The longer I live in Italy, the more discerning I become about my travels in the country. With the world’s highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a vast artistic heritage and a cultural legacy that has shaped the trajectory of human history, it can be overwhelming to sift through everything you should see and do while you’re visiting this enthralling country. But while many travelers spend their days in long queues at the Vatican or hopping on trains between Venice, Florence and Rome, I prefer to venture off-the-beaten-path and learn about the country’s heritage through its people. With so many unique traditions, regional accents and culinary customs, who better than a local to guide you through the cultural richness of Italy?
On my last visit to Florence, I eschewed long lines at the Duomo in favor of an alternative travel experience: exploring the contemporary Florentine art scene through an “Arts Palazzo” tour, one of many activities offered through Airbnb’s newest initiative, “Trips”. The company’s latest experience-sharing venture promises to help visitors “experience a city like a local” by offering a slew of curated cultural activities and curated city guides that will immerse you in the local landscape. In Italy you can hunt for truffles in the Tuscan countryside, practice yoga in a deconsecrated church in Florence, visit ancient ruins on horseback and take a sketching tour in Rome.
Mingling With Creatives In Florence
Upon showing up at the elegant 16th century Palazzo Galli Tassi I was warmly greeted by my two “Experience Hosts”, Martino Di Napoli Rampolla and Alessandro Modestino Ricciardelli. They told me the history of the Palazzo, how it was originally the residence of a noble family before becoming a syrup factory in the 18th century, and their desire to foster a community of artist in the heart of Florence. Together they founded Numeroventi Design Agency, creating a dynamic space within the palazzo that hosts a number of international artists, rotating exhibitions and photo shoots throughout the year. Martino led me on a tour of the contemporary spaces and I met the resident artist while Alessandro prepared us a seasonal lunch which we shared family-style alongside their friends and fellow residents. As we exchanged stories of travels and aspirations, I marveled at how comfortable and inspired I felt in the company of my new friends.
“Every artist and visitor brings something different to our space and takes something from the experience. In Florence we were missing this kind of natural and social exchange between creative people,” says Di Napoli Rampolla.
I spoke with Andrea La Mesa, the Director of Operations of Airbnb Trips, about the launch of this new service and he confirmed that “people power is what makes [Airbnb] unique. Everything is done by the community: by local, authentic people who create all these experiences.” Born and raised in Rome, La Mesa helped establish Airbnb in Italy back in 2012 and now oversees the global expansion of “Trips”. The initiative was officially launched in November 2016 and covered 12 global cities, including Florence. It is being rolled out in additional locations, with a goal of growing to 50 cities this year.
Tailor-Made Local Experiences
Much like with accommodations, the activities cover all price points and travel styles and can be easily booked via the Airbnb website or app. From sports and wellness experiences to artistic workshops and food tours, travelers can pick from a number of tailor-made tours that help them experience a more local side of a city. Visitors can even take part in social impact experiences, led by hosts from local nonprofits, with 100% of proceeds going directly to the organizations.
Each Experience is developed and hosted by an entrepreneurial local expert eager to share his or her expertise and passions with curious travelers. These hosts are street artists, pastry chefs, triathlon athletes and explorers from all walks of life who lend that hard-to-find insider’s perspective to a city, making for an intimate and unique trip.
In addition to offering travelers new opportunities to immerse themselves in a city, Airbnb is also helping to foster the next generation of micro-entrepreneurs. With “Trips”, people will be able to market their skills through the platform, not just their product. “Airbnb ‘Trips’ is going to allow a lot of creative people to start providing experiences, even if they don’t currently rent their home. And I think that even beyond the large cities like Rome and Florence, there’s so many unique small places that we can bring to life. I think Italy is one of the perfect countries for this,” says La Mesa.
“Trips” is currently present in Florence and Rome, with more Italian cities slated in the coming months and years.