Help Me With My European Travel Hero Choice

I'm going to do something that 64% of Americans don't do. It isn't "skipping a meal", smartasses!

35w ago

6.2K

We're going to give our passports a workout!

Yeah, bub...we really DO want to leave the country. I think we're coming back...don't worry about it!

Yeah, bub...we really DO want to leave the country. I think we're coming back...don't worry about it!

We're going to Italy! It's not until 2021. Originally we were going on a cruise, but then I sat in some sessions with my new European Travel Hero at the Chicago Adventure Travel Expo. His name is Rick Steves, and what attracted him to me includes: he likes seeing the Big Things but he hates crowds; he loves to eat and drink; he doesn't mind spending what it takes to do things right; and he thinks Americans should act civilized when abroad.

He also has my hairline.

He also has my hairline.

His main advice is to zig while others zag. He implores bucking the typical American 'list checking' trend, and to visit "Europe Through the Back Door", and all euphemisms aside, it makes sense to me. He leverages his theory in a series of travel books, television episodes, as well as his own travel guide services.

Without going into all the details of his "Back Door" theory, one that he mentioned at the expo concerned the busy times of the day in European tourist destinations. His day starts at the crack of dawn, when nobody is on the street, and he goes to see some of the popular attractions. Later, when the cruise ships and commercial bus tours drop off crowds, he goes out and hires the most expensive private local guide he can find. While everyone else is waiting in the heat to glimpse at a 800 year old painting, he's face down with his guide in a plate of prosciutto in someone's small family osteria.

Molto delizioso! Not certain if that's his first or seventh glass.

Molto delizioso! Not certain if that's his first or seventh glass.

So we're blowing off the cruise, and setting off on our own. We've read one of his Italy books and watched about ten episodes of him visting Rome, Venice, Tuscany and especially Cinque Terre. As mentioned, it is still early in our planning process, and I have a couple of questions:

1) I don't know if Rick Steves is known in Europe. If so, is he well thought of? I'd hate to emulate what he does, and inadvertently piss off all the locals. If you have someone better that should be my travel muse, please let me know one way or another.

2) God knows I love beef, but is it really necessary to eat it raw, like they seem to do on his show?

A little bit of aloe, and perhaps an IV, and this cow could have lived....

A little bit of aloe, and perhaps an IV, and this cow could have lived....

I understand it will seem rude, but will they spit on me or my food if I ask for them to cook it a bit longer? I just can't do it, and I know damn well Mrs. OCD ain't gonna try it. I'm willing to wear long pants, a button down shirt, and learn some conversational Italian. Per favore e grazie. I just can't eat red meat that's, you know, red.

So am I on the right track? Don't want no international incidients on my holiday

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Comments (13)

  • Hey Rob! Never heard of Rick Steves, but I'll have a look into him : ). And yes, that is always how you should eat beef. You'll be ok in Italy though. To be honest, other than in a ragu, or bresaola, I haven't really had beef in Italy... Everything else is too good! France however, would be a different story! You'll absolutely love it. Also, you should pop in and say hi to and !

      8 months ago
    • I'm assuming you're talking about "Tagliata", which is basically raw-cooked beef. That's how it's supposed to be but you can always have a regular steak ;)

        8 months ago
    • Okay, I don't like undercooked meat either. The secret is to ask it first: "La vorrei ben cotta, per favore" (I would like it very cooked, please), or "La vorrei a cottura media, per favore" (I'd like to cook it medium, please).

        8 months ago
  • Having worked as a tour leader in Italy for five years, I know the concept of a Rick Steves vacation well. You see his guidebooks on tables in osterias and coffee bars wherever he specifically recommends. Whilst the advice he gives is not necessarily a bad thing, I would definitely recommend doing your own research too.

    Italy is heavily over-touristed in the big ticket places.. of course, and absolutely you should still visit them but just be sensible about how you do it. Remember that a lot of people read his travel books so what may have been a small-family run trattoria full of locals when he mentioned it, may not be as full of locals when you reach there.

    Italy is the most important wonderful country in the world to me but there is a lot to offer that he doesn’t mention... use his guidebooks as a measuring stick but don’t use his advice as the only advice you take re: your itinerary. Dive deep into other research too.

    In regards to rare meat like tagliata or bistecca alla Fiorentina, they really are just meant to be that way and better for it because of their maturation process and preparation. But don’t worry, they will have normal steaks you can get where you can have them cooked as you desire. Just let them know before cooking rather than after if you know what I mean....

    Have the most wonderful time

      7 months ago
    • thank you. And yeah, I understand that his methods are but a template. I think just having respect for local traditions and the culture are the key to a rewarding visit, and it is kind of a shame that this is so rare that a guy has made a living...

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        7 months ago
  • Just don't be that American in the hotel bar speaking in the tone of I FLEW HERE ON AMERICAN AIRLINES FLAGSHIP FIRST AND I'M 'MERICAN YEAH

    They are distasteful in London, so probably the same or worse in Italy.

      8 months ago
    • yes sir. Hopefully everyone here is aware of the thick, sturdy Sarcasm filter I employ here nearly always

        7 months ago
    • Oh no, you're good. I was referring to a specific American on a work trip here. Ask me how I know he was on a work trip.

      That's my experience of the American spirit overseas. Michael McIntyre seems to think Australians are similarly loud, but...

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        7 months ago
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