages on the tourist track, the sudden influx of visitors during the high season can feel overwhelming - and some places are taking steps to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.

READ ALSO: Mass tourism is back in Italy – but the way we travel is changing

In 2020, the town of Vietri sul Mare on the Amalfi Coast made headlines by announcing that it was introducing driving licence-based traffic restrictions on the busy stretch of road leading to Positano.


Now the small Sicilian island of Lampedusa is planning to follow suit; this time taking things one step further by banning tourist vehicles altogether.

Mayor Filippo Mannino told reporters he had sought approval from the government to ban cars and scooters belonging to vacationers over a 40-day period during the peak holiday season.

"There are about 6,700 residents and last year we had over 200,000 arrivals," Mannino said.

"We have therefore prepared measures to manage the numbers, now we're waiting for the go-ahead from the ministry."

This kind of initiative is far from new for Italy: other popular tourist destinations have long had similar measures in place.

Procida, a densely populated island off the coast of Naples that has 10,000 residents crammed onto its four-kilometre surface area, has in recent years tightened its ban on holidaymakers' vehicles.

"It is the only initiative that works," Mayor Dino Ambrosino told the Il Messaggero newspaper.

"We are the most densely populated island in Europe, and transport is a problem for us. We typically see 600,000 arrivals of people who come even just to take a walk."

Procida, off the coast of Naples, is one of Europe's most densely populated islands. Procida, off the coast of Naples, is one of Europe's most densely populated islands. Photo by Charles Devaux on Unsplash

The island of Giglio on the coast of Tuscany sees its population balloon from 1,400 permanent inhabitants to 10,000 people a day over the summer, according to Mayor Sergio Ortelli.

To keep the roads moving, visitors who arrive during August can only bring a car if they stay for more than four days. Ortelli says that this year he also plans to start charging tourists an entry fee of three euros in the summer and two euros in winter.

Sardinia, with its Caribbean-style beaches that draw visitors from all over the world, has strict rules in place to limit the environmental impact from overtourism.

The famous La Pelosa beach in Stintino requires advance booking with paid entry in the summer, and straw mats are compulsory if you want to put down your beach towel in order to avoid carrying away sand.


Baunei, on the island's eastern shores, also has an app-based booking system to limit access to some of its smaller coves to 250 entries per day, with a six-euro access fee.

READ ALSO: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

It's not just seaside towns and beaches that have felt the need to introduce such restrictions.

Last summer, local authorities in the Dolomites introduced a pilot project to limit traffic to Lago di Braies via a licence plate recognition system that automatically grants entry to vehicles that have pre-purchased access online, and diverts those those that haven't.

"Compared to the previous year, we managed to reduce overall individual motorised traffic by 24.6 percent," transport councillor Daniel Alfreider told reporters.

The project proved so successful, says local news site Il Dolomiti, that the provincial transport authority is now considering expanding it to other heavily trafficked roads in the area.

The Dolomites mountain range, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are popular summer tourist destination.

The Dolomites mountain range, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are popular summer tourist destination. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.


A couple of hours away from Lago di Braies, the northern city of Bolzano recently introduced a ceiling on holiday apartments; not so much to address overcrowding as to prevent residents from getting squeezed out by a lack of long-term rentals.

"We want to put the brakes on the expansion of these types of rentals that in the last few years have literally exploded, and make it so that accommodation goes to the local population," councillor Arnold Schuler told the Corriere dell'Alto Adige newspaper last September.

The highest-profile Italian city planning to implement tourist restrictions is undoubtedly Venice, which first announced in late 2018 that it was planning to introduce an entry fee of between three and ten euros per day for day-trippers.

After a series of delays, the system was finally due to start in January 2023; but political in-fighting and disagreements over how the rules should be implemented have led to further hold-ups, and it's not currently clear when the fee could be introduced.

READ ALSO: Why Venice has delayed its ‘tourist tax’ – again

In Florence, a softer tactic has been trialled: the Uffizi Diffusi or 'Scattered Uffizi' project redistributes famous artworks normally housed in the city's famous Uffizi gallery to other museums in smaller Tuscan towns and cities, encouraging sightseers to venture off the tourist trail.

While Uffizi director Eike Schmidt places less emphasis on steering tourists away from central Florence than on encouraging them to visit other overlooked towns and villages in the region, he acknowledges that the benefits work both ways.

"In the next decade, but also before then, we can transform tourism in Tuscany into a key to growth that does not aim to return to the pre-pandemic situation, because it had so many problems," Schmidt told reporters at an event in February.

Instead, he said, the aim is "to transform it into something more sustainable, healthy, and culturally profound."


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