Italy's culture ministry has released details of the numbers of visitors to 30 of its museums and archaeological sites in Rome and Lazio during 2003.

The most popular site by a long way was the Colosseum and Forum complex with over 3 million visitors last year, an increase of 8.7 per cent over 2002. This was followed by Castel S. Angelo with 645,688 visitors and the Villa dEste in Tivoli with 533,730. The list held some surprises. Palazzo Farnese at Caprarola designed by Vignola in the 16th century for Cardinal Farnese (16th on the list) and the national archaeological museum at Sperlonga, famous for the grotto of Tiberius and the remains of the Greek-style statues found in the grotto, (at number 20). These two were more popular than the Museo Nazionale del Palazzo Venezia in Rome with its collection of medaeval-18th century decorative arts (in 26th place) and the Crypta Balbi the museum of mediaeval artefacts on the site of the Roman theatre of Balbi (29th).

The numbers of tourists to the Rome sites increased 7 per cent in 2003 over the previous year but there was a drop of 2 per cent in visitors to sites outside the city.