food / travel

Italy's Tourist Industry Aims To Please New (Rich) Visitors From Emerging Markets

Looking up, in the Vatican Museum
Looking up, in the Vatican Museum
Egle Santolini

ROME - Italy is a place of culture, beauty, and a well-oiled style of life -- crisis or not. Foreigners always return for more. But in order to make sure that the tourists keep coming back -- and telling their friends -- some guidelines are needed.

According to data from the federation of hotels “Fedalberghi”, the total number of overnight stays in Italy last year decreased by 2.5% from 2011.

Still, the opportunity, all agree, are new waves of travelers arriving from emerging countries. The Chinese, along with visitors from the Gulf nations, Russia, and Brazil bring in the big bucks. But, cultures can clash and even the simplest of gestures can ruin their stay -- or win you eternal praise.

Here are seven secrets for Italian hotel operators to keep them coming back for more of the dolce vita:

1. NO FOURTH FLOOR It’s better not to assign a guest from China a room with the number four in it. The number four is considered bad luck by many Chinese.

2. TEAS AND QUIET Chinese guests appreciate a kettle and a nice variety of tea bags in their -- preferably red -- rooms. They’re also fond of their privacy but usually unimpressed by the typically small Italian hotel rooms.

3. CHOPSTICKS VS CROISSSANTS The Chinese also prefer noodles and chopsticks for their breakfasts, staying away from the common continental.

4. MATS & NUTS Middle Eastern guests should not miss their prayer mats, says Alessandra Baldeschi of the Dorchester Group. She adds that it is de rigueur to remove the alcohol from the mini-bars in their rooms, while walnuts and hazelnuts are to be provided as snacks.

5. BRANDISH BRAZILIANS It’s the Brazilians who are the biggest renters of Ferraris. A Brazilian man who stayed in Milan wanted to pull up to La Scala Opera House in a horse-drawn carriage was able to pull it off, thanks to the concierge at the Principe di Savoia Hotel.

6. BUTLER BENEFIT At the Seven Stars Galleria Hotel (with its internal views of the octagon of the Vittorio Emanuele mall in Milan -- suites start at 500 euros/night) the most striking benefit is the butler for each suite: a personal secretary who not only makes sure that everything in your room is working but can get the limousine for you to go to the Bellagio or to get you tickets for one of Verdi’s operas.

7. PERSONAL TOUCH “For the guests to feel at home, the hotels must be really prepared,” concludes Elisa Dal Bosco of the Seven Stars Galleria. For example "getting rid of the flowers if there is anyone who suffers from allergies, changing the top level of the suite into a fitness center, bringing a piano to their room, and these are just three recent cases."

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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