My husband and I just got back from a 2-week trip to Europe. We started in Barcelona for two nights and hopped on a cruise ship for a 9-night cruise on the Italian Riviera (with port stops in Marseille/Nice France, Portofino, Naples, Sicily, and Rome). Unfortunately because of high winds, we were unable to port in Livorno which meant we missed Florence/Tuscany. 😦
What we saw and experienced was nothing short of amazing. The scenery, architectural masterpieces, and the mind-boggling attention to detail in grand churches literally took our breath away. We enjoyed tasting various foods from each of the three countries –Paella (a rice dish) in Spain, Croissants and various wines including Rose from Provence in France and Homemade Pasta, Chianti and limoncello in Italy! We had beautiful weather for most of the trip and walked nearly 6-8 miles each day at each port stop (which allowed me to eat all the Gelato I wanted!)
Although we went in the ‘off-season’, Europe, especially Italy, was flooded with tourists. The streets were full of people that appeared to be mostly Americans/Canadians (based on their conversations). It appears we’ve definitely boosted their economy, and they had no shame in charging exorbitant prices on food, hotels and various souveniers. However, what surprised me the most is that the residents of these countries didn’t seem thrilled to have the tourism. In fact, the warm friendly experience I thought I was going to have (especially in Italy), really didn’t happen. I experienced many impatient and rude waiters, tour guides, taxi drivers, and store attendants. Perhaps it was because we were in highly crowded tourist areas, and/or the language barrier as most Europeans did not speak English like I originally thought (and read about). Either way, my conclusion is that people are people, no matter what country they live in. Some are friendly, some are not.
Would we go back? Since we were on a cruise ship for most of the trip and only had time for a small snippet of each area, we thought we might want to return to some of the places we visited. However, after careful contemplation, we decided that we would likely only return to Italy, but not in the same places, and not anytime soon. (Long flights are not fun! 😉 )