Castle in the sky

Source:Xinhua Published: 2018/9/13 18:20:52

Italian hilltop village wows Chinese tourists

The hilltop village of Civita di Bagnoregio in Italy Photo: VCG

The hilltop village of Civita di Bagnoregio in Italy Photo: VCG

For more and more Chinese tourists who are willing to explore unique scenery rather than follow the traditional routes of grand capitals, the hilltop village of Civita di Bagnoregio in central Italy has become a popular holiday destination.

About 130 kilometers north of Rome, Civita di Bagnoregio in the Italian region of Lazio is actually composed of two parts: Bagnoregio with around 3,800 residents, and Civita, the main attraction.

At first glance, the spectacular setting of Civita is sure to take your breath away.

The ancient village perches on a plateau of volcanic rock overlooking the Tiber river valley. On foggy days, the towering bell tower and other picturesque medieval buildings in the village look like they are floating in the air, which is why people aptly call it "the castle in the sky."

Founded more than 2,500 years ago by the Etruscans, the entire village is entwined with narrow cobblestone streets. Flowering plants dot the vine-covered stone houses as well as the many bars and restaurants that are hidden among them.

Chinese tourists' passion

"Local residents are very pleased to see tourists from all over the world, among whom Chinese tourists are a very important group," Roberto Pomi, communication official of the municipality of Bagnoregio, told the Xinhua News Agency.

However, as it suffers from constant erosion of its volcanic rock into the valley below, Civita used to be nicknamed "the Dying City." Nowadays, as hundreds of thousands of visitors - a large number of them Chinese - in recent years are thronging into the natural beauty of Civita, the tiny village is experiencing a new life.

Only 40,000 people visited Civita in 2013, but numbers have surged in recent years, said Pomi. Last year, Civita was visited by 850,000 tourists, with Chinese accounting for 18 percent to 20 percent. The number of visitors is estimated to reach 1 million in 2018, according to Pomi.

The influx of Chinese tourists epitomes their desire to see not only cities but also the countryside of foreign countries, according to tourists and guides interviewed by Xinhua.

"I hope to understand the ancient civilization of Italy," a little boy who came to visit with his family said.

Antonella Decandia, general manager of Dongyifang Tourism Consulting Company, told Xinhua that Chinese tourists in recent years have put greater emphasis on comfort and personal experience when traveling.

For example, they want to learn to cook Italian food, take children to learn about Italian music and art and take children to participate in soccer training. That trend partly explains why the ancient tiny village of Civita has attracted more and more Chinese visitors.

"There are many Chinese tourists coming to our restaurant every day. I find them very respectful," said Diana Giacobbi, a local resident in the larger Bagnoregio village who works as a waiter in a restaurant in Civita.

"The boom in tourism offers us job and opportunities to know different cultures and languages," she added.

Boost to employment

Local people's standard of living has been largely improved thanks to the booming tourism in Civita.

"The arrival of a large number of tourists has greatly promoted our economy and pushed the unemployment rate here to nearly zero, and local residents pay zero tax to the government," Pomi said proudly.

The hotel and catering industries here have also taken the opportunity to renovate and upgrade, he added.

Several neighboring towns are planning to team with Civita in extending the sightseeing route, to attract more tourists too.

"We need to provide more attractions such as the beautiful scenery of other ancient towns nearby which are worth visiting, so tourists will stay," said Pomi.

As the number of Chinese tourists grows fast, the Italian tourism industry has done plenty of work to improve services. Some hotels have begun to supply Chinese translation services and Chinese breakfast.

More shopping centers have introduced mobile payments such as Alipay for Chinese customers, while some airports have opened WeChat public accounts to supply flight information for Chinese visitors.

Asked about criticism that a large number of tourists may affect the daily life of local residents, Pomi said that the benefits of the booming tourism industry outweigh its downsides.

"This is a common problem in areas where tourism is developing rapidly. Some people may complain that the arrival of tourists has left their homes without parking spaces. But zero taxation, lower unemployment and the promotion of the town's international popularity have brought a series of benefits, and some unpleasantness is always acceptable," he said.


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