Tourist types you'll meet in Italy: which one are you?

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Photo: Luca Sartoni
08:50 CET+01:00
Almost 80 million tourists roam Italy each year, all with different characteristics and hoping to soak up all the country has to offer as much as they can. But can you recognize yourself in any of these?

1. The gastronomical tourist

Photo: Kristal Nina Garcia

These tourists came to Italy with only one — or perhaps 10,000 — things in mind: their taste buds. Some may have been naive enough to think they’d find spaghetti and meatballs on every menu, while others may be able to pick apart the most tender notes of the so-called Super Tuscan wine they're drinking. If it wasn’t for all the walking they’ll encounter, they’d certainly leave Italy about two belt notches bigger then they arrived. This food focus can hardly be blamed, as from risotto to prosciutto to cannoli, Italy has one of the most impeccable reputations in the culinary world. But they must be cautious — there are plenty of unscrupulous waiters trying to drag them into their overpriced restaurant right by Rome's Trevi Fountain or St. Mark’s Square in Venice. In the olden days, they might not have stood a chance. But luckily for them, in the days of Yelp! and Tripadvisor, Italy’s best food can be found with the touch of a button.

2. The tourist looking for love

Photo: Lota Angelini

It’s hard not to come to Italy and feel romantic. A gondola ride along Venice's Grand Canal or a quiet evening on a Tuscan hill are the stuff a hopeless romantic dreams of. Every casual bump on the street, every peer from over the top of their travel journal, every reaching for the same nibbles at aperitivo leaves them a little breathless, thinking that it could lead to them looking into the eyes of the dark haired stunner who will be their 'one'. Every moment of slightly drawn-out eye contact leads them to want to turn around and beg for a name — and a request to befriend them on Facebook. And while most of them will turn out disappointed, hope springs eternal from those who do find their love in Italy.

3. The “Grand Tour in a Week” tourist

Pushing Pisa's Leaning Tower...Photo: Kent Clark

These are tourists are on a mission. They have dreamed of seeing Italy since their youngest days, but never had the time or money to visit. Finally, everything is all set — the money has been saved and the boss notified. Where to go, though? Everyone has to see Rome. But what of Venice? Milan? Florence? Pompeii? Not to mention so many other names floating about their head. So they decide to make like the nobility of old and see all of Italy — in one week. “With trains, planes and automobiles it’s doable,” they reason. “We aren’t travelling by horse.” So like a whirlwind, they strike down the peninsula and see everything Italy has to offer, with all the trinkets and pictures to match — pushing the Leaning Tower of Pisa, throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain, a small David magnet. Any delay or missed connection will result in a furious reaction, as they worry this may be their last best chance to fulfill their dreams. But in all this rushing and worrying the Grand Tourer will miss Italy’s finest attraction — the lifestyle.

4. The roving study abroad student

Photo: Prokjirka Matasek

The roving study abroad student has traits of all of the above tourists. They most likely want to try the local delicacies, but their lack of planning means they could fall victim to tourist-trap restaurants. While not explicitly looking for love, a quick fling in a foreign city is what you are sure to remember when you look back as an adult on your semester abroad. And usually in a rush as they try to cram a city into the weekend in between their Underwater Basket Weaving exam and a Creative Writing paper, the roving study abroad student is too carefree to fret about a missed train or bus. While unpolished and likely to make mistakes, these travellers are full of enthusiasm that will turn any bad experience into a positive. Swindled out of money by a Napolitano street game? Well, we got to practice cursing in Italian. Waited in the general admission line to the Uffizi even though we had booked tickets in advance? Well, we met some cool other students to party with that night! Just hope you don’t have a room near them, as they will be back at some ungodly hour, full of booze and thoughts that for some reason they must shout.

5. The one who’s definitely going to be pickpocketed…

Photo: José Manuel Ríos Valiente

A large backpack that would require a rearview mirror to check behind you. Loose change jingling as they walk. A wallet only pushed about half way into a back pocket. These tourists are asking for trouble. You can tell it must be one of their first times out of the country, and in all their oooh-ing and ahh-ing, they forgot that their tourist status won’t shield them from petty crime. They are about to learn the hard way that people can be jerks. If they're lucky, they'll only lose a few euro coins and only discover this as they try to pay for a gelato. If they are unlucky, they could be in for a day of calling credit card companies — if they still have their phone.

6. ...and the one who’s definitely NOT going to be...

Photo: John Myles White

Take the above, but have them wear their outrageously large bag in front of them. We get it, you find the thought of having your stuff stolen revolting. But this is Italy. The only thing revolting is fashion sense (or lack thereof) shown by your choice. Get a nice shoulder bag, that’ll be easier to guard. Or an even simpler solution — pack less stuff.

7. The new photographer

Photo: Giulio Gigante

Perhaps they are using the old family camera some relative dusted off and gave to them upon hearing about their trip. Perhaps they mean business and have a full camera rig ready to go, with an external flash, lens hood and a tripod hooked to their bag. Or maybe they just always have their iPad mini or iPhone 6+ (what’s even the difference?) out. But they can easily be spotted near any major landmark, snapping away happily at the Colosseum or Florence's Ponte Vecchio, taking pictures thousands of other people have before. Sure, they can hardly be blamed for wanting one to preserve the memories. But then they continue to take pictures, of every small thing at the site. It starts to seem like their memory of the Sistine Chapel won’t be seeing it, but taking pictures of it.

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8. The pretentious one

Photo: Kent Clark

They know about five phrases of Italian and flaunt it everywhere they go. They read a book of Roman history before they left, but tend only to reference reading the book, not any pertinent facts from it. They’ve been to Italy once before and claim it helps them better appreciate the culture, but really they were only about 12. However, they're very willing to go off the beaten track to find a real gelateria, or spend time staring at paintings that aren’t The Birth of Venus, so they aren’t totally faking it. But do they have to act so high and mighty?

9. The one who does fall in love

Photo: Roevin

All of the above tourists are right in some ways. Fresh pasta in a basil-tomato sauce cannot be beaten in simplicity and taste. There is a tonne to see, even if you can’t push it all into a week. The mistakes you make may be embarrassing, but every mistake is a chance to learn. Criminals exist everywhere, so just look out for them. Being awestruck by the beauty of centuries-old cathedrals means you can be forgiven for having an itchy trigger finger with a camera. And it isn’t a crime to want to appreciate a culture in the local way. Put all of those together, and this tourist doesn’t fall in love with a person. They fall in love with Italy.

By Stephen Carruso

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