Few Tourists Come South

Beppe Severgnini is a columnist at Corriere della Sera and the author of “La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind.”. He did an article the other day that asked why no tourists come south and filled it with interesting data that is worth sharing I thought.

His book by the way is an excellent insight into the workings of Italians stretching from why they don’t pay attention to traffic lights  to why no Italian would eat a pizza except in the evening. One quote which certainly for me sums up Italians down here is ” “Controllers and controlled have an unspoken agreement. You don’t change, we don’t change, and Italy doesn’t change, but we all complain that we can’t go on like this.” Beppe is hoping Renzi is a different kettle of fish from other “controllers” but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that.

Only 13% of foreign tourists come to the south of Italy and if you discount Naples and the Amalfi coast you in fact have less than 5% coming to the rest. Now some of us down here might well say thank god they don’t .  Germany sent 213 flights to Majorca in one week last summer but only 17 to Southern Italy and again knock out Naples and you’ll be left with hardly any. I had the misfortune to go to Majorca one summer and witnessed first hand that type of tourism so unlike Beppe I’m not wildly disappointed that it is that ratio. At least I can put my beach chair down without someone slapping a towel on it.

Many blame poor marketing for the lack of tourists down here in Puglia and it is worth noting that the Italian Tourist Board spends 98% of it’s budget in salaries so there is no money left for advertising (unbelievable isn’t it ?). I have blogged before about the complete lack of co-ordination between regional tourist bodies indeed there are normally competing bodies for single towns. I have attended about 3 different meetings in Martina Franca all seemingly doing the same thing but run by different people. Beppe adds that until recently Campania tourist board owned ( yes owned) a substantial residence on New York’s 5th Avenue no less.

Others rightly blame poor infrastructure. Fast trains cease at Salerno in the west and Bari on the East coast .  After that you are on trains that last year averaged 15 KPH in the region and the less said about so called autostradas down here the better. The majority are two lane death traps especially in the summer when tired northerners arrive after 12 hours in heavy traffic from the north and make a last sprint for a restaurant and hit  (literally)  all kinds of old non road worthy vehicles down here. Beppe again adds that the Salerno to Reggio Calabria autostrada has been under repair and upgrade for the last 29 years with no sign of completion due to Mafia threats. Indeed the army still protects workers on some stretches of it ( you couldn’t make it up could you ).

Tourism should be Southern Italy’s own gold mine but instead it is treated like a fools gold find. It isn’t as if it is not needed as the average wage here is less than half that in the North of Italy and  a pittance compared to the one received by the MPs we send to Rome who understandably never come back except to build palatial homes normally fiddled as Agritourism ventures so they get EU funding.

Mind you since WWII Rome has sent US$550 Billion to this region without this huge amount improving the lot of the majority of it’s citizens. In fact by almost every measure they are worse off than they were 60 years ago. So you can see what the Liga Nord is on about when they want to cut southern Italy adrift.

Mind you we do get a few of the rich and famous down here. My goodness even Jeremy Clarkson was here this year. And today I read that Giorgio Armani is in town.


He is here to attend the wedding of his nephew and like almost every other rich and famous figure it is to be held at the Borgo Egnazia Hotel the five star copy of a Puglian village . Giorgio turns 80 on July 111th and in fact is a regular visitor to the area. He is even popping up to Martina Franca tomorrow. Not to see me I hasten to add but to have lunch with some friends who own  huge trulli in the Valle D’Itria and his latest catalogue features models in his clothes amongst the olive groves of Salento that I blogged about yesterday, Again his shoot wasn’t in an effected area let me add.

Giorgio I read is the 4th wealthiest person in Italy according to Forbes List. So he doesn’t need to worry about poor infrastructure. He arrived on his own private jet and then hired an helicopter ! Wonder if I could design a few clothes ?



About hereinpuglia

Retired to Puglia after some 40 years in the travel industry working for P&O Lines, British Airways, Alamo rent-a-car,Abercrombie&Kent, owner of Quest Tours and Travel and finally with Thomas Cook North America. Married to Geraldine we now have a small house with too much land near the town of Martina Franca in Puglia. Two kids one married and living in Hong Kong and the other single and living in London. No dogs, no cats no animals.
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2 Responses to Few Tourists Come South

  1. Butch says:

    Perhaps Italian federalism is the answer to a lot of Italy’s and Puglia’s problems.

    The crowd that goes to the Balearic Islands is a bit different than the crowd that goes to Southern Italy. That DJ club culture attracts a lot of folks to those Islands especially Ibiza. Southern Italy is ripe with potential with tourists hopefully that potential will be tapped one day.

    • hereinpuglia says:

      Yes though Renzi seems to be moving the other way towards more centralism. I have just started David Gilmour’s The Pursuit of Italy which asks whether unification was the wrong thing for Italy. He makes the valid point early on that to many in the north of Italy the south is as foreign and different as say having Egypt unified with the North and would make as much sense. Maybe the resurrection of the Two Sicily’s free of the euro and the EU attracting inward investment with lower labour costs might not be a bad thing !!Tourism as you say has real potential here too but much needs to be done. Cheers Mike

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