Tourist Hell

Italy in August: a tourist hell? It all depends on what you want to see and where you want to stay. If you want a tourist hell of the home grown variety, go to the Tuscan coast. Every Italian heads there leaving some of their most beautiful countryside empty.  On Lake Trasimeno, a sixty square kilometre lake in Umbria I counted two sails. Florence is a seething mass of sightseers with queues stretching half around the Duomo sweltering under Japanese sunshades as they patiently await entry. The Bargello you can walk straight into and have the sublime Donatello David almost to yourself. The Uffizzi doesn’t even bear thinking about. In San Giminiano you can hardly see the street for tourists. The Medici villa in Poggio a Caiano was empty.

The moral of the story? The ‘must-see’ sights of the world are probably best seen on television, in a coffee table book or at eight o’clock in the morning in January. The ‘second division’ – and you could, absurdly, put the Bargello in this category - are still accessible as long as they are nowhere near a beach. Little hill towns, sublime churches containing some to the greatest works of the Renaissance, and some of the loveliest countryside on the planet are nearly empty. Phew!

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