As someone from the US, visiting Italy (or anywhere in Europe) is incredible because the history dates back so much further than anything I see on a daily basis. Each city has its own culture, unique characteristics, and stories to go along with it. These stories and locations should be cherished and preserved so those that come after us can enjoy them too. Being a responsible traveler is the best way to do your part in making sure that happens.
Not only do we need to consider future generations, but we also need to be respectful of those who live there now and pay close attention to their customs and culture while we tour their beautiful nation. Responsible travel isn’t just about protecting the environment. It’s also about being thoughtful and considerate when it comes to the beliefs of those who live in the country we are visiting.
Here are some tips and tricks on how we can show that respect and attempt to preserve the spots that we love to visit.
Prevent over tourism.
Over Tourism is a hot-button issue right now. Especially in locations like Rome and Venice where millions of people flock to each summer. There’s a fine line to walk here though because tourism brings in millions of dollars to these cities but also causes so many issues for the city infrastructure.
So how do we balance this? The best way is to plan your trip in shoulder season or even the off-season. Another way is to visit some of the lesser known cities. A few cities to check out are San Gimignano, Matera, Cinque Valli, or Monterosso.
Do not take anything from the historical sites.
I cannot believe that I have to say this, but don’t take anything from historic locations like the Colosseum or the Roman Forum. Not even a pebble. These are historic places that need to be preserved, not stolen piece by piece. The goal is to leave a spot exactly as it was when you arrived.
Stay on identified paths and with your tour groups.
Again, when visiting historic locations, it’s very important to try and leave everything exactly the way it was when you got there. The easiest way to do that is to stay with your tour director (if you are taking a guided tour) and follow instructions. If you are not on a guided tour, then stay on the already marked paths designated for tourists.
For example, at the Roman Forum there are designated paths for tour groups and fences that you are not to go past. Follow the rules and do not jump the fences and stay on the paths. This ensures that the Forum will be preserved as long as possible.
Wear appropriate attire in the churches.
One of the most popular tourist activities is touring the churches of Italy, but to gain entrance you must be covering your knees and shoulders. They even set up booths outside the church entrances selling overpriced scarves to those who forgot to wear a shirt with sleeves.
Part of being a responsible traveler is respecting the clothing customs of that location. Modesty is an important part of Christianity and it is a sign of respect for the religion to be sure you are wearing the appropriate clothing. In many churches they will deny you entrance into the building if you are not dressed correctly.
Verify whether or not you can take pictures inside.
In some of the churches in Italy you are not allowed to take photos inside. If this is the case, they always have signs up stating no photos with pictures that make it very clear. If you are on a guided tour, the tour guide will typically tell you where pictures are allowed. It is a good idea to ask if you are unsure.
Bring your own reusable water bottle.
When I visited Europe I brought a collapsible water bottle that worked out very well. There are water fountains throughout many cities where you can refill your bottle for free. This way you are not purchasing plastic bottles constantly.
Research specific do’s and don’t’s for the city you are visiting.
It is so very important that you follow rules and customs whether written or unwritten in the cities that you visit. For example, you aren’t allowed to picnic or sit in the Piazza San Marco in Venice. An even newer rule is that you aren’t supposed to loiter on the Spanish Steps in Rome. A little research before you visit a city will go a long way.
Instead of giving money to a multimillion dollar company, try to find the mom and pop store that you can buy from. This puts your money directly into the community that you’re visiting. If you eat local it not only helps the restaurant but the local farmers and suppliers as well. Supporting local businesses helps the people that live in the community full time to thrive.