I visited a Travel Agent last year who told me that I pretty much couldn’t do anything that I wanted to do while in Italy. I sure couldn’t just wander around Rome, I had to join a tour group. I was told you cannot visit the Vatican or any place else unless you join a tour group. I couldn’t just walk around Venice either, I’d get lost. When I said that was the plan, that too wasn’t advised. I shouldn’t spend 6 days in Venice because there isn’t enough to do there. Once you see St. Mark’s there isn’t much else to do. Wow….. how sad for her and anyone who pays for her advice!
I have been hearing so often what I ‘have to do, what I must see, what I must visit…’ while on my trip. Key word here would be ‘my’ trip. This is my vacation. This has been my dream for 43 years. It isn’t someone else’s dream. I don’t have to do or see anything that I don’t want to. I have spent too much time trying to figure out which can’t miss spots I should see. How to schedule in every must see museum. I started to fall into the, ‘I’m going to be in Rome, I have to visit the Vatican don’t I?’ Actually, as far as I’m concerned, I have wasted too much time and now that the time is almost here, I feel a bit unprepared. But I shouldn’t be as much of what I want to do, doesn’t require detailed planning and timing and scheduling. I have an idea of what areas of each city I want to explore and what sights I do want to see in those areas and have a loose plan that revolves around that.
What I don’t see is McDonald’s or any other fast food establishment. Yes, they are there . But I’m sure Italians are not the people spending their hard earned money eating there. The tourists are, and perhaps the young Italians. I’m sure it is the last place any Italian would consider eating.
I shudder at the pictures I’ve seen of huge cruise ships obstructing the views in Venice and the damage they are doing. I don’t want to see gimmicky restaurant windows advertising their food. I don’t want to see buses, cars and Vespas all fighting for their square foot of space in busy streets. I know that all of this exists. I know that there will be crowds and traffic to deal with in each city. I do have the option of not spending all my time in these places and/or minimize my time there.
To be honest, I don’t see Rome at all in my dream and didn’t from the beginning of this whole thing. Shocking right? I can hear the audible gasps now. The last thing that I want to do on any vacation, is to shuffle along, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other people inside a hot building or anywhere else for that matter. I don’t like crowds period. Never have and I don’t do well with crowds. So guess what? The Vatican? The Coliseum? The Forum? I don’t plan on doing those things.
Again, more gasps. Now before you go and get yourselves all huffy with indignation of ‘how in the world can Rae even consider going to a place like Rome and not see these things?’ Rest assured I will be seeing plenty of sights, don’t you worry about that. However, most of them are going to be on my own terms and don’t require a tour guide. I’ll see the Pantheon. I’ll see St. Peter’s. I’ll see the Florence Cathedral. I’ll see the Academia Museum. I’ll see St. Mark’s Square. I’ll see the Doge’s Palace. I’ll see these and several other things. There are audible guides to assist in what I am seeing, I won’t be missing out completely. I’ll also see things that probably the average tourist won’t take the time to or have the time to after their arranged tours are finished and/or they need to rush back to those monstrosities known as cruise ships.
If I can’t spend my days wandering side streets, poking my head into local shops and markets, eating in local bars and cafes, interacting with people, I will be devastated.
When I envision Italy, what I see are the canals in Venice. I see back Calle with a Pasticceria. I see Piazza’s with children playing. I see small hill towns in Tuscany. Rolling hills, little villages. I see the cobbler working at his cobbler stand on a pair of handcrafted leather shoes. I see the man hunched over at his workbench carving something out of wood. Permesso di Guardare? I see locals standing around a small cafe laughing, eating and talking. I see women carrying their groceries home from the local market and stopping to gossip along the way. I see the clotheslines hanging from buildings adorned with residents laundry. I see rocky coast lines with small colorful boats bobbing in the water, just waiting to set out for a days work. I see men repairing their fishing lines by hand. These are the things that I see when I see Italy in my dreams. I will take part in a Passeggiata or two or three …… these are the things that fill my mind, embody my dreams and fortify my soul.
If you have been reading any of my blog about Italy, you’ll understand what is important to me and what I want to do on this trip. Again, there is no guarantee that I will be able to return to Italy. Because of that, I will not spend the 2 weeks that I have this year, that I have waited 43 years for, doing all those touristy things that every other person going to Rome, Florence and Venice are there to do. None of those things are anywhere in any of the dreams that I have had. None of those things are what make me feel connected to Italy. None of those things have ever crossed my mind when I’ve thought about this trip.
Certainly if I am able to return, I will consider doing all the touristy things that so many people think that I need to do. But this trip? This year? It is going to be spent experiencing as much of the real Italy that I possibly can in such a short period of time. This is vacation. It shouldn’t be about schedules and having to be in any one place at any one time for any given amount of time.