Central Holidays' CEO Gianni Miradoli just returned to the United States from an extensive trip to Italy. We caught up with him to find out where people are going in throughout the country--and Europe in general.
"We have not seen a big movement on booking toward in Europe in general," Miradoli said. "The expectations were at a much higher level than what we see today." Still, he added, some destinations are seeing strong numbers. "Italy and France are still big destinations, with a return to Greece after two years of problems." Requests have risen over last year, he added, but booking windows are still fairly close as clients delay making definite decisions.
Miradoli has also noticed an increase in requests to visit off-the-beaten track like the Piemonte Region, the Marche Region or Puglia for Italy, the Bordeaux area and Marseilles in France, or the Basque country in Spain. "If I could drive the client, I will certainly guide them to Piemonte in Italy," he said. "Is a fantastic region that we are trying to promote at the best of our capacities – and I can say with some good results." Repeat visitors, he added, are going to areas like Cinque Terre, the Italian Lakes and Sicily.
What to See, Where to Eat in Italy
Still, the major cities also have plenty of hidden gems worth seeing on a return visit. In Rome, Miradoli recommends the Piazza Cavalieri di Malta where, he says, "you can see the St. Peter Cupola nested among fabulous trees," or taking a mystery tour of the Basilica of St. Cecilia in Trastevere. He also recommends exploring the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in the Via Veneto, which is decorated with the remains of thousands of priests who died in the convent.
For foodies, he suggests Il Matriciano in the Via dei Gracchi and Popi Popi in Trastevere for the best pizza. (Cooking classes, Miradoli adds, are still in very high demand for culinary travelers.)
In Venice, beauty aficionados will want to spend some time in the Ca’ Mocenigo, an 18th century house that focuses on the history of perfume, or Ca’ Macana which makes handcrafted Venetian masks. For restaurants in Venice, Miradoli likes Antica Carbonera and Rioba.
As extended outdoor excursions also grow in popularity, Central Holidays has created a new brand called Outdoor Activities. Beyond hiking and trekking, Miradoli says that this brand will let visitors participate in marathons, and even prepare for the run on-site. Central can bring athletes to Italy a week prior to the event and set them up with a trainer to combine running with proper meals to get them ready for the event. "We have already group that are taking advantages of our services - although we have not yet officially launched this brand – with trekking program in the Amalfi coast, bicycling in Trentino region, Tuscany and Liguria, and we are preparing more programs dedicated to this market," Miradoli said.