Surfing check-in stats in Italy


Check-ins are becoming increasingly popular in Europe; originally born in the United States first with specialized Social Networks such as Foursquare and Gowalla, and then spreading over to the masses with Facebook Places, check-ins are made popular by the widespread availability of GPS equipped phones such as the iPhones or Android smartphones.

Location-based services have been under intense scrutiny for the possible privacy implications: do I trust Foursquare (or Facebook) not to use improperly the information about where I am, especially coupled with a timestamp that also fixes WHEN I was there?

Worries nothwithstanding, LBS have been popularized mainly as a form of entertainment: there is little to be gained from becoming the “Mayor” of my favorite bar, except street creds against my buddies; businesses have come up with schemes to reward their most affectionate patrons, and no doubt fantasy will reveal other forms of incentives for loyalty, but for early adopters this was not needed. They did it because it was possible.

So with the spreading of LBS to Europe, now it’s a good time to have a look into these early adopters, using the statistics on Facebook check-ins available at


There is no information on the period of time over which data were collected, so we assume it covers the whole period where FB Places was available in Italy (since Sep 2010); moreover, the site states clearly that it does not attempt to capture ALL check-ins: the 30,394 “places” listed for Italy therefore represent a good sample, but not the Universe.

Finally, people tend to call the same place with different names, and Facebook (as Foursquare) does not attempt to do any clever de-dupe tricks. We have therefore chosen arbitrarily to limit our analysis to the top 50 locations listed, de-dupe them manually and assign a category to each to identify some trends.

Repeating the analysis over time (e.g. every six months) with the same methodology will allow us to measure how these trends evolve over time. All data are contained in the attached tables.

Popular categories

The top 50 venues represent a total of 457,952 check-ins.

These can be grouped in 11 categories: Airports, Places (roads, squares, etc.), Restaurants, Railway Stations, Monuments (e.g. the Colosseum), Cities (yes, people do check-in to “Firenze” or “Venezia” as a whole), Football Fields, Stores, Amusement Parks, Universities and Theaters.

It should be noted that several of these categories are represented by one or very few venues only: Universities includes Università Cattolica di Milano only, and Theaters are represented by the lonely Arena di Verona, as Parks consist uniquely of Gardaland, even if obviously further down the list there are many representatives of the same categories.


  • Airports are the runaway leaders: lots of time, nothing to do.
  • Milano leads over Roma, despite the much lower number of tourists, indicating an indigenous market of advanced smartphone users unrivalled by any other city.
  • In keeping with this analysis, only two restaurants have made it the Top 50, and both are trendy eateries in Milano.
  • A large amount of check-ins are due to tourists: no italian would really check-in at the “Leaning Tower of Pisa”, right?
  • Facebook penetration may be large enough in Italy to stifle growth for the specialized LBS social networks such as Foursquare (“Rome” was liked 155,820 times, while checked in only 3,308, while “Roma” values are respectively 4,457 and 5,863)
  • Not suprisingly, only monuments with open sky access (Colosseum, the roof of the Duomo and so on) have accumulated a significant number of check-ins

Table 1: top 50 checked-in venues

Table 2: check-ins by venue category

Table 3: category venue rankings


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