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Living On Tourism


Venice, September 29, 2013

Aeroporto Di Firenze, October 05, 2013

Florence – London, check-in counter 10. That’s what it says on the announcement board, so I queue up to check in. Some people get sent away by the check-in agent for some reason but people seem to stand in wrong queues all the time so who cares! I only get to find out 15 minutes later that I am in the wrong queue too. Well, not really! Here in Italy, things don’t work the way it works any where else. “Come back in half an hour” says the lady because Vuelling is not checking in the London flight yet. Aahhh, ok. A bit more information and instruction next time would be nice! But that’s OK. If I can wait tens of years to go to London, half an hour doesn’t count.

As I walk out of the check-in counter, a 60-ish, worried-looking lady approaches me.

“Excuse me. Do you know where I can find a public phone?” “Sorry, no.” ” Do you have a phone that I can borrow and use? My phone is not working and I really need to make a call”

Judging by the look, she is a solo traveller and she is totally lost. I learn later on that her luggage has not arrived. She’s booked a flat through airbnb, an on-line accommodation website that connects individual local hosts with travellers and she needs to call the host when she arrives at Firenze airport to make sure the host will turn up at the flat to check her in. I try several times on my phone, no answer. The lady turns pale….

With demand overtaking supply comes the opportunity for local entrepreneurs to rent their own propeties to international tourists. I’ve tried it myself. It works well and I find it a lot more reasonable than the so-called hotels. However, for non-wired users such as this old lady, it can be an issue.

“Do you think I can get on a taxi and asks the taxi driver to lend me his phone to call again?” “Do you speak Italian?” “Not at all” “Well then you’d better go downstairs to the newsagent and get a local simcard first. Local taxi drivers don’t normally speak English. If you have any problems, come back here to look for me.”

The lady never comes back….

Italy is a phenomenal tourism destination thanks to its magnificent historical and cultural heritage. The country itself is a giant art museum that would keep even the been-there-done-that travellers overwhelmed. And thus, the whole country lives on the thriving tourism business. In all fairness, Italy has a unique offer that touches all your senses and takes you on a romantic journey back in time. This piece of romance, however, can be very costly and intimidating.

A so-called 4-star run-down hotel in Rome costed me 180 euros a night, yet cannot even provide me with some toothpaste. A so-called boutique hotel in Venice with the smallest room and the tiniest single bed I’ve ever seen on earth costed me 280 euros per night. Most museums cost money to enter and it takes hours to queue up. To avoid the queues, people pay double through a tour agent on spot just to buy an easy way in. Whether it is the Uffizi Gallery or the Acadamia in Florence or the Vatican museum or the Colloseum in Rome, Italy does not need to think twice. Oceans of people are willing to buy their ways in and life goes on the way it should be. When one takes in more than one could chew, I guess one never has the time to think about the need for extra support.

Even as a frequent traveller, I was a bit intimidated by Italy. I am sure the old lady is, too. Having said that, the magic of Italy lives on. And even though that gondola boat ride in Venice can cost you a ridiculous price of 80 euros for 25 minutes, there is never a shortage of romance-seekers who are dying to get on one….

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