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Revenge travel is here. Not all tourist destinations are ready


We are here in Madrid - for work, of course - but it is clear that work isn't the only thing bringing people to Spain right now. The streets, the stores and cafes are filled. In fact, millions of people, tired of being stuck at home, are splurging on the trip of their dreams this summer. Adam Raney reports from Rome, Italy, on what's being called the summer of revenge travel.

ADAM RANEY, BYLINE: The rush of water at Rome's Trevi Fountain almost drowns out the sound of the crowds heaving this summer in a sign that travel is back big time in Italy. It was a Herculean task for Philadelphia firefighter Dana Gross (ph) to make it here. She and her husband had traveled regularly throughout the pandemic.

DANA GROSS: It was like, this is what you call a vacation. It was none of this here. You didn't have to wait in line. I mean, everybody was attentive. They was right there. It was like it was - the trip was just for you.

RANEY: With flights to Rome sold out, the couple flew to Venice and jump on high-speed trains every day to see the country. A few feet from Gross, New Yorker Natalie Zax (ph) squeezed to the edge of the fountain, made famous in films like "La Dolce Vita," to do what countless visitors to Rome have done before her. She made a wish and tossed a coin into the water. It would be taboo to ask Zax what she wished for, though fewer tourists would definitely be welcome.

NATALIE ZAX: Yeah. I was just at the Colosseum, and I actually had to leave early because the amount of people there was not worth the price of the tour. I couldn't even look over people to see our views.

RANEY: While Zax gave up on the Colosseum, Texan Andy Manthi (ph) is doing everything he can to get in. I find him at the entrance trying to book tickets online for him and his son. But Manthi hit a digital wall outside the ancient arena.

ANDY MANTHI: This is a nightmare. I'm trying to get Colosseum tickets. And I said two, do the robot thing, hit buy ticket, and it sends you back. Everybody's hitting the website at the same time, and it's just not being able to keep up. I don't know.

RANEY: As for a place to stay, he had to get creative.

MANTHI: This place is so packed you can't even get - Vrbos or rooms. I lucky - I got lucky. I've had to change rooms every night, but I'm at the same place.

ISABELLA RUGGIERO: (Non-English language spoken).

RANEY: The president of Italy's Professional Tour Guide Association (ph), Isabella Ruggiero, says even she is shocked by the explosion of visitors.

RUGGIERO: (Non-English language spoken).

RANEY: "Many large tour operators have bought up tickets to the main museums," she says. On some days, guides can't even find tickets to the most popular sites, so they have to cancel tours. These are just some of the difficulties heading to Europe right now. It's the summer of revenge travel - going somewhere, anywhere, after being stuck inside for two years by the pandemic.

ERIC ROSEN: But people are certainly booking travel again at levels that we haven't - we didn't even see before the pandemic.

RANEY: That's Eric Rosen from The Points Guy travel site.

ROSEN: They're paying a premium to book the trips that they want to take when they take them, figuring that they're not sure if or when another set of travel restrictions might be in place.

RANEY: According to international finance firm Allianz Partners, six times as many Americans will travel to Europe this year compared to 2021, and millions more than last year will travel to Italy.

Back at Trevi Fountain, firefighter Dana Gross says despite crowds and concerns over COVID, she wouldn't have missed this trip for the world.

GROSS: I didn't care. I was coming (laughter). I was coming anyway. And I had it planned. I was going to see everything.

RANEY: Her advice for people who have a similar travel bug?

GROSS: Go. Get out and go. Go, go, go, go, go (laughter).

RANEY: For NPR News, I'm Adam Raney in Rome.