The risks of Tourists’s Misbehaviour in Italy (According to Lonely Planet)

Barcaccia Fountain. Rome

If there one thing I’ve learnt in all my years travelling and long permanence abroad is to see myself through somebody else’s eyes. I mean, what you regard normal in your country in terms of habit and behaviour, becomes peculiar in another place. Somehow you get conscious that there is some kind of truth in all those prejudices and commonplaces about one’s country. Travelling makes you understand who you are and the degree of influence of the cultural environment of the country you come from, even if you truly believe there is none.

I remember my very first day in London, I guess I was at Piccadilly Circus, map in my hands, wondering where Oxford Street might be, when a man came by, offering to help, but as soon as he realized I was Italian, he started to rattle off everything he knew about Italy: “mamma, pappa, pizza, pasta, mafia, Papa, la famiglia……. ” and sang a tune of a commercial of some Italian product popular at that time. Ah, he also added that I didn’t look Italian. I wondered, was that a compliment? As it seemed so from the tone of his voice. What do Italians look like?

More than looks, I think we can or could be easily spotted for our behaviour or misbehaviour. We are a sort of colourful, noisy people, who don’t need a good pint of beer to give way to our natural extroversion and particularly disinclined to follow rules, any rules. But we have improved in time, slowly, I admit, but we have. I myself  have learnt to tame my natural unruly spirit ( it doesn’t mean I have changed, it is there, ready to surface when least expected), but the habit of travelling and the constant exposure to other cultures through media has made us get closer to what I may define “European standards”.

The point is that when tourists arrive in Italy, we have the feeling that most of them have left their book of rules and proper behaviour at home. It is as if they truly believed Italy were a sort of pleasure island where everything is allowed, so most of them think they can enjoy here what they can’t or wouldn’t dare do anywhere else. And it is not only our perception. In fact, I came across an article from Lonely Planet about this topic: tourists’ misbehaviour in Italy and 21 tips to avoid any trouble. This is in short the state of things according to Lonely Planet.

“Italian authorities have introduced a slew of new rules aimed at curbing unacceptable behaviour, many of which are in response to issues with overtourism. Some have been introduced with a zero-tolerance approach. In June, a Canadian tourist was fined €250 ($278) for sunbathing in her bikini in Venice’s Giardini Papadopoli. While in July, two German tourists were fined €950 ($1058) and immediately asked to leave the city after they were found making coffee on a portable stove beneath the historic Rialto Bridge.  Two French tourists were caught allegedly taking sand from a beach in Sardinia this month and could face up to six years in prison. And in Rome, police have been encouraging lounging tourists to move from the Spanish Steps as sitting on them is now subject to a fine of about €400 ($450). At first glance the rules may seem HARSH but residents in Italy are really starting to feel the strain of overtourism. “

I am sorry to contradict, but we are not starting to feel the strain of overtourism, but rather the strain of mass misbehaviour. If the writer thinks those measures “harsh”, somehow he seems to mean that those behaviours are actually ordinary in your countries, so they wouldn’t be subjected to a fine. I don’t think so. Among the 21 tips there are two or three which are really puzzling. The writer suggests to refrain from:

“Jumping into fountains or otherwise damage or climb on them,

Setting up picnics in public spaces….,

Walking around shirtless or in your swimwear in any metropolitan area.”

If there is the need to stigmatize these behaviours as unacceptable in Italy, does it mean that I can jump into your fountains, set up picnics in public spaces or walk around shirtless when I come to visit your country? I bet, I could not. The only explanation I can give is that, after all, behind your masks of proper behaviour an Italian heart beats, a heart which wishes to give way to its impulses freely, but thanks to you, we have learnt to improve our standards at last, therefore if you get fined, well, it is all your fault.


17 thoughts on “The risks of Tourists’s Misbehaviour in Italy (According to Lonely Planet)

  1. The same happens in Spain with the tourism, it is a contradiction since if we are already ruined without the tourism we would be literally a third world country. And yes, I do think those fines and putting those tourist in prison is not harsh that goes to the next level, a bit nuts. You have to take the good with the bad. Tourism gives Italy as well as Spain a bunch of money to the State so the can subsidize all those millions unemployed, pension for this pension for that and so on. So putting it on a balance….. I´ll take the rude tourist as long as they spend a lot of money in my country which will benefit me a bit.
    You Italian Mrs. Tink? I thought you we a girl from a small town of the mid west of the U.S living the good life in Italy….. That’s not cool, you crushed my idealistic view of you. Forgot, I have Italian friends, not virtual of internet, physical people and I do always tease them about the Mafia, who know really, if they are mobsters they won’t say it so who knows……. 😉
    Have a great Sunday.

    • Sorry to have disappointed you Charly, but I am a true Roman and Italian. 😏
      Of course, I take the good side of tourism, but truly the number of deplorable episodes has increased and the “actors” are often the same people who are prompt to remind you all the don’ts once you find yourself in their country.
      Que tengas un buen dia, querido . 🙋

  2. Do you think people really act differently when in another country? I ask because my first thought would be people who misbehave while traveling probably aren’t any better at home.

    There’s also the double-edged sword of advertisement in the form of movies and travel blogs . . . movies and blogs that show exactly the behavior that’s unacceptable when done en mass. (jumping into a fountain).

    Most people I know are fairly cognizant about learning local laws and rules and not accidentally doing something wrong but, having traveled, I can tell you there’s a type of person who’s boorish, loud, and who I consider an ass . . . I see them all over but not in that great a number. I’ve seen them here in the US (where I’ve done a lot of traveling) and in Canada, Mexico, Europe, and on cruises.

    I’m excluding cultural behavior which I find objectionable but which isn’t because of someone being a jerk.

    With something like 58 million tourists visiting Italy and assuming a few percentages of jerks in the general population (a very low estimate), that means over a million jerks visit the country each year. For example, if you’re in a crowd of 100 people of any background or nationality, I can practically guarantee there are at least three people who will act like jerks and, because of it, they will stand out and make an impression and be remembered.

    This may, over time, sour locals to tourists (as long as tourists aren’t tied to their income stream, in which case one is usually very tolerant).

    There are places where one feels an almost palpable dislike from the locals. I’ve come across this in the US as well, but Germany was, perhaps, the worst we’ve experienced . . . probably because I’ve not been to France or England. Italy was fine . . . except I couldn’t take a spoonful of sand as a souvenir.

    • Do you know , what is the only place where I have felt that palpable dislike from the locals? Italy. Whenever I go to Trentino Alto Adige, even if I am at my best behaviour ( and I speak a little German too), I feel I am barely tolerated. But it is a wonderful area and we keep going there. 😏

    • I think, but I’m not sure, I used to go to summer camp (or something like it) up there. Not sure because I was young and I’ve mostly forgotten my pre-US days. But, we lived in Zugliano (outside Udine) and I know we went north to the Alps.

      I don’t recall if they hated me or not.

      There are few things I recall about my time in Italy, but the Alps I recall as wondrous. One thing that drew me to Colorado and Hawaii . . . tall mountains. In contrast, Illinois has an abundance of flatness.

      • A man without a country, I am, grabbing the best features of different national/ethnic traits and building a world-citizen aggregate.

        I lie, of course; I’m not even sure there’s a nation in existence I would like to claim membership in. I mean, I’m here now primarily for the (ever-shrinking) freedom. And guns; let’s not forget guns.

  3. I read this Lonely Planet article and was horrified to read of tourists behaviour. We always try to show ultimate respect to locals and their standards when we travel. I would e pact the same of visitors to Canada.

    • Hi, dear Sue. I know well you do, but things are really getting worse. I think it is also fault of the truly bad administration of the capital. Dirty and shabby.
      Big hug.

  4. There is just one word that needs to be remembered: respect. Well, perhaps two, if we add in self-respect. (If we count a hypenation as one word.) Without respect for others or ourselves humanity is doomed. It may already be too late.

  5. I get most of what you are referring to as bad behavior. The sort of scratch your head type stuff. I have seen some of the worst American tourists ever. I do not understand why having a picnic in a public place is rude. My husband and I regularly buy food and find a quiet place to enjoy a snack on the go. Am I missing the point on this one?

    • It depends whether you consider ” The Spanish Steps” , for example, the quite place where to enjoy a snack and – I’ m sure it is not you case – to leave garbage. Because this is what happened.
      Whenever I am abroad I feel all the ” pressure” of rules ( certain countries in particular) and mind, you are right, but it seems that once here the etiquette is soon forgotten.🙃

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