Have you ever stopped in front of a gorgeous palazzo, piazza, or statue while traveling and said to yourself, “It would be great if I knew what I was looking at?” Perhaps you’re not a big fan of being herded along during guided tours, preferring instead to go at your own pace, but every now and then you really wish you could have some on-demand context or a learn a few historical facts to enrich your self-tour of the city.
Even in your own city, you may pass by the same mysterious building every day and idly wonder what it is. “I should look that up when I get home,” you say to yourself, but you forget about it until the next day when you pass the building once again.
What about when you first arrive in a city? Have you ever wasted precious travel time toting your suitcase around the cobblestone streets, staring at your phone as you try to make sense out of your GPS and the streets you see in front of you? What about standing on the sidewalk googling “best places to eat near X” praying that you’ll get some authentic search results that aren’t sponsored or based on algorithms?
We’ve all been there. Luckily, with the vast amount of technology available today, there are digital solutions to all of our travel qualms. And when you just need some good old fashioned, in-person help, well...there’s an app for that too. Here are two essential apps that will make your adventures in Italy even richer than you could have imagined.
Loquis is the first Geo-podcasting platform in the world, allowing travelers or residents to explore their city, learning about its history and uncovering interesting facts based on their location. Every day new stories, facts, experiences, and anecdotes, linked to Italian cities, are published on the site, and users can listen to them in complete autonomy without looking at the screen (even while biking or listening to music in the background).
As you walk through the city, you can open up the Loquis app and listen to these mini 1-2 minute podcasts, which explain the history or intriguing details about the places around you. It also works a bit like a personal YouTube channel and is currently home to 300 channels and over 95,000 episodes.
Anyone can create a channel and record episodes on any travel or history theme that he so chooses. These episodes are then monitored and verified by the Loquis team and uploaded on the app for user enjoyment. You can learn about The German Who Saved The Ponte Vecchio while traipsing across the famous bridge spared during World War II or subscribe to the Art History In Lombardy channel if it tickles your fancy.
Loquis is available in Italian and includes content that covers all of the Bel Paese, but you don’t have to live in Italy or be passing through in order to enjoy the benefits of this educational app. Download it and subscribe to any channels that peak your interest and learn from afar about any category such as The History of Cinema in Rome or Historic Cafés in Veneto just to name a few.
It’s like a history class you can access in your pocket and cater to your personal interests; that is to say, learning at its best.
When you arrive in a foreign city or a place that you’re not entirely familiar with, there’s an intoxicating feeling of being out of place. It’s exciting to look around at the foreign signs, the public transportation system, the layout of the city streets, even the loot at the local grocery store. It’s all different and that’s what makes traveling so much fun.
However, this intoxicating feeling can easily turn into frustration or panic, when you can’t figure out how to get from the train station to your hotel or apartment rental, if you get lost on a strange side street, or if you find yourself walking around in circles searching for somewhere to eat that isn’t a fast food chain you have back home.
That’s where Prontopia comes in.
The Prontopia app connects travelers who can use an extra hand in the city with locals who arrive on foot to provide in-person help. Whether you need help navigating public transportation, translating down at the pharmacy, or simply want to know where you can eat local foods that are prepared with heart and soul in an authentic atmosphere, a Prontopian will ensure all of your travel needs are met without any stress or discomfort.
A Prontopian is a vetted local who speaks both the local language and English and has lived in the city for several years. Each assistant knows how the system works - from the healthcare system to the bus system - and are there to offer help and friendly advice when you just need some help from a living, breathing human being.
The service is currently available in Venice, Rome, Florence, and Naples in Italy with plans to expand to other cities soon.
Next time you hit the road in Italy, be sure to take advantage of these two apps to make your experience seamless and your journey more enriching. We have a world of opportunities and information at our fingertips, but sometimes the breadth of tools to choose from is overwhelming.
Photo by Timo Stern on Unsplash
American content writer in Italy. Her hobbies include getting dressed up to go to art museums, hopping on trains to cities she's never been, and talking to herself in a mixture of English and Italian.