Fall is definitely in the air—a cool breeze for the first time after what seemed to be the hottest, most humid September we ever remember! We thought we would start out this newsletter with some thoughts/reflections on the tourist season just passed.
Italy was at times overloaded with tourists—students from all over Europe attracted by low-flight air fares (from all over and to almost every area of Italy, along with the new fast trains and of course the Airbnb revolution which has affected everyone in our business. We all recognize” that times are a changing” We thought we would give you some tips and opinions on how we are dealing with these changes. We will try to be brief and specific indicating our suggestions on how to handle these challenges.
1.Fast Trains—Truly a great way to travel, that makes once lengthy, expensive excursions (Rome-Pompeii, Rome-Florence, Venice-Florence and Rome) easy! But like other changes, there is a negative. Security regulations at almost all major train stations have now banned porters and travelers without valid train tickets from entering the station. Therefore, if you have heavy luggage or more than one piece, getting on and off these trains becomes difficult for your mature clients. We are working with several porter coops in major cities to try to solve this. Our drivers will meet clients at the end of the security area or outside of the station, close by which makes having a porter even more important. Most of us now have luggage with wheels but it is a still a problem to lift heavy cases down the steep train steps especially for those with mobility problems.
2. Low Cost Airlines. Please be careful as they-at times-tend to go in and out of business although the major ones serving Italy ( RyanAir, Easy Jet) have been around awhile –again luggage is a problem so it is always advisable to pay before for luggage rather than be caught off guard with high last minute luggage costs.
There is one major advantage for your clients flying into Rome or Milan—and then moving to other parts of Italy. We found this particularly true for Sicily. As flying from the US to Sicily –with stops in Rome can be costly we suggest that your clients fly into Rome and then we ( or you) can find a low – cost solution to going to Catania or Palermo. You will be surprised at
3.Airbnb. Needless to say the Italian hotel industry is not very happy about this very popular way of travelling. Like every new development, it has both its positive and negative sides.
But there is no turning back, although many Italian city governments have become stricter about inspecting many of these residences as well as collecting the city tax that regular hotels are required to charge. But let’s turn lemons into lemonade—we have started working with a number of younger clients working with Airbnbs and have found that with the monies they save on accommodations they are now interested in spending on unusual tours and excursions.
4. Museums and security. A big problem, particularly in Rome where at one point this summer the line for the Coliseum was closed at 10.15 in the morning. But if you book our Ancient Rome tour—we can guarantee you a specific entrance though there is still a security check to go through. Our guides have had to become experts on getting our clients in. In today’s world of security, it is the only way to visit the Coliseum—the same is true for the Vatican where our Early Morning Vatican clients get in at 8 am before the crowds pile in.
5. Entrance to Churches and Basilicas. Most major Basilicas are requiring entrance fees of about 5 to 6 euros. At times there is a line but in Rome, Venice and Milan you get in quickly. The exception is Florence where the Cardinal has decided not to ask a fee to get into the Duomo, with the result of very long lines to enter –sometimes as long as 90 minutes. Based on this, our Florence highlights tour (where you have ‘no wait admissions’ for the David), no longer includes the Duomo’s interior. It is seen from the outside only as few people want to wait on long lines for a long time, nor do our guides!
Now on to what we are proposing for the remainder of 2019 and looking ahead to 2020.
Christmas in Italy, particularly in Rome—a great family trip as the Eternal City is ablaze with lights and excitement. We already have several family groups booked and hope to have some more. The itineraries include the usual sightseeing and also pizza making, personal shopping, special tours, etc.
Not too early to start thinking about what to propose to your clients for 2020. As you know we have a have a wide selection of villas throughout Italy. We also want to propose small group travel. We already have a garden club group and a university one. Remember, if you have an unusual idea or your client does, let us know and we will develop a made to measure itinerary for you.<< Back