Outside the Box
Posted by Matt Daub – Arts Sojourn
If you spend much time at all surfing the internet travel forums you’ll probably notice a recurring inquiry among travelers going to Italy for the first time. Questions usually go something like; “We’re taking our first trip to Italy. We have ten days. We would like to see Rome, Florence and Venice. Can we also include the Cinque Terre or the Amalfi coast?” Many ask about seeing Tuscany – always Tuscany. I believe that people fixate on these cities and regions simply because that is what they are familiar with; what they’ve heard most about. I have nothing at all against these places; in fact I really like them, but I always find it refreshing to hear of a first-time traveler thinking outside the Rome-Florence-Venice box.
There are so many exciting and refreshing locations in Italy, and some of us believe that they are best experienced slowly. I am hardly the world’s most adventurous traveler, but I am a slow traveler. If you are reading this blog you probably already know that the Slow Travel philosophy is to stop rushing and center in a given town or region; to not pass the less-touted places too quickly, and to try to experience a bit of the everyday life of the area. We practice this, not because it can be proven to be a better way of traveling, but because we feel that it has benefits for our souls.
The current issue of Conde Nast Traveler features an interview with John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods. Mackey is a hiker; recently returning to the Appalachian Trail. When asked what draws him back, Mackey replies; “I slow down when hiking. The rhythm of nature is more leisurely. The sun comes up, it moves across the sky, and you begin to synchronize to that rhythm. In general, when you travel, you get into a different reality and are able to more accurately reflect on your ordinary life. Hiking does that for me.”
I am not a hiker, but I completely relate to Mackey’s sentiments. When I design a program for our Arts Sojourn travel group I want our participants to not just see the sights. I am hoping that they will experience in Italy something of what John Mackey does on the Appalachian Trail. To do that we have to think outside the box; sometimes only slightly outside the box, but occasionally a little further. For 2009, we are taking Arts Sojourn to Ascoli Piceno in the Marche region. It is an exceptionally historic and lively town, but not yet fully on the tourist radar. I recently had a conversation with an inquirer who had heard great things about Ascoli, but “For my first time in Italy I want to go to Tuscany” he said. It’s tough thinking outside the box.
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Matthew Daub is a professional artist and university professor with works in major public and private collections throughout the United States and Europe. He has been leading plein air painting workshops in Italy since 1994. In 1999, Matthew and his wife Barbara formed Arts Sojourn as “a vacation for artists and their friends.” The program is designed to appeal to artists of all levels as well as non-artists who enjoy the company of creative people in a slow travel format.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.
Well put, Matt. You really articulated the theme I hear so often about “Tuscany”. I want so much for people to experience the rest of Italy and places that have not been made into cliches.