How going 'hyperlocal' can help you discover Italy's hidden treasures
While the coronavirus pandemic has strongly impacted our ability to travel, modern technology means we can travel 'virtually' even when we can't visit physically.
Now, more than ever, it's important to go 'off the beaten path' when travelling, in order to support the many small businesses that have struggled over the last year or more. This is particularly relevant in Italy, where small businesses account for a larger proportion of both GDP and jobs than in the European Union as a whole.
Those who look beyond the most obvious options will be well-rewarded, as Italy is a country brimming with products and experiences that are unique and utterly memorable. Together with the app for discovering hyperlocal products and experiences, Shoppi, we show you how to discover the country in a whole new way.
Living la dolce vita
It's a very common desire to want to 'live like the locals' and see through their eyes. One fantastic way to do this is through tours and experiences that bring aspects of Italian culture and society into focus.
Joining a tour is generally a fantastic way to experience a city like Rome or Florence in a way that simply wouldn't be possible as a 'regular' tourist. Whether you're following in the footsteps of Dante in Florence, or cruising through the streets of Rome on a bicycle in a group, specialist knowledge gives you a wealth of sights, sounds and tastes to follow up on at your own pace. Most big cities have a wealth of small tour operators run by passionate locals for you to discover.
Another way to place yourself in a local's shoes is to take part in experiences. You could be cooking with locals in Tuscany, picking fruit or grapes on the slopes of Vesuvius, or learning to paddleboard off Capri. These experiences are more than just memorable, they give you the opportunity to make friends with the locals and forge bonds that will have you coming back again and again. As the world looks to recover from the pandemic, more and more experiences are available to travellers wanting to enjoy the outdoors.
One of the very foundational ways we engage with a culture is through food. Food speaks to the very heart of what a society values, and nowhere is this more evident than in Italian cooking. Italians value the good life, taking the time to enjoy a meal with friends, they share love through food.
We often think of pasta and pizza when we think of Italian food, but this does it a massive disservice. Each region of Italy has its own distinct cuisine, using fresh, local ingredients to create flavourful, delicious creations. Moving north up the Italian peninsula from Sicily, you encounter a transition from spicy, zesty dishes that are cooked in olive oil, to hearty, warming dishes that are cooked in butter as you arrive in regions such as Lombardy.
If you're living or holidaying in Italy, learning to cook regional dishes means that you relive some wonderful experiences over and over again. Worried about getting the right ingredients? Don't be - the internet and smartphones have enabled small businesses to sell and send ingredients almost anywhere in the world.
Bringing a little piece of Italia home
Italy is one of the world's largest tourist destinations, so of course there's a lot of really terrible souvenirs on sale. However, that doesn't mean that you have to take your mother a Colosseum fridge magnet, or a keyring of Michelangelo's 'David'.
Italy is home to some of the world's finest fashion, homewares and crafts. International brands that we wear and buy for our home the world over were once small businesses that served their regions to local acclaim. Visit any of Italy's major cities and you're likely to find small galleries and ateliers full of handmade goods that use local materials – think of the many leather workshops in Siena, or the wealth of fashion houses being established in Capri.
Bringing home Italian homewares and fashion not only supports businesses that sorely need it, but also gives you a one of a kind look that your friends and family will be entranced by.
The new way to discover the best of Italy
It's clear that shifting to supporting small businesses across Italy can be incredibly rewarding. You get fantastic experiences and memories that will last for years, and they are assisted in recovering from their recent economic challenges. You're ensuring that local handicrafts and traditions will endure for years to come.
However, seeking such opportunities can be difficult if you're not sure how to go about it. This is where Shoppi becomes such a valuable tool. Shoppi is an app for Android and iOS that not only allows you to find local products and travel experiences across Italy, but allows you to keep supporting those businesses from home wherever you are in the world.
As Salvatore Vacante, CEO of Shoppi, tells us: "Going 'hyperlocal' is important to not only spot places out of town but also to discover street food and hidden places. It also helps keep Italian culture alive, since every product represents Italy, its past, future and present."
Shoppi is easy to use, and not only covers Italy, but is rapidly growing to cover cities across Europe and the US. Wherever you go, you'll constantly discover new offers and goods to keep your Italian experience going.
This content was paid for by an advertiser and produced by The Local's Creative Studio.