Italy’s Most Popular Attraction Isn’t What You Think

Italy is one of the world’s most visited nations, and its varied regions offer plenty of touristic diversity. At the center of Western history from Ancient times through the Renaissance and into modernity, its political and cultural influences are today felt worldwide, and draw curious visitors in the tens of millions annually. But what, exactly, are they all looking for? The majority of first-time visitors flock to major cities like Rome, Venice, Florence and Milan, but all of Italy’s 20 regions offers worthwhile attractions and experiences, and Musement, a travel experience booking platform, wondered which were the most popular in each. Analyzing Google reviews of more than 2,000 attractions across the nation, Musement carved the results to bring you the most popular (by number of reviews) in each. You can find the full list here, but first check out five of the most fascinating below, including Italy’s number one attraction over all. It’s not what you think.

Trevi Fountain (Lazio)

Lazio is home to the capital city of Rome, and it should be no surprise to anyone that the country’s most talked about tourist attraction finds itself here, but exactly which attraction that is may surprise you. Intriguingly, the colosseum is neither Italy’s, nor even Rome’s, most popular attraction, according to Musement’s analysis; instead, the Trevi Fountain takes the top spot. The fountain may be far less ancient than the colosseum—in fact, it dates only to 1762, making it a post-Renaissance representation of Classical themes that lead many to believe it’s older than it is—but it’s far more romantic and engaging than the remaining shell of Rome’s great amphitheater, and it finds itself in a beautiful walking neighborhood. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that generations of visitors have developed the tradition of tossing a coin into the fountain to guarantee a return to the Eternal City.

Pompei (Campania)

The entire ancient city of Pompeii is now an archaeological park, with excavation and preservation continuing today since its 1748 discovery by a surveying engineer, and it offers the absolute best bang for your back if you’re looking for physical immersion in the Ancient world. From individual houses still outfitted in original frescoes and mosaic floors to public buildings like temples and an amphitheater, it’s all still there, and surprisingly accessible to explorers who pay a reasonable entry fee. The wonderland of ancient life offers endless opportunity for wandering through the remains of the city’s last day before resting, astonishingly well preserved, under ash and rock for nearly 1700 years thanks to Mt. Vesuvius, which still looms ominously above the ruins today. Pompeii takes the top spot for the region of Campania, which is also home to Naples.

MUSE (Trentino-Alto Adige)

Trentino-Alto Adige is one of Italy’s five autonomous regions granted special privileges by the country’s constitution, and it’s best known to eco-explorers and other fans of natural splendor. Still, despite being home to the epically beautiful Tre Cime Natural Park, the most popular tourist attraction in this region turns out to be MUSE, The Science Museum of Trento. Proving that not all of Italy’s top attractions harken back to illustrious moments in its historical and cultural past, MUSE is a six-floor science center focused on biodiversity, innovation and technology. In the middle of this naturally-blessed region, Italy’s focus is on the sustainability of its future (and visitors love it).

Ponte Vecchio (Tuscany)

Despite the bountiful vineyards that beckon countless tourists to Italy’s hilly countryside each year, Florence’s Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) claims the top spot as the region’s single most popular attraction. Standing where an Ancient Roman bridge is believed to have previously stood, the current Ponte Vecchio dates to 1345 and is renowned not just for its romantic beauty, but for the shops that line its stones. While the original shops were home to butchers, tanners and farmers, these less-sensory-friendly businesses were banned from the bridge in 1595, giving rise to the dominance of the glittering goldsmiths and jewelers that still monopolize the space to this day. Having survived world war and serious flooding, the bridge is a proud symbol of Florence that more than deserves its favored position as the region’s top attraction.

Trulli (Puglia)

At their most basic, trulli are white stone huts with conical roofs. They may not sound like much, but the sight of rows upon rows of these densely packed distinctive structures give the town of Alberobello the top spot on the list of most popular attractions in Puglia, with the trulli, specifically, being the draw. While they may appear like something out of the hunter-gatherer past, these huts don’t appear in historical record until the seventeenth century, and remained in use well into the twentieth century, when they ultimately began to experience abandonment. Despite their relative modernity, their origin remains something of a mystery, with no definitive explanation available for the distinct shape, and the (modern) whitewashed symbols painted on many of their roofs only add to the intrigue of eager tourists.