Italy can feel like one big tourist attraction, and to many people it probably is. Still, this is a whole country we’re talking about – one in which real people live and work every day. And thinking of an entire country as a tourist attraction is a bit misguided, not to mention incredibly overwhelming. So in this article I’m going to focus on some of the most popular Italy tourist attractions.
Tourism in Italy
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Italy came in 5th in the world in 2005 in terms of the number of people traveling to the country. The 2005 numbers are the most recent ones available on the UNWTO website, and although there’s likely been some fluctuation in the overall numbers there’s no reason to believe Italy is any less popular today than it was then. The UNWTO statistics indicate that in 2004 Italy welcomed more than 37 million visitors – and to put that in more stark terms, that’s 64 visitors for every 100 residents. You’d better believe Italy tourism is big business.
Just how big is it? Well, according to that same set of UNWTO numbers from 2005, travelers to Italy spent more than $35 billion on their visits. That’s not nothing. And while the economic slump has no doubt reduced that number slightly, anyone who’s been to Italy recently probably thinks all 37 million of those visitors from 2005 are back and sharing the piazza with them.
I’m bombarding you with these numbers partly to give you some background for what “popular” means when I talk about the most popular tourist attractions in Italy – and also to let you know that if you’re planning to visit all the big tourist sights, you should be prepared for some company.
Italy Tourist Attractions
When it comes to world-class tourist attractions, Italy is absolutely brimming with riches. And since we’re on the UN train already, here’s another branch of the UN most travelers are familiar with – the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Italy has more sites on the list than any other country with a whopping 44 (and it’s not exactly an enormous place, remember), some of which are entire cities or regions. You can see the list of all the places in Italy on UNESCO’s list on the UNESCO site here.
While most of us won’t be using the UN’s list as our sole pre-trip planning resource, it’s definitely an excellent place to start when you’re considering which of Italy’s tourist attractions you want to make sure to visit. Because, as mentioned, many of the sites on the UNESCO list are actually cities (or portions of cities) and regions, however, it’s not necessarily the list that’s going to help you pinpoint exactly which churches, museums, ruins, or galleries are the big must-see sights.
With that in mind, here are some of the most pouplar tourist attractions in Italy (in no particular order):
- Colosseum in Rome
- Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Vatican Museum
- “The Last Supper”
- Roman Forum
- St. Peter’s Basilica
- Amalfi Coast
- Tuscan Hills
- Palio in Siena
- Trevi Fountain
- Pantheon in Rome
- Florence Duomo
- Cinque Terre National Park
- Uffizi Gallery in Florence
- Greek temple ruins in Agrigento
- Milan Duomo
- Spanish Steps
For more help with planning your Italy trip, including which Italy tourist attractions you’ll take in during your visit, here are some articles that might be useful:
- What to Do in Italy
- Italy Travel Tips
- Perfect 2-Week Italy Itinerary
- 20 Things Everyone Should Do in Italy
- Italy First Time Visitor Guide
- Free Things to Do in Italy
- “Top 10 Things to Do” lists for Italy
photo by jonrawlinson