In the modern world many tourists, expats and visitors to Italy, and elsewhere in the world, have strict itineraries which leaves them rushing from site to site in an attempt to experience every aspect of their destination in a matter of days or weeks.
However, although you might get some good photos of yourself outside of famous tourist sites for your Instagram account you really won’t have experienced the country in an authentic way; and what’s more, you’ll probably get back home exhausted and be in need of another vacation right away!
What Is Slow Travel?
Slow travel is a new approach to exploring a destination which puts the main emphasis on connecting with the local culture, people and food instead of rushing around trying to quickly tick things off a prearranged list.
Slow travel is a far more sustainable form of tourism which puts a higher value on immersing yourself in the communities and culture of the country you’re visiting than traditional package holidays and tours.
Why Slow Travel In Italy?
Slow travel is a relatively new concept that was actually inspired by the ‘slow food’ movement which began in Italy in the mid 1980s. The aim of the ‘slow food’ movement was to help to preserve the traditional cuisine, farming and cooking techniques of Italy while simultaneously educating both the tourists and locals who are involved with it.
Just like slow food has done, the travel industry is reshaping the way that tourists experience a new country by offering them more authentic experiences. Slow travel is intended to have a greater educational and emotional impact on tourists while protecting the culture and traditions of the host country. There are many great places to slow travel but Italy is really one of the best destinations in the world to experience in this way!
- Authentically Embrace The Culture: When you take a step back, slow down and allow yourself to become immersed in the culture of Italy you’ll get a genuine feel and understanding for what makes it such a special place. Instead of following a detailed timetable and racing from tourist hotspot to hotspot you can give yourself the time and space to create lasting memories while connecting with the wonderful locations that you find yourself in.
- Avoid Tourist Burnout: It’s not uncommon to return from a vacation feeling more tired and rundown than you did before you left; and can even leave you with a negative impression of your time abroad! Known as ‘tourist burnout’, this phenomenon is a growing problem but it can be easily overcome by simply slowing down and enjoying the moment rather than trying to see every single site in the country during a short stay.
- Save Money On Your Travels: Slowing down during your travels will almost always turn out to be much cheaper than a standard tourist package. Avoiding chain hotels, tourist restaurants and stores will quickly add up to big savings as you live more like a local than a foreign visitor. If you’re staying in your own apartment you can also save money by cooking your own food and preparing packed lunches for the day.
- Slow Travel Is A Mindset: When you get into the swing of slow travel you’ll quickly realize that it’s a mindset that will not only help you enjoy your stay abroad but one that you can bring home with you! Incorporating the mindset of slow travel into your regular life will allow you to enjoy the life in your hometown much more; exploring those museums and galleries that you never had time to before, spending a few hours over a family meal in a restaurant and taking new routes home each day on your commute, just to see what you might find!
How Do You ‘Slow Travel’?
It’s easy to slow travel and so whether you’re in Italy or elsewhere in the world there’s a few basic concepts to grasp, after which you’ll be ‘slow travelling’ without a second thought!
- Live The Way The Locals Do: When you arrive in your destination country, talk to the locals to find out where they like to eat out, relax and what they like to do. Then, follow their lead and do as the locals do! Avoid touristy restaurants and shopping districts and try to spend your time in a similar way to the locals.
- Don’t Let An Itinerary Tie You Down: Of course, it’s natural that there will be some things that you definitely want to see or do while you’re on vacation but for the most of the time try to relax and just see where things take you. Leave plenty of room for chance encounters, random exploration and a big dose of happenstance!
- Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone: Feelings of missing out and discomfort may come up while you’re abroad but instead of giving into the temptation to stick to the well worn tourist trail embrace your discomfort and get off the beaten track. Learn to say ‘yes’ to new foods, activities and adventures that make you feel outside of your comfort zone and look at the whole slow travel experience as a chance to grow as a person.
- Don’t Stay In Hotels Or Resorts: While you’re slow travelling abroad try to avoid staying in large chain hotels or resorts and instead opt for renting Airbnb’s, homestays or small family run hotels and Bread and Breakfast’s. This will help to throw you in the deep end, let you try your hand at cooking your own food with regional ingredients and put you in the shoes of a local resident.
Why Is Italy So Good For Slow Travel?
There are multiple reasons Italy is great for slow travel:
- It’s A Treasure Trove Of Must See Sights: With nearly 60 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and thousands of high profile religious, archaeological and cultural sites to see, even if you slow down you’ll still be able to tick quite a few off your list. So instead of rushing around trying to see them all, slow right down and just appreciate a few in between days of more leisurely activities such as having a long lunch, taking a stroll around the plazas in the evening or just watching the sun set. Also, don’t forget that because there are so many sites to see there are many which are completely unknown to most tourists that you can stumble across quite by accident!
- Italy’s Main Tourist Sites Need Protecting: Each year more than 90 million tourists visit Italy and since most of them only go to a handful of places these sites are deteriorating and in need of preservation. Many of the main tourist hubs in the country have huge hotels and see large cruise ships offload thousands of tourists in one place which inevitably causes damage to the environment. By getting off the tourist route you will be relieving some of the pressure on the traditional sites while also discovering a less well known side of the country which is equally impressive.
- Enjoy The Local Cuisine: Italy is world famous for its cuisine but if you only eat in touristy or ‘international’ restaurants then you’ll miss out on the best of the local food. So why not slow down and eat in a traditional restaurant where you’re freshly made food will inevitably take longer to be prepared but as you sit back, relax and take in the atmosphere you’ll truly be living the genuine ‘Dolce Vita’.
- Arrangiarsi – The Italian Approach To Life: ‘Arrangiarsi’ is an Italian verb which sums up the locals’ approach to practical tasks and daily life. ‘Arrangiarsi’, is a verb, and literally translates into English as ‘arranging oneself’. However, a more accurate colloquial translation is ‘somehow, no matter how’, which essentially means that no matter what happens things will work out! Italians are very good at overcoming obstacles in life with an effortless grace that can be surprising to foreigners and this is something which can be very useful to pick up from them. As a visitor to Italy, especially as a slow traveller, you can really embrace the concept of ‘arrangiarsi’ and just let it flow in the spirit of the country; knowing that things will always work out better than you expected if you don’t worry about making fixed plans.
Tour Operators And Providers Of Slow Travel In Italy
There are many providers of slow travel in Italy. The following are the ones that I am familiar with:
- Apulia Slow Travel: This locally run slow travel tour operator is managed by knowledgeable Puglia residents who design tailor made tours for small or medium sized groups as well as solo travels. You can choose from day trips, food tours, private tours or week long experiences. Apulia Sow Travel specialize in tours and experiences in Puglia, Southern Italy, and offer the opportunity to explore the towns, cuisine and natural heritage of the region.
- Taste and Slow Italy: Taste and Slow Italy is based in central Italy on the border of Lazio, Umbria and Tuscany and runs unique slow travel cultural, wine and food tours for groups and individuals. The tour operators strive to give you an authentic and personalized service using trusted local restaurants, suppliers and guides that they’ve worked with for years.
- Italia Slow Tour: Founded by two of Italy’s most famous travel writers and television hosts, Patrizio Roversi and Syusy Blady have collated a massive range of ideas and suggestions for your slow travel vacation in the country. Their site, Italia Slow Tour, has also partnered with useful third parties that provide everything from bike rentals to temporary tourist Wi-Fi, from finding travel buddies to other slow travel tour operators; all of which include discount deals. The website also hosts a great web series of shows, documentaries and Vlogs which are packed full of ideas for your own slow travel in Italy.
Places Ideal For Slow Travel In Italy
Most parts of Italy are ideal for slow travel. It is geographically a small country compared to the United States, but every region and town has a rich history and it’s own customs and traditions.
- Tuscany: This ancient province is one of the jewels in Italy’s crown, famed for its stunning landscapes, unique regional specialty cuisine and incredible cities, including Florence, its capital, and nearby Pisa. There’s no way to experience the province unless you really slow down and take the time to explore the rural areas as well as the usual tourist sites in the main cities. You can cycle, hike, go on wine tours, truffle hunt or wander through the ancient cities while dropping in on the many museums, galleries and churches on your way.
- Rome: The eternal city itself, Italy’s capital, deserves to be seen at a leisurely pace. Not only are there endless world famous sites to see but every backstreet has tiny restaurants, bars and family run stores to explore. It’s probably best to rent an apartment during your stay because hotels in the city can be fairly pricey and will give you the chance to get out to the Sunday markets to buy some fresh ingredients to cook your own Italian food at home.
- Provincial Food And Wine Tours: To experience one of Italy’s best exports you can either plan your own or join a food and wine tour of any one of the country’s regions; each of which is fiercely proud of their own produce, recipes and traditions.
For the perfect slow travel experience you can eat in small restaurants off the beaten track as well as arrange to have tasting tours in the vineyards on your way. There’s no end to the possibilities when it comes to slow travel food and wine tours; so do some research in advance but then once in the country follow your feet and see where it takes you!
Your Gateway To The Authentic Italian Experience.
Rushing around the usual tourist routes, following the crowds and visiting all the standard sites will only give you a shallow glimpse into the life and culture of the country; which is why slow travel is the only way that you can experience the true essence of Italy that is waiting just under the surface to discover.
Slow travel is as much a state of mind as a practical way of exploring Italy and once you try it for yourself you’ll never look back. Taking your time to really delve deeply into the living cultural spirit of Italy will leave you with a unique experience that you’ll treasure for the rest of your life and what’s more, you can take the slow travel mindset back home with you to live your entire life to the full.