We’ve been renting homes to travelers for over a year now, and I’ve noticed two distinct groups of people: ‘Italy first-timers’ and ‘Italian culture chasers’. In all honesty, some, albeit very few, of the first-timers truly resemble the culture chasers.
The ‘first-timers’ are the people that have finally made it to Italy for the first time. They have been dreaming about it for years, and have seen ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ a few times, having decided that enough was enough… they are going!
While dreaming of that ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ experience, most of them have no hope whatsoever of actually experiencing anything of what that movie (or better, the book) is about. They can’t help it. They have the sights of Italy working against them.
What I mean to say is that on that first trip to Italy, most people have an overwhelming need to frame their trip with famous postcards. After all, can you go to Italy and not see The Coliseum at least once ? Can you skip the Vatican? What about Venice, the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, The Leaning Tower, the galleries of Florence?
For the love of God, how can you be in Italy and not see these things? I understand… I really do! If I were to visit Agra, India, no matter what wonders you might have in store for me, I will have to at least see the Taj Mahal in person once. Could I go to Egypt without seeing the Pyramids? Of course not.
However, you can’t have it all unless you are spending a month or twenty in Italy. All of the postcard sights are engulfed in and surrounded by a multi-billion dollar tourist industry that consumes their surroundings, having long since snuffed out the ‘Tuscan Sun’ we see in the movies.
So the ‘first-timers’ get to Italy and want to see it all and do it all. The problem is that there is just so much. They try to cram in as much in as possible and wind up rushing everywhere… never having the time to really soak the place in. You really can’t have ‘La Dolce Vita’ while standing in line to visit monuments.
It’s OK, though. After that first trip, you get it all out of your system and had a great time doing it. You are now free and clear to come back to Italy and actually experience the ‘Tuscan Sun’… which brings me to the second group.
The ‘Italian culture chasers’ have been here before. They saw the Coliseum, so it is behind them. They fall into two sub-groups of their own: ‘Second Timers’ and ‘Regulars’.
The ‘Second Timers’ made a decision the first time they were here. Between places on their checklists, they kept noting how they want to come back and see this or that. By the end of their trip, they felt as though they desperately needed more time to take it more slowly and take the culture in. While they had a great time, they realized that they really missed out on something special. So they come back and really experience the Italian culture for the first time. Now that they have all of the monuments in their past, they can really understand what makes this place so truly amazing. They are seeing Italy for the first time.
‘The Regulars’ are third-timers and up. This is really pretty easy, since once you have had the ‘Second Timer’ experience; you are more or less hooked. It should be classified as a drug.
I speak from experience, because while I rent homes and organize tours, I didn’t start doing so until roughly my 40th trip to Italy. I have collectively spent roughly 5 years of my life in Italy, and the list of amazing things I have not seen or experienced is still significantly larger than those that I have seen or experienced. It is truly an amazing place.
My point is, for those of you that have only been once, come back for a first time and take it slow. You will almost certainly find yourself hooked.