Long life

The Italians are disgusted with our holidaymakers

It is summer, and the papers here are full of the vile behaviour of northern European tourists

23 August 2014

9:00 AM

23 August 2014

9:00 AM

As the holidays draw to a close, Italian newspapers have been reporting with perplexity and distaste on the outlandish behaviour of foreign tourists in Italy, by which they mean young people from northern European countries. One report told of a couple making love in broad daylight on a bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice, the Ponte degli Scalzi (which, as a commentator pointed out, means ‘Bridge of the Barefooted’, not ‘Bridge of the Bare-bottomed’). Other reports talked of people sunbathing naked in public places or picnicking in large groups under the colonnades in St Mark’s Square. Venice suffered most from these excesses, but nowhere was immune. Florence and Rome were also invaded by drunk and rowdy foreigners, who camped in the squares and used the fountains as bathing pools. Why were they doing it, asked one newspaper? This kind of thing wouldn’t happen in Paris or London.

Well, actually, it would, if the weather was hot enough. But Italians have a curious faith in the orderliness and civility of life in northern Europe, especially in Britain, and an unshakably low opinion of the way their own society is ordered. It is not that they are not patriotic. They believe with equal fervour that theirs is the most beautiful and desirable country in the world. But most of them have nothing but contempt for the way in which it is governed.

This gives them an inferiority complex that manages to survive even the annual summer invasion of barbarians from the north. The Corriere della Sera complained of their ‘lack of respect’, but still managed to lay part of the blame for this on the Italians themselves. The tourists would see the huge illegal rubbish tips defacing much of the south of the country and so wouldn’t see why they shouldn’t throw rubbish, too. They would experience the squalid conditions on so many local trains and so wouldn’t see why they shouldn’t wipe their feet on the seats. Even the mayhem at the taxi rank outside Rome’s main railway station, with drivers shouting orders and imposing mysterious rules without any form of control, would be an invitation to bad behaviour.

But the Corriere, Italy’s most influential newspaper, also found other less self-deprecatory reasons for it all. Italy, it said, was a ‘fascinating, colourful, exciting’ country. It was for many foreigners a place in which to live differently, to experience new sensations and succumb to temptations. ‘Foreign tourists come here because, for two or three weeks a year, they feel freer,’ it said. ‘We are what they would like to be, at least sometimes, but usually don’t dare.’

It found this explanation more appealing than the idea that Italians were looked down upon and deemed unworthy of respect, but it still couldn’t quite convince itself that they weren’t. It said that most of the reporting of Italy in the foreign media portrayed it as a country plagued by crime, corruption, disorder and squalor. No wonder that foreigners didn’t see any reason to behave civilly.

However, neither explanation seems to me convincing. There is a great deal wrong with Italy, and you still encounter much aggression on the roads (as you do, for that matter, in Britain); but in general Italians are no more offensive and disorderly than people anywhere else in Europe. In some ways they seem less so. Drunkenness, at least in public, is very rare; and foreign visitors to Italy are usually struck by the warmth and civility they encounter. Certainly things are more orderly than they used to be, and in some ways this is a pity. Parking and speeding restrictions are enforced with the same vigour as in northern Europe; you can’t smoke anywhere; and the old free-for-all, happy-go-lucky atmosphere is a thing of the past. Italians are as cowed and downtrodden by officialdom as the rest of us. Yet they continue to regard themselves as lacking the discipline and self-control of their neighbours to the north.

This delusion is gratifying to northern visitors and bolsters their feelings of superiority. But Italians ought to recognise that it is not they but we who should be embarrassed. Those who make love in public on Venetian bridges are not people seduced by the romance of Italy or intoxicated by its sense of freedom but just revolting northern yobs.

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  • Llamedos2

    Unfortunately, the badly behaved are the same at home.

  • Kitty MLB

    Venice is an absolute joy (there are a lot of those hidden bridges
    also) but honestly, there are also exquisite hotels with very large
    bathtubs and balconies..so no need for sowing wild oats beneath
    the ancient arches.But being serious they are probably the same
    at home.
    And yes for a beautful country with one of the best cultures with
    excellent food, drink and astounding history its run in a totally
    chaotic fashion .They also just laugh at the likes of Silvio
    Berlusconi. But yes, everywhere as its issues with good and bad
    areas like every other country. Its not all The Dolomites, Verona,
    and Florence…during the holidays.

  • Terence Hale

    “The Italians are disgusted with us”. What about them. The last time I went to Rome looking for the Monalesa, I asked the tourist office who sent me to Palazzo Altemps, who then sent me to Santa Maria in Trastevere who then sent to St. Peter’s Basilica where to visit the roof you had to pay for the lift and the poor crippled nuns had to use the stairs, this so annoyed me I asked to speck to the boss, I was escorted out by two Swiss guards. I now know the Monalesa is in The Louvre since 1797, they didn’t tell me they moved it. Another Italian episode on driving to Venice to the train station to park I was stopped by a man in uniform who offered to park the car and arrange a transfer to Piazza San Marco, I accepted, we got on a boat and were dump in some slum and charged 250 Sfr. Making our way to Marcoplatz to the police station I first had to help the police in translating interrogation of suspects. This took the whole afternoon and I finally pressed my case never to heard of since. Going back to my car cost 1 Sfr on the ferry.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Take the hint. If Italy is visitor hostile, give it a miss. Plenty of other destination.

      • Livia

        How many destination?

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Third world Asia. Last playground of the English gentleman. You never run out of options, and never want for pleasurable company. Expensive to get there (for you guys washed up in the beach in Mother England), but cheap when you arrive.

      • Kennybhoy

        Lonely Jack…?

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Lonely is for unimaginative losers. So how ya doing, Ken?

      • aleajmone22

        We are not visitor hostile, we just pretend that you guys behave with respect when you visit our country… Silly comment. By the way, there’s no way you can visit a city like Venice or Rome elsewhere. Sorry

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Come off it, Sunshine, Italy’s wall-to-wall thieves and con-artists. And I say this with all due respect.

    • MissDemeanor

      I can just picture you running around Rome, amusing those who sent you to all those places.

      any grown adult approaching me anywhere outside central Paris, looking for Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, would be sent on a wild goose chase too.

      they were just punishing you for your astounding ignorance!

      • Kenneth O’Keeffe

        But he is talking about something called the ‘Monalesa’ (sic). Nope, me neither!

      • Rocksy

        Thanks for the enlightenment. I was beginning to think there might be something called the Monalesa in Rome!!

      • Lia G

        do your homework first, next time. In Italy, it’s “La Gioconda” and not Mona Lisa, a foreign invention.

        • Armando Del Vecchio

          Well, actually it’s also Monna Lisa, which is short for Madonna Lisa. “Madonna” (or “Monna”) is the title women had back at the time (like Miss or Mrs). It comes from “Mia donna”(my woman) but has a more pure meaning.. associating every woman to the virgin Mary (Madonna)

    • Kennybhoy

      Is this some sort of parody…?

    • GUBU

      But other than that, you had a great time!

    • Standish79

      The Louvre have made a note to let you know if there are any plans to move the ‘Monelesa’ again, since you are so upset about not being told in 1797. The admin department was still a bit busy with revolutionary fervour back then. It was probably the Italians’ fault anyway, knowing them.

    • robnorthlondon

      Mona Lisa ?

      • Chris Morriss

        La Giaconda?

    • Judex

      What’s the ‘Monalesa’?

  • Christian

    Venice is a vile, graffiti strewn filthy tip, so the Italians have no call to cast aspersions. By night it’s a delight however. Walked from midnight till dawn and it was amazing. Had st marks square to myself, no mean feat given how overcrowded it is at almost any hour.

    • Kenneth O’Keeffe

      Milan is far, far worse, particularly around the railway station. But the worst of all is Naples…even the roads leading from the international airport are littered with rubbish. It’s terrible but makes the neighbouring Amalfi coast appear I suppose all the more beautiful by sharp contrast

      • Christian

        Agree about Milan, was terrible. I’m more shocked by Venice as I expected it to be pristine given it’s significance.

        I’ve read about Naples being appalling. Given how fire the north was I daren’t even contemplate the south……

        • Kenneth O’Keeffe

          Indeed. But that said, speed out of Naples on the autostrada and exit for the Amalfi coast. It’s both beautiful and reassuringly expensive!

    • Fifteen Beats

      The first time I arrived there was late at night and it was kind of magical. Not so lovely by the light of day, yet Venice does have its charms if you can overlook the rude Italians, trash floating in canals, aggressive street vendors, and so on.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Never willingly place yourself within Italian jurisdiction and within reach of its bent criminal justice system. “Amanda Knox” is all the justification you need.

    • Fergus Pickering

      I thought she did it but got off because she was an American.

      • Kenneth O’Keeffe

        She got off because she had a decent lawyer. She was clearly as guilty as sin. Too many evidential inconsistencies to be properly credible.

        • Sean Lamb

          Most of the evidential inconsistencies were the result of someone going around to where she was staying a few days later, holding a gun to her head and forcing her to write an email saying the perpetrators were all lovely chaps and nowhere near the house at the time.

          That’s just Italy for you. Luckily the British FO no longer seems to care if one of their citizens is anally raped and has her throat slit, so everyone is happy.

          • rorysutherland

            The evidence against Knox and Sollecito (I mean actual evidence, not rumours shared with the visiting press) was simply feeble. Not impossible that they were guilty, I agree, but certainly no good reason to believe that they were involved – and the theories as to their motivation were highly contrived.

        • Freedom

          How can a girl be guilty of a rape murder when a) she’s a girl and b) the murderer-rapist was Rudy Guede. Notice I didn’t bother with a question mark. Don’t ever sit in a jury on any trial I might be a part of, will you? I don’t like people that judge by their prejudices.

          • Kenneth O’Keeffe

            There’s such a thing as a joint-enterprise; for the rape element of the rape-murder crime, she doesn’t have to be the one doing the actual penetration but merely being part of the overall enterprise perhaps holding down the victim, for example. Also, it is possible for a woman to commit a type of rape herself using an implement, such as a bottle.

          • Kenneth O’Keeffe

            By the way, if you ever did something like this, I’d love to be on the jury where there was a chance to see you SWING for your (hypothetical) crime.

          • Sean Lamb

            Gentlemen, Gentlemen, you must not judge the evidence in this case by the standards with which you would judge evidence presented in a court in the UK or USA.

            In Italy it is not considered a crime for someone to knife an unfaithful partner. It was just unfortunate that in this instance the unfaithful partner was an English citizen, so for reasons of EU politics some culprits as far down the Italian pecking order as possible had to be found.

            If you have to blame anyone blame Brussels.

          • FabioC.

            “In Italy it is not considered a crime for someone to knife an unfaithful partner.” Not true in the slightest.

            I challenge you to show me the relevant codes that would support your statement.

          • Sean Lamb

            FabioC – the Stalin constitution was one of the most advanced and liberal of the time, it was just the application of it was something wanting.

            The amount of jokes that were floating around the Perugia police about anal sex suggests that for them the death of Meredith Kercher was one big hoot and they were just looking for the most marginal people available to carry the can.

            There is no need to be ashamed of it Fabio, misogyny is an integral part of your culture you simply aren’t aware it is exceptional.

          • FabioC.

            You can keep the patronizing for yourself.

            We can discuss the flaws of Italian culture and justice system as much as you like, but not when you sit astride your moral high horse.

            And when you make false statements.

          • Sean Lamb

            What false statements?
            Are you seriously contesting the fact that Meredith Kercher was not raped and murdered by white Italian males and this fact was not widely known in the Perugia police force?
            Are you serious disputing the fact that Perugia police and judiciary were paid off on the profits of cocaine dealing?
            Are you seriously disputing that when Amanda Knox went to the police station to give information on the identity of the rapists and murderers of Meredith Kercher she was not called a whore, slapped and told if she didn’t accuse a black man she would be spending the next 30 years in prison?
            These facts are widely understood and appreciated in Italy and, as I understand the situation, meet with almost universal approval.

          • JLS1950

            Divorzio all’italiana – 1961. They even bragged about it back then – and maybe yet still.

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          This is the justification of a jury system; to dilute the all emotion, no logic mind set of nutters like you.

      • Lia G


  • edithgrove

    it’s funny but the last few weeks I’ve been thinking how badly behaved Italian tourists are, not by having sex in public or that kind of thing, but by sauntering and taking up the whole pavement, stopping dead at the top of escalators (why?), interrupting, walking over you without ‘excuse me’, blocking entrances to underground platforms. I excuse it because they are special.

    • Gwangi

      Yes, but didn’t you know there is a law that says tourists in London must stop at the top of any stairs or escalators, especially outside tube stations in London? If you don’t, there’s a fine.

    • aleajmone22

      I am an Italian living in London for 3 years now, and I can assure we are not the only one stopping dead at escalators and blocking the entrances. Indeed, I can assure you that I am beginning to be sick of English people walking over me without even turning their heads to apologize. We should all look in our own garden…

      • edithgrove

        Quite right, but I did say Italians are special.

  • MKLeeds

    Head to Malta, where the badly-behaved are Italian. Something about not doing something on your own doorstep…

  • robnorthlondon

    Tim Parks book Italian Ways should be a must read for all visitors to Italy
    The Italians are just as parochial as the English or the French can be but they aren’t louche / drunk / inconsiderate in public, whereas the English often are.
    Sadly many of the younger easyjet/ryanair generation treat everywhere as a campsite

    • Kenneth O’Keeffe

      Not inconsiderate in public? They are very loud and they hog the pavements in large groups.

    • Gwangi

      I agree that the French are utterly parochial but really Brits are not – not even the lower class uneducated drunken package holiday chavellers. Brits and Germans travel and a lot and are great travellers; the Italians and French are small-minded and not open to new experiences, behaving like homesick babies and refusing to try any food they are not used to.
      But really, north Europeans get drunk because that is the culture of ‘dry’ countries; ‘wet’ countries like Italy only consume alcohol with food BUT there is a huge hidden alcoholic problem in France and Italy – just coz it’s not on the streets don’t mean it’s not there!

      • aleajmone22

        Talk for yourself Gwangi, you’re the classic profile that judge the others based on stereotypes and false assumptions. It is clear that you have never been to Italy, or maybe that you had a really awful trip. What makes you think that we are small-minded? I had studied in Italy and UK, worked in Barcelona and now I have a job in London. I visited Asian, African and Northern and Southern America’s countries. I have enjoyed their food, especially Mexican and Japanese cuisine. I am not homesick at all and I drink in pubs, with friends in the streets. What an idiot, “Italian only consume alcohol with food”…. Do you really believe on what you’re writing or you’re just spitting words without any sense? Have a little respect. Everyday that I wake up in Rome, I get out and look at tourists sunbathing and having showers in the fountain made by Bernini (I doubt you know who he is) in front of my house, restored 6 times because of the thoughtlessness of visitors from all over the world, while throwing cigarette butts all over the place. But this doesn’t lead me to make GENERAL judgments over an entire population, nor having showers and throwing cigarettes in Trafalgar Square.

  • Kenneth O’Keeffe

    “But most of them [Italian people] have nothing but contempt for the way in which it [Italy] is governed”. As Bernard Shaw wisely observed, every country gets the government it deserves!

  • Gwangi

    Well the Italians (and French and southern Europeans generally) are in reality a deeply conservative bunch, which makes it all the more ironic that they think everyone in Britain behaves like David Niven.

    I have never seen the behaviour described in my visits to Florence or Rome. Maybe in Magaluf or Malia, but not in Florence! It’s not the place for beach holiday, after all!

    The Italians have their good side, (food, health societal relationships with children etc)but also a bad sides (murderous driving, corruption) – they are such utter poseurs and so obsessed about the way they look in that ‘bella figura’ way. Having said that, it is refreshing to be well away from hordes of drunken leery girls that the UK seems to spawn these days – you really would never see that in France or Italy; the women there have sufficient respect for themselves not to behave like that.

    Those going naked everywhere are probably Germans. They’re like that, y’know…

    • Lia G

      well said

  • Pepe Turcon

    The European populace is the lowest quality in the world!
    Democracy has meant to lower to the average.
    We need to go back to better dictators like Franco, Pinochet and Somoza.
    Even in the USA the Obamites are destroying America and with the help of the low life “rich elite” who think they have discovered the world because they have money as a product of the populace buying their crap like in Hollywood.

  • Freedom

    Interesting, Mr Chancellor. But as a point of style, why speak of ‘making love’? There are lots of ways to do that. If you mean ‘copulating’, as I assume you do, then why not say that? ‘Making love’ sounds too tenderly careful, almost mealy-mouthed in this context, and seems to grant a dignity to the couple’s exhibition that it doesn’t deserve.

  • wycombewanderer

    With the West end home to half of Europes pikey population shitting in the streets and sleeping in the parks I’d say the Italians are getting off lightly!

  • stag

    Yeah, they have a point. For my part, I am disgusted by the egregious rudeness of Italian waiters, bus drivers, police officers and, come to think of it, a large section of the male population.

  • El_Sid
    • thomasaikenhead

      Great link!

  • mervyn twit

    frankly, aren’t we all disgusted by italians? does someone still go to italy on holiday? really?

    • aleajmone22

      I’m curious to know from which country you come from to generate similar assumptions. I suppose a country where they do not teach history…

  • mervyn twit

    frankly, aren’t we all disgusted by italians?

  • Innit Bruv

    Have been to Italy, greatest holiday ever! Only good things to say about my time there. Not a British oik in sight either.

  • Jacques Strap

    They found the O spot. My missus is well pleased.

  • Jakeal

    The country who gave the world fascism cannot do the ordered society? They do it best!

  • Luc

    I’m italian.
    THOSE (not all) italian journals reports suck.
    THIS journal report sucks, too.
    Also a very big part of the comments suck.

    Ignorance is everywhere. There’s ignorance in Italy, in France, in Germany, England, Denmark etc. etc. Asking for “La Gioconda” (and not Mona Lesa) in Rome is IGNORANCE. Saying that foreigners of north Europe have a bad behaviour is IGNORANCE. Saying that “In Italy it is not considered a crime for someone to knife an unfaithful partner.” is IGNORANCE. Saying that “Brits and Germans travel a lot and are great travellers; the Italians and French are small-minded and not open to new experiences, behaving like homesick babies and refusing to try any food they are not used to.” is IGNORANCE.

    You know, the most belonging to ignorance behaviour you can find in the whole life is the use of stereotypes.

    Yes, people are different from place to place, from country to country.

    Yes, italian cities have many problems but if you look only to that when you are in Venice, Florence and Rome, you are just an idiot. There’s no city that can compare with them.

    We are all in Europe and we have to be more kind with other people, cultures and traditions. We also have to ignore people (or journal reports) that use stereotypes because they make people hate other people.

    To those that don’t want to come to Italy: if you aren’t chinese, spanish, american or french, definitely my nation is more visited than yours. We won’t miss you 🙂

    • Armando Del Vecchio

      Man, you’ve been pretty harsh on this.. These commenters have heard of facts or have had experiences that imposed biases on them. Same thing happens every day to us.
      I love my country and every time I show a little bit of Italy to non-Italian friends they enjoy it as much as I do (maybe because I introduce them to the best I can possibly imagine).
      Still: it hurts a lot when I see Italians behaving badly, when they are rude, when they don’t respect others, when they are not informed about other cultures and so on.. Problem is we are close-minded, not really citizens of the world. There is a lot of ignorance in our beautiful Italy and this hurts me a lot..

  • Sue Clowes

    I am married to an Italian and have lived in Italy 30 years. It always amazes me how foreigners, mainly Americans put their bare feet up on the seat in front of them on the trains. If they did this on Amtrack a guillotine would sweep down from above and lop their feet off at the ankles… but over here it seems okay.Why?