Friday, December 03, 2010

My Idea of (Italian) Travel Suicide...


I recently came across a tour offering the following:


Rome – Assisi – Siena – Florence – Bologna – Padova – Venice – Region of Chianti – Montepulciano – Rome – Naples – Pompeii – Sorrento – Capri – Rome - IN 10 DAYS!!!


I immediately let out a shrill of disgust at my computer (as if would reach the the tour company from cyber space, ha!), then sat back and begin to think about this marathon vacation. In one day they plan to go from Florence to visit Bologna then Padova and eventually end up in Venice. Now that’s just crazy. Actually, I’ll take it a step further...that’s just irresponsible travel.


While I realize and empathize with the fact that Americans have very limited vacation time, it needs to be stated loud and clear that:


VACATION SHOULD BE ABOUT QUALITY NOT QUANTITY.


Yes, Italy has almost too much to offer, but the above will make it nothing more than a blur. Here are some suggestions to avoid travel suicide:

  • With one week, choose no more than 2 destinations, but ideally just one. You will be amazed at how much to can do and see from a villa in Tuscany, or taking nearby day trips.
  • With a two week vacation, choose no more than 4 destinations (2-3 being more ideal). Otherwise, you start spending more time getting from point A to point B, rather than enjoying where you are.
  • Do not think you have to “conquer” the Big Three (Rome, Florence and Venice). Mixing a city with a few days in the countryside or the sea gives you very different perspectives of Italian lifestyle. Mixing one city, one countryside area and one seaside resort in 2 weeks is excellent in my opinion (May - September).
  • Do not cram tour after tour into each destination. If in Rome, sure, do a 1/2 day tour of Ancient Rome and a 1/2 day tour of the Vatican, but leave the other half of those days free to explore on your own. People watching in a cafe in a lovely piazza can be just as rewarding as seeing the Sistine Chapel, again, in my opinion.
  • Do not think that the restaurants in guidebooks are the (only) way to go. Ok, I write for a couple of guidebooks so you may find this strange. But even though we writers suggest places that are of quality, they often become “tourist only” places after a while. It doesn’t mean they are bad, just maybe not as “authentic Italian” as before the book’s publication or as you might be expecting. Instead, search some blogs on Italy and you are bound to find lots of little gastronomic gems not frequented by “that guy with the backpack” and his followers (sorry, couldn’t help myself on that one).
  • Leave time for some rest. Even if you are taking it at a slower pace, you body has been jilted with jet lag, you are eating new and different foods and probably drinking a good amount of Italian wine. Do like the Italians and enjoy a “pisolino” (nap) or two. Italy won’t pass you by while you sleep and you will be more refreshed afterwards to “soak up the local atmosphere”.
  • If you are a workout fanatic, first know you will not be keeping your same regiment up while on vacation. It just doesn’t happen. But for some exercise, take it outside!. What better way to see real Italy than an early morning power walk? You are bound to come across many lively and intimate scenes (i.e. - best time to pass by a fish market, see the old men getting caffè in a bar, watch the parents taking there kids to school, see people setting up shop for the day, real life Italy!

I am sure if I had a bit more time this morning, I could come up with many more suggestions and hope to add to this list eventually. And I would love to hear from any of you out there with further recommendations.


Bottom line is trying to do too much in too little time = (Italian) Travel Suicide. Just don’t do it.

14 comments:

Jill said...

Well said, Megan. We were in Italy two full weeks and did Parma/Bologna, Cinque Terre, and Piemonte and I felt as though we could have used more time in all three areas! As it was, we weren't rushed (thanks to your sage advice)and had time to enjoy the vineyards and coffee an gelato on the side streets of Alba, and even a chance to revisit our favorite restaurants. Why? Because we were there long enough to do so. Italy is a country that begs to soak in slowly so you get the true essence. Whirlwind sightseeing checklists - what were they thinking?

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

Totally agree, and your suggestion to look at blogs is *wonderful* IMHO. It's not like it was five or even ten years ago where you *had* to rely on guidebooks...now if you look hard enough, you'll find recommendations from people actually living in the places you'll visit -- and even if they don't write about them, you can always ask via email.

Polideuce said...

deve essere un tour per maratoneti, oppure è seguito da un centro, movente, per la rianimazione; c'è da vedere se compreso nel prezzo offrono anche una bombola d'ossigeno.
Oppure fa parte di un programma dimagrante "dieci chili in dieci giorni"; delle località segnate si vede, magari, solo il cartello di località ma si torna a casa più magri :D

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

You are spot on Megan , .. we book a villa and see all that we can see in that area .. or on the same coastline like Liguria .. we had 10 days , and spend also a lot of time where the locals go, the best way.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I agree a hundred percent!!

Just looking at that tour schedule stresses me out, much less being on it.

leslie said...

We were in Italy several years ago and decided to rent an apartment in Venice for a week and then a house in Tuscany for a week. Many people said we were crazy to stay in Venice a whole week, weren't we bored?? of course not! We took day trips out some days and were able to really settle in to the city. Just like you said, we could take naps, cook at "home" each night. Come and go like we really lived there. From the Tuscany house, we drove to a different city each day to explore. We had a list of things we wanted to see, but they were not mandatory. Whatever we felt like doing each day, we did. By the end of that second week, we felt daring enough to see Cinque Terre and it wasn't a stressful rushed day. We just went from town to town to town not knowing if we would see them all, but enjoying the process. I am currently planning a trip for next fall and plan on exactly what you described. Starting in Rome and spending time at the beach as well, traveling between two destinations (spending one week in each) and maybe adding a third week if we can manage. Thanks for your wonderful post!!

Kelly said...

Amen. We've been twice and take that approach and will again when we go back.

Martha Bates and Mike Mazzaschi said...

The got-to-see-it bug affects Italians too. We knew a couple from Treviso who spent two weeks in August with a rented camper and a five year old. They started in Boston and drove the Maine coast, New Brunswick coast, and completely around Nova Sotia and back to Boston. They all seem so close on the little map.

Valerie said...

Agree - I ran across a couple in last year who had a "must see" agenda. They were quite a bit older than me, but I'm quit energetic for a retired military woman; this schedule was similar to theirs, and it wore me out just looking at it. I tried to explain the joys of trying to "sink in" to a place for a few days and enjoy different aspects & discoveries - to really experience the place. I got glazed eyes, blank stares as they rushed to catch a train. I went back to my coffee, grateful for learning how to appreciate traveling from the heart, and not just "been there, seen that" checklist tourism ... if that makes sense. You ladies get it.

Jane said...

Excellent article. Too bad it can't get publicized somewhere. ST should ad it to whatever section it belongs.

Cathi said...

I agree with you, I love to stay a week or so and explore the towns on my own. We are going to Italy this coming summer and I am trying to decide where to go for our first trip. It's overwhelming to narrow it down as we'd like to see it all, but I refuse to run myself ragged instead I want to leisurely enjoy my holiday! xxoo :)

Gil said...

Reminds me of our 1st trip there - Rome, Florence, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Shena, Rome, Scauri, Naples, Pompeii, Scauri, Sarno, Nola, Amalfi Coast, Calabria, Sicily about four places, ferry from Palermo to Naples and back to Florence.

Megan in Liguria said...

Thank you everyone for your responses. I received a lot of feedback regarding this and am glad to know so many people agree. Vacation is too short to not enjoy!

risamay said...

Found this post via Haven in Paris' highlight of it on Facebook. Couldn't agree more with your preferred mode of travel and suggestions.