Travel like a local, can you?
When I first moved abroad I never wanted to be seen as an American. I wanted to blend in. No offense to my countrymen, but I just knew when I first moved to Florence I belonged there.
So I assimilated to my surroundings. I wanted to be a Florentine so bad. And in 2010 I became a resident of Florence. One of the biggest accomplishments in my life.
Now as I start planning trips to Tuscany for my clients, everyone is asking, "I'd like to travel like a local".
Can you? I wonder.
I'd like you to ask yourself why do you want to travel like a local? What are you hoping to achieve? It's not a bad thing to want to go where the locals go, eat where the locals eat. To be honest, there are plenty of those places off the beaten path to explore. Make sure you are traveling to Italy to learn about the zone you are visiting. Italians are smart and know when you are just passing through so you can check it off your bucket list.
When you travel be aware of how you present yourself to Italians. If you are celebrity, well, you can't help but be covered with paparazzi and designer fashion. But if you want to immerse yourself with the people and learn their story, dial down your privilege. This opens the door for connection.
Embrace the discomfort of being in a foreign land. You won't know all the customs, phrases or where to find a taxi. It's ok. Ask questions in your best broken Italian. This is how you will connect with the locals. Even if they can't understand you. Little story, (surprise) when my parents were in Venice without Stefano and I, my in-laws took a train to Venice and spent a day with them. Oh and my parents don't speak Italian and my in-laws don't speak English. They got by using google translate. It worked. They had a great time.
Instead of trying to be a local, people watch. Tune into how it makes you feel to see couples stroll through the piazza, to see a tour group, to hear a local shop owner talk to the shop owner next door while they take their smoke break. How do you feel when you witness scenes of daily life in Italy?
Be curious. Set aside your own worldview while talking to with locals. Look for places to connect, things you might have in common. This is how you truly become connected to the people and the place.
Get off the beaten path. This phrase is overused for sure but it is also a helpful guide when you do want to visit non-touristy cities. However don't overlook the popular places to visit. Like the leaning tower in Pisa, the Vatican, the Uffizi gallery, it's not a bad thing to want to experience it. It's still your experience, an authentic one at that.
Be open, be kind and be curious.