I love Siena. When I visited the magnificent Piazza del Campo, I wished we could have something similar in the U.S. When I was there, I fell in love with the little symbols of the contrade hidden all over the city, tucked onto buildings and gleaming out at me from metalwork around the city.
In San Gimignano, I swooned over wine-flavored gelato. At a tiny postcard shop, I watched an old man pack up my five cheap black-and-white postcards with an old-world carefulness that I’ll always remember.
When I got home, people asked me how my trip was. Great, I said.
Then I noticed something. A certain personality type, that when I said I had just come back to Italy, swooned audibly and then broke into a 20-minute monologue about the most amazing meal she had had when she was there. Or the incredible wine I just had to try that she had discovered on her last trip. Or how next time, I have to go to Lucca because all of the tourists go to Siena, and it’s important to experience the real Italy.
I realized that the issue with visiting Italy isn’t with the country itself–it’s with the fans.
They seem to be predominantly women, although there are men, as well. They seem to be disproportionately Boomer in age. They like the advice of the travel gurus we wish would go away. They advise us to pack scarves to go with our “travel outfits,” in order to jazz them up in new ways.
They are, in short, the equivalent of the Twilight fan.
I like the Twilight books. I even like the movies, especially the first one, where I could see Catherine Hardwicke’s Austin-indy sensibility shine through. (I agreed with New York magazine’s summary of why the movie was better than the overwrought books.) I think they’re a fun diversion, along the lines of the Harry Potter books and movies.
But oh. My god. The fans.
Lord knows, I don’t want to pick on a lady writer or her hordes of lady fans. Until Tom Cruise personally apologizes and gives me back about $50 for the craptastic movies he’s starred in, I don’t care to hear it from people complaining about how bad the acting is in the Twilight films. Don’t get me started about Stephen King and his rants about how the Twilight books aren’t great literature. Please. No one is about to be confused for either Hitchcock or Shakespeare here, Mr. King included.
But, the fans are not helping. Two words: Twilight. Tattoos.
The problem is when people take this stuff too far. Twilight is a silly, fun teen book with sparkly, eunuchy vampires. Tuscany is a place with great light, great history, and great art. It does not translate well to a “curio cabinet.” Or authentic Tuscan wine decanter that comes from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Or any manner of poster art.
Don’t get me wrong. I have my own obsessions, too. I just hope they never translate to a tattoo, or an order from the SkyMall catalog.
That said, I’d like to make my way back to Tuscany sometime soon. I’ll enjoy the gelato in Siena, realize how unbelievably unoriginal I am, and promise to never, ever lecture someone about how they just must make it to Lucca instead.