Top tourist destinations in Italy, from Florence to the rocky Cinque Terre coast, expect double-digit increases in visitors this summer, amid speculation that visitors are avoiding destinations that have been hit by terror attacks and see the bel paese as a safe haven.
Tourism executives say they expect more Italians to holiday at home this year – in part because of concerns about travelling abroad – while more tourists from the UK and Germany are expected in Italy, possibly because they are avoiding Turkey, Tunisia and France.
The question now is whether Italy will be able to cope with the influx, which follows an already busy 2015 summer season.
While the historic centre of Florence and walks along the Grand Canal in Venice are already overcrowded all year round, authorities are taking measures to reduce the number of tourists to areas like Cinque Terre, a UN world heritage site that is at risk of being overwhelmed by crowds of partygoers and cruise ship passengers. Only 1.5 million visitors will be allowed in the Cinque Terre park this year, a decision that officials said was necessary for its preservation.
Travel planners say they are trying to educate tourists about other attractive destinations in an attempt to disperse visitors to other parts of the country and less visited venues. “Italy is a small country with a huge amount of cultural and historic heritage,” said Fabio Maria Lazzerini, board director at the ENIT Italian tourism board.
“The problem in places like Florence is that we cannot make them too crowded – we have to make tourism sustainable.”
While most travellers want to visit the Colosseum, the nearly 2,000-year-old amphitheatre at the heart of Rome, tourists ought also seek out beautiful spots like the Baths of Diocletian, Lazzerini added. “In Lazio there is Tivoli, and so many other minor centres. It is important to understand why people travel, to fulfil the wish of a certain passion,” he added.
While Italians are understandably concerned about numbers, they are also determined to get tourists to spend more money while they are in the country. Tourists spend an average of only 3.6 nights in Italy, and cruise ship tourists in particular, often disembarking for only day trips before moving on to their next destination, are not spending as much as officials would like.
In an interview with the Observer last year, the Florence mayor Dario Nardella complained that tourists visiting the Renaissance city enter the historic centre, often do little more than take a picture with the statue of David, and buy a panino. Florence has sought to tackle the problem by increasing the taxes on tour bus operators in the hope that this could slow the development of mass tourism, which is not necessarily profitable for the city.
Last year Unesco weighed in on the debate, raising concerns in a letter that Florence did not have an adequate strategy to cope with the crowds of people visiting the fragile city.
Yet the cruise ship tourists could prove valuable to Italy in another respect: having had a taste of the country, some of them may decide to come back. “We need to stop promoting Italy in a generic way. For example, for golfers it should be seen as a golf destination,” said Lazzerini. “Then you can attract the right profile.”
Beachgoers should not just consider Capri, but also Sardinia, Calabria, Sicily and the coast of Puglia.
But even as the authorities try to revamp the way Italy sells itself in the future, one thing remains clear: this summer will be busy. Expect queues.


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