In May I headed off to Florence (or Firenze if you're Italian) and like any well organised tourist I spent a decent amount of time planning what to do via the tourism websites.
This is isn't a travel write up (although the history, food and ice cream were all amazing) but instead a quick post about a couple of issues which I noticed about the Florentine tourist websites and their online marketing efforts.
The major website for the city is www.visitflorence.com. Although full of information it's not the most beautiful website in the world, but I used it a fair bit to dig out the main places to go. On one of the afternoons we went to the Basilica de Santa Maria Novella, a church which has some absolutely beautiful works of art. According to the website, it was €3.50. In reality it was €5. The exact same pricing problem happened when we went to the Boboli Gardens.
I completely realise that a €1.50 price difference isn't a major thing. Actually both places were definitely more than worth the admission price - but it starts to get you thinking, if the information is wrong at Visit Florence, what other facts are wrong?
If I lose trust in a website I'm not going to come back to it, so with most of the other places we visited I googled them directly to find the correct information for each attraction.
The Uffizi is one of the world leading galleries, famous for works by Michaelangelo, Da Vinci and Botticelli and is definitely a worthwhile place to visit.
Booking tickets was strongly advised due to the queues, but on which website? If you google 'Uffizi Gallery' there are three seemingly identical websites:
After 15 minutes of discussion it seemed like www.uffizi.org was the official website (based on its better design). We tried to book with them but the website then sends you to another website, this time: www.florence-tickets.com.
After spending close to 40 minutes going between different websites we eventually gave up suspecting that one or all of them could be dodgy sites; certainly not sights that I'd trust with my card details.
Whilst I was writing this it actually turns out that uffizi.org also wasn't the official site . It is in fact www.polomuseale.firenze.it. Double checking this it does appear as the Number 3 result for 'Uffizi Gallery' in Google, but the result was in Italian, which I wouldn't click on.
Why am I even mentioning this?
Well, Florence relies heavily on tourism as part of it's economy. English speaking people make up a large proportion of visits, and people will spend an intense amount of time studying websites both before and during their holidays.
Coincidentally we visited Florence at almost the same time of the release of Dan Brown's latest novel 'Inferno' which is based in the city. If the previous experience of Rome's boost to tourism from 'Angels and Demons' is anything to go by, tourism in Florence should be on the up.
If a site is making it unintentionally difficult to find accurate information, buy tickets or do anything else, you're going to lose peoples trust, lose visits, and ultimately lose out financially. So, it made me wonder how much revenue could Florence be missing out on?
It all comes down to the visitors experience on a site. If you make sure every detail is checked, and the process from start to finish is as easy, fun and painless as possible then you won't be turning business away.
And the Ice Cream? In one word - Amazing. If you visit, check out 'Grom' which has the most brilliant variety of different flavours.