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 a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules