Italy Roundtable: Italy Has No Secrets


Usually on this site, I see my job as advice-giver. I express my opinions in my articles, sure, but this isn’t an op-ed site. With the Italy Roundtable, however, I am sometimes presented with an opportunity to drag my soapbox out of the closet.

This is one of those times.

This month, we are tackling the topic of SECRETS. You’ll see below why the soapbox was necessary, and I’m also curious about what you think.

What comes to mind for you when you hear the words “secret” and “Italy” together?

I have a friend, an editor of a newspaper’s travel section, who has been in the travel business long enough that he has trigger words and phrases he can no longer tolerate. He has his email account set up to automatically delete any pitches or press releases that use words like “nestled” or “juxtaposition of old and new.” Of course, as a travel writer, I’m in that same world of flowery – and often overused – descriptions of places and experiences all designed to entice people to leave their comfort zones and head out into the world. So I have my own trigger words.

When we chose the topic of “secrets” for this month’s Italy Roundtable, my trigger finger got itchy.

All it takes is a simple web search of the words “secret” and “Italy” to pull up more than 200 million results for articles (and sometimes entire websites) that purport to give readers the inside scoop on something that, as the name suggests, is a secret about which only they can tell you. To my mind, however, that promise is built on a lie.

There is no secret Italy.

Shhh || creative commons photo by catherine

Shhh || creative commons photo by catherine

There are other words that make me similarly twitchy, such as “undiscovered,” “hidden,” or “unknown.” It’s a ridiculous statement (not to mention arrogant) to walk into a small Italian village that people have lived in for centuries and call it “undiscovered,” to visit a small mom-and-pop restaurant on a side street that’s frequented by locals and call it “hidden,” or to hint that just because there aren’t as many tourists in a museum as there are in others that it’s “unknown.”

Certainly, there are secrets underneath the Italian soil, archaeological discoveries waiting to be unearthed, but these are not for average visitors to find on a regular basis. And yes, people can keep secrets from one another, such as a favorite restaurant a local won’t share with a tourist for fear it will one day be overrun, but there’s nothing keeping a traveler from finding such treasures on his or her own.

I won’t use words like “secret” or “undiscovered,” because I think they’re disingenuous. There are absolutely places and attractions in Italy that are lesser-known or little-visited, but they’re absolutely not unknown.

Italy requires no secret password to get in.

When I began work on Italy Explained, I tried to make it clear up front that no one can understand (or explain) everything about Italy. My goal here has always been to give travelers the necessary information, advice, and context in order to be able to cope with the inevitable travel hiccups along the way. And? I will also tell you when I don’t know an answer (while I work on getting one for you).

There is a marked difference between genuine secrets and things we don’t yet know about. Real secrets need gatekeepers, people who are actively trying to keep you from gaining something. The only barrier between you and something you don’t yet know is your own desire to learn. And that’s pretty empowering, if you ask me.

Other Voices at the Italy Roundtable

It’s a busy summer for most of the folks at the roundtable, so this month it looks a little more like a small cafe table. Nevertheless, don’t miss out on what secrets my cohorts are talking about. Click along with me through to the following links to read each of their posts – and please leave comments, share them with your friends, and tune in next month for another Italy Blogging Roundtable topic!

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