Here are five Italy travel trends to keep in mind when booking your trip to Italy in 2014:
1. The Pope Francis Effect: Rome is the place to be these days. Tourism was up 5% in the Eternal City in 2013 with a total of 12.6 million tourists visiting Rome in 2013. At least half of these visitors showed up to see the new Pope Francis and tourism officials are dubbing the popularity of visiting Rome and the Vatican “The Pope Francis Effect.” As the Pope’s popularity seems only on the increase, expect plenty of company when visiting Rome and the Vatican in 2014. (My friend Steve Perillo has a short video explaining the Pope Francis Effect.)
2. Sharing, Italian-Style: You’ve probably heard of Airbnb.com, the website matching travelers with people renting rooms in their homes (or entire apartments/houses) with travelers. It is part of what is called “the sharing economy.” While apartment and villa rentals have been a big trend in Italy over the past decade or so, the added idea of actually staying with an Italian in an Italian home while traveling is a growing trend. (Roomorama.com and Homestay.com are other options.) So is the idea of eating with Italians (who speak English) in their homes, where you can learn about traditional cuisine and make new friends. My favorite option for this is the Home Food initiative. You can also use sites like NewGusto.com and EatWith.com to find a home-cooked meal in Italy.
3. Pursuing Italian Citizenship: Our most downloaded issue of 2013 was our special report on Italian ancestry & gaining dual citizenship (access instantly when you join as a member). Visiting Italy to trace one’s roots, see the family home and meet living relatives has been popular for some time and there are more and more resources to help make this happen. But now many are visiting Italy in pursuit of gaining Italian citizenship via heritage. They’re using their trips to get the appropriate documents for citizenship applications and one company even helps folks process their applications right there in Italy while on a two-week vacation.
4. Outdoor Adventure in Italy: Sure, you think eating and drinking your way through Italy is hard work and calorie-burning but more and more travelers are coming to Italy for hardcore outdoor adventure. I recently visited the little-known central Italian region of Molise (free access article) and it is hoping to stand out from better-known areas by promoting itself as an active getaway with mountain biking/hiking on its tratture (paths shepherds used to move their animals), skiing and snowboarding in the winter and rock climbing and horseback riding in the winter. From windsurfing and scuba diving off Cinque Terre to traversing the Via Ferrata (WWI mountain routes with cables, bridges and ladders) in the Dolomites to road biking up and down the peninsula, Italy has much to offer the outdoor enthusiast and specialty tour operators are answering the call.
5. Multigenerational Trips: On my recent trip to Italy, while staying at the Palazzo Avino (formerly Palazzo Sasso) in Ravello I met an American family — grandparents, kids, grandkids — all vacationing together to celebrate the grandparents’ anniversary. Seems this type of family trip is only on the increase for 2014. A travel agent friend told me she has a stack of requests for this summer, adding, “Usually it is the grandparents paying for everyone and most of the families are looking for villa rentals.” — Kathy McCabe, Editor