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.

How going 'hyperlocal' can help you discover Italy's hidden treasures
Photo: Getty

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. 

Wondering what you’re missing when travelling through Italy? Download Shoppi today 

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. 

Buon appetito!

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. 

Craving the tastes of Italy? Discover what you can find on Shoppi, and have it sent to you

Photo: Getty

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. 

Shoppi is available for download on both Apple’s App Store and Google Play

Begin your Italian experience today or keep it going once you’re home with Shoppi

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How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:


WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.


Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.


TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.


Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.


Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.