Tiriamo Avanti! Moving Forward!

What am I thinking?

My youngest son looked at this picture a few days ago and said, “mom, you look drunk.” “Really?” was my response, “I don’t think so.” I might have been a little tipsy, but I was celebrating my 50th birthday at a surprise luncheon my husband put together and it was a really wonderful day spent with people I adore. I look at this picture and feel joy and it was a major turning point in life, not just because it was my 50th birthday. This picture was taken on March 1st, 2020. I had just finished what I thought would be my first tour of what should have been a very busy year. It turned out to be my only tour for well over a year. While on tour, Covid started to dramatically alter our world…as soon as we left Venice, Carnival was shut down as Italy’s first hotspot emerged nearby. A sick tour member the day the tour ended sent me into a panic as we quickly learned how contagious it was and I called the newly established hotline. Incidentally, he was able to fly and tested negative for Covid when he arrived at home.

Thus began the roller coaster ride that has been going on for three years now and as you can clearly see by the lack of new blog posts, I haven’t felt very inspired to write and as many of you know, there were other projects underway. The Guide Collective provided a great creative outlet and camaraderie with colleagues, who like me were grounded. Autumn of 2021 finally brought a glimmer of hope and the realization of a long time dream with the launch of my Pleasures of Piemonte tour with help and inspiration from my good friend Sarah Murdoch. I also got to lead a wonderful group of travelers for a week in Naples which will also be repeated in September of 2023 with a few tweaks. Leading these very local, intimate tours of less than 14 people is amazing and I have made it a regular part of my life. Creating new itineraries is a fun challenge and it’s also easier to maneuver during what has become a frenetic time for tourism. I also still love guiding tours for Rick Steves which I have been doing since 1999, and most importantly, enjoy all the amazing people I get to meet along the way.

Many of you have already gotten back into the swing of traveling in this post Covid era. The number of people exploring Europe right now has skyrocketed past 2019 levels which were already at a historic high. If you plan on visiting Italy’s top cities anytime soon, I highly recommend doing it off-season if you have a choice. Travel insurance is a must, (I would not step foot into the US with it) and planning ahead is the key to a successful trip. Not only do you have to book museums ahead of time, if you want to dine out, reservations are highly recommended just about everywhere. Recession and inflation are always two of the main topics we hear about on the news here in Italy these days, but despite higher prices, restaurants and bars are brimming with people even in non-tourist areas. This GoWithGuide breakdown of tourism in Florence, Italy so far this year will give you a great idea of what you can expect in Italy’s top tourist sights and if you scroll down to the graph with average monthly visitors, you’ll understand why off season travel is a good idea. This recent article from The New York Times gives you a good idea of what to expect too. The difference in crowds at the beginning of March in Venice as opposed to just 3 weeks later was astounding, and by off-season I mean November-mid December and mid January through mid March.

This first half of 2023 has been crazy-busy and satisfying whilst guiding tours for both Rick Steves’ Europe and Adventures with Sarah. So far this year I worked with groups that ranged between 4 to 27 people, had to navigate around a flood, a Norovirus that made me, and 17 other people in my group violently ill for 12 to 24 hours (fortunately not on bus days) the normal slew of colds, ticks, and lightening striking our hotel in Tuscany which unplugged all of us as it knocked out the Wi-Fi. (That’s really not a bad thing)

It’s not just the cities and museums that are packed to the gills, but small towns too. One of my bus drivers on the Amalfi Coast last year told me that there were around 30,000 day-tripping to Amalfi (pop. 5102) on any given day and 15,000 to Positano (pop. 3913). The numbers are even higher this year, and it doesn’t take a genius to understand that these are big influxes of people for fragile communities. The good news is that Italy still has plenty of relatively undiscovered places that are accessible if you are are willing to rent a car, kick back and enjoy the view from the window of a bus or train, hire a car and driver or sign up for a tour that goes beyond the bucket list destinations. With that in mind, the pictures in this post are places I have already been on tour this year and last in both high and low season.


Keep on traveling, educate yourself enough so you know what to expect when you are deciding where to go and what to do. Be a conscientious traveler even if people around you are not, and enjoy the ride! Buon Viaggio!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *