Italy Roundtable: Where’s the “authentic Italy” everyone is looking for?

We’re teaming with another group, which also writes on a monthly topic, to bring you this month’s Italy blog.

We are joining forces with the COSI Group, which stands as Crazy Observations from Stranieri in Italy to write about AUTHENTICITY.

You not only get to read the thoughts and opinions of the regular Italy Roundtable bloggers but also hear from a whole new group of Italian expats. Enjoy!

In any profession, there are certain words and phrases that can be overused. There are many words and phrases that get overused in travel writing. I know of one editor who will not tolerate the use of the term “nestled” to describe any village. She also deletes emails with the phrase “staycation” in the subject line. “Authenticity” is a word that has been overused and is no longer meaningful. It can also be problematic even when it is used in good faith.

Every travel magazine touts the secret to “authenticity” (fill in any blank with your country or city name). Everyone wants to discover the “real” place.

Tell me, however, where is this “authentic” location you are looking for? And how does it differ from the one you are trying to avoid?

Italy “Authentic”

Even though there is a lot of information about Italy, many people still visit Venice and Florence when they first visit. While they may make a few stops along the way, the three most popular destinations in Italy – which I refer to as the “Holy Trinity of Italy travel” – are almost always included.

It makes perfect sense that they should. Tourist attractions are tourist attractions for a reason.

Venice, Florence, Rome, and Rome are all popular throughout the year, are always busy with tourists, and have learned how to cater to their needs. They are not the only ones. Pisa offers visitors exactly what they want: an easy route to the attraction they most desire, many places to purchase knickknacks, and a return to the station for the next destination.

All of this has the side effect that tourists thronging these places must be a tourist trap. These people irritate me almost as much as those who insist that the terms “tourist” or “traveler” are not synonymous. (Don’t even start me on that one.

Pisa in Italy is both the tourist-filled area around the Leaning Tower as well as the quieter, more traditional part of the city that’s home to students at the university. One may prefer one to the other, or you might prefer another city entirely – there’s nothing wrong with either. It is not right to claim one part of a city as authentic and another as fake.

That’s balderdash.

Let’s get technical

I love the dictionary and thesaurus so when brainstorming for this article , I searched for “authenticity”. Some words and phrases that are associated with authenticity include:

  • Accuracy
  • Actuality
  • Existence
  • Genuineness
  • real world
  • Tangibility

It is hard to deny the existence and tangible nature of the souvenir stands that line the Leaning Tower of Pisa. They are actually trying to make a living by offering tourists reminiscences of their actual experience at the world-famous attraction. They are trying to capture the exact moment by staging photos of themselves propped up on top of the tower.

Perhaps Pisa isn’t for you. Perhaps you have been there and didn’t love it. That? It’s perfectly fine. It is perfectly fine if we all wanted to go to the same places. However, it is not accurate to call places that you don’t like “inauthentic”.

Even the Las-Vegas-Venetian Venice authentic – it’s only authentically Las Vegas.

You can watch me

Last September, I was a bit irritated by people who use the “you haven’t seen Italy” phrase without having been to …” Line .

If I get any guff about your itinerary from anyone, and I mean everyone, I grant you permission to respond accordingly:

Are you saying that I won’t be able to see Italy if it’s not in a specific city? Yes.

I’m watching you.

It’s the same for calling parts of Italy “inauthentic”.

That’s so funny! I needed an authentic Italian passport stamp in order to travel to Italy.

I love to say that you should own your itinerary. You should be able to create it exactly how you want it to look and then take it with you. Unfortunately, part of this is being armed against travelers who think they are better than you. They are phooey. They may know better about their trips than I do, but they don’t have the right to be proud of yours.

Accept your trip regardless of what it is on your list and then come back with your opinions about Italy. If someone asks you for advice, give it freely – opinions included – and congratulate them when it forms their own itinerary.

This is authentic Italy that I love.

Italy Roundtable: Other Voices

There is a lot of reading this month, both on the Italy Roundtable blogs as well as the COSI blogs. Follow me to each post. Please leave comments and share with your friends. Tune in next month to see another topic on Italy Blogging Roundtable!

COSI Bloggers:

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