A recent trip to Italy reminded why this destination is so popular with such a wide range of travelers. I was there in mid November with weather which was mostly overcast but attractively (in Venice) short on the normal summer crowds!
It was my first visit to Venice and I was enthralled by the city. I stayed at the San Clemente Palace which is an island unto itself. In prior centuries it was a monastery and after five years of renovation it is a wonderful hotel. While slightly isolated due to using a boat to get to and from the city, friends said that during the summer months it would be a wonderful refuge from the crowds. The city has approximately 55,000 residents and 20 Million visitors annually!
John Julius Norwich spoke at the conference I was attending and in 25 minutes has presented a wonderful speech on the history and relevance of Venice, including a short overview of what challenges lay ahead.
I then spent a productive day with Danilo Discacciati who represents PerryGolf in Italy. We visited two golf properties and enjoyed a typically Italian dining experience in Como. The following was drafted by Danilo and rather than trying to put into my own words, I think summarizes the Italian view of golf far better then I;
“What has Golf to do with all that, then? Good question! Let’s find a pretext to join Golf and things that make Italy unique!
When we started selling Italy as a golf destination, we had to face the huge competition represented by the most well-known destinations such as the British Islands, Spain, Portugal. We were in a similar position of a boutique trying to compete with a supermarket! Boutique? We found the solution! We have to sell Italy as a boutique destination where clients can find some of the most refined articles in the market sold together in the same place.. And which better place than Italy for the fine things?
So we took a typical day of golf in Scotland and (…gosh! what a noisy day!), we did the opposite!
Pick-up in the morning at 7am, breakfast at 8am, drive to the course at 8:30am, tee-off at 9:15 am, enjoy a lunch or a beer with snacks at the 19th hole, by 3pm back to the hotel to refresh, at 4pm out in town to enjoy some visit or going out in excursion, at 7:30pm aperitif sit outside a bar in a square looking at the people passing by and enjoying the last hours of sunshine, at 8:30pm dinner in a restaurant, 11pm again in town for….
Doesn’t it sound more interesting than a day in Scotland? Ohhhhhh, yes! But, as we do not want to give the impression to divert your attention from golf, let’s speak about the courses in Italy.
Golf is still considered a game for rich people but, even though it is not true because skiing is far much more expensive, the fact that there is no public course but only private clubs helps this belief to take root preventing people to approach golf as a new sport activity.
Said that, as a confirmation of what people think of exclusivity of golf, the highest number of courses is located in the North of Italy, considered the richest part of the country.
In fact, from Turin to Venice, we count 150 courses, among which 82 are 18 holes. The best areas where to play and where you can find enough courses to play a different one everyday are:
- Piedmont (Gavi area and Turin)
- Lakes District, without doubt the best in Italy for number and quality of the courses, formed by
- Lake Maggiore (Piedmont and Switzerland)
- Lake Lugano (Switzerland)
- Lake Como (Lombardy)
- Laka Garda (Lombardy and Veneto)
- Venice surroundings
- Tuscany Florence
- Tuscany Versilia (seaside)
Then, you have:
- Sardinia to be chosen for its being a seaside destination as there are only 3 courses in the entire region;
- Apulia (South), that is becoming more and more a golf destination, but damaged by not being very well served by the flights
Having such a concentration of golf courses in each area, driving times are short and the really good system of roads and motorways help the foreign visitor to visit the country easily, with little or no problem at this regard.
For what regards the tee-times, during the week-days it is an easy job because courses are never crowded, tee times are every 10 minutes. Other matter is to play during the week-ends.
In fact, being private clubs, on Saturdays, Sundays and any holidays that fall in the calendar, they organise local tournament where the non-members are rarely admitted. This means that tee-times for the visitors are fixed in the afternoon after the tournament or in the morning teeing off at 10am from hole #10 and then in the afternoon, always after the tournament, to complete the other 9.”