Travelers seeking to fulfill their “bucket-list” usually desire to see as many countries and cover as much ground as possible in the smallest amount of time. Other leisure travelers may simply desire to leverage the cost of international airfare across as many countries as practical within their vacation timeframe. For example, it’s relatively easy to visit London, Paris and Rome on a seven-to-ten-day vacation, if that’s what you have in mind.
Tuscan vintners Lydia and Roberta manage their agritourism business from their 17th century family estate near Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy.
With such an itinerary, however, you probably will only see the highlights of each destination.
After taking such a whirl-wind tour, you likely will want to revisit one or more of those countries. On your second visit, I recommend focusing on just one country and two or three in-country destinations creating a more culturally immersive experience.
Such an itinerary in Italy might include four nights in Rome and three nights in Florence. Should you have more than seven days for your European vacation, add a few days in Venice or Milan. Or, better yet, plan to spend your entire vacation exploring the towns and villages from a central location in Tuscany. Such itineraries provide a slower pace and more opportunities to experience the culture, regional cuisine and substantially more interaction with local citizens.
You can undertake the same type of itinerary visiting Bordeaux, Lyon and Paris – touring two French regions renowned for their great wines, before exploring several of the 20 Parisian arrondissements (administrative districts) that you probably missed on your first visit.
If you really want to embed yourself into the local culture and lifestyle, chose only one destination and get out to meet as many people as possible during your stay.
Two years ago, I was lucky enough to spend a week in Castiglion Fiorentino (pop. 13,500), a Medieval hill town about an hour by train southeast of Florence and two hours north of Rome. There I found the residents to be warm and hospitable – from the local ceramics artist, to a young chef and restaurateur, to local vintners. And, yes, I even met the mayor and several members of the town council during my visit.
I still savor warm memories from that trip, refreshed frequently by communication with the friends I made, as well as the quarterly shipments of Tuscan wine and olive oil from a local Val di Chio estate. The wine and the oil are particularly enjoyable because I have an ongoing relationship with the people who cultivated and fermented the grapes and pressed the olives.
My point is quite simple: fewer destinations on your itinerary can make for a much richer and lasting leisure travel experience.