Italy is ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak in Europe. It’s sad and frightening. But the fear and anxiety in Italy isn’t just about health. It’s also the blow to the Italian economy. Italy was previously predicted to grow its GDP by 0.5%. It’s now expected to see GDP drop by up to 0.7 % instead. Tourism, which contributes 14% of the country’s GDP, is one factor. Italy is expected to get 4.7 million fewer international tourist arrivals this year.
For anyone who loves Italy, lives in Italy, or wants to travel there, the danger of an economic slowdown isn’t theoretical. In Italy, most businesses, including restaurants, shops and even tour companies are small, private and often family-owned. Many rely on tourists. That means individuals, artisans and families across the country are being seriously affected. Some are laying off employees. Others will have to close.
This economic impact is concerning in more ways than one. You don’t have to know an Italian business owner to feel it. The variety and vitality of all of these small businesses is what so many of us love, and find unique, about Italy. It’s one reason why many people choose to travel there.
So one thing that’s been on my mind — along with all of the health concerns — is what we can do to help Italy’s small businesses and artisans stay on their feet.
Even if you’ve decided against traveling to Italy anytime soon because of coronavirus, there are still ways you can help.
Most business owners in the tourism industry say that the most helpful thing is to book your next trip there, now, at a date that you feel more comfortable with.
In many cases, this can save you money, too — not just on airfares, which we know are rock-bottom at the moment, but on hotels and tours too. (I’ll share some discount codes I know of below, and if you know of any others, please pass them on).
But here’s another thought. If you’re cancelling or postponing a trip, what about considering putting a small amount of that money that you’ve saved… toward supporting something about Italy that you love (or were hoping to experience)?
For example: Were you especially excited about tasting cacio e pepe and wine in Italy? Then consider treating yourself to a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano or a bottle of Barolo. The art? Consider donating to a foundation that restores and protects cultural heritage. The history? Buy a book written by a historian, expert or tour guide living in Italy. Shopping? Support Italian artisans by buying from them directly online. (And if you can’t buy from them, consider following them on social media or engaging on their pages. Every little bit of support counts!).
Not only will you help keep the things we all love about Italy going, so that when you do go, it’s everything you dreamed of — you’ll also get to enjoy just that small part of your Italy experience without even going there. (Yet).
This doesn’t just apply to Italy.
My focus is on Italy here because it’s the country of my heart, it’s (currently) ground zero for the new coronavirus in Europe, and it’s dependent on tourism for a significant proportion of its GDP. As well, of course, as the fact that this website is called Revealed Rome.
But this thinking could go for any country. Cancelling a trip to France? Japan? China? You could consider doing the same.
To help get you started for Italy, I’ve put together a very quick, and brief, list of resources. This is obviously not exhaustive, and I’m very much open to more suggestions. (Criteria are loose, but basically, if it’s a small business or individual either based in Italy, or which employs a significant number of people in Italy, I’ll consider it).
So please continue to check back in the coming days as I update this post. And if you have any yourself, please email me at email@example.com.
Artisans in Italy you can buy from online:
The organization MadeinItaly supports and promotes artisans and offers an e-shop where you can buy their goods direct, ranging from leather handbags to religious ornaments.
For high-end goods, including handmade shoes, handbags, hats, jewelry and clothes, you can buy directly from luxury Italian artisans at the website Milaner.
This round-up of mine of Italian artisans you can buy from online is old. But most of the artisans listed are still in business, and, if anything, have updated their websites to make it easier to order from.
Girl in Florence has written this lovely list of handmade and local Italian gifts, many of which you can buy online.
Creative People in Florence promotes artisans and creative businesses in Florence. Even though you can’t buy from all of them online, as CPiF points out, you can still support them by following their Instagram and Facebook comments (great idea!). (H/T: Girl in Florence)
Food and producers and artisans in Italy you can buy from online:
The Bologna-based workshop Aguzzeria del Cavallo, which has been around since 1783, sells a stunning array of everything you’d need for your dream Italian kitchen, from a disorienting number of pasta making tools to truffle slicers. Prices are very fair, and you can buy online. (H/T: Katie Parla)
Wine Club Italy hand-picks and delivers wines from small-scale Italian producers. They also offer wine tours in Italy. (H/T: Clam Tours)
Food journalist and blogger Elizabeth Minchilli has done a useful roundup of companies in the US that sell high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil from Italian producers.
The Italian sommeliers at Italian Vini source Italian wines, focusing on small vineyards, for the US market.
Astrum Wine Cellars import specialist Italian wines for the UK market.
Navigli imports boutique wines and spirits from family-run Italian estates for the Australian market.
Italy-based authors whose books you can buy online:
Katie Parla, a Rome-based food journalist and expert, has written several beautiful cookbooks. The one on my shelf, which she co-wrote with talented food editor and photographer Kristina Gill, is Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City. (You can read more on what I’ve previously written about the book here).
Food blogger Maria Pasquale’s I Heart Rome, another favorite, collects recipes and short stories from the Eternal City.
The ever-prolific food journalist Elizabeth Minchilli has books including The Italian Table: Creating Festive Meals for Family and Friends, Eating My Way Through Italy, and Eating Rome.
Letizia Mattiacci has taught cooking classes for years in Umbria, where she was born and raised. In her book In her book A Kitchen with a View, she shares family recipes, tips and glimpses into life in Umbria. (Psst — I don’t like to play favorites, but it doesn’t take much pressing for me to admit that Umbria is my favorite region in Italy).
Florence-based tour guide Chandi Wyant’s memoir Return To Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy tells the story of her solo trip along the sacred pilgrimage route the Via Francigena.
Italy-based Mary Jane Ryan has also written the central Italy guide Etruria Travel: History, itineraries in central Italy which she can ship direct to the US.
Ways to support Italy’s cultural heritage online:
Italy’s national trust, FAI, is responsible for restoring and maintaining dozens of abbeys, castles, gardens and other sites across Italy. It’s easy to become a FAI patron. In the US, the US-based nonprofit Friends of FAI funds restorations (2019 was a castle in Mantua) and take donations.
The nonprofit LoveItaly crowd-funds for a variety of restoration and archaeological projects — recently including a medieval monastery in Capri, fresco in Padua and sarcophagus in Rome. It’s easy to either donate to a specific project or to become a member and they communicate where the costs come from and how the money is spent in a clear, transparent way.
The American Institute for Roman Culture increases awareness and campaigns to protect Rome’s cultural heritage. Projects have included conservation, digital courses and videos about ancient Rome and running field excavation schools to inspire new generations of students, classicists and archaeologists. Revealed Rome has been a proud supporter of AIRC in the past, and you can be too by subscribing to their (free!) resource Ancient Rome Live (a free resource!), donating, or following them at @saverome on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Postponing your Italy trip? Here some discount codes you can use now.
The tour company Eating Europe, which runs food tours in Rome, Florence, Naples and beyond, is currently offering a brand-new “flexi-pass” that allows you to pay now, save 30% off normal prices, and use the pass later — including as far as three years from now — for tours.
The small tour company Welcome Italy, which is based in Rome, is giving 20% off for any tour booked through March. Use the code WOFFER.
Gusto, which runs wine tours in Umbria and specializes in small, family-run wineries, has started offering a gift certificates, available at any amount, that are valid for tours booked any time in the next two years.
And finally, here are some offers from other small, locally-run travel companies to keep in mind when you do book that perfect Italy trip.
My dear friend Alina Pinelli is a certified sommelier, olive oil maker, and the ultimate slow food and slow living aficionado. Formerly at Fontanaro, she’s branched out with her own business as a solo woman offering cooking classes in both Rome and Umbria.
Few people know wine like Vino Roma, who offers wine tastings, classes and food tours out of her studio in Rome. She’s offering a new gift certificate that can be redeemed for any booking until the end of 2021.
Clam Tours offers customized, private tours for “sophisticated and returning travelers”. For those who booked before the outbreak, they will be honoring any deposit through 2020 and 2021.
If you run a business in Italy that depends on tourism, and you’re offering a discount code or similar offer, please email me for potential inclusion in this list.