Tourism in Le Marche
Ok, I know this is a bit unfair as Saltara’s bravi turisti did not have to use this facility when they came to see the cyclists cross the finishing line of Stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia.
There was a perfectly acceptable chemical loo, though one loo is not enough for about 30,000 people. But is it still there?
My point is that if you want tourists, you have to work for them. They can do whatever they like. They don’t have to adapt or learn the language; they can just go elsewhere. In my first post I urged British visitors to accept the Italian way of doing things, particularly the long lunch-hour. But things have changed. Money is short all over Europe; everywhere wants to attract tourists. Why should tourists visit a delightful small town when they have to wait till 4 or 5 pm for the shops and tourist attractions to re-open? If they were in Arundel, (quaint tourist town in West Sussex), for example, the shops and the castle and the (working) loos would be open after lunch, and they and their children wouldn’t have to hang about for hours in the heat (or pouring rain) with nothing to do.
This whole argument is part of a wider debate: Can and should Italy change in order to attract tourism and inward investment and secure a better future for her children? Many Italians, including the Marchigiani, are deeply conservative. They are hard-working and thrifty and they like their way of life; they like relaxed meals, home-cooked food from the garden or smallholding, and close family life with sons and daughters joining their father in the family business. But can you have all this and be globally competitive? Can you attract inward investment if the paterfamilias wants to secure jobs and shareholdings for his children more than he wants increased capital to enable the business to expand? You can’t have both. Take law firms. Many an English law firm has tried to link up with local Italian law firms. It often doesn’t work. Consequently, the best and the brightest don’t necessarily join babbo (he will soon go bust anyway because local businesses want lawyers who understand international markets); the sons and daughters get jobs in London with Magic Circle firms.
But on the other hand, will foreigners want to come to Italy if all they get is hustling competition, chain fast-food outlets and global businesses, just like at home?
It’s a challenge, made more difficult by the recession (la crisi). Shops close for longer to save money; restaurants don’t attract local customers because they can’t afford it; everyone is gloomy and worried about money. My experience has been that somewhere like Corinaldo does attract tourists, but it needs to do more, particularly to liven up the historic centre. For instance, the Comune runs a shop in the centre where you can buy local delicacies, supplied by local businesses, but the shop is often closed , although in theory the staff of the tourist office will open up for you. In practice they can’t open up because there is only one person on duty in the tourist office. What is the answer? If anyone knows of a town in Le Marche which has managed to cater for tourists without losing its character, I’d like to hear from them.
As you suggest, the real question is whether Italy is truly ‘open for business’ in an imaginative and innovative way given the ongoing crisis. Your piece demonstrates that although gestures are made they are often token in nature only and are not given the support necessary to make them truly customer-friendly. There is still a predominantly ‘take-it or leave it’ attitude. As ever, the Italians are brilliant at what THEY want to do but can’t be truly bothered to look at it from the visitors’ perspective.