NEW YORK -- The big news in Italy for the new century is the choice of Turin to host the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, beating out Sion, Switzerland.

The Olympic Games are expected to keep the momentum going for travel to Italy, jump-started by the Jubilee 2000, a holy year slated to draw some 15 million to 20 million visitors to Italy this year.

The Games will take place throughout the Piedmont region, known for such ski resorts as Sestriere, 60 miles west of Turin, according to officials at the Italian Government Tourist Office.

"The Winter Olympics have not been held in Italy since Cortina in 1956," said Fred Berardo, president of Central Holiday Tours in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

"Turin is a lovely town at the foot of the Alps, and we think the games will give greater recognition to the entire area."

He singled out the Sestriere ski area as one that is likely to benefit from the exposure, but added that the resort's proximity to France will probably boost travel to the entire Alps region.

Berardo also predicted that Italy's islands will gain in popularity.

"I see the island of Sardinia, which is very popular with Europeans but not much frequented by Americans today, as becoming very important in the new century, along with the Aeolian Islands and, increasingly, Sicily."

Berardo suggested that the trend toward better, more direct air service to various parts of Italy will help boost traffic.

"As popular as Italy is, it has the infrastructure to handle a lot more tourists from the U.S.," he said.

He also predicted that the wealth of information available to consumers on the Internet will force suppliers to be more selective when choosing hotels, restaurants and motorcoach service.

"I believe there will be more demand for single destination vacations with leisurely day trips, and the trend toward finding less-promoted areas will continue," Berardo said.

Some of those less-promoted areas ready to burst onto the forefront include Trentino and Puglia, according to Gino di Nallo of TourItalia in Chicago.

"I choose Trentino because the mountains and the scenery are magnificent in summer, and yet most people go in winter to ski," di Nallo said.

While the summer season is short -- from the end of June to the first week of September -- the area offers what U.S. travelers increasingly seem to want: untouristed beauty and outdoor activities.

As to Puglia, he said the area already is "coming along," and should be ready to bloom as a tourist destination in the next century.

"Already in Bari, some of the hotels are being refurbished," he said.

Mauro Galli, president of TourCrafters in Chicago, also chose Sicily as an important destination, praising its culture, cuisine and increasingly strong infrastructure.

"Also, the weather is good generally from March to November, and even in the winter it doesn't get really cold."

Not every hot destination will be a new one, though, according to Galli, who chose Rome as the most important hot spot in Italy for the 21st century.

"Rome will be more popular than ever because of the renovations that have gone on for the Jubilee," he said. "The city will receive so much exposure this year that it will be revitalized for tourism.

"I would say the big cities -- Rome, Venice and Florence -- will remain the big draw just like they have for the past thousand years," agreed Steve Perillo, president of Perillo Tours in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

"It's true that the smaller towns and villages are getting better known, particularly in Tuscany, and the villa rental business must be getting bigger, but that is a very limited supply-and-demand situation," Perillo said.

"I think independent travel will increase as Americans are becoming more experienced travelers, but I think group tours will always be popular for their convenience and value.

"Just because the date will start with a '2' instead of a '1,' I don't think the whole world is going to change regarding people's love for Italy, and I'm just thankful to my father to be a part of it," Perillo said.

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