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A new tourism strategy is helping tourists discover Italy’s small villages and rural walking routes.
Copyright  La so

Think you know Italy? Now it wants you to explore its hidden attractions

By Rebecca Ann Hughes

Italy has launched a project to help tourists discover the country’s best lesser-known attractions.

The “Viaggio Italiano” (Italian journey) initiative hopes to lure visitors away from tourist honeypots like Florence and Venice.

Instead of promoting popular sights, the scheme aims to introduce travellers to the country’s small villages and rural destinations.

It is part of a push to make tourism more sustainable and spread its benefits more equally throughout the country.

How is tourism in Italy changing?

The new tourism campaign, developed collaboratively by all the country’s regions along with the Italian Ministry of Tourism and the National Tourism Board, focuses on slow tourism practices.

Maria Elena Rossi, head of the tourism board, explains that the campaign highlights three main aspects of Italy: its villages, its landscapes and its walking routes.

“All the three areas are about different ways of getting to know the country and experiencing it through slow tourism and active tourism,” says Rossi.

The intention is to show visitors how they can experience off-the-beaten-track Italy through outdoor activities such as walking and cycling.

The campaign has gathered together and digitalised hundreds of itineraries highlighting rural attractions, small villages and traditional food and wine.

Visitors can access these itineraries and an interactive map on the website viaggio.italia.it.

Where are Italy’s best walking and cycling routes?

The tourism campaign presents sustainable and active ways to explore the country and its landscapes, including more than 100 walking routes already established in Italy.

These paths wind their way through some of the country’s most spectacular landscapes, such as the Dolomites in the north and the rugged coastline in the south.

Luca Micheli
The tourism campaign presents sustainable and active ways to explore the country and its landscapes, including more than 100 walking routes already established in Italy.Luca Micheli

Some follow historic paths like pilgrimage routes or bandit tracks.

The project will also establish new multi-region cycling, walking and sailing routes. These are set to be completed by the end of the year.

The Via del Mare will give travellers the chance to explore Italy’s coastline with sailing itineraries. The routes will connect various ports and tourist landings across regions.

The Vie del Bike will connect regions by cycle routes, while the Nordic Walking Routes will allow hikers to explore the countryside on foot.

What are Italy’s most beautiful villages?

Part of the initiative will focus on Italy’s borghi, picturesque small villages and hamlets dotted throughout the countryside.

The interactive map on the Viaggio Italiano website shows the locations and gives information about around 1,000 villages and their cultural attractions.

The map will showcase how some of Italy’s most authentic experiences, such as unique food products or local festivals, can be found in its villages.

How has the pandemic changed travel in Italy?

The new campaign comes as Italy considers how to make tourism more manageable. Rossi explains that the project was initiated three years ago in reaction to Italy’s overtourism problems.

“This was part of the strategic plan by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to better connect the well-known areas with those less known,” says Rossi.

Kristine Tanne
The Via del Mare will give travellers the chance to explore Italy’s coastline with sailing itineraries.Kristine Tanne

A two-year hiatus in normal visitor numbers has further spotlighted Italy’s tourism issues.

With tourist numbers now returning to pre-pandemic levels, Italy’s visitor hotspots are struggling to cope once more.

Some destinations have introduced restrictions to curb visitor numbers.

Venice is mulling a ticketing system and entry fee, while the Amalfi Coast is restricting the number of vehicles that drive along its famed coastal road in peak season. 

Florence’s renowned Uffizi Gallery adopted a similar scheme to the Viaggio italiano by sending its treasures across Tuscany.

Some of its artworks have been relocated to other galleries and attractions in the region to ease overcrowding at the gallery and tempt visitors out of Florence.

Are people travelling differently post-pandemic?

The Viaggio italiano initiative also coincides with a change in the way people are choosing to travel in Italy.

Many travellers are seeking slower, more in-depth experiences in Italy.

Some visitors are also shunning city hotels and choosing to stay in more rural locations, favouring accommodation in small hamlets or agritourismi.