Lately the Italian newspapers have frequently reported on the boorish behavior of tourists to Bel Paese—those who urinate in the fountains, those who try to enter churches wearing only bikinis, and those who deface priceless historical monuments. They are tourists from many countries (including Italy), not just “ugly Americans.”
Tour guides, too, have amassed some stunning questions and comments from tourists. Here is a sampling from Rome:
- Did Moses pose for Michelangelo?
- Did Jesus pose for the Pietà?
- Inside the Sistine Chapel: But why are we here?
- Inside St. Peter’s: Where is the Last Supper?
- Did Michelangelo witness the Last Judgment?
- At the Roman Forum: It’s just a bunch of stones; raze it and build a modern skyscraper
- At the Colosseum: This will be fantastic when it’s completed
- From a student: My professor told me to read Dan Brown before coming to Rome
It’s easy to understand why tour guides can become a bit jaded. Many are archaeologists and art historians who are passionate about their city and their work. When they take foreigners to visit the monuments of Rome, they want them to understand the history of the masterpieces. They want them to discover Imperial Rome, and to see the “Grande Bellezza” of Renaissance and Baroque art. But the questions they receive make them feel that it’s all in vain.
Let’s hope that these questions come from young tourists on their very first visit to Rome. Let’s believe it’s only the first stop on “The Grand Tour.” Let’s have faith that maybe the long lines in the hot sun have made some of these people temporarily dizzy. Let’s hope that the fact that they hired a guide means that they want to learn more. Let’s hope that these tourists represent “a drop in the bucket” of the masses who come to Italy every year.