Combatting Overtourism in Italy: How Unexpected Italy is Leading the Charge

As peak summer travel season 2024 approaches, overtourism in Italy has become a hot topic, particularly in iconic destinations like Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan, and Naples. Unexpected Italy, an innovative startup, is at the forefront of addressing this issue by promoting lesser-known destinations. This article delves into their mission, recent initiatives, and the broader impact on sustainable tourism in Italy.

The Overtourism Challenge

Overtourism in Italy is a pressing issue, with 70% of tourists concentrated in just 1% of the country. According to The Data Appeal Company, five nationalities make up 55% of foreign stays: Americans (15%), Germans (12%), French (11%), British (10%), and Canadians (7%). This heavy concentration puts immense pressure on infrastructure, local communities, and the environment in popular cities.

Unexpected Italy: A Solution for Sustainable Tourism

Unexpected Italy, founded by Elisabetta Faggiana and Savio Losito, aims to redistribute tourist traffic by highlighting “unexpected” destinations. Their approach allows tourists to immerse themselves in local communities, supporting small businesses and experiencing authentic Italian culture.

“We propose less traveled places, those of real life,” explains Elisabetta. “This way, tourists can truly immerse themselves in local communities without overwhelming iconic sites.”

Overtourism in Italy: Unexpected Italy founders
Savio Losito and Elisabetta Faggiana, founders | All images courtesy of Unexpected Italy

Innovative Initiatives and Global Recognition

From June 26 to 29, 2024, Unexpected Italy will present its project at the Fribourg Entrepreneurship Forum. This event, held at the United Nations Palace and the School of Management Fribourg (HEG-FR), focuses on innovation, sustainability, and digital transformation. Unexpected Italy’s participation follows their success at the NanoValbruna event, where they represented Italian sustainable innovation.

“We will present our solution to redistribute tourism throughout the national fabric, to try to reverse the trend of overtourism,” says Elisabetta. “We will discuss the economic, environmental, and social benefits of valorizing territories that start from people and independent businesses.”

Experiencing Italy Beyond the Icons

Savio emphasizes that Unexpected Italy offers more than traditional guided tours. “We offer the human experience of a territory and its people. Tourists can see artisans at work, taste local products, and participate in local festivals or markets, fully immersing themselves in the community.”

Elisabetta and Savio’s journey began with “Unexpected London,” which offered urban experiences in the real London. After gaining recognition across Europe, they founded the tech-travel startup in Bari. Their mission is to develop a travel ecosystem that promotes authentic experiences and supports independent businesses.

The Unexpected Italy Manifesto

The founders have outlined their principles in a manifesto, emphasizing responsible tourism, economic, social, and environmental contributions to local life, and the promotion of sustainable practices. Here are some key points:

  1. Transforming Tourism for Good: Tourism should benefit the economy, environment, and local communities while preserving cultural heritage.
  2. Awareness and Responsible Travel: Increase awareness of mass tourism’s damage and promote responsible travel.
  3. Supporting Local Businesses: Highlight and support local agriculture, artisanal production, and traditions.
  4. Encouraging Slow Tourism: Promote slow, immersive travel using eco-friendly transportation.
  5. Supporting Local Causes: Allocate part of the revenue to local organizations that support small businesses, the environment, and cultural heritage.
  6. Collaboration and Networking: Help independent businesses collaborate to create meaningful projects and position Italy as a leader in responsible tourism.
  7. Accessible Travel: Ensure accessibility for all travelers, including those with specific needs.
  8. Sustainable Energy Choices: Focus on clean and renewable energy sources for all associated businesses.
  9. Technology for Sustainable Tourism: Use technology and AI to promote sustainable tourism practices and support local small businesses year-round.

Looking Ahead: The Unexpected Italy App

Unexpected Italy is set to launch a new app, described as a “geolocalized and highly targeted ‘Lonely Planet’ 3.0.” This app will allow travelers to create personalized itineraries based on their interests, connecting them with unique, off-the-beaten-path destinations.

Elisabetta and Savio’s Commitment

As digital nomads, Elisabetta and Savio scout for authentic experiences across Italy. They spend three to four months in each region, evaluating approximately two thousand structures over the next 24 months. Their goal is to choose destinations that represent the authentic soul of Italy.

Join the Movement

Unexpected Italy’s mission is to transform tourism into a force for good. By promoting lesser-known destinations and supporting local communities, they offer a sustainable alternative to overtourism. To learn more about their initiatives and explore authentic Italian experiences, visit their website at


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