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Italy trip report

We have traveled to 40 countries over 40 years --from the Amazon jungle to Patagonia, Africa to Ecuador, Egypt , Iceland, to Myanmar. I am an experienced traveler. BUT --I MUST comment on our recent two week trip to Italy. A warning --DO NOT GO! Sounds crazy? It was like 2 weeks in Disneyland in July . SOOOOOOO crowded . Vatican museum? OMG. Grand Central. Sistine Chapel? Like cattle being herded into a containment area. Shoulder to shoulder. Oddly enough, I had seen the Sistine Chapel BEFORE they "restored" it. I have to say that it now looks more like something completed yesterday. Don't think there is one square inch of Michelangelo's original work. VERY disappointing. Coloseum? same. Trevi Fountain? How about at least 400-500 people there at a time?. The few trash cans available in Rome were overflowing like a volcano . Trash everywhere. Spanish steps? No sitting on steps - which is not a big deal, but they have police there to make sure no one does. We used Ricks bus guide and confirmed routes with the hotel. Easy? NO ! FOUR different times, the bus never showed up --though we were standing right by the sign with the bus number and destinations. A short cab ride was easily 10-13 Euros. I HATED Rome. couldn't wait to leave after 4 days. Then went to Sorrento --which is so very picturesque, but again --soooo like Disneyland. Restaurants all full. Small quaint little walking streets are like Grand Central station at 5:30. We managed to get away for day trips, but let me warn you again --Pompeii is NOT what it used to be. We used Rick's walking guide , but where we should have been admiring the mosiacs in the ancient baths, or the floors of the various palaces, they are ALL FENCED OFF. Did not look temporary to me. Could only peak into the baths through a fence and saw only the entry room. CROWDS AND TOUR groups everywhere. One day we took a boat trip all along the Amalfi coast. LOVELY. Then we went into the harbor to spend 90 minutes in both Amalfi and Positano. It was 80 minutes too long. The tour busses crowd the harbor with motors running. The narrow little streets filled with the same tourist crap as every other place were almost unwalkable due to crowds. Had to put my hands out like a wedge and force my way through the streaming hordes. I would NEVER want to actually stay there overnight. Same for Positano. The quaintness is gone.

We then drove into Puglia (Southern Italy) where most Americans do not go. Went to Matera (fascinating surreal city dating back to BC) and Aberobella (an unusual historic town with hundreds and hundreds of funny little stone round houses with conical roofs. ) Locorotondo (super gorgeous historic area where every winding turn is a photo op). But - even here we were overrun with Italian tourists.

But --here we were overrun with Italian tourists. I guess the entire world is out now after 2 years of lock up. I am actually so glad to be home. It really tested my endurance and I would not ever go again.

Good luck to anyone going in July or August. I think I would rather be anywhere else. My advise would be to plan a trip in January or February and take a coat instead of standing in line for your turn to get into a "must see" in the heat and crowds.

Posted by
2686 posts

You can't fault Italy for being full of Italians ;-)

Posted by
1028 posts

THOSE Italians ... what home bodies!

Your itinerary reads like a TripAdvisor top 20 ... you should have anticipated the crowds at everyone of those stops.

Posted by
1586 posts

Sounds like a living nightmare! I doubt the OP meant anything by the Italian tourists comment.
It was just information as to the difference in the crowds from one place to another.

Posted by
118 posts

I’m sorry you had such an awful trip. My family and I are still looking forward to our trip there this summer. We are going there knowing that many people are finally getting a chance to make up for trips that had to be canceled over the last couple of years. Also, many of us with kids don’t have the luxury of going in January or February.

Posted by
292 posts

I find this trip report both frank and refreshing.

Thanks for posting it...summer is always crowded in Italy, and it sounds like the crowds are already out there this early in the summer season. We prefer the shoulder seasons for all Europe travel, and we also enjoy December for XMAS markets and such. I haven't been to Europe in the "summer" in at least 15 years, got burned too many times by crowds and heat prior to that.

Posted by
2438 posts

I'm going next June. I hope EVERYONE reads this including those pesky Italians, and they all stay home so I'll have Rome and Sorrento all to myself.

Posted by
7718 posts

Pompeii is NOT what it used to be.

You can say that again!!!

Posted by
1172 posts

I'm glad I'm not planning to go to Rome during peak time. Sorry you had such a bad experience.

Posted by
1856 posts

I have to agree with the OP. We were in Rome, Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi coast 21 years ago. After having just been there, I can honestly say it is way too crowded now. Twenty-one years ago, there were no lines, no crowds, no security checks. It was fun and a pleasure to be there. I am so glad that we have already seen a good deal of the more touristed parts on Europe already. With the exception of Scandinavia in 2019, we have been traveling to more far flung places in the world so this recent trip was a bit of a shock. In the future we will travel off season or to places that are more outside the heavily touristed areas if those areas even exist anymore.

Posted by
292 posts

I am so glad that we have already seen a good deal of the more touristed parts on Europe already.

Mary said it all right there, and I will add that after the last 2+ years of staying at home, the world is entering a phase of excess tourism in the extreme among the "bucket list" set. Prior to the pandemic, this was being written about regularly in travel mags and on forums, the over saturation of the best known tourist destinations, especially in Europe, as different cities and countries debated measures to limit crowds. When the Chinese and other asian nation tourists hit the road again, as they were doing pre pandemic in record numbers, the crowds at popular tourist destinations will be miserably large in the prime travel months from May to September.

Like Mary, I am so glad that we have already "been there and done that" with respect to these destinations. We still enjoy travel to Europe, but we avoid the touristy stuff as much as possible, and we also travel outside of the prime summer tourist season.

Posted by
10126 posts

Rome requires a lot of time and patience, as well as the ability to overlook her many flaws. The buses are a joke. Many times during our almost five years there we were “ghosted” by buses that our bus app said were coming that we just walked most of the time.

I am sorry you had such a poor impression. Nov or Jan May suit you better as crowds are lighter although still noticeable.

Posted by
154 posts

Thanks for sharing your experience and perspective, it's helpful to consider another's view on things. You've gotten great responses here, too (eyes on Kim). Regarding Italian buses, who's seen Bruno Bozetto's Europe vs Italy animated clip? Bus scene is spot on.

Posted by
483 posts

I wonder what the tourist crowds are like in Italy's less prominent and well know (internationally that is) places, like Bologna, or Perugia, or Bergamo or Turin or Padua or Ravenna etc. Probably a lot of more local tourism but much less overcrowding?

Posted by
171 posts

Thanks for that truthful report. I am positively allergic to crowds like you described (and I can't tolerate hot weather) and I would have hated Italy too. My only experience in Italy was five days in Rome one February. The weather was chilly, not cold, mostly sunny, and the crowds were very manageable - not deserted, but not mobbed either. I most definitely prefer shoulder season or off season travel and you encapsulated all my reasons right there in your post.

Posted by
2888 posts

Pompeii is NOT what it used to be.

Yep, lava is notorious for drastically changing the landscape.

Don't think there is one square inch of Michelangelo's original work.

You may be relieved to know that no art historian agrees with you, anymore. Not even my butcher, who knows nothing about art but simply saw the Doni Tondo in Florence before the Chapel, agrees with you.

Posted by
23 posts

We were in Italy in March on a Viking cruise; it wasn't crowded at all. If I had to guess, we were among 40-50 people at most in the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican Museum wasn't crowded at all; Pompeii was wonderful; small crowds, an amazing visit. I don't know the fences that you saw--we went almost everywhere except for the baths, which are closed due to Covid.

Even Venice was nice; St. Mark's Square got crowded by 3pm, but it was virtually empty in the morning.

I guess we went in the right time of year...

Posted by
8868 posts

Travel to a foreign country and complain about it being 'overrun with tourists'? Are you not part of 'the problem'?

As for the Sistine Chapel, the restoration was about removing all of what had accumulated since Mike finished his work on it.

Good to read that Southern Italy was less annoying

Posted by
1172 posts

Oddly enough, I had seen the Sistine Chapel BEFORE they "restored" it. I have to say that it now looks more like something completed yesterday. Don't think there is one square inch of Michelangelo's original work. VERY disappointing.

Can anyone enlighten me about this?

Posted by
1894 posts

I understood that a very small section of the Sistine Chapel was left unrestored; to provide comparison between the years of dirt, and the colourful original.
I'm sure when I went there just after the restoration I was told that.
I saw it in it's "dirty" state way before that, and it was still amazing.

I'm still going back to lovely Italy for my 12th visit there, at the end of this year.
Hang the crowds...you can always turn a couple of corners and be away from them.

Posted by
2888 posts

Can anyone enlighten me about this?

Read the NYT piece I linked above. Some people and a couple of US "experts" were used to the dirty frescoes, but the controversy was settled... I don't know... in the late 90s?

Posted by
2438 posts

Can you summarize that NYT article? It's behind a paywall.

Posted by
5157 posts

Kim, when I read “Pompeii isn’t what it used to be,” I laughed out loud.