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Italy – the tourist unfriendly country

page Umbria

I have let the time settle before telling you the story of my short trip to Italy because I was pretty upset and disappointed during the trip and after it. Time has passed, but I still feel cheated somehow after having experienced so many types of frustration and disappointment in only 4 days. To get over it but also in order to properly inform you on what to expect while traveling to Italy I will start with the bad stuff:

Transport-wise, Italy is a nightmare for too many reasons: One, car rental companies deem necessary to close their business on Sundays. This means that a poor weekend traveler will be forced to return his rented car on Saturday and do whatever he wishes “per pedes” on Sunday.

While this is definitely good for people who work for car companies and who deserve their time off, as a tourist you are forced by the circumstances to limit you area of travel and this is not nice.

This is the reason why I have stayed in Perugia and got bored to death on the fourth day of my trip when beautiful Todi or Orvieto were so close by car.

If you propose taking a train instead you should know that the connections were poor, inadequate for a day trip. No busses, three hours long train trips one way, no cars to rent = lost time and a lot of frustration.

The parking spaces are terrible, with rules a normal tourist cannot possibly decipher without going to an Italian parking university. For instance, you can use a parking that has a one hour sign for precisely one hour, then you have to move your car to another place.

Imagine trying to visit a medieval city while returning to your car every hour to look for a new parking space nearby.

Oh, the bonus part is your rented car has a small cardboard sign that states the hour of your parking and it’s used by parking controllers to see if your hour is up and kindly write you a parking ticket of about 50 euros.

The fun part is that the people renting you the car do not mention the thing to you and you might just get a ticket for not using it properly.

Concerning hotel and restaurant services, things do not get a lot nicer. In 5 days and passing through 4 different hotels I have only met two nice persons.

The nicest of all was the owner of a small countryside house in Castiglion Fiorentino, a place I recommend with all my heart because it was the only impeccable place, with good service, friendly and respectful people.

This is the place and if you happen to visit Umbria you can book the house for a couple of days as it is a great point for photography and exploring beautiful Umbria: Agriturismo le Maceie

In the other hotels the staff was arrogant, superior and very unfriendly. They will not hesitate to pretend not to understand English in order to refuse helping you in finding a cab or another useful information you might desperately need.

Prices are quite high as compared to the services they offer, so you must really look for good deals in order not to pay too much for poor quality services. Checking out reviews on Tripadvisor is a way to avoid bad deals. Except for the lovely place Agriturismo le Maceie, the hotels in Perugia (two) and the hotel in Rimini were terrible.

Restaurants are great, with good food and they are mostly cozy, elegant places. Italian pizza is the best, for sure, and lasagna and pastas are a must eat. That of course, if you’ll get hungry in their food serving intervals.

Do not get the crazy idea that you can enter a restaurant and ask for food at 13:00 since they serve lunch only after 14:30.

Dinner is served only after 19:30 and if you happen to get hungry around 18:00 you’ll have to be patient and enjoy a beer or more before being allowed to eat.

As for drinks, you should know that a short espresso means a drop of coffee and a long espresso consists of two drops of coffee. If, like me, you prefer real life sized coffee you should ask for an “Americano”.

Besides these unpleasant aspects Italy is lovely and worth visiting, just that you have to take the bad parts into consideration in order not to have too high hopes, so easily broken by the harsh reality of a country that seem not to care for tourism.

If I think about it, they make more money from parking and speeding tickets given to tourists than from tourism itself so maybe that’s why they care so little about tourist satisfaction.

You might think I’m joking, but you should know that a friend of mine spent last year around 500€ on a holiday in Italy and later on received various speeding and parking tickets worth over 600€, so…beware.

My next post will focus on the bright side, the things to see and do in Umbria, Rimini, Ancona and the lovely tiny Republic of San Marino.

Damn it Italy, you are not a country so easy to love, despite your great landscapes, architecture and history…

For more photos check out my picasa album, one click away:

Umbrian adventure – April 2014




3 Responses

  1. I am not surprised. In Italy you must have patience and low expectations, eh?


    • I hope not, since I lack both and I still have some exploring to do in Rome and south of Italy. I just hope my experience in Umbria was a one time only kind of incident…


  2. Heaven is the place where the mechanics are German, the policemen British, the chefs French, the lovers Italian and all is organized by the Swiss.

    Hell is the place where the mechanics are French, the policemen German, the chefs British, the lovers Swiss and all is organized by the Italians.

    This is a joke 🙂


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