Recently family travel blogger BigBraveNomad posted a story on Instagram highlighting the throngs of crowds filling the piazza along the Trevi Fountain.
“Fact: this is what Rome is really like. Everywhere. It’s INSANELY packed,” it said, and then “Again: flooded with people. Ps. I am not complaining. Everyone deserves to visit all of these famous spots. Everyone. Tourists are a part of travel. I am also a tourist, sooooo!”
Followed by: “we are definitely tourists too.”
And to think that she’s technically traveling in the shoulder season.
I hate crowds. In fact, I didn’t particularly enjoy Venice the first time I went. I felt stressed and overwhelmed by the shoulder-to-shoulder throngs of people that corralled over bridges and pushed into alleyways. Last June’s visit to Florence was a complete disappointment and I’d rather not go to the Amalfi Coast at all than go in August. But also, that’s my choice and I have definitely been a tourist in high season before.
My first visit to Italy was in August and we hit only the big cities: Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan. It was packed but I was so thrilled to see Italy that I barely noticed. That’s when we were able to visit and we still had a lovely trip.
Because the best time to go to Italy is whenever you’re able to go.
Just know before you come that Italy is swamped with visitors and if you travel in summer that’s just something you’ll have to deal with.
Cities like Cinque Terre and Venice are experimenting with different crowd control measures and lines for the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica can boast four-hour waits. Small towns like San Gimignano exist only for the tourists and Positano is so en vogue that it’s considered the most expensive European summer destination for accommodation. All of this not only changes the experience of your trip, but it also changes the destination.
And in the era of over-tourism, there are a few things to consider when we travel.
We should, of course, consider when we visit each place. We should also consider, of course, how.
Because far too often we see the Ugly American Tourist, as Rick Steves calls it, or risk being one ourselves. When we fill these historical monuments and ancient piazze and small towns to tour and take pictures and experience it for ourselves, we need to consider the life that was there before us.
“Ugly tourism is a disease,” Steves writes, “but fortunately there is a cure: a change in attitude.
The fact of the matter is, there is no way to completely avoid the crowds in Italy in summertime, but you can still find the charm.
You can still make your trip personal. You can still separate yourself from the crowds even if you’re actually among them. You can still find oases of peace and towns with an acceptable amount of visitors.
Stay later or longer. Linger. Learn the language. Book ahead to skip the lines. Know the history of what you’re looking at. Go to the lesser-known towns and churches and museums.
And no matter what remember that BigBraveNomad is right: we’re all tourists and we all have the right to see these wonderful destinations!