When a Vacation Disappoints

Have you ever planned and saved for and built up a trip in your mind for so long that when it actually happened, it was…well, disappointing? I’m not talking about the sort of travel-related disasters I’ve discussed before (“What can go wrong…..“), but everyday, ordinary annoyances that make you go “Wait. What? Really?”

Take Florence, Italy, for example, a city renowned for centuries for its culture and beauty. As I’ve probably mentioned, I spent two weeks there for a graduate writing class. I had always wanted to go to Italy and my husband and I saved up for a year.

And then I got there and it was lovely and historic and romantic, but it was also dirty. Really, really dirty.

The Duomo of Florence. The cathedral looks like it's undergoing a restoration, but the grime detracts from its beauty.

In guide-book photos, the city, the birthplace of the Renaissance gleams and sparkles in the sun, but in reality, the massive pink- and green-marbled Duomo was covered in grime (In all fairness, it looked like a restoration might be underway.), enough graffiti decorated the city’s centuries-old buildings to make an inner-city slum jealous, trash blew around Florence’s famous squares and worst of all (to me, at least), dog poop turned the narrow sidewalks into a minefield.

It seemed like everyone let their dogs poop and pee on the sidewalks – even in front of major landmarks like the church of San Lorenzo and the Medici’s famous Boboli Gardens – and then just walked away, leaving the mess for someone else to remove. Or step in.

No one even had the grace to look embarrassed.

I get that picking up poop is disgusting, but stepping in it is even more so. I always, always clean up after my 85-pound yellow lab. Constantly looking down got annoying fast.

Perhaps it’s a cultural thing that I don’t understand. It sounds as though the graffiti, at least, is a centuries-old tradition, one the city of Florence has tried, unsuccessfully, it seems, to direct towards walls specifically designed for this form of “art.”

Florence's beautiful, historic buildings are covered in graffiti.

Call it what you will, each time I passed spray-painted walls or avoided a steaming pile of poop, I couldn’t help but wince. “How sad,” I thought, wondering how the residents (and probably tourists) of Florence could have so little respect for the city that was the birthplace of the Renaissance.

I had a great time overall (despite a rather violent stomach illness), but the filth left a…bad taste in my mouth, as my mother would say. And somehow I feel guilty admitting that, as though I should have fallen instantly, irrevocably in love with Florence.

I didn’t. But the Tuscan countryside? Now that is a different story….

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4 Responses to When a Vacation Disappoints

  1. Debra Kolkka says:

    What a pity you felt that way about beautiful Florence. I go often, and I can’t say that I have found Florence the way you describe it. I am never there in high season, perhaps that is why.
    I have encountered very little dog poo. It is a problem in lots of European cities as theyy love their dogs, and the custom of cleaning up after them is just recently become an issue. Hopefully things will improve. They certainly have in Paris – it used to be awful.
    I hope you give Florence another chance. You also need to understand that these buildings are centuries old, they will never look pristine.

  2. Pingback: Follow-up to When a Vacation Disappoints | Postcards & Prose

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