Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Best Way to Visit Italy

I'm just having some rambling thoughts on what to advise people who want to visit Italy. Lately it seems the fashion is slow food and slow travel. I read a lot about how it's best to select a couple of spots you want to stay in and just stay in them and do your traveling in day trips. That way you can really get to know an area and get a real feeling for the Italian way of life and for Italians. Well that sounds good, but really it's probably just the latest fashion BS. I mean really I've been living in Italy almost six years now and visiting it around fifteen before that. My Italian wife still tells me I don't really understand the Italian mentality or how things are done in Italy. I don't completely agree with her but she has a point.

Say you spend two weeks and stay in just a couple of spots, you are probably going to stay in some B&B run by an American or English expat. They will make you comfortable in their restored old Italian farm house with the swimming pool and the maid service. They will introduce you to some great Italian food and maybe help you find the local tourist spots and tell you how the life in Italy is all about food and drink. It's a fantasy picture of Italy, kind of a trip to Disneyland with real buildings not scaled down models and real people not actors - well many of the Italians you will meet may well be putting on an act for the tourists. I will write more about the real life in Italy in another post - it's not negative just different from the myth perpetuated by the blogger owners of B&B's.

Now the slow food travel kind of trip is nice for those who can afford to come back often. But lets say you are not so rich. It's your once or twice in a lifetime trip. What do you want to go home with, a bunch of pictures of the rolling hills of Tuscany or some memories of the most famous sights in Italy, some which are the most famous in the World. I'm guessing a lot of people maybe most would rather say they saw the leaning tower of Pisa, Rome, the Vatican, Florence, Milan, Venice and a bunch of other things along the way. Yeah you will get tired on this trip, it's not going to be that relaxing, but you will go home with lots of memories, lots of pictures and maybe a better picture of the real Italy. You will see the traffic, the crazy drivers, the crowded trains, the dirty restrooms. You will have to buy a coffee just so you can go pee. But you will also see the beauty of Italy, you will see it's heritage, it's landscape, it's texture, it's art and it's architecture. You will see it's people living their real lives, you might get helped in difficult situations, or you might have to push your way onto a crowded train, if you happen to have a baby in a stroller you will get helped down the subway stairs in Rome, you will get hassled by beggars, you will see students going back and forth to school in the trains, you will see the blank faces on the subway in Milan and you might just get a glimpse of a fashion model in photo shut. In the end you probably won't have a neutral picture of Italy you will probably love or hate it.

By the way I love Italy.

1 comment:

  1. One thing I LOVE about living in Italy is how so many people offer to help me when I have the kids. What you said about the stroller is true here in Vicenza, too. There is always someone who volunteers their seat on the bus or holds the door at the store or something like that. And they, men & women, also compliment me on my children. That rarely happened in the States.