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.