Select Italy adds Tower of Pisa to ticketing roster

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NEW YORK -- Ten months after the Leaning Tower of Pisa reopened following a 12-year, $25 million restoration, the crowds that used to jostle for a chance to scale the famously skewed, eight-story structure have returned.

Although access to the tilted belfry is more strictly controlled than before -- with guided groups of no more than 40 at a time allowed -- pent-up demand has lengthened lines at the ticket office.

But agents can try to ensure clients speedy entrance to the tower prior to their departure for Italy now that upscale tour and FIT operator Select Italy has added the tower to its online advance museum reservations and ticketing service.

Select Italy added advance reservations for tours of the recently reopened Leaning Tower of Pisa. Tower of Pisa tickets are just one of more than 30 advance-ticketing or reservations offerings from Wilmette, Ill.-based Select Italy; the company also recently added reservations for tours of the Vatican Museums and Venice Card visitors' passes to its product roster.

Advance ticketing and reservations also available for the Uffizi Gallery, Academy Gallery, Medici Chapel and Boboli Gardens in Florence, and tickets and reservations for the Vatican Necropolis and Capitoline Museums -- with reservations only for the Vatican Garden and a papal audience -- in Rome and Vatican City.

Select Italy also arranges tickets and reservations for viewings of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" in Milan, among other attractions, and packages institutions together in "combo" tickets.

Of course, such convenience comes at a price, and there's a $10 booking fee incorporated in the price of each advance ticket and for most reservations, as well as a $50 flat fee -- not including entrance -- for reservations at the Vatican.

Thus, entrance to the Tower of Pisa, priced at $15 per person on-site, costs about $25 when booked with Select Italy.

But many clients have been more than happy to fork over the extra cash, said Andrea Sertoli, president of the firm, which also specializes in luxury and personalized FIT itineraries and special-interest escorted tours to Italy.

"When clients go to the Uffizi and skip the lines, they're very happy," he said.

Sertoli said he developed the service in response to client inquiries about the all-in-one discount visitor cards that are common throughout most of Europe, but rare in Italy.

"We've had clients say they were able to get a single pass in Paris that allowed access like a credit card does," he said. "[But] Italy's not like that; most museums are under different administrations, which follow different procedures."

Additional perks for clients include the walking maps, discount coupons and event listings included in ticket packets.

And there's added incentive for travel agents to reserve tickets ahead, as well.

Although advance museum tickets also are available from some online ticket offices -- such as the official Tower of Pisa site, at www.opapisa.it/boxoffice, where advance tickets cost about $17 each -- booking through Select Italy lets agents earn commission on otherwise nonlucrative sales.

But patience is essential; rather than write a 10% commission check for $1.90 on each $19 ticket, the company sends agents $50 every time a block of $500 in tickets has been sold.

"It must be looked at as a long-term collaboration," said Soleri. "Agents might not be able to buy a Ferrari with the commission, but it contributes to their stream of income."

For more information or reservations, contact Select Italy at (800) 877-1755 or visit www.selectitaly.com.

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