Rick Steeves

Tourism 101, Italy

Duomo, Milan
There will be many people - often too many - from all over the world. Nearly 49 million of them a year. You are one of them, you are part of the problem. Who does not want to visit the terraces of the Duomo in Milan? The galleries in Florence? Should you leave? Find a quieter place? Is there a quieter place?

No matter where it is, chances are you will wish you could stay longer. Just when you are getting the hang of a place, it will be time to pull out.

Never mind, in Italian cities, such as Venice, instincts are more reliable than maps. It's better to keep the agenda non-demanding.

The hotel will sometimes be less than what you expect, but really, what can you expect from budget accommodations in a place as popular as the Cinque Terre? Hot water when you step into the shower? Soap for more than one day?

Hikers, many with sticks that awkwardly search for purpose among the stones, locals lugging Ikea shopping-size bags of espresso coffee up the hill to serve the terrace restaurant above Vernazza, where the price of a cappuccino is the same as it is in cities that have not been chipped out of the side of an almost vertical mountain slope. In Manarola, where fishing boats are lined up on either side of the main street, between the bars and trattorias, there are oversize black and white portraits of smiling peasants carrying baskets of wine grapes on their heads. Still, it cannot always have been fun.

"The very nature of the land has forced farmers to adopt an architectural kind of order; its narrowness has begotten quite a formal harmony.That's how things stand in the Cinque Terre. Different wines are produced there. A famous one is the Sciacchetrà, a name that is strait as a die." Corrado Alvaro

The wine Alvaro wrote about ranges from 29 Euro in a small grocery, to 40 E, beautifully boxed, in a shop in Manarola. In the same village,  a pony-tailed waiter delivers plates of olives and fresh pesto on brown bread to the drinkers gathered at the bar high above the town and the blue sea. Should we blame Rick Steeves, who attracted so many people and assures that most of them will try Nessun Dorma, perhaps even read further about Sarah, whose mother made a memorial for her rogue-wave swept away daughter just outside the entrance to the popular spot? Steeves encourages travellers to become "temporary locals," and to visit towns off the typical tourist trail. Yet, as soon as he discovers some place, his fans do too, and then it becomes another stop on the trail he encourages people to sidestep. They check out the walks he recommends, the restaurants. Try to adopt the attitude, while still keeping an eye on their wallets. Pop quiz: Who wrote, Wherever You Go, There You Are? Hint: Not Rick Steeves.