The journey of revenge is here. Not all tourist destinations are ready: NPR

Revenge travel is here – Americans are “sticking it to COVID” by going on vacation despite the risks. One of the main destinations that appears this summer is Italy. Where the crowds are getting so big that some tourists can’t see the main sights.



MICHEL MARTIN, host:

We are here in Madrid – for work, of course – but it is clear that work is not the only thing that brings people to Spain now. The streets, shops and cafes are full. In fact, millions of people, tired of being stuck at home, are enjoying the trip of their dreams this summer. Adam Raney reports from Rome, Italy, on what is being called the summer of revenge travel.

ADAM RANEY, BYLINE: The flood of water in Rome’s Trevi Fountain almost drowns out the roar of the crowds that gather this summer, in a sign that travel is back in Italy. It was a herculean task for Philadelphia firefighter Dana Gross(ph) to get here. She and her husband had traveled regularly throughout the pandemic.

DANA GROSS: It was like, this is what you call a vacation. There was none of that here. You didn’t have to wait in line. I mean, everybody was paying attention. They were right there. It was like – the trip was just for you.

RANEY: With flights to Rome sold out, the couple flew to Venice and hopped on high-speed trains every day to see the place. A few feet from Gross, New Yorker Natalie Zax(ph) squeezed into the edge of the fountain, made famous in movies like “La Dolce Vita,” to do what countless visitors to Rome have done before her. She made a wish and threw a coin into the water. It would be taboo to ask Zax what she wants, though fewer tourists would definitely be welcome.

NATALIE ZAX: Yes. I was alone in the Colosseum and actually had to leave early because the amount of people there was not worth the price of the tour. I couldn’t even look at people to see our views.

RANEY: While Zax gave up on the Coliseum, Texan Andy Manthi(ph) is doing everything he can to get inside. I find him at the entrance trying to book tickets online for him and his son. But Manthi hit a digital wall outside the ancient arena.

ANDY Manthi: This is a nightmare. I’m trying to get Colosseum tickets. And I said two, do the job of the robot, hit buy the ticket and it takes you back. Everyone hits the website at the same time, and they just can’t keep up. I do not know.

RANEY: As for a place to stay, he had to get creative.

MANTHI: This place is so full you can’t get it – Vrbos or rooms. Lucky me – I was lucky. I had to change rooms every night, but I’m in the same place.

ISABELLA RUGGIERO: (Non-English spoken).

RANEY: The president of the Association of Professional Tourist Guides of Italy (ph), Isabella Ruggiero, says she too is shocked by the explosion of visitors.

RUGGIERO: (Non-English spoken).

RANEY: “A lot of the big tour operators have bought tickets to the major museums,” she says. On some days, the guides can’t even find tickets to the most popular places, so they have to cancel tours. These are just some of the difficulties facing Europe now. It’s the summer of revenge travel – going somewhere, anywhere, after being stuck inside for two years due to the pandemic.

ERIC ROSEN: But people are certainly booking travel again at levels that we haven’t – we haven’t even seen before the pandemic.

RANEY: This is Eric Rosen from The Points Guy travel site.

ROSEN: They’re paying a price to book the trips they want to take when they get them, realizing they’re not sure if or when there might be another set of travel restrictions.

RANEY: According to international finance firm Allianz Partners, six times as many Americans will travel to Europe this year compared to 2021, and millions more than last year will travel to Italy.

Back at the Trevi Fountain, firefighter Dana Gross says despite the crowds and concerns about COVID, she wouldn’t miss this trip for the world.

GROSS: I didn’t care. I was coming (laughs). I was coming anyway. And I had planned it. I wanted to see everything.

RANEY: Her advice for people who have a similar travel problem?

GROSS: Go. Get out and go. Go, go, go, go, go (laughs).

RANEY: For NPR News, I’m Adam Raney in Rome.

(SOUNDBITE OF JACK JEZZRO’S “FLYING (IN THE BLUE PAINTED OF BLUE)”)

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