How to beat overtourism
In Barcelona, a city of 1.6 million which saw over 30 million tourists in 2016, tourist buses and bikes have had their tyres slashed. Stallholders in La Boqueria, the city’s fabulous market, protest that the tourists, who want nothing but snapshots, drive away locals who come to buy.
The summer tourist invasion in Venice has transformed the city into an exotically ornamented sardine can and the few locals who remain complain about tourists who block the commuter ferries with their suitcases.
In October last year, well past peak season, Rome’s Trevi fountain at 10pm was still ringed by tourists five-deep.
Even Iceland, which has suddenly become a trophy destination, wonders how to cope with overtourism. For the visitor, some of these places are well past the point where the sheer numbers impact on the experience.
What’s to be done? Stay away from Rome, Venice, Paris and San Sebastian?
No thanks. But there are ways to improve your visit.
One is to travel off season. Spring and late autumn are shoulder season in southern Europe, and reliably mild. You won’t have Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia or Venice’s St Mark’s Square all to yourself, not by a long shot, but at least you’ll squeeze in.
Another strategy is to go elsewhere. Bologna, Naples, Bergamo and Ferrara are all wonderful cities that would be headline attractions in any country but Italy. Same goes for Montpellier, Nantes, Chartres and Reims in France, and Salamanca, Logrono and Girona in Spain.