Can technology help you on your European vacation? 

ROME — “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” the saying goes.

But what if you’re only in the Italian capital for a day and want to soak up as much of its history and culture as possible?

Of course, you can take a few hours to plan your trip or you can try to book a tour guide to show you around. “The Eternal City.”

But now there is a third option: tourism apps, websites and chatbots that use artificial intelligence to personalize user itineraries based on their preferences and time.

They appear at a node rate, so NBC News decided to put three of them to the test.

We decided to try ChatGPT, a quirky chatbot developed by artificial intelligence company OpenAI that was not specifically designed for travel planning. With similar programs, his mastery comes largely from being trained on giant treasure troves of text fetched from the internet, but he lacks the ability to filter out what is right or wrong and has done the headlines for the past few months because of some of his controversial and upsetting responses.

We also used, an app you can download to your phone, and, a chatbot and route planner that uses OpenAI’s GPT technology to help you personalize your trip.

Our choices were based on recommendations from technology websites.

Let’s just say the results were mixed at best.

Our day started at La Bottega del Caffé, a bar and restaurant in Piazza Madonna dei Monti, a pedestrian square in a bohemian neighborhood near the Colosseum and the Forum.

Under the bright spring morning sun, we opened our phones and downloaded, a “smart trip planner” app that claims to produce “a tailor-made trip plan for any type of trip”, in just a few minutes. . seconds.

With a simple and user-friendly interface, the app allowed us to choose the city, the number of days we spent there, our interests, our budget and the time of day we wanted to use it. Without using long sentences it was also linked to google maps so you can read the reviews.

In the time it takes to drink an espresso, a detailed itinerary has appeared for the day and night, including a list of some of Rome’s most popular landmarks like the Coliseum And Trevi Fountain. Restaurants for lunch and dinner as well as a bar for an evening aperitif were also among the suggestions.

So far, so good.

But a closer look at the schedules revealed a flaw.

The Pantheon in the historic center of Rome on December 27, 2022.Studio Ciancaphoto/Getty Images

Of course, you can visit St. Peter’s Square at 3 a.m., but be sure to wear running shoes. You could be chased by Swiss guards, because at this time the place is well and truly closed.

As for the Capitoline Museums, they definitely don’t open at 5:30 am. Four hours later, you’ll be fine.

You could also spend 120 minutes tossing coins into the Trevi Fountain, but your budget would have to be substantial and one or two in a few minutes would probably suffice.

Three hours in Piazza Navona would probably give enough time to eat in most of the many restaurants and do a few laps around the square to digest the food.

Needless to say, we ignored the timings, but decided to stick to the itinerary. We headed to the nearby Colosseum, and unsurprisingly, we weren’t the only ones with this idea. Lines were huge and tickets were sold out when we looked online.

At that, we opened ChatGPT and asked it to find us a place to go nearby. He suggested the Forum – the ruins of government buildings where elections, trials and processions were held in ancient Rome.

Again the rows were huge but to be fair to ChatGPT it is not designed as a real time feedback tool as its training data cuts off in 2021 and it cannot provide information on the hours or the weather.

However, it would be helpful if apps and chatbots could tell us about it and provide information on times and tickets for two of Rome’s biggest attractions.

In the end, a little local knowledge saved the day. A walk on a road next to the Forum brings you to a place where you can see the ancient ruins from afar. Not ideal, but better than nothing.

After the walk it was definitely time for some breakfast so we opened up and looked for an alternative route for the rest of the day. It also has a chatbot, which helps you narrow down questions so you can provide a more personalized answer.

The new recommended route “Da Enzo al 29”, a restaurant with a good reputation for its authentic Roman dishes and a favorite of locals in Trastevere, one of the most picturesque areas of the city.

But again, we encountered a similar problem: long queues. The family restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so people have been lying around for at least a block in the hope of getting a table.

But luckily a bit of local knowledge came to our aid once again as Roberto, one of the managers, recognized me as a former customer and without any prompting guided us to a table. recommended a cacio and pepe, and it was delicious. We continued with a tiramisu.

Tourists in front of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, March 26, 2023. Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

Feeling we needed a walk, we returned to He recommended we head to the narrow streets of Trastevere, which he says are “lined with colorful buildings and quaint shops.”

The streets were narrow, the buildings colorful, but the shops weren’t that quaint, except for an ice cream parlor, overlooking the beautiful Piazza Santa Maria.

Carbs and cobblers are a deadly mix, however. It’s time to stop for some culture, so we turned to ChatGPT.

“Where can I see art nearby?” I typed and we were directed to the Galleria Corsini, an art gallery with paintings by several Italian Renaissance masters, including Caravaggio and Raphael.

For once, no line. And after a frustrated day, that’s something to celebrate. Back to to ask about a wine bar, and where better than Il Goccetto. There we toast to the future of travel planning, despite one or two reservations.

In fairness, the developers are always perfecting the technology, and they make it clear that you should treat them as a guide rather than taking them as gospel.

Asked about some of the pitfalls we encountered, Drew Shepard, CEO of, said in an email that the company recognizes “there is always room for improvement.” He added that the company was “actively working to improve our user interface to provide a more engaging and accurate experience, incorporating features such as embedded links, maps and better-tailored suggestions.”

Salman Taghiakbari, CEO of, said something similar. “While ‘shopping-tourism’ is a difficult area for us, we plan to make improvements in this area, as well as in ‘gastronomy-tourism’ in version 2 of the application. This next phase will also allow users to book attractions directly through the app,” he said in an email.

On Friday, following NBC News’ visit, OpenAI temporarily took ChatGPT offline in Italy after the independent national data agency raised concerns about possible privacy breaches and for failing to verify that the users were 13 years of age or older, as she requested.

A ChatGPT spokesperson first directed us to his blogging plugins. In response to the regulator’s decision, the spokesperson said the company is “committed to protecting the privacy of individuals and we believe we are in compliance” with privacy laws.

“Our users in Italy have told us that they find ChatGPT useful for day-to-day tasks and we look forward to making it available again soon,” they said.

However, still works. A spokesperson said “we currently do not collect any user input fields or resulting results.”

Of course, everything is subjective. For me, AI provided a good starting point, but the technology is not there yet.

When in Rome…

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