One of the most popular reality shows in Italy right now is called 4 Hotel. While I’m not a huge fan of reality competition shows, I like 4 Hotel because it highlights the best places to visit in Italy.
4 Hotel: The Concept
In its fourth season, 4 Hotel (the plural doesn’t get an ‘s’ in Italian) is a great concept that was spun-off from another popular show called 4 Ristorianti. In each episode, host Bruno Barbieri visits four hotels of a certain type in a popular tourist area and stays there for one night and one day. He tests out the beds and bathrooms, surveys the public areas, tries the food, and takes advantage of the services, which range from spa sessions to local tours.
Joining him are the hoteliers from each of the four properties. All four stay in each others’ hotels and rate them according to four main criteria—location, services, room, and price. In season 4, they also rate each other on breakfast. The winner of each episode gets € 5,000 to be used to invest in and improve their business.
Like all reality shows, this one is not shy to play up some drama or to point out potentially embarrassing mistakes. For example, in one episode Barbieri finds a long hair in his bedding (the hotel changes the bedding immediately). The hotelier participants are also quick to criticize their competitors’ properties. But in general, the shows offer an interesting marketing opportunity for the hotels, no matter what flaws are exposed.
4 Hotel As Travel Show
The thing I really enjoy about 4 Hotel is how it highlights the wide variety of travel options that Italy offers. The episodes always open with a quick overview of each destination, with beautiful shots of landscapes, architecture, art, and food.
The first season of 4 Hotel featured boutique hotels in Florence, historic houses in Naples, and other properties and areas across six episodes.
Season 2 saw Barbieri stay in Trulli and masseria properties in Puglia and the best hotels in Valtellina, the mountainous area above Lake Como.
In season 3, Barbieri and his hotelier contestants stayed in the best hotels in the Sorrento Peninsula and at historic wine estates in Chianti.
Season 4, which began in May 2021, has so far focused on the best hotels in Venice, the best historic homes in the region of Tuscany, and ski lodges in Trentino Alto Adige. He will also visit hotels in Milan, Lecce, the Maremma subregion of Tuscany, Abruzzo, and Basilicata through season 4.
Who is Bruno Barbieri?
The main reason that 4 Hotel has been a hit in Italy is because of its host. Bruno Barbieri is a chef and TV host, best known as one of the judges on 10 seasons of MasterChef Italia. If you’re a fan of early seasons of US MasterChef, you can kind of compare him to Graham Elliott—the fun guy with the quirky glasses that knows about food but is generally gentle and kind to the contestants.
Barbieri also knows about hotels, having traveled around the world and Italy as a chef. He received two of his seven Michelin stars at Arquade, his restaurant inside the 5-star luxury hotel Relais Chateaux Villa del Quar near Verona. His latest restaurant venture is Fourghetti (reviews) in Bologna.
How to Watch 4 Hotel
If you don’t speak Italian, you may have trouble watching 4 Hotel. The show is currently only in Italian, though some episodes available on YouTube allow you to turn on auto-translations.
Here’s one of the latest episodes of 4 Hotel, set in Venice:
I don’t know if any other countries have yet to copy the the 4 Hotel concept. But I really think it could do well in so many places.
At the very least, I wish Sky would release these shows in syndication with English subtitles, perhaps in conjunction with the Italian Tourism Board and Netflix or the Travel Channel. I imagine that a lot of would-be travelers to Italy would love to watch it.