Where tourists go in Italy: the ranking of the most visited cities and cultural sites

They arrived in Italy in 2023 134 millions of tourists between foreigners and Italians, and the country ranked fifth in the world by number of foreign visitors. The most visited cities are Rome, Venice, Milan and Florence, while among the individual historical-artistic sites the Colosseum, the Uffizi and the excavations of Pompeii predominate. Of the various “types” of tourism, that aimed at museum and archaeological sites is of particular importance, but the cities with the greatest number of historical-artistic sites are not always the most visited, because tourist flows are motivated by a variety of reasons. Furthermore, the uncontrolled increase in tourism it does not only cause positive effects.

How many tourists are there in Italy

In 2023, Italy was the fourth country for foreign arrivals after France, Spain and the United States. Istat has detected 451 million attendance in accommodation facilities (i.e. nights spent in hotels), for a total of 134 million tourists. Foreign visitors prevail, accounting for 52.4% of the nights spent in hotels, compared to 47.6% of Italians. According to the Bank of Italy, tourism can be traced back approximately 5% of the gross domestic product And 6% of employmentwithout counting the share linked to tourist flows indirectly.

Tourism is divided into various types: seaside, artistic-cultural, religious, food and wine, etc. The division, naturally, is not clear-cut, because visitors take advantage of different types of attractions (those who come to visit the monuments also go to the seaside), but it is certain that in Italy the artistic-cultural tourism is among the most widespread ones.

most polluted cities in Italy 2023

The most visited Italian cultural sites

So what are the most visited cultural sites (including museums, art galleries, historic buildings and archaeological areas, owned by the State)? Here is the ranking for 2022 from the Ministry of Culture:

  1. Colosseum archaeological park (Rome): 9,812,113 visitors
  2. Uffizi Galleries (Florence): 4,066,366
  3. Pompeii archaeological park: 3,058,335
  4. Accademia Gallery of Florence: 1,428,369
  5. Castel Sant'Angelo (Rome): 966,623
  6. Egyptian Museum (Turin): 909.020
  7. Royal Palace of Caserta: 699,176
  8. Borghese Gallery (Rome): 544,290
  9. Villa Adriana and Villa D'Este (Tivoli, province of Rome): 543,527
  10. Vittoriano and Palazzo Venezia (Rome): 543,527

The ranking does not include places with free entry, among which in 2022 still included the Pantheon in Rome (paid from 2023), which, with around nine million visitors, was by far the most visited Italian building, as well as the Milan Cathedral and the Basilica of San Marco in Venice (only partially paid). Furthermore, the sites of the Vatican City and the buildings belonging to the Curia are not included.

The number of entries, as is logical, is determined above all by the notoriety and historical-artistic importance of the sites. Tourist flows, however, are also influenced by other factors. For example, historical-artistic sites close to locations that attract visitors for other reasons (presence of beaches, religious sanctuaries, etc.) are at an advantage. The ranking of the Italian cities that attract the most visitors demonstrates how the presence of museum sites only partially determines the flow trend.

The most visited Italian cities

According to Istat, the Italian cities with the highest presences in accommodation facilities are the following (2022 data):

  1. Rome: 29.246.038
  2. Venice: 10,946,464
  3. Milan: 10.407.509
  4. Florence: 7,384,354
  5. Cavallino-Treporti (Ve): 6,697,898
  6. Rimini: 6,491,230
  7. San Michele al Tagliamento (Ve): 5,474,146
  8. Jesolo (Ve): 5,188,712
  9. Caorle (Ve):4,297,996
  10. Lignano Sabbiadoro: 3,672,200 (Udine)
Grand Canal in Venice (credit AliceMartinelli8)

Rome's primacy is motivated by the history of the city, the presence of cultural sites of exceptional importance and the Vatican. However, there are also very many visitors to Venice and Milan, which do not have historical-artistic sites among the ten most visited, but attract tourists for the cities themselves, for the free entry sites (therefore not present in the list) and for specific events, such as Fashion Week and the Salone del Mobile in Milan.

Furthermore, a large share of flows is determined by seaside tourismas demonstrated by the presence in the ranking of Rimini, Lignano Sabbiadoro and four coastal towns in the province of Venice.

The dangers ofovertourism

Mass tourism produces effects benefits from an economic point of view, because it creates employment, and also on a socio-cultural level, because it allows a large part of the population to travel and learn about new realities.

However, the increase in visitors also causes social and environmental problems. The most serious is the upheaval of living conditions in tourist cities: rental costs increase constantly, because many homes are transformed into bed & breakfasts, and services aimed at tourists (souvenir shops, “typical” restaurants or passed off as such, agencies that organize excursions, etc.) proliferate to the detriment of those for residents. Tourist locations, in other words, are transforming into something of a sort showcase for visitors and the inhabitants are often forced to move to the suburbs or other locations.