Remembering the things we don’t like about Italy
We love Italy. We came here a few years back and had one of our best vacations ever exploring Tuscany. In Italy you’ll always be assured of beautiful landscapes, great food and wine, and incredible history. We also love the Italian people; their passion, their outlook on life, their fashion sense. Italy is one of our favorite countries.
But it took a little over 24 hours in Trieste to also remember certain things we don’t like about Italy.
We had our worst ever Airbnb stay in Trieste; the apartment was dirty, smelled of stale cigarettes, and had zero ventilation. The bathroom was equipped with a blue light and smelled like urine (you’d think you were in a nightclub). The owner, an artist, had a huge painting that featured Russian vodka and erupting penises. We’re pretty liberal and paintings of erupting penises don’t bother us. They do however make us wonder about the mindset of the owner.
So you’re thinking “ok, so you had a shitty Airbnb stay. What does any of that have to do with things you don’t like about Italy?” Well, the answer is that the apartment is a microcosm of the things we don’t like about Italy.
Dirtiness. Maybe it hit us because we were coming from pristine Slovenia. But we knew we were in Italy when we saw the overflowing garbage cans and the heaps of garbage bags piled around them. We suddenly remembered something from our last trip: seeing beautiful historical monuments (that have been meticulously restored) and then seeing, not far away, the same overflowing garbage cans. Italy can do a better job with its garbage collection. But it’s not just the garbage; Italian streets all look like they could use a bit of a cleaning. Kind of like the grimy kitchen in the Airbnb apartment.
Urine. We arrived at the front door of the building in which the Airbnb apartment was housed. The first thing that hit us was the strong whiff of urine. The smell of piss was overpowering. If someone pissed on the side of your building wouldn’t you get a hose and hose it down? It just seems that you smell a lot of urine in Italy. As mentioned, it was only a prelude to the smell of urine in our host’s bathroom. Believe me, when a bathroom smells like stale piss and is lit only by a somber blue light, you start looking around half expecting to see bats hanging from the ceiling.
Disorganization. Where do I start on this one?
Italy has these cafés in train stations and airports. I don’t know what they’re called. How they work is this: you go to the cash, you order what you want. They’ll take your cash, give you a receipt. You take your receipt to another counter which looks like the long counter in a bar. There you give the staff your receipt and they make your coffee or dig up that muffin that you wanted. Could be a bit more efficient but sounds easy enough, right? Except that this is Italy where there is no line or organization of any kind. Instead everyone shows up, bumping each other to get up to the bar, waving their receipts or calling out to get the barista’s attention. It’s like the trading pit at the stock exchange. It took a couple of people to push by me to figure out how it worked. Then I did the same, rudely shoving myself in front of someone, waving my arms and bobbing my shoulders in that exasperated “what’s-going-on-and-why-am-I-not- getting-fucking-served” gesture while trying to have the best pissed-off look on my face. It worked. But I got back to the table, coffee and muffins in hand, sweaty and with my heart beating hard in my chest. Is a coffee worth that much trouble? I don’t think so.
Example 2. Later that day we were at the Mestre train station outside Venice, looking to take the shuttle bus to the airport. We followed the signs saying ‘Marco Polo’ (the name of the airport) until we were outside. That’s where the signs end. Where do we take the shuttle bus? We finally see a stand where a girl is selling tickets. Tickets to the airport. We buy tickets from her and she points us to a bus. As we soon find out, it’s not a dedicated airport shuttle, it’s a city bus that stops and starts, picking up and dropping off locals on its snail’s-like pace to the airport. Did we catch the wrong bus? Maybe. But we’ll never know because nothing was indicated and there was nobody official around to ask.
Example 3. Arrival at Marco Polo airport. What a frigin mess that airport is, the crowds reminded me of every photo I’ve ever seen of Calcutta. You arrive and you find out that check-in counters are on the 2nd floor. You see them looking up the escalator – except the escalators are blocked off to oversized luggage by immovable obstacles. You have to take the elevator. Fine. But one of the two elevators isn’t working and the other has people pushing and shoving to get in with their luggage and baby strollers. You can only fit in 6 people at a time. It’s mayhem. 15 minutes and 5 elevator ups/downs later we make it to the check-in counters. No indications to where the Air Transat check-in is located. I leave Lissette with the baggage while I go explore. I find out that Air Transat, along with maybe 4 other airlines, actually have their check-in counters on the ground floor (the ‘arrivals’ floor). So we have to take the elevators back down…and then fight through everyone still trying to get on the elevator to go up. Argg. We finally get to our check-in counter. And through all this we never once saw an information desk or someone who looked remotely like they could be working in the airport..
So back to our Airbnb apartment. The host had told us to ring the bell when we arrive at his address. Ok. But when we arrived at his address we realized we needed either his apartment number or his last name to know which button to ring. He hadn’t thought to tell us this critical information. When I later told him that travellers have to know this kind of detailed information he just kind of shrugged, as if saying ‘this is Italy, why make anything easy when we can make it both more challenging and time-consuming?”.
Maybe it’s the Germanic blood in me – but I don’t get it. Why can’t they have a cordoned off line at the café? Why can’t they have an arrow or proper indications at the train station pointing where to take the bus to the airport? Why don’t they have proper signage, rolling carpets or functioning elevators at one of Italy’s busiest airports??
Corrupt & useless employees. So we had finally gone through check-in (where they charged us extra for overweight luggage. Yes, was that kind of day) and passed through security. We decided to go for lunch while waiting for our flight to board. There are 2 restaurants in Marco Polo airport; the first is a large cafeteria style affair. After the experience at the coffee bar that morning I didn’t want anything to do with lining up for food. The 2nd was a burger joint. It looked quiet. Lissette sat down while I went to the counter. Ordering two of their pre-set combos (club sandwich/fries/beer & grilled cheese/fries/water) seemed to be one of the most complicated things on earth to the guy behind the counter. After going through the order 3 times and getting 2 different price quotes, I gave him two 20 Euro bills. Flustered I didn’t look at my change until I got seated…and then realized I had been shortchanged by 10 Euros. I went back and told him there had been a mistake with my change. He argued that I had not in fact given him two 20 Euro bills. To what point do you argue that? I waved my arms in frustration for the 5th time that day. I know I got screwed over. And (surprise, surprise) I had to take my bill, walk 3 feet down the counter to the cook and present him with what I ordered. Sat down. I got my club sandwich ten minutes later. No fries. Ok, fries coming. Where’s the grilled cheese? Oh, forgot. We got the fries 5 minutes later. Where’s the grilled cheese? Oh. 5 minutes later I lost it and went to the counter where I waited while he cooked Lissette’s grilled cheese sandwich right in front of me. What a bunch of dumbasses. For the 6th time that day I threw my arm in the air in exasperation. I’m sorry, but not many places in the world would tolerate idiots like them running a store. Except Italy.
The only parallel to the Airbnb apartment was that he was another Italian dumbass.
I could list a bunch of other complaints that other people have with Italy but I just wanted to focus on our frustrations during those 24 hours. Sometime you just need a rant to get it out of your system.
The thing about Italy is that you often forget these little things. There are too many good things about Italy that you end up loving the country and glossing over the bumps. And although we had a rotten 24 hours, we also met a few people that really helped us out. Like the young man sitting outside the Airbnb apartment when we didn’t know which buzzer to ring. He offered his help and lent me his cellphone so that I could call the Airbnb host. In many countries people would just ignore you. Then there was the incredibly friendly woman who sat next to us on the train to Venice and chatted with us for 2 full hours. She’s invited us to come back to Trieste one day. Although we might get frustrated over how things work in Italy you tend to forget them after a while and remember the good things – like the good people and the nice gestures along the way. Somehow we’ve had many of both in Italy. They are the reasons we’ve been to Italy 3 times and why we always end up wanting to come back.
Ok, tell me what you think.
Related: Why Vernazza is the best town in the Cinque Terre. And thoughts on Rampant Tourism
Related: A Local’s Travel Guide to Italy (including places you’ve never heard of)
Related: Travel guide to the most beautiful city in Italy’s Puglia region: Lecce
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Hi, I’m from Italy and I agree whit many things that you said, the problem is that Italy is a really diverse country : for example cities like Bolzano, Cervinia or Brunico are super clean ( even cleaner than Switzerland) whit near to perfect Urban Organization, or neighborhoods like “Prati” in Rome or “City Life” and “Isola” in Milan, on the other hand you have cities like Messina that look like 3rd world ( entire neighborhoods that where really similar to favelas) and as an Italian I was shocked. My town is in Central Italy, is pretty clean and safe and the local govirnament is doing it’s best to improve streets and organization efficiency, whit little to no migrants. I have never been robbed, felt unsafe
or seen piles of trash in the streets in 15 years. So as you can see it really depends in wich part of the country or even wich city you visit, and unfortunately big cities like Rome or Naples have seen and increas in dirtiness and criminality( but it really depends in wich neighborhood you live) At least where I live I have a life quality close to the UAE, Switzerland or Germany, but at the same time there are people in Messina that live like Brazil, ” What a Weird Country”!! .
Thanks for the comment. Yes, you’re perfectly right in talking about the diversity and differences between regions. And even in the different regions there are different pockets. We were recently back in Italy where we spent a month in Puglia, based in Lecce. Beautiful city.
It IS a weird country. Maybe that’s why experiences can be so variable. As I say, we mostly love Italy…but some aspects (again, depending on where you are) drive us crazy.
lmao! thank you! thank you! frank! i am sitting in a little cafe in trieste right now close to via venti settembre, and it is 5 pm! you know it! it is their favorite time and thing to do – aperitif! your writing cracked me up, and boy did not i need a good laugh today coz otherwise i would have ben crying! out of sheer frustration with italian/triestina way! we bought an apartment here, closed last wed. now dealing with 1) reno 2) transfer of utility 3) registering with the condo administration. i could write a whole article on the whole process. and speak of the city, yes, not only is it surprisingly not clean, my biggest gripe is all the dog poop on the streets. i am always like “really?” but your writing style and your stories are awesome! i really thought i was the only one. but having said that, italy is still my favorite place, especially the warmth of southern italians! (people in trieste are cold and somewhat racists too.. they do not like people who are not from here even if they look just like them such as slovenians and balkans.) but for us it is ok, we are not here to work. we spend summer months here (and travel throughout EU) and we spend our winter months in FL. if i have to, i will stay away from everything that makes me shake my head about trieste and focus on all the beauty italy has to offer. but your observation is spot on! (i have been all over in italy for both work and visiting friends. so it is fair to say as a non-italian, i know the culture well.)
Thanks so much for the comment Tia! Funny enough we’ve never actually seen Trieste – have only passed through a couple of times (the next time my wife arrived and had to use the bathroom – well, she didn’t expect filthy squat toilets at the Trieste train station. She forgot pretty quick how badly she had to go…)
I’m curious what made you choose Trieste as a base?
lol! i am flattered you read my comment! yes, trieste of all places in europe does strike most people as odd including the people here. we went to agenzia entrate to get our codici fiscali (it is like SS) two years ago. and the first question from the nice gentleman who helped us was “why trieste? there is no job here!” we smiled and told him we are both retired (we retired early esp i as i have no kids! 🤣🤣) and that we are here to support the local economy. and we told him that the decision is a logical one. we love southern italy for its food and the kindness and authenticity of the people; but after having spent a lot of time all over southern italy including sicily, i realized that inspite of my love for it, i could not live in any of the villages or even the island of sicily for 6 mos every year. being a NYC girl (my home town is princeton but i spent most of my 30’s in and out of the city after business school) i need a bit of a culture life and diversity for real living. i have been to all the big cities in italy, i cannot live in rome or any place run over by tourists and i do not like torino or milano. i love veneto and towns like bassano del grappa. but i need to be near water, by the sea. trieste, despite its poopy streets, has a big scene of theater and performing arts. as part of xmas gift, i am taking my husband to “barber of serville”. its caffès have huge austrian influence. (google caffe antico san marco, it is also a small books store. ) i love sitting there and do my reading. also, i would like to explore balkan more and we love austria. so location is very convenient. trieste seems to have two kinds of people which i call the “euro versus lira”. young people here are more open minded and a lot of them speak a little english and love to chat with me when they learn i am americana; then you have older people who are very set in their backward ways and they don’t like anyone … italians, slovenes, other balkan or middleasterners. they do not even like chinese! 🤣🤣🤣 but as everything in life, you take the good with the bad. i am old enough to know that! ps, are you still writing blogs? would love to read more and compare notes. (i have traveled around the world both for work and personal for 17 heads now!)
Thanks Tia, very interesting!
Of course still writing 🙂 And we lived a year in the Balkans and have visited many more times. So if you look you’ll find lots of info.
Just got back from 3 weeks in Mexico visiting my mom. Another favorite country.
So, other than all that, lol…. I’m in Trieste now, for my second time. The first was only 16 hours and now I’ll have 4 days, then heading to Verona. So far I haven’t had these problems, but like Kemkem said, sounds like Malta. Anyway, no helpful information here on Trieste that I was looking for ? can’t say favorite city, but I’m meeting a friend who’s flying in from the States and Trieste makes a good base to see area…. I’ll now go read your post on Verona.
Have gone through Trieste twice on trips to and back from Croatia and we haven’t even seen the city. Just bad experiences with apartments, organization, and horrible toilets (DON’T use the toilets at the Trieste train station).
If you think Italy is bad, then don’t go to India. India and Italy are much the same. Except India is miles dirtier.
Read some of Tom Parkes books. The current one I am reading is Italian Ways – all about the Italian Railways – boring – not at all. If you have ever travelled by train in Italy, this will bring more than a smile to your face.
Oh boy, Italy is really in trouble if we are starting to compare it to India! 🙂
I’m just comparing it to the rest of Europe…
Thanks for the book recommendation, always like reading about train travel. Did the famous El Chepe through Northern Mexico last year, was a trip I’ll never forget.
I hated Italy. What a fucking shit show. It was dirty and people are extremely rude. Ordering a coffee or a meal is so damn complicated, transportation is horrendous, and I’m mostly surprised about people’s rudeness towards clients and anyone that wants to eat at a restaurant. I’m never ever coming back to this place. Ever.
Ouch, sounds like you had bad experiences Jennifer!
I’ve had a bit of time to get over mine but as you can see I got hot under the collar over Italy as well. Especially the ordering thing – I’ve never seen it as complicated ANYWHERE in the world. What a mess.
Hi, Frank, I’ve read your post carefully since I intend to go on a trip to Trieste and I was rather discouraged… But then I must say I always found Italy amazing, we travel a lot to this incredible country and every time we enjoy it tremendously. Sorry that didn’t happen to you with Trieste, but just let me say this: every year Italy takes in 80-85% of immigrants that land on its coast. Italy alone. With no or little help from the fellow EU member states, you can imagine this has become a huge problem for a single country to handle. This country is continuously flooded with unfortunate people in search of a better life. Not all of them are lucky enough to settle in decent accommodations and start a decent living. So there’s the explanation for the urine and dirtiness you now find in its cities. I recently returned from Rome which I often visit and found it worse. It’s almost heartbreaking to see a majestic city like Rome invaded by garbage and disgusting odors. Next time you visit keep in mind that the Italian blood unlike the Germanic or Austrian or Hungarian one finds it difficult to deny a human being the chance for a better life even if that means to see their beautiful country slowly disfigured. Maybe it’s about them being raised as Catholics or it’s simply in their blood but you’ll never hear about Italian coastguard shooting at immigrants (like Spain) or about their borders being closed to people in need of help (like Austria and Hungary). So I guess your Germanic blood must settle for a dirty Italy in order to enjoy a clean and organized Germany etc. As for your other issues, I think that was just bad luck 🙂
Thank you Camelia. But Italy was the same 20 years ago. I’m not blaming the refugees that have arrived on it’s shores in the last 2 years for the current state of affairs. Actually, this post was written in 2015 when the majority of refugees were heading to Germany through the Balkans. I’m sorry, your comment about the Germans and refugees is way off base – in fact, it was Merkel and her open door policy that opened the floodgates to refugees on the continent. Germany was generous to a fault.
Italy…Catholic like Spain maybe?
We too love aspects of Italy. But to blame it on everyone else (and religion) is disingenuous…
I have to agree with some of your experiences, south Italy was exactly like this for us, but Northern wasnt. To be fair i have experienced a lot of similar things while living in Germany- things are not the way they used to be there as well. I’ve been living in NYC for a while and I think USA has some of the worst airports in the world and pretty horrible public transportation system, even in 3rd world countries in Asia or South America it’s infinitely better. Italian one is much better in my books as well, so given how bad their economy is doing right now it’s hard to expect more.
Thanks Mike. It’s all relative, I agree. I also agree that the USA has the worst airports in the world. We’re Canadian and at the top of the list when choosing a flight is anything that doesn’t connect through the US. It’s a nightmare. And yes, many people would be surprised at how well other countries do public transport (ever taken a long distance bus in Mexico? It’s incredible! Same I’ve heard in Argentina, Chile and Peru..)
I’m a bit surprised what you say about Germany though, have never had an issue with transport or organization of any kind.
In Italy, it wasn’t so much the planes or trains. It was stuff that would be easy to fix – signage, procedures. Just the way they do things. I don’t think it actually had anything to do with money it was just a lack of structure. We spent a month in Italy (a year after writing the above post) and the trains are very good by any standards. But they’ll switch tracks on you at the last minute without an announcement and they’ll be pandemonium as word spreads and everyone rushes to the new track. It’s just a mess in that respect and sometimes you feel that they kind of enjoy keeping you on your toes with stuff like that. And god knows they don’t like cleaning toilets even if charging for the use of them.
Anyway, thanks for the comment.
I just fell upon this blog today – It’s so amazing, I’ve spent the last 2 h reading it! I am originally Scottish, but a Canadian PR who lived in Montreal for almost 10 years before my (current) 2-year stay in Milan, Italy. I will be moving back to Montreal in a few months as I miss my bike, my hikes in the Eastern townships, the fresh air, and so on. Anyway, this post on Italy really hit the mark – Milan is a culprit of all the things you mention with a scary amount of pollution on top. I totally relate to your airbnb experiences too. Although Italy has been a great base for us to visit many places in Europe (and my family back in Scotland), we definitely won’t be settling here. So it’s back to MTL, before deciding what we do next. I look forward to reading about more of your travels and where you decide to settle down (for at least a while). Bonne chance!
Thank you so much Cat! Appreciate the kind words.
Yes, we couldn’t live in Italy despite all the incredible history and beauty. I wrote this 2 years ago. Last year we decided to make Padova (Padua) our base for a month. Again, a mix of love/hate. And Italy really quite expensive isn’t it? (on top of everything else)
Hone right now is actually Split (Croatia), right across the Adriatic.
All the best to you. I just spent 3 weeks in Montreal (putting the finishing touches on selling our condo and shipping our stuff to Croatia). Don’t know if I’ll ever go back…
I love to read you!!! And I love your photos!!!! I don’t have money to travel and I wish with all my heart I could, but at least I can do it through you.
My question is… why do you use…Airbnb and not a regular hotel?
Hi Patty – thank you so much for your kind words.
We use Airbnb instead of a hotel because 1) full facilities (it’s basically living in an apartment) and 2) it is cheaper than Hotels, especially if you stay long term like us (we can get 40% off normal Airbnb rates staying 28 days or more…)
No full-time traveller would ever stay in a hotel because it would just be too expensive as well as too small.
Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂
Hi! I’m actually from Trieste. Some of the things you say are totally true for example the fact that people never stays in line and make a mess at the counter. I always admired Canada because of its organization. But I have to say thatsome of the con’s that you mentioned are just due to the fact that you were unlucky hahah For example the fact that you smelled urine in front of your door is probably due to the fact that you stayed in a certain part of the city (which I guess was Cavana) which is the most unpleasant zone of the city where there are nightclubs and some drunk or spoilt people don’t wanna wait the line for the bathrooms. The same goes with garbage… Italy actually has a lotof problems with garbage but I have to say that Trieste is actually very clean (if there aren’t any big events – in that case the city remains dirty for a few days but then they clean it up). Of course not clean as Slovenia or Ljubljana as you said, which is the cleanest city in whole Europe. You were even unlucky with the cafe. Because the one in the main station is actually a mess. If you go to others cafes they re pretty normal and not so messy. And of course.. well…we don’t usually have pictures of penises in our homes hahahah 😉 hope you enjoyed your stay 😛
Thank you Alice. Actually we were about a 15 minute walk northeast of the train station. This was last year and it was a very short visit. Maybe we were unlucky.
But earlier this year we had to go through Trieste again and Lissette went to the bathroom at the train station. She said it was the most disgusting toilet she has ever seen anywhere. I don’t understand why they can’t keep toilets clean in parts of Italy. At the train station in Verona it was clean but only because you have to pay for it. But in Trieste it is totally disgusting.
We haven’t actually seen Trieste – we’ve gone through it twice on our way in/out of Croatia. But what authorities should learn is that things like that leave a lasting impression. Which I’m sure is inaccurate because we’ve heard good things about the old city center.
I’m very happy to hear you don’t have pictures of penises in your home 🙂
I too love Italy. I really, really do. And I too find the lack of organization irritating. Resturants lines, museums, the metro can all be irritatingly Italian. I remember a shuttle to the airport in Rome arriving 20 minutes late to pick us up and delaying 30 minutes at a later stop for late passengers. We had to run to make that flight.
But my experience with cleanliness and landlords is rather different. German apartments are clean almost forbiddingly clean. Ditto Austrian apartments. But so have been all of the Italian places I’ve stayed. And we’ve found Italian landlords helpful and welcoming. We arrived in Rome from an overnight train from Paris at the beginning of a metro strike only to be rescued by out Italian land lady who picked us at the train station. She warned us of the strike by email too. Her apartment was spotless and her notebook of information invaluable. In Florence we were met at the door by the semi English speaking husband of our land lady. He did his very best to communicate. Once again the apartment notebook was invaluable. Our land lady appeared a day later fluent and helpful. Yes the apartment was very clean. Maybe we’ve been lucky. Maybe you’ve been unlucky.
We smell urine from open sewers in Italy but the pay toilets are pretty clean. In Germany, Austria, The Netherlands and Britain we watch to avoid stepping in urine and the more we pay for a restrooms the less clean they are. Amsterdam train station and Delft train station are tied for the very smelliest dirtiest most expensive toilets we have ever used.
Our dirtiest apartment and least helpful landlord awards both go to Paris, with London a distant third and fourth.
Sorry to disagree about apartmentsome, I’m right there with you about signage.
Thank you Jenny, much your comment. That post was written last year – we came back this year (using Padova as a base for a month) and both loved and hated Italy for the same reasons as previous.
First paragraph about cleanliness, organization, lines – in perfect agreement.
Individual landlords will always differ. We had 2 apartments in Padova that were extreme opposites – one just as you describe: spotless, beautiful, sweetest lady. 2nd apartment, although quirky (in a cute way) at first sight ended up being a mess. He had all in one washer/dryer that washed but didn’t dry. We fought with him over his machine for a week. Told him to bring over the manual. Upon which my wife said “do you think maybe he’s never cleaned out the filter?”. He had never cleaned out the filter. And of course the corner outside seems to be a favorite of pissing bums and dogs 🙂
Yes, pay toilets pretty clean but in our experience not as clean as those in Germany or Austria. But hey, I’ll gladly pay for any toilet in Europe. Some people complain about that but come on, we’re talking about basic hygiene right? If you’ve seen toilets in the Balkans believe me you would want to pay 50 Euro cents for a clean toilet 🙂
But all in all we love Italy: visited Rome, Venice, Bologna, Verona and there is so much history. Beautiful country. I guess we have to take the good with the bad 🙂
Gosh, how embarrassing is your tale! I was born in Trieste when it was still a clean, well ordered, beautiful historical town with gorgeous architecture, beautiful mountain walks and a wonderful sea. I have lived my adult years abroad and plan to return to Trieste and start an Airbnb next year, so your opinion does concern me. I dare say that a lot has changed, and yes, the Government seem to be very much at fault. There are a lot of unsatisfied citizens, the bureaucracy is a huge concern. You commented on the lack of order while queueing which upset the Germanic blood in you — don’t forget that Trieste was the Royal Port of the Austro Hungarian Empire before being handed over to Italy, and most of us are proud of our Austrian heritage and not too happy with recent developments. I share your frustration with Station and Airport “bars”, but I guess the traffic that goes through them is enough to turn any well mannered person into survival mode and I don’t believe the people who serve in them have any vested interest, so that is a problem. Further, I wouldn’t drive in the Italian traffic if you offered me a gold studded car — the traffic is insane and it seems to get worse the further south one goes. But then I probably wouldn’t drive with ease in certain other parts of Europe either.
The host at your Airbnb apartment sounds like he shouldn’t have been allowed the privilege — what bad publicity for my home town!!!
I thought Airbnbs were under careful supervised control and monitored by their Head Offices?
Let me assure you that Trieste is a beautiful and cultured place, and that there are still some exceptionally well mannered people more than willing to welcome you, in amongst the unfortunate lot that seems to have come from goodness know where in the last while.
And I agree that one shouldn’t travel around Italy in July and August as it is hellish hot and everyone seems to shut shop and retreat to the mountains.
Better luck next time. Perhaps you will be my guest 🙂
Thank you so much Mandy! Happy to hear your insights.
We’ll be back to Trieste one day, especially since we play the Schengen game between Italy and Croatia. We have (new) favorite Airbnb hosts in Rovinj and they come and pick us up in Trieste. We also just very recently had a one-month stay in Italy (using Padova as a base) and enjoyed the area. So yes, maybe one day you’ll be our Italian Airbnb host 🙂
Just wanted to tell you how much I agree with ALL your Italy frustrations! Glad it’s not just me : ) thinking this, whilst on holiday.
Yet my husband and I keep going back for the simple things they do right.
Still, transportation there is unorganized for sure…But, as my husband says it’s ALL part of the experience.
(Get euros to buy a rail/bus ticket, to then validate your ticket, to hand it to someone taking tickets, if they even ask you for it?
Hmmm, Why not just have a machine on the bus or train that takes euros?)
Oh, the Taxi’s. No matter where we go, even picking the “official” vehicles doesn’t matter. We have paid no less than 20 euro, ever. Whether we are in the car 5 minutes on Capri or 25 in Naples. What can you do? We try to get a price ahead of time, but then you notice we aren’t even moving and I owe you 7 Euro?!
Trash, especially Rome. I understand the trying financial times, however travel brings in BIG money – it is good business sense for everyone to pitch their trash into the can.
We saw a gentleman at the soccer game handing out newspapers, after the game we noticed he had left the whole stack (almost 2 feet high)…the wind was blowing handfuls around, down to the river across the street. No one picked up any, but just walked by the mess.
Naples, was much cleaner (less trash, but still gritty) and very enjoyable (except for the piss alley I wrongly ventured up) our second time there this past September ’15. They really have put in the effort so the visitors feel safe and welcome. All three types of polizia made their presence known throughout the city day and night.
Funny…our first time there I had a panini cashier shortchange me 5 euro for my one sandwich. So, when I got to the counter yelling for my food I ordered TWO instead as “pay back”, ha!
Thanks to Anacapri, we much enjoyed a quiet, tidy town with minimal trash or graffiti, friendly locals, great food and stunning vistas!
Glad you had safe travels!
Hope 2016 brings you many more adventures.
Thank you contributing these stories, brings it all back to life 🙂
My ex boss says exactly what your husband says, that it’s all part of the experience: never mind that it’s inefficient, not always logical, and at times really frustrating. Maybe they think nothing should come easy, that you should have to fight for everything? 🙂
i agree in general with some of the comments and the article in general. It falls in the tipical American tourist way of thinking, is fantastic but “i,m so glad i don,t live here”. You neglected the critical socio-economic moments that Italy is going through. Close to financial baylout, suffering inmmigration as never known before and more problems we won’t talk about. You have to understand that these cities are not a Disney Park, there lives real people with real problems. In the other hand i have been shocked to see the alleis near center of, for expemple Philly, with people in a state of wellfare closer to África than the US where your feet get sticked to the floor by garbage-glue. Anyway is your point and i respect it.
As a citizen of a touristic city (Barcelona), here are my tips for you to travel to Europe: Don’t come in July or August, is where we have hollydays and everything is crowded and more expensive. Talk to the locals, ask them where and how, southern europeans are friendly, if you rely only on the tourist guides you are missing a lot (this rule don’t Apply in París, don,t come close to locals in that city). Study where you go, somebody talks about Málaga? there are 1000 places in Spain to go before Malaga, one of the ugliest towns in Spain. Consider that these countries have such an amount of UNESCO patrimony that is difficult to maintain, specially in these crisis times.
Thank you for your comment. I’m not American by the way 😉
Totally agree that Europe should not be visited in July and August and agree with what you say about talking to locals. We are slow travellers and travel full-time, so we know how to travel. And I know about the problems in Italy. This was more of a rant on the things that frustrate us there, many of which have nothing to do with the economic situation. But I appreciate and agree with all your points and tips.Thanks for taking time to comment!
Great post. We were in Torino, Italy once and I remember it was beautiful but people were driving crazy.Lol The alps were breathtaking. Tuscany is definitely on our list along with Venice. Thanks again.
Would love to see Torino. So many beautiful places in Italy despite my rant on some of its little idiosyncrasies 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to comment Samantha.
If that got you into a huff, you should try living in Italy. You have NO idea.
As for the rubbish, well that is a problem as the rubbish collection companies are run by the Mafia and the Italian government decided to stop paying them about six years ago. If you think Trieste was disgusting, I wouldn’t recommend that you travel anywhere from Rome south. The rubbish literally hasn’t been picked up in six years in the south.
And Marco Polo is the most efficient Italian airport. It’s the one thing that actually works well in this region, and I would know since I live here.
Thanks for the comment Jen.
Marco Polo was undergoing renovations when I was there last month, it was a fiasco. You must have been lucky enough to miss the work…I’ve never had any issues with any other Italian airport I’ve travelled through.
I didn’t ever say Trieste was disgusting and wouldn’t because it isn’t. The post was about the downside of Italy, which as I say we quite love thank you.
Interesting about the government and the Mafia.
Kristin & Paul
Great post, especially as you have been there before and you can speak from experience. We loved Northern Italy when we visited it some years ago but that was only for three days so we cannot really say that we know it very well. We also stayed for 2 weeks in Abruzzo some years ago (Alba Adriatica region). We drove there from Rome but didn’t really enjoy the driving there. The worst thing was that they drive so close to you – we regretted renting an underpowered Fiat 500 although it looked cute as people drove so close as if it didn’t exist which is not the case if in a Merc or something with more presence. One guy in the countryside was very dangerous and ready to kill himself. There weren’t any cars around and he kept driving close at us and so Paul indicated with his thumb and index finger in the mirror that he was driving too close…the guy misinterpreted this sign as the A-Ok sign (in scuba diving) which I think means “Up yours” in Italian. He then overtook us, stopped his car and started to swear at us in Italian like a lunatic but we got away from it safely. Once we were at our hotel, we did not go out in the car again. It was sort of sad as we probably missed out on some of the beauty but we ended up with a relaxed vacation at the beach. We were there in the low season and at our hotel were mostly retired Italians which were quite entertaining.
We enjoy driving holidays in US, New Zealand where drivers are more respecting.
Separately Paul visited Naples and Capri when he was younger. He loved the chaos of Naples – for a short time and Capri was nice enough to visit but all a bit crowded.
That doesn’t sound like fun! Everyone talks about the Italians and their driving…and you could write a whole post on it based on all the stories I’ve heard. They all fancy themselves as race car drivers. Luckily I didn’t drive there 🙂
Love your comment “must be the Germanic blood in me.” I feel the same way! I have almost zero tolerance for incompetence, disorganization and most of all, inefficiencies. But, Italy does have a way of making one overlook all that!
Ha! That sounds so German. But I feel exactly the same way 🙂
We pissed ourselves reading of your day in “hell” . It might have been thoroughly maddening at the time – but it is hilarious picturing the day as it was, and how ‘hot and bothered’ you must have been ! A great example of the downside to the upside of travelling – the bad having to be taken with the good ! We all have our stories to tell – but we seldom if ever do…Yours is one of the very rare and few rants ever , on what is often a frequent occurrence while travelling. Good on you ! And you are right, Frank – the mind has this wonderful quality of minimizing , even erasing, the less pleasant and downright “ugly” events, while vividly remembering, even enhancing, the enjoyable and upbeat ones. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. When is your next trip to Italy ? Ha !
Thanks for the comment Tony. Happy you had some amusement at my expense 🙂
Loved the pic with the steam figuratively coming out your ears – you deserved THAT beer for sure! I’ll be you were relieved to be jetting out of there after that day.
Hehe, yes, thanks Rebecca. We can laugh about it all now but that day I was pretty hot and bothered…
Hah hah! Love your rant :-). A lot of these things, you can just substitute Spain or Malta and be done with it 🙂 🙂 :-). That was something that bothered me, and especially Federico a lot about Malta and Malaga. They are kind of dirty. The city takes care of the “tourist” areas and the places where the locals live kind of get the short end of the stick. I think they have a saying in Spain that if you haven’t stepped in dog poop, you don’t have good luck (rough translation). As far as the urine, it’s mostly dog piss on the buildings, powerful smell as people just let their dog walk and piss everywhere. Of course the tourist areas like Campo de Fiori in Rome for instance have drunk tourists passing about. It kind of sucks, and it’s getting worse. Barcelona for instance, the locals say they are over tourists and they are trying to crack down etc.. We stayed at this airbnb in Florence that was 4 times worse than you described..really!!!! The “bathroom” was in the basement..of the basement (where this f******g studio was), ceiling height like 4.5 ft..I don’t even want to think about it. He was an italian guy and Fede almost beat him up because l had mistakenly booked for one person and he wanted the extra money for the second person..hah hah! Mr short fuse himself couldn’t wait to go off… :-). What you write is true, but l have learned to lower my expectations. Now you know one of the reasons why he doesn’t want to live in Italy. It’s everywhere though, unless you’re in a suburb in Canada or something..hah hah..kidding..
Thanks so much for the Italian perspective Kemkem, I wondered how Federico felt (the good and the bad) about living in Italian cities. So he’s Mr. Short Fuse huh? I think we would get along 🙂
Yep! I think you two would… :-). I read him your rant and he said you got some really bad luck, but he agreed about the dirt. As far as the coffee line thing, he just accepts it, as that’s all he’s known..
Yes, my friend Tony would probably tell me to ‘just go with the flow, it’s part of what makes Italy unique’. For me the whole thing seems inefficient and stressful…