Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Italy is not "alright"

Venice was a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, a staging area for the Crusades and an important center of commerce and art in the 13th century up to the end of the 17th century. I guess it's...alright....
Today at work my friend, B (the one who got proposed to in Paris), signed online to chat for a second while she and her fiance waited in Rome for their flight back home.

This was a big trip that meant more than just that new ring on her finger -- B and Co. had never been to Europe before. They'd saved up for nearly a year for this 10-day trip and were excited to finally see what all the fuss about Europe was about.  They spent the first three days and nights in Paris, which of course is one of the most amazing cities in the world and deserves much more time than just three days, but they adored it all the same. According to her, if she ever wins the lottery she's planning to buy a vacation home there (cue the millions of others -- including me -- who are pining for Parisian vacation homes of their own). 

With her second leg of the trip done, I asked today how she had liked Italy. Her answer?

"It was alright."

And this is basically how I inwardly (thus silently) responded to that answer: 

"Are you *%$@^$# kidding me?"

Okay, so maybe I'm a little biased about Italy. It is my favorite country on Earth and I've had many spectacular memories on that boot-shaped land mass, so perhaps I took it more personally than I should have. It's not like she was trying to insult me, after all, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I just don't think it's fair to spend only FIVE DAYS in an entire country and think you can make an accurate assessment about it -- especially a country as culturally and historically rich as Italy. (This same thinking would go for any European country. No wonder she liked the city of Paris since she spent three whole days there, almost the equivalent amount of time she spent exploring the entire country of Italy.) 

After leaving Paris a day later than expected due to an airport strike, B and Co. arrived in Venice at 6pm and left the following morning. Venice is one of my favorite cities and I know for a fact that you absolutely can't see it all in under three days, minus in under 24 hours. But c'est la vie. Next stop for them was two nights in Florence, which she said "wasn't what she expected." When I asked what she was expecting, she described something that sounded more like the real Tuscan countryside, a medieval village like Sienna perhaps, surrounded by rolling vineyards and picnic baskets and people pedaling past on old Italian bicycles with baskets full of produce attached to the fronts. Regardless -- Florence is an awesome city! Even if it's not what you expected, the difference in perception versus reality is delightful on its own. 

ANYWAY, they spent their last two nights in Rome (only two nights for the former capital of the world -- I'm dying inside!) She said she liked it but it was too touristy. Again, wrong time of year to go, and what did she expect? It's still warm there and the summer crowds are only beginning to wind down since there's...well...a lot to see there. It was, at one time, only the capital of the entire Roman Empire for, oh, 700 years.

No offense to B, but I guess my problem is that I hate when people go Europe (or anywhere, really) for the first time, try to cram 3,000 cities into a week or two, and then grumble about how it wasn't that great, or it wasn't what they expected it to be, or it was just "alright." No one could possibly capture the essence of any one of those sprawling cities in so little time.

So no. Italy is not "alright." It's fabulous.


  1. Agreed! I lived in Florence for a month and still didn't feel like I got to experience the city completely. Venice on the other hand...I was only there for a full day and night so I was more doing everything touristy and thus left with some Murano glass and sore feet from walking all over the small city.

    Rome. Oh my God, Rome. It was incredibly touristy and busy and not at all what I expected but was also wonderful and I would love to spend at least a week there. The history alone, not to mention the food and people and SHOPPING, makes me want to go back.

    Italy is by far my favorite country I've visited. Can you tell?

  2. I love city breaks, especially Europe. I've found that you need to visit a city more than once because:
    1) First time round you've spent it getting lost, learning the culture or how to order a drink.
    2) On your second visit, you finally master the transport system, re-discover the cute little bar that you loved.
    3) That you need to appreciate the city in its different seasons - I've been to Prague during the summer, at Christmas, early spring and later winter. Each time, there was a new experience or the city looked different.

  3. You're so right, Italy is completely breathtaking and amazing and you need at the very minumum two weeks to even scratch the surface of truly discovering it.

    Thanks for following my blog! Yours is lovely, so glad I stopped by :-)

  4. I want to spend WEEKS and WEEKS exploring Europe. You can't just go for a week. We spent five days in Paris and three in Angers and coulnd't get everything in. But still, Italy was just alright? I don't buy it.

  5. WOW! Italy has been on my list of countries to visit for years, well since my grandfather was born there and all.... of all my friends and family that have had a chance to go -- "alright" was NEVER a part of that conversation. Wow!