We love Italy but we have little tolerance for those crowded, noisy places swamped by tourists and full of cheap souvenir shops and fast food. Italians themselves don’t go there on holiday so why would you? We travel to experience the real Italy and for us a trip somewhere new is a chance to appreciate everything that makes that location what it is; its traditions, history, people and food and wine. We engage with locals everywhere because Italians love to chat and in the process we learn much and experience more. Ask yourself the most important question of all: what is it you want to experience on your next vacation in Italy?
Given our knowledge of the country and the planning that we typically do before a trip, new locations for us are normally very interesting and worthwhile. After years of travelling around Italy and having had our fair share of disappointments early on, we now know that very often the glossy pictures on the travel sites don’t tell you the whole story. Unfortunately there are some attractive but very small towns that have become so completely dominated by tourism that almost every shop sells purely tourist items and every apartment seems to be an Airbnb rental so no locals are left or at least those residents that remain are no longer engaged in any non-tourist activity. With the result that the town has become something of an empty shell. This 'disneyfication' of parts of Italy, especially of course in the peak summer weeks between early July and early September, is a problem with no easy solution and it’s a question of balance and sustainability but suffice to say we keep a wary eye out for these types of places in Italy that have become victims of over-tourism.
A case in point would be Portofino, beloved by celebrities and the super rich who park their big ugly yachts there in the summer and shop in the over-priced boutiques but are there any Italians who actually live there anymore? The only good thing about Portofino in our opinion is that it keeps these garish people away from the lovely nearby places. So if you feel that you have to visit Portofino just once, stay in Santa Margherita and take the enchanting hilly path to Portofino, have lunch and return the same way, or if you've eaten too well to manage the three miles back take the water taxi instead. The path is full of wonderful views and is part of a huge network of great hikes in the Portofino National Park that we would highly recommend and which for us is on a par with the very challenging Sentiero degli Dei high above Positano on the Amalfi coast.
The important point to make here is that typically in Italy you don’t have to go very far from an overrated and overcrowded place to find somewhere much more interesting. There is nearly always a better alternative close at hand.