Hordes of tourists visit the Italian seaside with dreams of dipping into cobalt-blue waters and sunbathing for hours under glorious skies. Only one thing can spoil those idyllic holiday plans: rain.
But beginning this month, the Italian island of Elba, off the coast of Tuscany, started offering tourists an unexpected guarantee: Hotels will refund guests if it rains.
Elba, the largest island in the Tuscan Archipelago, is perhaps best known as the place where Napoleon spent almost 10 months in exile more than two centuries ago. The island started the good-weather initiative, called "Elba No Rain," this year: Guests receive a refund for one night if it rains for more than two hours on any given day during their stay.
If it rains every day for more than two hours at a time, then the whole stay will be free.
The offer isn't entirely new — a few hotels on the island already had similar initiatives in place — but encouraging all of the hotels on Elba to make the guarantee is intended "to minimise commercial damage due to weather forecasts," Claudio Della Lucia, an associate tourism manager for the island, said in an email Sunday.
One hotel refunded a day's booking to guests last year, but there have been no payouts since the islandwide initiative officially started two weeks ago, Della Lucia said.
Walter Tripicchio, manager of Hotel Scoglio Bianco, which is close to Portoferraio, Elba's largest town, said by phone of the initiative, "It is a good thing because we want to improve our selling and booking industry."
The hotel joined the programme last week, so it has yet to assess the impact that the campaign and the resulting increased attention on the island might have, he said.
Tourists may well ask: Just how much rain does Elba get? Though it has recently been cloudy and the temperature is usually not as warm around this time of year, Tripicchio said, there has been no need to put the initiative into effect so far.
"It is a small island with lots of wind, the weather is changing very fast, and it's very hard to rain for more than two hours a day," he acknowledged, adding, "It could happen, but not so often."
Della Lucia agreed. "In the last five years, in April, May, we had only two days with more than two hours of rain during the daytime," he said.
Tourists who scrutinise the fine print will learn that while taxes may be included in the refund, the cost of breakfast and dinner are not, Tripicchio, the hotel manager, said.
Hiking, snorkelling, birdwatching, biking: take in the most authentic scents of the Mediterranean and eat locally produced food on Elba island, Gorgona and Pianosa: https://t.co/e2hQiZEmAv— Visit Tuscany (@VisitTuscany) May 2, 2019
Pic IG daniele.fiaschi pic.twitter.com/CqffYJd4gi
Visitors will be compensated if the two-hour rainfall occurs between 10am and 8pm, he noted, adding, "Usually, it's raining during the night."
At this time of year, the waters around Elba are famously inviting. "The colour is changing — in some parts, the water is crystal blue, in other parts it's emerald," Tripicchio said. "In our bay, the water is blue navy, changing to azure, then cobalt blue and green."
Even without the compensation offer, there are plenty of options for activities on Elba that do not require a clear sky.
There are Napoleon's villas, the two residencies where he briefly lived in exile starting in 1814; an aquarium that is home to a vast variety of marine organisms; the mineral mines on the west and east of the island; and the Vigilanti Theater, among other attractions.
The island's rain refunds will stop at the end of May and begin again from September 15 through to the end of October, Della Lucia said. They will start anew in May 2020, he added.
Tripicchio said that most tourists didn't let rain spoil their visit.
"With French or tourists from North Europe — no problem," he said, explaining that in bad weather, they were often content to visit the Napoleonic sites or have a long walk in the woods.
But, he said, not his compatriots: "Italian people want to go to the beach."