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The Renaissance of Florence, Italy.
Walking along the Arno River on a sunny afternoon in October 2021 sure felt a lot different than the year before. In October 2020, the impending doom of a second lockdown hovering over the Florentines’ heads like the spear of Damocles. The streets once crowded with tourists were eerily empty. A year later, Florence seems to be reborn amidst the ashes of the pandemic.
Why We're Vibing With It.
Florence, hailed as the cradle of the Renaissance - a French word which literally means ‘rebirth’ - is once again coming back to life after 18 months of forced lockdowns. Travellers from Europe and the US are back into the centuries-old UNESCO-listed historical centre of Florence. The city and its people are familiar with the vicissitudes of history. From the Great Plague of the 14th and 15th centuries, destruction during WWII, the 1966 catastrophic flood of the Arno River that saw some neighbourhoods under 6 ~ 7 feet of water and the Covid pandemic that brought the economy of the city to its knees, Florence and the Florentines are resilient.
Florence gave the world some of the most brilliant artists - Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli, Brunelleschi, Dante Alighieri, Niccolo Macchiavelli -the father of modern physics - Galileo Galilei - and some of the biggest name in fashion - Roberto Cavalli, Guccio Gucci, or Salvatore Ferragamo. Lisa Gheradini, the model and subject of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece ‘Mona Lisa’, was a native of Florence.
The city is a place where a thirst for beauty, an endless search for aesthetics, and the ‘dolce vita’ coalesce in history. Once a Republic, then the capital of Italy, Florence attracts visitors from all around the world.
Located in the heart of Tuscany, within a short distance of the picturesque medieval cities of Lucca, Pisa and Siena, Florence is a must-see destination, half-way between Rome and Venice.
Florence During the COVID Crises.
The pandemic hit Italy hard and the country was the first to implement a drastic nationwide lockdown by mid-March 2020. For Florence, mid-March is the beginning of spring and the start of the tourist season. In spite of the summer 2020 ‘break’ on Covid restrictions in Europe, more lockdowns, curfews and travel restrictions quickly came to curtail the continuous flow of tourists Florence is accustomed to.
Thanks to a successful vaccination campaign, 88% of Italians are now completely vaccinated, and life is slowly going back to normal with tourists finally walking the main street between the Pitti Palace and the iconic Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
COVID Protocol for Italy 2021-2022.
Since August 2021, only vaccinated people are allowed on intercity trains, in restaurants, bars, museums, libraries, sporting events and most public venues. Exceptions are stores and groceries stores with a Covid sanitary pass via a smartphone application. Masks are mandatory in public transportation as well as indoor public spaces which are open to both vaccinated and unvaccinated.
US citizens can simply show a digital copy of their vaccination documents and an ID card (or any form of picture identity) when requested.
With the vaccination rate on the rise in Italy and across Europe and strict policies that benefit the vaccinated, we can all start thinking about travelling again. Tasting a Tuscan red wine on a roof-top bar with breathtaking views of the Florentine’s landmark sounds like a good idea for next spring.
The Swiss Alps Are Open...And Calling.
Nestled on a plateau perched at 5000 ft above sea level lies a village surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks soaring at 14,000ft. With more than 250 miles of ski slopes and 89 ski lifts spread across four different valleys, the resort of Verbier boasts the largest ski area of Switzerland. An exceptional ski area makes Valais' most cosmopolitan destination an almost limitless playground, equally suited to professional athletes, free riders and experienced, off-the-beaten path explorers.
Why We're Vibing With It.
With its “Pure Energy” motto, Verbier promotes an active lifestyle throughout the year. Whether it is to go skiing and hiking or enjoy a quiet two-week holiday in a chalet with a view on the Alps, people come to Verbier not only for the active lifestyle, but also to enjoy pure air and a stress-free high quality standard of life. Several extreme sporting events dot the calendar, like the Xtreme Snowboard competition, "Free Ride World Tour” (late March - early April), open only to the best snowboarders of the planet. Once every two years, the "Glaciers Patrol" (end of April), an extreme competition brings racers climbing mountains and skiing down frozen slopes between Zermatt and Verbier. In addition, several mountain biking and alpine running competitions are held every summer.
Verbier During the COVID Crises: A Safe Haven.
Switzerland was ranked as the safest country in the world during the 2020 COVID-19 crisis. The Swiss federal government never enforced any strict lock downs like in neighbouring countries, and during the winter 2020-2021 season, while most alpine countries had forcefully closed their ski lift, Switzerland kept them open. Switzerland was undoubtedly an island of freedom for those who could escape larger cities. Come spring 2021, the population of Verbier grew substantially due to strict lockdowns that caused owners of secondary residences to stay in Verbier. During what was a time of unprecedented crisis with bars, restaurants and stores closed, people who lived in Verbier were out hiking and enjoying the beautiful view under the sun.
COVID Protocol for Switzerland 2021-2022.
As of October 2021, the vaccination rate in Switzerland is comparable to the U.S., roughly 66% of adults. Since September 2021, people can access restaurants, bars, museums, libraries, sporting events and most public venues with a Covid sanitary pass via a smartphone application. Masks are mandatory in stores and groceries stores, on public transportation as well as indoor public spaces for both vaccinated and unvaccinated adults.
While various measures, rules and ordinances are in place on the basis of the pandemic, Switzerland is currently at the normalisation phase and is welcoming in-bound, vaccinated visitors. After 18 months of living in a world upside down, the opportunity to travel again, far away, is finally here. Contact our team to learn about our special holiday offerings as well as new Switzerland Winter 2021-2022 Digital Guide which includes rich insight into our three favorite ski destinations as well as valuable COVID-travel information!
PARTNER SPOTLIGHT: Aibiya.
Welcome to our very first Partner Spotlight Newsletter! Since our beginning, ZI has forged lasting, one-on-one relationships with locals in Asia and developed a robust network of responsible and sustainable hotels, alternative lodging, tour operators, and restaurants. As the country plans to reopen to travelers, we look forward to working with many of these partners and assisting you in designing and planning your next responsible trip!
(山ノ内) is a municipality in northern Nagano Prefecture, famous for its snow monkeys, seasonal delicacies, hosting the 1998 Nagano Games and, you named it....JAPOW!
Thanks in part to super cold winds that blow across Siberia and pick up moisture over the Sea of Japan, Japan receives copious amounts of snowfall each season and welcomes thousands of powder enthusiasts every year. With its growing infrastructure, remote resorts and ski culture, it has become a top ski and snowboard destination for winter sport enthusiasts around the world. More so, the serene faces of snow-covered monkeys soaking in a hot spring bath have become an international sensation!!
Why We're Vibing With It.
Aibiya is quaint ryokan, bed and breakfast and hostel in the heart of Yudanaka Onsen, the heavenly onsen (hot spring) town next to Japan's largest ski resort, Shiga Kogen.
What we love about Aibiya is that it offers a space to relax and recharge from travel fatigue and extreme days in the mountains. Each season, sports enthusiasts can enjoy water activities, cycling, hiking, skiing and snowboarding. For those seeking some R&R, it is a short walk away from four different types of hot spring baths.
More so, every morning the staff offers locally sourced breakfast (Nagano grown eggs and apples = oishii = yum!!!) and supports other local businesses, giving travelers a chance to bring a local omiyage (souvenir) home from their quaint gift shop.
Planning a Trip? Why Working With a Travel Advisor Is Your Best Option.
As we enter into the middle of summer, signs of life in the travel industry continue to bloom.
Folks are once again venturing out to domestic destinations like Hawaii, Florida and Puerto Rico. For those who choose to travel internationally, Mexico, Iceland and Europe continue to be popular destinations.
Everywhere, however, the new Delta variant of COVID is on the rise, and, as in the past, COVID rules and restrictions are constantly changing and evolving.
That's why we believe that working with a Travel Advisor who is aware of the most current COVID regulations and policies continues to be your best option. Here are 5 ways a TA can problem solve and enhance your next trip. And a fun BuzzFeed article to seal the deal!
Post Pandemic Knowledge.
We get it. As the world begins to reopen for travel, it can be challenging to keep up with travel regulations, which areas are accepting visitors, and visiting places with increased safety standards. Instead of getting frustrated and wasting time, TAs can help you navigate all of the rules and even do some of the legwork for you to ensure a more seamless experience both before and during your trip. Our team did a lot of this for various families of athletes for Summer Games in Tokyo, and learned A LOT!
From re-booking during an unexpected event, battling cancellation and refunds policies to handling accommodation issues, your TA acts as your personal travel advocate. They are available for you by telephone, through email and other communication methods, even while on you’re on your trip. Our team is tech savvy, also allowing our clients to interact with us through travel apps and via social media!
Armed with the latest, up-to-date information about the industry, from airlines to cities and hotels, TAs have the inside info that you’d have to spend hours searching for online. With years of experience and firsthand travel knowledge to your destination, they’ll plan your trip with expertise no search engine can give.
Extremely Well Connected.
TAs have all the inside info and hyperlocal experiences you can’t find on your own. Our industry connections not only help travelers get the best value for your trip, but the ability to make unique requests and deliver access to some out-of-this world experiences. We pride ourselves on our unique connections in and throughout Japan!
That Personal Touch.
TAs love to listen, learn, and help, which is why they are masters at finding the perfect destination and experiences for you. It is this kind of one-on-one and customized approach that makes travel planning a stress-free and enjoyable experience.
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