Travel is a ubiquitous act in our age of shared economy. With some clicks and online research, you can easily go to places. It also creates the global wave of shallow travel – tourists come to a touristic attraction, snap a picture, eat in a tourist-only restaurant, and barely remember anything after returning to their home.
The ability to travel deep has become a rare skill. Compared to simply book a trip online, travel deep requires you to connect to your destination in a profound level. In a country like Italy, things get even trickier. Given that speaking English is still not common in Italy, you absolutely need a local expert to travel deeper.
But it is well worth it. It brings you tremendous satisfaction by feeling deeply connected to a culture, and those interaction stories with local Italians last for a lifetime. Jiaqi Luo, Luxo Italia’s luxury travel advisor, tells her perspectives on why it is important to have a local expert guide in Italy as an expat based in Milan.
1. Italy completely changes when I see it with locals
It sounds counterintuitive, but the truth is: the well-established tourism network in Italy is in fact a curse for deep travelers. It makes mediocre guides and restaurants much easier to find and more accessible.
When I first came to Italy, I followed the online guides and travel books in my first trip to Florence, and only find myself disappointed with all the recommendations. Most of them were full of tourists and ended up being nothing special. When I went again the following year with a Florentine historian friend, his knowledge of the town history completely blew my mind and I got to know many “secret tunnels” that connects Florence. These places are filled with intriguing stories, yet average tourists will never get to know unless they have the right connection.
2. Italians hide their secrets well
Sad but true, local Italians and foreign tourists live completely parallel lives in big cities like Milan and Rome. Milan’s famous cathedral Duomo area is full of touristic, average places, yet just five steps behind the cathedral, there is one of the city’s best Neapolitan pizzeria hidden in a dark alley.
Italians might disagree with me, but I can confidently say that they really don’t want to share where they go with normal tourists. They want to keep their favorite bars and restaurants to themselves. Not only that, they secretly make fun of tourists entering into those typical tourist trap places with overpriced menu and low-quality food.
3. If you don’t know Italian, go with someone that does
Don’t get me wrong, you can survive in Italy without speaking Italian. But when you go with an Italian that not only speaks the language but also knows the places by heart, your experience becomes WAY much better. Personally speaking, I even got extra chocolate cookies when I visit a coffee bar with Italians, let along getting invited to some of Milan’s most exclusive VIP fashion parties.
Let’s not forget that Italy has a relationship-based culture. Your experience heavily depends on who you know on the spot. It is not unusual that a bar owner just offers you a table of tasty finger foods and glasses of great wine for free after some conversations (they don’t speak English, sorry).
Exploring Italy with locals that connects me to their hometowns allows me to feel the passionate side of Italian people, the genuine warmth of this culture. And that is something very special about Italy. I hope you get to experience that, too.
Andrea Degasperi - Italy Luxury Travel Expert