With 44 World Heritage Sites strewn across the country, Italy can lay claim to being the planet’s treasure attic, in whatever sense of the word. The country is filled with such exquisiteness all throughout that you can spend a month in, say, Rome and still not exhaust all the city has to offer. The capital is not the Eternal City for nothing. It’s a city that served as the seat of a powerful empire, and stood witness to numerous pivotal points in history. As such, various sites within its borders have gone on to modern times still carrying the weight and prestige of its grand history. And tourists come in droves.

Refined and gritty in equal doses, Italy’s charms will definitely bowl you over for some time until, just like your grandpa’s attic, its less endearing qualities soon get under your skin. Traffic grinds to a halt at rush hour, organized crime continues to provide headache for the police, immigration issues still haunt certain regions, and petty thieves proliferate as pockets of poverty greets unsuspecting visitors who come armed with nothing but the oh-so romantic version of the country that features prominently in Hollywood and glossy travel publications.

Nevertheless, Italy justifiably retains its status as one of the more popular destinations. Its richness is a smorgasbord for all senses and with such iconic sights like the Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the gondolas of Venice strewn across the country, it’s hard not to be mesmerized. Sure, they’re touristy but they’re drawing visitors by the busloads for a reason: they provide a great glimpse of the grandeur of the il bel paese.

First published in TravelBlog on July 12, 2010.

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3 thoughts

  1. I’ve only ever been to Rome and Venice (and the train stations of Milan and Ventimiglia) but I’ve seen glimpses of the country’s seedy underbelly even during the short time I was there. The number of shady people at Milan Central Station! But then even Paris has pickpockets — children, no less. There will be good people and bad people everywhere, I guess; in Italy’s case, the risks of traveling there are just overwhelmingly outweighed by the benefits. Thanks for a thought-provoking post. The photos are gorgeous!

    1. I agree with you that all places have their not-so-appealing side. I’d just like to point out that this post is actually an excerpt of an old post I wrote four years ago. The reason why I emphasized the less optimistic side of Italy was because we ourselves arrived with an ideal version of the country, in large part painted by what we’ve heard and read from those who’ve gone before us. And when we didn’t see the version of Italy we had in mind, we were quite frustrated. This frustration occupied a large part of my mind when I was writing the post. Of course, that was very idiotic of us and it doesn’t mean the country isn’t beautiful per se. It’s just sometimes we become victims of press releases and tend to look at places through rose-colored glasses. Yun lang. Thanks for reading! Here’s hoping to read more of your travels as well.

      1. Oh, I don’t think it was idiotic of you at all. That was your experience and I think it’s great that you were true to yourself and how you felt instead of forcing yourself to just see and write about the positive side. Also, I think it’s really helpful that you wrote about this so that people going to Italy can adjust their expectations. Ako nga, I’m thankful to all the people who wrote about the scams in the Italian train stations because at least I knew what to watch out for when I got there. So write on, and happy travels! 🙂

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