Grand Canal and Basilica Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, a city of hidden gems known only to ... [+] locals.getty
It is always more helpful to have a friend in a destination to point out the hidden gems that only locals know and the overrated places to avoid. For those who don’t already have friends in Italy, the just launched travel service XpatPal provides links to knowledgeable British, Irish and American expat locals spread out around the country and who specialize in different interests.
“The pandemic taught us many things and one of them is that freedom to travel is not something we should take for granted. Maybe it is wanderlust, the desire to experience a different culture or just to meet new people but whatever the reason, travel is part of what makes us human,” explains Joel Reidy, CEO of XpatPaI. “Now that the world is opening up again our desire to travel has awakened but with so many things changed over the last two years, trusting recommendations from an old blog post or a travel book can result in a disappointing trip. All of our itineraries are created at the time of the request based on the travelers’ interests and the absolute freshest information.”
The team of 50 covers 20 Italian regions including the major cities and countryside, from Lazio and Basilicata to the Veneto, Sicily and Tuscany. The expats offer suggestions for families, couples or solo travelers on gastronomy, culture, adventure travel, off the beaten path events, art, history, nightlife, wellness experiences or other interests. Travelers can select their advisors based on their bios which include the number of years in residence in Italy, the regions he or she knows best, the languages spoken (usually French and Spanish apart from English and Italian) and specialties.
The amount of advice can also vary: travelers who have pretty much planned the entire trip can ask for specific suggestions on one aspect of the trip—the best restaurant in Rome to propose, for one—by signing on to the Concierge Service for $75: what follows is an exchange of emails with a detailed response within 72 hours. For those who need more help in planning, the Travel Advisory Service ($250) entails a review of the itinerary that has already been planned with email exchanges to recommend methods of transportation, activities, day trips, hotels and restaurants with a complete itinerary also sent within 72 hours. For those who haven’t planned anything yet and don’t have the time or inclination to do it themselves, Trip Planning ($550) is available: after initial discussions by email, a complete itinerary is sent within an agreed upon schedule. While on the trip, travelers can also contact their expat advisor for help or additional suggestions. Planning for extended stays, multi-destination travel, a special event such as a wedding, honeymoon or family reunion is also available at a customized price.
The company also has plans to grow. The diversity and complexity of Italy are in its sights now but starting next year, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain are expected to be added. So if travelers don’t have friends there already, they should have someone on the ground to turn to then.