Here are views of the Trevi Fountain in Rome, taken at the very end of October, 2018.
No longer is it possible to have an unobstructed view of the fountain, and to push your way through the throng close enough to toss a coin into the water is likely to take several minutes.
How I long to see that fountain again the way my family did in 1971 when we sat on the bottom step in rosy twilight with a handful of other people while our son lazily kicked a soccer ball back and forth to two amused Italians. Then the statue stood in dignified majesty, enjoyed in an atmosphere of unhurried appreciation of the aesthetic. It was simply another beautiful work of art in a city brimming with such elegance, a spot to be quietly enjoyed by passers-by, some tourists, yes, but mainly local Italians.
It wasn’t a square where you jostled for position to take a selfie or shoot a film on your cellphone. It wasn’t a spot where the view was regularly blocked by ipads and other devices held high, and quiet reflection was rendered impossible by the din of the crowd–a crowd ever in motion, marching from one famous location to another, checking off the sites on their global to-do lists. Where to go next? The Spanish Steps, of course!
How I longed to see Rome again as I had first enjoyed it in 1958 and again as a family in 1971. Now, sadly, as Paul Fussell wrote in his insightful book “Abroad,” we are all tourists and even the remotest reaches of the earth have been sullied by a surfeit of our numbers, recording yet again what so many others have done before.
These photos help to confirm that there really is no longer an off-season at least in the great cities of the world, and especially at their most famous sites. Yet, it is still possible to sojourn to most places, especially outside the high season, more as a traveler than as a tourist. But that requires largely eschewing the starred places in guidebooks in favour of other locations that remain authentic and not overrun with people.
Missing The Bus, Making The Connection: Tales and Tastes of Travel is written from this perspective. Here is a quotation from the introduction about the book’s dominant theme:
“Memorable moments don’t often occur when you are being guided through a country, half-quarantined from its inhabitants–when you are jostling for position in front of the Mona Lisa or for a table overlooking St. Mark’s Square. They are not likely to happen when your principal preoccupation is to avoid a bout of dysentery from local food and water, or to stay in sight of a man in a fedora waving his umbrella above a throng by the Sphinx. Special moments are far more likely to happen when you are on your own, making your own transport, eating, sleeping, and sightseeing arrangements, coping with the language, drifting down streets away from the crowds, lingering where things seem about to happen, searching for the soul of a place…
“Of course, the classic tourist sights are important to see: the Louvre, the Tower of London, Ankor Wat, the Galapagos, the Serengeti. But they are the backdrop–the setting for the play, not the performance; they are the destinations of tourists, not travellers.”
For a collection of stories that explore over twenty countries from this perspective, why not order a copy of “Missing The Bus” by going to: http://www.penumbrapress.com or by contacting the author directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh, and here is a tip on a great place to visit in Rome that in our experience is not overcrowded: the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj with its stunning art collection, including Velazquez’s famous portrait of Pope Innocent X. The audio guide is the best anywhere, for it is the current England-educated occupant of the palace, Prince Jonathan, who takes you on the tour and his commentary is full of delightful personal recollections about the palace and references to the historic intrigue that characterized all the great families and homes of Italy. He does, however, omit any reference to the thoroughly modern quarrel over the future of the palace that has gripped the Pamphilj family in recent years. Ask one of the guides there in person about it.
If you enjoy Missing The Bus, you might like these literary travel books as well, available from the same publisher or at the same email address: