by Xinhua writers Shuai Rong and Ji Li
CIVITA-DI-BAGNOREGIO, Italy, Sept. 9 (Xinhua) -- For more and more Chinese tourists who are willing to explore unique scenery other 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 km north of Rome, Civita di Bagnoregio in Italian region of Lazio is actually composed of two parts: Bagnoregio with around 3,800 residents, and Civita, the main attraction with a year-round residents of seven.
At first glance, the spectacular setting of Civita may take your breath. It perches on a plateau of volcanic rock overlooking the Tiber river valley. In foggy days, the towering bell tower and other picturesque medieval buildings look like floating in the air and people aptly call it "castle in the sky".
Founded more than 2,500 years ago by the Etruscans, the whole village is twined with narrow cobblestone streets, where flowering plants dot the vine-covered stone houses with bars or restaurants 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 Xinhua.
However, suffering from constant erosion of its volcanic rock into the valley below, Civita used to be nicknamed "the Dying City". Nowadays, as hundreds of thousands visitors -- large number of them Chinese -- in recent years are thronging into the natural beauty of Civita, the tiny village has experienced a new life.
Only 40,000 people visited Civita in 2013, but the numbers are surging in recent years, said Pomi. Last year, Civita was visited by 850,000 tourists, with Chinese accounted for 18 percent to 20 percent. And in 2018, the number of visitors is estimated to reach 1 million, according to Pomi.
The influx of Chinese tourists epitomes the desire of Chinese tourists to see not only cities but also 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 here with her family said.
Antonella Decandia, general manager of Dongyifang Tourism Consulting Company, told Xinhua that Chinese tourists in recent years put greater emphasis on comfort and personal experience when travelling.
For example, they'd like to learn to cook Italian food, take children to learn Italian music and art, and take children to participate in football training etc. That trend partly explained 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 feel them very respectful," said Diana Giacobbi, a local resident in the larger Bagnoregio village who worked as waiter in a restaurant in Civita.
"The booming 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 di Bagnoregio.
"The arrival of large number of tourists have promoted greatly our economy and make the unemployment rate here at nearly zero, and local residents pay zero tax to the government," Pomi said proudly.
The hotel and catering industry here have also taken the opportunity to get renovated and upgraded, he added.
Several neighboring towns are planning to team with Civita di Bagnoregio 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 worth visiting, so the tourists could 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 service and Chinese breakfast.
More shopping centers have introduced mobile payments such as the Alipay for Chinese customers, while some airports have opened WeChat public accounts to supply flight information conveniently for Chinese visitors.
Asked about criticism that a large number of tourists may affect the daily life of the local residents, Pomi said that the benefits of booming tourism outweigh its downsides after all.
"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.