The Effects of Tourism in Italy

Tourists taking a photo in Italy.
... Jeremy Maude/Photodisc/Getty Images

Home to the eternal city of Rome, the leaning tower of Pisa, gastronomical delights beyond measure and miles upon miles of glorious Mediterranean beaches, Italy is one of the world's top travel destinations. Tens of millions of tourists from all over the world flood its picturesque locations every year. But besides the obvious economic boons of massive tourism -- over $40 billion a year, according to the Italian Central Bank -- all those visitors could be damaging to the country on multiple levels.

1 Tourism and Crowding

One obvious effect of mass tourism in Italy is the sheer number of people packed into its most visited historic sites. A 2012 study published in the journal "Tourism Geographies" on the effect of tourist crowding on Florence, one of Italy's most popular destinations, found that the tightly packed crowds during high tourist season are a cause of stress to locals and tourists alike, and an overabundance of tourists was identified as a negative aspect to those both visiting and living in Florence.

2 The Effects of Tourism on Crime

Pickpockets and other petty criminals are attracted to tourism areas like bees to flowers, and Italy is no exception. In fact, according to a 2012 study published in the eJournal "Economics," crime is greater in highly visited areas of Italy than in those with little tourism. However, the study did find that tourism has less impact on crime than the local population does, meaning that tourism does lead to a rise in crime, but it is not causing a crime spree.

3 Loss of Authentic Culture Due to Tourism

The reason the word "touristy" often has a negative connotation is its association with low quality business, also called "tourist traps." Rome, which receives over 10 million visitors annually, is Italy's prime example of this cultural "Disneyfication." According to a 2010 study by Sapienza University of Rome, the city is undergoing a rapid transformation because of tourism. The study claims a model of "fast tourism" is developing in Rome, in which global fast food, chain hotels and mall style shopping typify much of the tourist experience outside of the "sightseeing" of Rome's historic and cultural sites. The study ends by recommending that Rome take steps to protect its unique heritage, including supporting local brands and small businesses, especially in the city's historic core.

4 Environmental Effects of Tourism

Cruise ships, tour buses, heavy air traffic and tons of people stomping all over natural places are bound to take their toll on Italy as well. In Venice, built on a fragile ecosystem of canals in a natural lagoon, the effects of mass tourism are causing an environmental crisis. According to Italian architects, the city gets almost twice as much human traffic as it should, and the fact that much of the transport system in the city is aquatic has led to a serious disruption of the freshwater ecosystem. In fact, damage to the lagoon system, which is caused by propellers of ships, has led to the lagoon becoming almost as salty as the surrounding Adriatic Sea.

Based in San Francisco, Ocean Malandra is a travel writer, author and documentary filmmaker. He runs a major San Francisco travel website, is widely published in both online and print publications and has contributed to several travel guidebooks to South America.