Italy full - come back later.

Jun 24th, 2007, 06:30 PM
  #21  
 
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I have been to Italy 7 times since 2003, and I can't believe the massive explosion of tourism, just in the very recent four years since my first trip! If you haven't been in certain parts of Italy at the height of the summer season, you cannot begin to fathom the crowds.


The problem is that most of these folks are visiting the Big Three - Rome, Florence and Venice, and these cities are being crushed by the stress. The same goes for the Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast. Something is surely being lost in the frenzy. Maybe the point of it all?

The previous posters have made some insightful comments about the many factors that have brought this about - the economic growth of Eastern Europe, the impact of low-cost European carriers, and yes, the influx of Chinese tourists, which is only bound to increase over the next decade, throughout Europe.

Sorry to offend the cruisers out there, but I find this particular type of tourism to be the most destructive and even pointless. These ships dock for a day, belching out thousands and thousands of people who cannot possibly have any sort of thoughtful, enjoyable experience, even if they are well-intentioned. They move in, wait on lines, and move right out again. There is an environmental impact, and an emotional impact, on the local community. The economic impact seems to be the only thing that matters, unfortunately. Or maybe it has all happened so fast, Italians haven't had a chance to deal with it.

Tourism is wonderful, but it can also be very, very destructive. I agree very much with the comment that Italy is being loved to death. I really hope that Italians can catch their breath soon enough to take stock of the impact and set limits to protect their beautiful land and priceless treasures.


faredolce is offline  
Jun 24th, 2007, 07:07 PM
  #22  
 
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Venice had suffered greatly long ago - seeing video of giant cruise ships entering the lagoon is instantly depressing: for one thing, they destroy the scale of the Serenissima. This city with no high-rises is suddenly in the shadow of a 100=ft high ship ... not to mention the degradation of the infrastructure by the wave action etc.

Venice's actual population is a fourth what it was 15 years ago = some flee the flood, many flee the flood of men and women.

For myself, I hope Rome will survive us as well as he (I think of Roma as a masculine place, like it's namesake) has survived the millennia. The whole world, though, seems to have leisure time to spare and plenty of disposable income ... and this may be the result. Until they (we) have all gone home and said, "Don't go! It's too crowded!!"
tomassocroccante is offline  
Jun 24th, 2007, 07:16 PM
  #23  
 
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I was sooooo dismayed by the crowds in Florence in mid-May, it was hellish and hot; not enjoyable at all. Cannot imagine being there in the height of summer. I spent 4 nights in Florence and fled to the countryside for 2 of those days juts to get away from the heat and the jam packed streets. Cinque Terre was an absolute mob scene during the daytime in mid-May, too.

Rome the first week in May was very manageable, it did not feel overcrowded and did not have to wait in any lines.

The Santa Margherita-Rapallo area was delightful. I hope this doesnt turn into the next boom destination.

Poor Venice is being trampled. And yes, the ginormous cruise ships that steam through the lagoon are seem like a disaster-in-the-making.
vivi is offline  
Jun 25th, 2007, 05:00 AM
  #24  
 
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What I am about to say may be contraversial because lets face it being on this site implies that we all love travel.

Is there any point following the masses to tick off more big name destinations when the countries we travel to are usually full of lesser name gems that have still retained there character. The crowds are one issue. A second (and just as impacting issue) is the explosion in world cuture. I may be wrong but I didn't notice much difference beteen the Starbuck in Kitsilano (Vancouver), Palma Mallorca or indeed the one down the road from me at home.

More contraversially is it really worth queuing for hours to view art in the flesh when the images are readily available elsewhere. I agree it difficult to appreciate sculptures in anything but the flesh. I suppose what I am trying to say is that an evening in a quiet restaurant with a supurb view from an unknown Tuscan hill town stays with me for ever. I have soon forgotten the hours we have spent being pushed in a crowd in 110of.

I suggest we all go find our little piece of heaven and keep it to ourself.

by the may Vivi, I am absolutely shocked to hear of crowds in May - we usually advise people to travel in May/ September to avoid the masses. I hadn't realised things had got so bad!
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Jun 25th, 2007, 05:08 AM
  #25  
ira
 
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I guess that we will have to have a UN committee arrange a visitor's schedule for each country.

Sort of like owning a timeshare apt.

Canadians get to go in June, 2009, but February, 2010, etc...

ira is offline  
Jun 25th, 2007, 05:39 AM
  #26  
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Everyone here speaks the truth about the tourist explosion in what I consider to be just THREE years. It is distressing. This is the first year we have ever seen Asian tourists in Positano, no disrespect intended. We had intended to go back to the Amalfi coast next year, but I'm over it....can't even move. We took some friends with us on this trip who had never been to Italy (one had never been to Europe) and I think my raves about the glory of Rome was truly questioned because it was such a crazy zoo. The piazza around the Pantheon where we stayed was a mass of humanity, buskers, tour groups, annoying guys shooting some sort of cheap toys into the crowds, knock-off purse sellers everywhere, touts trying to sell their crap or get you into their restaurants.....Oy. And I admit to being part of the problem!
rbnwdln is offline  
Jun 25th, 2007, 05:57 AM
  #27  
 
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It isn't just about one nationality or another, although the Chinese and their new-found ability to travel are going to impact every corner of the globe, simply because of their sheer numbers. The internet certainly is making the world seem more accessible, and making travel easier. We know more, so we want to do more. I mean, look at this website and forum....we are all part of the machinery.

Italy contains a huge concentration of the world's artistic and historical treasures...it is a very appealing and romantic place (on the surface, . It is up to the Italians to manage this, and my impression is that they haven't quite figured that out yet. How do you control what amounts to an annual "invasion?"
faredolce is offline  
Jun 25th, 2007, 05:59 AM
  #28  
 
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My first time in Rome in 99 was rather what people are describing now: Saturday in mid September, and the Fontana di Trevi looked like a scene out of a movie - a spooky movie - masses of people sat all around the rim, scores of others stood and milled around and took pictures. There was barely room to walk through, let alone see the thing or genuinely appreciate it. (one expects to see many people, but ... whoa!)

All the "must sees" were like that. Every other place, not so bad.

2 years later I was back. October 2001, a month after the 9/11 attacks, and of course American tourism was down sharply. That may have been even more relevant than the October date to the ease of movement in Rome and other towns. Even so, tourists from elsewhere kept things hopping and there were some lines.

Markrosy has it right. Rome is one city where you can fill a week seeing items 15-30 on your list, and ultimately not miss 1-14. Ditto with passing by the most popular hill town and driving to the lesser known one. (But how long, if this traveler-multiplication continues, before there is no lovely little town without a tour bus stopping every hour?)

My other suggestion if in a city is to start out early! Sites that don't have "opening hours", such as fountains, landmarks, architecture, etc, can sometimes be best enjoyed at 7:00 or 8:00 AM So get a coffee, get out, then have your breakfast, continue your activities, and at lunch time, take a siesta!

Another thing that can help is to choose a hotel this is, frankly, less central. Not one you have to bus to, but one perhaps a bad choice for tour groups. Being in a hotel with no large groups hanging around gives one a different feeling, for sure!

In SUMMERTIME, Kathering Hepburn's character Jane Hudson arrives at the Venice pensione and tells the owner, "I'm so glad I'm here and not in some hotel full of tourists - like me."
tomassocroccante is offline  
Jun 25th, 2007, 06:10 AM
  #29  
aj
 
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Third trip to Italy and Rome was really hot and crowded in Mid May. Still a wonderful city to see...
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Jun 25th, 2007, 06:12 AM
  #30  
 
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ditto Tom!!!!!!

When I first started frequenting Italy...in '92, it was pretty PACKED...perhaps there were a few years more recetly that were a bit quieter...but Rome, Venice and Florence were about as crowded, IMHO, as they are now.

I was in Venice for Carnival in '95 (I think - could have been '94 or '96 - I'm bad with dates!!) and they stopped all trains in Mestre and did not let any more people in Venice becasue it was FULL. It really can't get more crowded that FULL.

Rome and Naples were delightfully EMPTY last Feb. - barely a wait for anything...and we never, ever had trouble finding a great spot to eat or a seat on the bus, etc. Venice in November is QUIET!!! ok...it's NEVER queit from the train station-St.Marks...but gee...wander a few minutes in either direction and you won't run into anyone.

Try Amalfi in winter...it's heavenly and EMPTY. There was no one even near the beach...we were the only table in restaurants,etc. (as oppossed to a college spring break I spent there years ago...couldn't WALK down the street...let alone get to the beach!! Amalfi is not a new find...it has been jam packed for ages!)

also try the tourist sites off-season...we were THE ONLY TOURISTS the afternoon we spent at Peastum (!) as we were leaving, one other family showed up...there were some locals out for an afternoon walk around the ruins...the caretakers/ticket takers were sittting playing CARDS at the enterance...but that's it. Pompeii was EMPTY too...we wandered many streets totally alone...ok...it WAS chilly and raining that day ;-) but it's a trade-off!
CasaDelCipresso is offline  
Jun 25th, 2007, 06:41 AM
  #31  
 
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My father and husband just got back from Rome last night. We rented a flat a block from the Vatican (towards Trastevere) so the area was quite peaceful, just enough people (priest and nun!) watching to make it interesting. What I'm reminded by this thread is the number of people advising first timers on Fodors not to stay in the Vatican area because it's "too far" from all the main bits in Rome. I figured that it was no different to staying near the Eiffel Tower in Paris and having to walk to the Louvre. I think I proved myself right. It was delightful to be away from the crowds and still be in Rome. In future, I think I will always stay on the other side of the Tiber. Maybe that's one way of dealing with this travel stress? Personally, I don't want to visit Italy in the winter. I love the heat and sun - that's why I go to the Med in the summer. So many times this weekend we walked around empty streets just near Trevi, Spanish Steps, etc. Sure, all these areas were packed but the streets around them were not. Many churches were empty and a peaceful retreat from the sun and crowds. We never had a problem getting a table for dinner. We did a fuss-free tour of the Vatican museum which worked extremely well. Otherwise, we just wandered.

We live in London so maybe crowds don't bother us? Everyone this morning told me I missed an horrific weekend full of rain. In Rome, it was sun everyday and 30C! So, I'm really glad we went despite the heat, crowds, cruise ship passengers...

I did feel sorry for the people of Rome. They can't help being the custodians of some of the world's most important cultural, historical and artistic treasures that the rest of us want to see!
endlessummer is offline  
Jun 25th, 2007, 06:45 AM
  #32  
 
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Another great aspect to off-season travel is that the the people in tourist areas are actually happier to see you. Not surprisingly, a city overrun with tourists can be evenmore frustrating to residents who have to deal with those throngs every day - along with the large number of tourists who are, frankly, clueless. (All Fodorites excepted! Even the most novice traveler here has taken the first step to knowing more about their destination.)

Paris over Thanksgiving: very little business travel from US that week, and little tourist travel, too. And being removed by a month or two from the peak, the waiters and hotel staff have had a chance to rest up a bit!
tomassocroccante is offline  
Jun 25th, 2007, 07:02 AM
  #33  
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Have to disagree with the poster who wrote that Rome was "empty" in February. I thought it was jammed. There were huge lines at the Colosseum -- so much so that my jaded son, who'd seen it five years ago decided to pass. Unfortunately he did not feel the same way about the Vatican Museums, which not only grew long admission lines, but were so packed as to be nearly unendurable. We won't be back except for an after-hours tour, if the Vatican's new admission policy doesn't help.

Further, the streets of the old city were teeming with tour groups, fellow Americans prominent among them. Colored umbrellas and flags waving in the air. It could be hard to walk, and even the normally homicidal taxi drivers were brought to a halt.

There were even herds at Ostia.

Mostly, it's still worth it for me, but a lot of the charm is missing. However, my next trip will be well south of Naples/Amalfi.
 
Jun 25th, 2007, 07:38 AM
  #34  
 
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The variety of reports in the posts prove that the experience can change not just from month to month, but week to week.

One thing often heard is "the weather was great" or "it was insufferably hot" etc. Remember the expression "as changeable as the weather"?

Here in NYC I KNOW the expeerience can be greatly altered by the weatther. Visiting a place during a few days of heavy rain can be a trip-killer. Heat or extreme cold can take some of the fun out of things, too.

Again, a great help in hot weather is to start early, and take a good break midday if possible.

Also, don't overschedule your day!
tomassocroccante is offline  
Jun 25th, 2007, 09:49 AM
  #35  
 
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endlesssummer, my Roman friends live in the lovely neighborhood behind the Vatican - as you say, not in the center, but not terribly far. I've stayed on the Aventine and found it a real treat to feel more like I was "going home" at the end of the day (even to a hotel), rather than staying in the thick of the action.

Of course, Rome's sights are spread throughout the city - maybe staying equidistant from everything would be good if you're on a tight schedule - but a tight schedule in Rome is kind of a shame.
tomassocroccante is offline  
Jun 25th, 2007, 09:43 PM
  #36  
 
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Here's a bit of grist for the mill: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/26/wo...pe/26rome.html
kerouac is online now  
Jun 25th, 2007, 10:08 PM
  #37  
 
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Kerouac, thanks very much for that. Everyone who has been posting here will find it very interesting.
I have to say it breaks my heart.

The drunks, the spring breakers, the soccer hooligans are all of a piece.

The fact that a young Italian points out that "the piazza is for everyone" in defense of this is sad, but pretty much on a par with others, young and old, who believe that anything that restricts their "right" to behave like a moron is somehow undemocratic. Never mind how many others rights are trampled. (Living on a street with a few restaurants and bars, I get to hear them in action on a regular basis.)

I hope the Romans work it out. We haven't done much better a lot of places around here - and unfortunately, we know instinctively that a lot of Americans are in on it.
tomassocroccante is offline  
Jun 26th, 2007, 02:51 AM
  #38  
 
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Yeah, that was pretty depressing.

I was shocked on my last two visits to Rome to see a marked increase in this type of "spring break" behavior" - not by tourists, but by young Italians. Then again, I was also shocked by some of the stuff I saw on Italian MTV.

There is a line that has been crossed, from a communal, festive piazza crowd, to something that looks and feels gross. I do remember when public drinking and public drunkeness was not something you saw very much of in Rome.

We have successfully imported to Italy the worst aspects of American youth culture. Great.
faredolce is offline  
Jun 26th, 2007, 03:40 AM
  #39  
ira
 
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>We have successfully imported to Italy the worst aspects of American youth culture.<

Ummmmmmmmmmmm.

Why blame it on Americans?

ira is offline  
Jun 26th, 2007, 04:11 AM
  #40  
 
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I am planning a trip to Capri, Positano and Amalfi for 2008. I want to have the best possible experience so don't want hot and crowded but would like to swim in a pool and be able to get to Capri on the boat -- when would be a good time to go and when can the boats make it fairly reliably. I am looking at the Caesar Augustus in Capri (Ana Capri actually) and if paying that price would really like to enjoy wandering gardens and looking at the views in relative peace. I was at first thinking early May because of the swimming but what would you advise? I still want to see flowers and sunshine
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