As a travel writer and photographer, I’m always eager to see a city through local eyes and discover the off-the-beaten-path gems that provide insight into the way a place really ticks. Being armed with that that coveted insider perspective and know-how is often the difference between a nice vacation and a meaningful travel experience but it can be hard to come by when you’re new to a place and don’t have people on the ground to show you around. How can you guarantee that you’ll experience something unique, authentic and rewarding on your next trip?
Cue Airbnb “Trips” a new initiative that promises to help you experience a city like a local and #belonganywhere, something that should pique the interest of any savvy traveler. With “Trips”, the world’s largest community driven hospitality company is moving beyond renting homes and is now letting users book culturally-immersive experiences through the platform.
“Trips” is made up of two components: “Experiences” and “Places”, both available on the Airbnb app. “Experiences” cover a wide range of activities in a number of global cities and, much like accommodations, suit all price points and travel styles. You can go truffle hunting in Florence, salsa dancing in Havana, hiking in San Francisco or ramen tasting in Tokyo. “Places”, on the other hand, are insider city guides written by locals around a thematic element: where to shop for dapper men’s clothes in Detroit, the best places for brunch in Nairobi and a tour of traditional markets in Seoul.
I recently had the opportunity to experience Airbnb “Trips” in Florence, one of the first cities to launch the initiative at the end of 2016. I signed up for “Arts Palazzo” for a chance to meet creative entrepreneurs in the Tuscan capital and learn about the contemporary design scene. Martino Di Napoli Rampolla greeted me when I arrived at Palazzo Galli Tassi and gave me a brief overview of the building. The Palazzo dates back to 1510 and was originally built as a residence as a noble family before being converted into a syrup factory in 1838. With an interior courtyard, elegant staircase and ornate ceilings, it is a truly elegant space. Palazzo Galli Tassi now houses the Numeroventi Design Residency, an initiative that hosts international artists and rotating exhibitions while exuding an aura of serenity and good design. Numeroventi is the brainchild of Martino and co-founder Alessandro Modestino Ricciardelli who assists with the art direction of the Design Residency and cooks up mouthwateringly delicious vegan meals for guests during the Arts Palazzo experience.
After showing me around some of the Palazzo’s beautifully refurbished rooms, Martino introduced me to Muriel Parrar i Ferrer, Numeroventi’s current resident artist hailing from Barcelona. With effusive energy and lots of hand gesures she talked me through her drawings as I admired her works and stunning bedroom, which was covered floor to ceiling with frescoes.
After a color lunch we took a stroll through Florence to reach our next destination: the La Serra MK Textile Atelier. Co-owned by Margherita Pandolfini, this greenhouse-atelier is an oasis of greenery and creativity in the middle of the city and is a beautiful place to learn about silk screen-printing, hand-painting and stencil printing. The greenhouse was built in the 19th century and overlooks a hidden garden – a truly rare find in this busy little city. Like Numeroventi, it encourages creative collaborations between artists of all types and hosts a number of activities in its luminous space.
We enjoyed a glass of prosecco while exchanges stories of travels, creative pursuits and aspirations before it was time to check into my Airbnb: La Magnifica, a luxury listing with panoramic views of Florence. Amazing light followed me throughout my day and flooded the dining area of the property, making for a very warm and homey welcome. Airbnb prides itself on making you feel at home anywhere and this time was no different.
At dinner I had the chance to experience a very special Airbnb tour, “A Taste of Tuscany“. This gourmet dining experience takes place inside one of the most scenic villas in Florence, Villa Bardini, built in 1641. It is now home to La Leggenda dei Frati, a Michelin-starred restaurant run by a husband and wife duo Filippo Saporito and his wife Ombretta, and its beautiful dishes are well complimented by stunning views of the Arno and Duomo of Florence.
I was enthusiastic for the opportunity to meet and speak with Andrea La Mesa over dinner, Airbnb’s Director of Operations for “Trips” and former Airbnb Italy Country Manager. We spoke about the company’s newest venture into the experience-sharing economy, our favorite places in Rome and what makes a trip to a new city truly unique: seeing the local perspective of its people.
After dinner we topped off our day with a final special experience. Chef Filippo Saporito guided us through an after-hours visit of the Capucci Museum, located on the top floor of Villa Bardini. Roberto Capucci is considered one of the modern founders of the Italian fashion industry and seeing his experimental gowns up-close-and-personal was the perfect way to end a day filled with art in all its shapes and forms.
Interested in trying out “Trips” for yourself? Book a unique experience on the Airbnb website.