The Cost of Finding Hidden Gems – Part 4

by Brian Alex | April 14, 2023
Finding the Right Accommodations in Italy

Our “Hidden Gems” series continues, this time focused on finding that B&B or Hotel with a “Goldilocks” quality that makes you want to stay there again.

We’re not looking for perfection, but we do want excellence.

We tell our team all the time that perfection is an illusion, and just when you think that you’ve captured it, it escapes your grasp. Perfection belongs safely harboured under a glass dome in a museum to be admired by tourists. We live in the real world, and bringing a “wow” experience to our clients is always a work in progress. 

What one person experiences one time, and writes a Google review about, may in fact not be what the next person finds on their stay, even a day or two later. So, how do we avoid falling into the disappointment trap of thinking, “this place is perfect”.

You probably remember the story of Goldilocks and The 3 Bears.

The 19th-century English fairy tale has at least three different versions, but the most modern and well-known describes a young girl named Goldilocks entering a forest. She comes across the home of a family of hospitable bears, and while they’re away, she helps herself to their porridge, sits in their chairs, and then lies in their beds…

Famously finding that “just right” level of comfort, just before the bears return home.

Now, I’m not recommending a try everything approach when it comes to Italy, but… there is a moral to this story. It has to do with trial-and-error, and finding things done right. With the boom of tourism post-Covid, Italy has flung its doors open wide to accomodate weary travellers, but sadly the emphasis is not always on getting it right, or even excellent. This is where our team comes in… and travels around.

 

 

Where trial and error produce patience and a nose for excellence.

As we travel around Italy, hopping from one city to the next, we often split our team into 2, 3, or even 4 different lodgings, in order to profit from the diverse experiences that this opportunity affords us. And, after doing this for a while, you tend to see through the veneer of a well-laid out website, hastily scripted Trip Advisor reviews, or even the sheer convenience of proximity to this piazza or that pizzeria. 

Patience produces a passion and an expectation for excellence, at least it has for us. When meeting owners of small, out of the way B&Bs, or property managers for large “well-known” commercial hotel properties, one thing is on our minds. How will our clients experience this property, the service, the welcome… and is it “just right”?

 

 

Was it the bed itself that was “just right” or something else?

To be honest, a lot of times it has to do more with the staff than the property itself. Let me share just one example. On a recent trip to Puglia, we stayed in a couple of hotels in the city of Lecce, in Italy’s Deep South. This town is cute as a button, and well worth the out-of-the-way pains to find it. As we toured the properties, we asked lots of questions about the owner’s (or manager’s) experience with tourists.

This isn’t always a conversation that comes up naturally between owner and private guest, so we take advantage of representing a travel agency in order to gain some special perspective. On this particular occasion, we heard the story of how the property manage had come to find herself there (originally from Rome), and why she was hired to take care of this particular property.

 

 

Uncommon means yield uncommon results: excellence.

She described the pains that her and her staff go through to make sure that their guests are comfortable, well-informed, and that their needs are catered to. In the summertime, she said, when the clients come down for breakfast, we ask them what they have on their agenda for the day. We try to offer everything from weather and traffic information to suggestions on where to have the best beachfront aperitivo that day – the kind that they’ll want to return and do again the following day.  

There’s no “concierge” at this hotel, per se, but the staff has been trained to care for their guests as if they were Goldilocks. Even if things are not always perfect, guests find their stay “just right” because of the excellence ethic that the hotel has. By offering an insider peek, avoiding crowded squares, hints about the wind or waves that day, and going the extra mile to make sure guests are well-cared for is what we look for in a host or staff. Location and comfy beds are great, but repeat business and word are mouth come out of “wow experiences”. That’s excellence.

Time. Patience. Trial-and-error. Lots of revealing conversations with owners and managers. All of these things have led us to believe one thing. A good night sleep is imperative, but equally important is finding a place to stay that feels like home.