Monday, 3 June 2013

Una faccia, una ratsa (Ούνα φάτσα, ούνα ράτσα)

Throughout the approximately 6000 years of her existence in human civilisation, Crete has been conquered by a number of dynasties, which includes the Venetians. Many architectural features of Cretan towns retain Italianate elements, and this has made an impression on the Italians who visit Crete. A group of Italian ERASMUS students who are studying at MAICh wrote up their thoughts on tourism in Crete, giving us an insight to how our neighbours see Greece and Crete in particular.

For a start, Greece's crystal clear sea, for its grastronomy, for its old history and its islands are the main attractions for Italians coming to here. When Italian tourists talk about their holidays in Crete they always describe its amazing beaches and the clear sea. As for Crete:
"... it is a part of their being to welcome someone. Greeks introduce themselves offering water as a sign of who gives a hand to life in this land that at first glance seems to be parched... Satisfied by a nice welcoming a tourist from Italy will look around to find a good restaurant to please his/her tastes too and to end the day in style. A sense to which an Italian reserves an important place is the stomach. So here you wouldn't remain on an empty stomach both for its full selection of restaurants and for copious quantities of food. Crete can make your mouth water. Traditional dishes attract Italians who, on holiday, do not care about their diet, eating the old traditional Mediterranean flavors here."
And what about the sights?
"To harmonize the night there is the enviable Old Harbour. Its Venetian architecture is a pleasure to Italians’ tourist eyes, well known as mama’s boys, so they easily feel homesick. Once again to help them with their homesickness Cretan people are equipped with bars with espresso machines, easy to find even in a small kiosk located on the edge of the road to nowhere."
And the most revealing Euro-message of all:
"Crete, and Chanià, is a refreshing of memories for a sixty-year-old, as it recalls an Italy in development, a flashback of their youth made by simple things. On the other hand it is the place where young people live the reality told by their ancestors."
A price comparison of airtickets comes to the conclusion that it is very cheap to fly to Chania. So is hiring a car here; the students have already realised that you can haggle the price down, something Southern Europeans know better than Northern Europeans. Taxis are also considered cheap here, too, for those who prefer to have someone else do the driving for them, as our roads are more difficult to drive on, if you are used to higher quality road conditions.
falasarna sunset taverna
The “kindness in welcoming” factor is very important: a kindly welcome helps to hide inefficiencies, because not all is perfect on our little island paradise. It is noted that although it is easy to find a variety of hotels here without booking in advance, Italians have higher standards when it comes to holiday accommodation. Searching for accomodation in Crete, tourists should not be too demanding:
"Advice concerns rooms which are sometimes too small, and there is very limited space. Wifi is not always available. Others concern the variety of food served and the quality too, first of all for breakfast. Some negative notes are also reported on hygiene referring most of the times to cheap accommodation, which are made to satisfy small needs
Cuisine is important to the Italians:
"Crete offers a wide variety of restaurants. It is possible to find restaurants that serve haute cuisine but they are more international. So if you want to dig into the heart of the culture and eat as they do you need to go to tavernas. There are places called ‘mageirio’ where you can eat fresh fish and meat. A different name is given to the place where you go for a dessert which is not available in restaurant menus. But as a surprise at the end of your dinner you get a dessert coming with the most famous Cretan drink ‘raki’Greek authenticity lets the tourist feel free to choose the dish after he has looked into the kitchen to see what is cooking. There are also vegetarian options. Since vegetables are the ingredients of the Mediterranean diet they often take part in every dish, as well as cheese, legumes, olives, bread and of course pita... But the hygiene of restaurants is not their strong point. Also the service defects on speed."

This shows the level of professionalism in Greek restaurants  Although the food is good, it is rarely served to a high level of standards in a Greek taverna. There is an element of truth here. But I think that this also has to do with costs:
"Considering that Italians are known for being hearty eaters an average of their opinions report that Greek dishes are fairly good. But what they wouldn't do at the end of dinner is to gape at an expensive bill; quite the contrary.

Despite the crisis, the prices are low. Low, that is, to Italians, where the minimum salary and pension levels  are twice that of the respective Greek ones... Having said all this, however:
"... it is easy to find the real Greek culture here and to feel like home, this is the instance where one can use the famous sentence “Una faccia una razza”. Where there is a human face the races are reduced to a minimum becoming one, the human one."
The most important aspects of any study are the recommendations made for future related work. Here is what my Italian students have to say about it:
"Crete has become a popular destination for packaged tourism, especially for Italian tourists; although the weather in Crete is desirable from March to November, the tourism is concentrated during the summer months. In addition there seems to be an unbalanced geographical distribution of the tourism activity since the greatest concentration of tourism is on the northern part of the island. In this case to enlarge tourism in different seasons would also develop alternative tourism which is not much practiced at the moment, so it would give more economic dynamism to the Island during the whole year. This political strategy satisfies the needs of the traveler who likes to dig into the culture and habits of local people. In fact it is more demanded of accommodation like B&B and agritourism. Those travelers are indeed looking for folk events that take you back to the past traditions. Presently the Prefecture of Chania seems unable to afford the sustainability of the environment because tourism grows faster than environmental policies. On the contrary tourism spread all over the Island would produce an extended economy hence reducing overexploitation of its single part.
According to press reviews about this famous appointment, Italians’ choices are going towards four main areas: wine and food, culture, sport and nature. Furthermore, there are two other features to look for: the policy of saving money to support the economic situation and at the same time to finalize them for deep research on alternative and sustainable holidays. From our point of view, according to what is often expressed by most of the Italian tourists, Greece should also invest more in urban and extra-urban road infrastructures to enhance the local mobility. More rules should be respected: for example, the use of helmets for motorcyclists and the use of seatbelts for drivers. Furthermore, educational campaigns should be evaluated in order to change behavior on the roads and more."
The final word comes from an authority of tourism:
“... tourism development must match the needs and aspirations of international tourism with the peculiarities of the host areas today and in the future” (M. J. Stabler, Tourism & Sustainability, Principles to Practice, 1997)."
The above discussion provides some motivation for what could be changed. The observations were made by college students. It's not rocket science, is it?

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