“Our country today is at risk of being seen as old, not classical”


Yes, the Colosseum, magnificent symbol of the Eternal City, continues to attract millions of tourists from all over the world.

So does Venice, with its gondolas, and the bizarre peaks of the Dolomite Alps in South Tirol.

Italy’s tourist industry rakes in more than 156 billion euros ($A258 billion) annually and employs one of every nine Italians. But not all is well in the land of la dolce vita.

While the global tourism market is enjoying strong growth, Italy’s gains have been anaemic of late. Italians say their country’s image is tarnished.

“Our country today is at risk of being seen as old, not classical, and as a refuse dump, not the garden of Europe any more,” pointedly wrote the Roman daily newspaper La Repubblica.

Bella Italia’s image has darkened in recent months under media coverage of reeking mountains of garbage in Naples, adulterated wine, and dioxin-tainted mozzarella.

Figures published by the Touring Club Italiano (TCI), a national tourism promotion organisation, show that the country’s fall from grace is nothing new, however. The world’s tourism champion in 1970 in terms of the number of visitors, Italy has gradually slipped to fifth place.