Navigating Italy without the Tourists

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Navigating Italy without the Tourists

I was recently in Florence. Admittedly it was during school vacation and the weather was ideal. However, the crowds were amazing; some so thick they blocked the sites one goes to Florence for. Here is what I learned about this new world of increased tourism.

1.  Museums that charge admission like the Uffizzi must be booked ahead of time.

Navigating Italy without the TouristsSome hotels like the one I stayed at, Il Guelfo Bianco, offer to reserve your Uffizzi ticket for you. The Uffizzi is pricey but that makes it less mobbed and worth every euro.  The best way to tackle medieval art, or any art that is unfamiliar to you, is by means of a decent guide book and one that is not heavy. A brief history of what was going on during the artists’ lives and some general information about what they ‘invented’ will help you look at paintings. Another fun way to admire medieval or Renaissance art is to get a list of Biblical symbols and dig beneath the surface.  God is light, fire, wind. The Holy Spirit is a dove, blue is divinity and red is temporal. A globe is connected with Mary and with earth. Jesus is symbolized by the fish, the dolphin, the eagle, the peacock, the lion, the deer, the ostrich, the pelican, the ant, the phoenix, the ram, and even the unicorn which was later banned.  The lamb is also the Messiah. Other symbols might be political and show the artist, his patron etc. Here is a great source for your next trip to an Italian museum.

2. Use Yelp if you have wifi for restaurant choices.

Yelp enabled me to find dinners close to the hotel. and often outdoors. If you are dining alone, you will find a mini tussle to get a table outdoors. The euro is low but I could save by pre-choosing places that were reasonable on Yelp. If you tell the owner that you found them on Yelp, they are generally thrilled. PS a screen shot of where you are going helps when you get lost!

3. Go to supermarkets for other goodies and for wine.

Navigating Italy without the TouristsRemember to bring a corkscrew, it was impossible to find a screw top bottle anywhere. If you have been on The Women’s Travel Group trip of Cooking/Seeing in Tuscany each April, you will have learned to choose olive oil that is from a specific region or town. Italy is better than Blended Oils, Tuscany is better than Italy, a region in Tuscany is better than Tuscany etc. The more local the label, the better the oil.


4. Once you are tired of dealing with crowds, look outside the beaten path of Italy and away from the major airports.

Navigating Italy without the Tourists

Even Florence has two airports to accommodate its millions of visitors. Any place that requires a new route or flight will be empty of tours. Sardinia has remote villages where, after September, you will not see a single tourist. Most of Sardinia is only reachable by boat or road and much of it is ancient, mysterious and more magnificent than many of the tourist ruined coasts. Sardinia is known for festivals and for folklore and crafts. It is not just a jetsetter beach island, but the second largest one in the Mediterranean, once civilized by Carthage, Rome, Greece, the House of Savoy, the Arabs, and is today Italian, but with a twist.

Navigating Italy without the Tourists

Another area is Puglia, the heel of Italy; again requiring a connection to Bari or Brindisi from European hubs.  UNESCO Heritage sites without crowds still exist. This is Adriatic Italy loved by Europeans during the Summer for its coastline and terrific food. But after September and almost to early winter, the weather is mild and good for us non beach-ers. The area has some of Italy’s best farmland so specialties include the best pasta (hard durum wheat is from Puglia), best olive oil due to its Greece like topography, and loads of fish from its hundreds of miles of coasts.

If you go on line and check out where Europeans are going, you will discover the newer places as they discover them. Do this now before net neutrality is over. That is because, telephone companies might once again make overseas sites load slowly. Italy does not have to be lines and crowds and selfies and backpacks. It can be the luminous and fascinating and absolutely stunning Italy we dream of.

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Email Phyllis with questions about travel or any of our tours.



  • Phyllis Stoller has a BA from Tufts University, an MA from New York University and a Finance Degree from the University of the South Bank, London England. Phyllis founded the leading tour operator for women's travels in North America. After selling her company in 2006, Phyllis started a new company for women: The Womens Travel Group which she defines as Smart Tours for Women. She was voted top in women’s travel by Travel & Leisure Magazine,the first to receive this honor. Phyllis has appeared on The Today Show, CNN, Lifetime TV for Women and others. Phyllis now resides in New York and London For more information: or to join a trip this year: Phyllis Stoller Visit her web site: Follow her on Facebook: on Facebook at /toursforwomen For more information: or to join a trip this year:

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