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The History of Tourism in Italy

The tourist industry in Italy has been happening for a number of centuries. The Southern half of the country were always popular with the ruins and ancient buildings of Rome being particularly appealing. The period of the Rome Empire had left the city being a place of pilgrimage for many people around Europe. There pilgrims would act as tourists and as well as visiting Rome they would take the opportunity to visit other parts of the region.

Rome was popular destination on the grand Tour

The other popular area of the country was the northern region between the trading cities of Genoa, Venice and Pisa which would attract traders from all over the world. Once in the area they would take time to have a holiday before their strenuous journeys’ back to their own particular areas of the world. At the end of the 17th century saw the emergence of the “Grand Tour”. This was a journey enjoyed by mainly wealthy young European men. It was seen as an educational visit with the tour including places of classical interest to the educated classes of Britain and other European nations.

As well as most parts of Italy being included the tours would often venture as far as Naples and even Malta. The tour was influenced by Coryats Crudities written by Thoma Coryat which was one of the earliest travel books published in 1611. During the 18th century it became the fashion to travel to develop people’s personalities and ideas and the “Grand Tour” was ideal for this purpose.

Once steam powered transportation was introduced visitors to Italy were not limited to the upper classes and during the Victorian era the middle classes were attracted to the country. This was the start of mass tourism and Italy was a country that could utilize this new potential economic bonanza with its Mediterranean climate, vast beaches and beautiful scenery.

A ski station in the Dolomites

In fact there were many areas of the country where it was important that they did utilize this potential windfall. There were vast poor regions particularly in the south, where the thin weak soils meant that the land was poor agriculturally and for centuries families had found it difficult to survive from one year to the next. The first resorts started to emerge in the north and the centre of the country on the coastline. The South needed the tourism the most but it was out on a limb with people finding it difficult to get to. The other areas had far denser transport networks that would get tourists in and out quickly.

The depression of the 1930s and the time around the Second World War depressed the tourist industry in the country. The period following the War saw Italy gradually recover economically and soon the locals were looking to domestic resorts for their annual holiday. The growth of commercial airlines also brought more foreign visitors into the country and suddenly beach tourism started to pick up.

Also, during this period, the start of the winter holidays and Italy had a number of quality skiing areas that were perfect for the tourists. The Alpine resorts were close to the French border and some shared different parts of the same mountain with their French Neighbors. The other major ski area was in the Italian Dolomites. This region had not been exploited before and now much needed wealth was being brought into theses mountain village that the local rural population could make the most of.

As Italy has moved into the 21st century it now possesses a tourist industry that is vital for the country’s economy. There are many different types of visitors to the country. Some for the sun and, some come for the snow and others will visit for the cultural experience. Whatever the reasons they have combined to make tourism one of the most important industrial sectors that Italy possesses.