Alien eyes

I read a post by a friend today. It was about the fact that we stranieri, foreigners, who come to live in foreign lands, come with different viewpoints. We see things differently and notice the differences in our new land, which the residents don’t see, because it’s so familiar to them. It’s because we strangers look on things with “new” eyes. It would be the same if reversed, I’m sure.

One thing they don’t seem to see here, is that they don’t market themselves. Or not well, anyway. I’ve always said, Umbria just doesn’t “get” marketing. It doesn’t have a regional program to market itself to the world, like say, Tuscany does. It’s why many people who asked me where I was moving before we came had no idea where Umbria was when I told them. I, personally, am fine with Umbria as it is. But Umbria could be more if it knew how. It is so much like Tuscany. The landscape is nearly identical, save for the sea. The food and wine are very similar. Wild boar, porcini, and salt-less bread, all shared by the two regions. And yet, Toscana is overrun with tourists. While Umbria is tranquil and undiscovered. The traditions that so many tourists love are all sleeping here.

They just don’t understand marketing. A good, and slightly amusing example is in our town. Or was, I should say. We had a really nice Jazz bar on a nearby street. But you wouldn’t know it was there because it had no sign. When friends from California mentioned they should put up a nice sign, the owner said, “I don’t have enough business for a sign”. True story. The Jazz bar is long gone, for obvious reasons. This the defunct Jazz club. It looked just like this when it was open. No sign, no hours…who would know it was even there?

Don’t get me started on websites, which are, in my opinion, one of the easiest ways to market yourselves. When we first came we always reflexively went to the website looking for info. Take for instance, a town with an annual festival. You want to know the schedule. When you go to the town website, you see the schedule for 2016. It is 2021. They haven’t updated their site in five years 🙄. This is typical. Hotel sites list specials from two years ago. Restaurant sites don’t list their weekly closing day. They don’t say if they are open for lunch. Many don’t even say where they are! An art museum in Citta di Castello we wanted to visit listed their hours. So we paid them a visit, only to find them closed for TWO MONTHS for renovation! Wouldn’t you think they’d tell you this on their website!? It IS an important bit of information. Anyway, they’ve beaten us down. We don’t expect accurate information on a website anymore.

We had a nice monthly magazine for the Upper Tevere Valley before the pandemic. It had articles about businesses and items of interest. It was free, so there were lots of ads in it. Me, being new, I was always interested in knowing what was out there. Half the time, I’d find a business and it would have nice glossy pictures etc, (they do design well) but it wouldn’t say where they were, no address, not even the town sometimes, or when they were open. I guess if you grow up here they’d expect you to know. Marketing 101. Italians are surprised when I point out these “tiny” omissions. They just don’t “see” it.
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. The weather is perfect. Warm days, blue skies, cool nights. Suddenly, it’s fall. Photo from my walk today.

Information for those who are traveling to Italy from the US. The EU put the US on the list of countries no longer able to come without restrictions. Each country will make a ruling for themselves. Yesterday, Italy reimposed the requirement for a negative Covid test in addition to proof of vaccine. It says specifically, “presentation to the carrier at the time of embarkation and to anyone in charge of carrying out the checks, of the certification of having undergone, in the seventy-two hours prior to entry into the national territory, to a molecular or antigenic test, carried out by means of a swab and negative result.” This takes effect from today August 31 to October 25 unless amended.

Buona giornata a tutti! 🌈

20 thoughts on “Alien eyes

  1. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Yes, you know where the idea came from. These are things I’ve noticed while living here and you made me think of them. It is true, when we come here we do have fresh eyes. I remember once traveling in Austria. We talked to our neighboring table of Germans. They wondered why we came to Germany/Austria. They said, every place you go here, it’s the same. A wall, a church, a castle. Ho hum. 🙂 For us it was all new! The Jazz club owner just didn’t get it! Did he!😂

  2. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Ah! My sister! Welcome to the blog. I hope you. Enjoy my everyday adventures…which can be pretty mundane! 😉

  3. Vian Andrews

    I think I know that friend you refer to. I am happy to see you pick up the thread and provide additional insight, and a few examples. Loved the story about the jazz club. The owner had both barrels pointed at his feet and pulled the trigger.

  4. Bill Brooks

    The traditions that so many tourists love are all sleeping here.“ as good a sentence as I’ve read. My wife is a friend of Cindy G. who introduced us to your blog.

  5. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Louann, I’ve often thought exactly that. If you aren’t from here you have no idea how to get things, where to go. The businesses don’t make it obvious that’s for sure. And they go to no trouble, just like the Jazz club I mentioned. It is quite probable the owners are not trying to attract others. It probably never occurs to them that they need to do anything different. This is also an example of looking through our foreign eyes at Italy. The Italians don’t see it, we do. They are too close and it is too familiar.

  6. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Matt. Sadly it is so. Someone I know ho owns a BandB in Tuscany says Americans don’t want to know anything about Italy. They just want to say they came, take lots of selfies at the pool, and have all the exact amenities they have at home. I guess Umbria doesn’t fit that bill.

  7. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Philip, I don’t know that much about our southern neighbor. I have visited Terni, and some of the towns there. I think Perugia and Terni are very different, not so much in looks but in feel. I remember talking to you about the differences in the past.

  8. Louann Chapman

    Nancy, Thanks for a most accurate picture of the way businesses in Italy portray themselves on the web! Important I think to also mention the frustrating way they photograph the fronts of their businesses! Many stores look like they are in a back alley without any sign or attraction to let you know what KIND of a business it is! Unattractive and confusing
    to those who are looking to purchase something! Even if they are located in a dilapidated old building, it would be easy to construct a colorful sign in a window for instance. This reflects to me attracting folks other than locals just isn’t a priority or of interest. But maybe this is what makes Italy attractive to tourists? It’s the uniqueness. Who wants to see their streets lined with flashing neon lights and American-version signs?

  9. Matthew Daub

    When my wife and I ran a small art/travel business I can’t tell you how many inquiries we got for Tuscany. When we offered trips to Umbria, many didn’t even know it was a region of Italy. I often said, “If you close your eyes in Tuscany and opened them in Umbria you wouldn’t know the difference,” but they still wanted Tuscany. It’s the mystique…. “Under the Tuscan Sun,” and all that.

  10. Philip

    Provincia di Terni has minimal interest in tourists. My partner took her paddle board to Lake Piediluco this morning and apart from the rowers
    the place was deserted.

  11. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi James, all valid and very interesting points. We should chat about it when we get together next. I agree with the part that the governments and areas don’t look past their borders. Perhaps that’s the main issue? Anyway. Thanks for giving me more to think about. 🙂

  12. Nancy Hampton Post author

    You can find places most anywhere that are not touristy but in some regions you need to hunt for those areas. Assisi is usually filled with pilgrims. It’s the most popular site in Umbria.
    In Tuscany Chianti And other wine regions are touristy. Mkntalcino, Montepulciano. All full,of English speakers. Along with the cities like Lucca, Siena, Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano. Not what I was looking for to live here.
    But the two regions are very much alike. Minus the tourists.

  13. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Natalie, you gave me a real laugh! I can see how that would happen here! Thanks for the laugh

  14. James Lupori

    Hi Nancy, fundamentally, Italy is still a nation deeply influenced by Campanilismo (local patriotism). This might not seem related to the way Italians approach marketing but I often have the sense that both governments and private businesses here don’t have a deep interest in wide audiences. They lack the vision to penetrate past their own local borders (region or town).
    You mention websites. Yikes, trying to navigate most Italian websites is an exercise in futility. You can search in vain for their hours of operation or for a contact number or an address. Most have graphics that give me a head ache.
    One other thing. My company here has supported the Washington Business Week Program (an experiential, enterprise-educational program) which I brought from the States. It was a smashing success (over 500 students participated over several summer programs) because it exposed high school students to business concepts and marketing ideas. Interestingly, there are NO programs of this sort in the Italian public schools. You might be familiar with DECA in the States (THE ultimate marketing program for kids), which reaches literally 100’s of thousands of students. There’s nothing of the sort here.

    You know, if I were a younger man, I’d be pounding on the government’s door to figure out a way to bring this type of education and training to young Italians. Alas….i

    Oh, by the way, I’m all for “lesser Umbria” but even local marketing could use a LOT of help!!!!

  15. Lynn Brown

    I always wanted to visit Umbria which we did in 2019 because of Assissi.St Francis is one of my heroes of the faith.It has a different ambiance than Tuscany but there are amazing little towns in Tuscany we found as well like Montefioralle which are very spiritual and peaceful.No tourists!

  16. Natalie

    You described very well the situation. It is the same in Northern Lazio. One time we went to go eat at local restaurant on a Friday night. And it had a sign saying it was closed! Later in the evening I went to watch a local play. It was really well done. All local towns people were the actors.
    So the next night we go back to the restaurant and it is open. And there is the actor,who played the lead role in the play, he is in the kitchen. Turns out he is the owner and closed on Friday night so he could act in the play.

  17. Christina Seligson

    Nancy, Nicely said. Tuscany over markets itself and is over run with tourists. Umbria is Tuscany’s understated & shy brother. Both states could use a lesson on the importance of current information. Thanks for your blog.

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