Saturday, January 19, 2008

Italian virtual Yellow Pages

Now here is one cool tool for your Italian travel, especially if you are planning your own trip. It is the newish (still in beta) virtual version of the Italian yellow pages.

First of all, if you don't know Italian, look in the lower right corner of the home page where the versions in other languages are found, cleverly concealed in abbreviations with tiny font size: English will be the second ("en"). Be aware, however, that as so often happens (alas, life is so difficult), the translated versions are not equivalent to the original. Not only that, but in this case as in others, at a certain point, the translated version reverts to the Italian, as if it were a real-life person pooped out by having to speak in a foreign language. This will happen, for example, when you go to use the reservation feature.

So. You can search both by person and by business. And businesses and other organizations can be searched by Category e.g. hotels, restaurants. Once you've found your hit, it will show the person or business location on a map. Here's the fun part. You can zoom in (like Google Earth) and it will show you a street-level (or nearly) photo of the place. I played around with the feature for Venice, and it clearly showed that one inexpensive hotel near the station was right next to an enormous parking lot. Not everyone's idea of that romantic venue.

Once you've got, say, your hotel (which you may have obtained through other research), zero in on the hotel, and find restaurants and all sorts of other amenities nearby, including "events". You could even combine the people search and the business search: if you know someone in Italy, zoom in on them, then find hotels nearby. For each business listing, besides the map and zoom for your voyeuristic pleasure, you will find the phone number, e-mail, website, how to get from one location to another, and reservation utility (they take Visa and Mastercard). You will sometimes have the option of making reservations either through the Yellow Pages or through the business's site itself.

Check it out. Even if you're not going to Italy anytime soon, you can take a fun peek at your favorite city. Again, remember that it's still in beta, and like all things, fraught with imperfection. Alas.