Wherever we go in the world as travellers or holiday makers, we have a responsibility to ensure we do certain things in order to respect the local environment, local communities, and the people we encounter. By doing a little research into the local area and its culture before we set off, we can ensure we don’t offend anybody or cause any damage of any kind – therefore preserving the part of the world for everyone, and maintaining good relations between locals and tourists.
If you’re looking for hotels or rental villas in Tuscany for your next adventure, there are a few things to think about in order to ensure you make the most of your time without in any way causing damage or offence to the community there.
Understand and Respect the Way of Life
Tuscany in many ways has more to preserve than most; for it is not only home to some of the world’s most famous and iconic cities and artwork, but it also serves as a sort of safeguard and refuge for a traditional way of life that is elsewhere under attack from all sides, but which in Tuscany the local people fiercely and proudly defend.
Shops and other businesses stop for lunch, and they usually take a couple of hours. Markets stock local, seasonal produce and large international chains are rare – and virtually entirely absent outside of major cities.The pace of life is slow and unrushed, and timekeeping is always a secondary concern, of relative and not absolute importance.
These traits can be frustrating for those of us who are not used to them, but it is important to travel with patience and respect. For they are traits which are deeply rooted in the spirit of the community, and they are the very traits which draw us back time and again to this magical and ancient part of the world, and which we have a duty to preserve for posterity.
Be Considerate Towards the Elderly
Tuscan society – like Italian society generally – places great value on the importance of family, and indeed of extended family, when it comes to maintaining the peace and order of the community, and the health and happiness of its members.
One of the cornerstones of Tuscan family values is respect for elders, and in Tuscany this means more than just addressing older people politely and offering them your seat if they’re standing on the bus. It also means making an effort to be extra considerate in public when there are older people around: it’s a good idea generally in Tuscany to keep noise to a minimum and to talk and act modesty, but it is especially important when older people are present.
Failure to abide by this social convention will undoubtedly cause you to be seen as rude and obtuse, but making an active effort to respect it will allow you to interact with locals on a much friendlier and more authentic level.
Act and Dress Appropriately for the Location
Even for non-religious visitors, the many picturesque churches and awe-inspiring cathedrals that Tuscany boasts are a huge draw. When visiting, it is of course important to respect worshippers by not making any noise and behaving in a modest and dignified manner. Loud voices, unruly laughter and raucous behaviour will all be deemed offensive and extremely disrespectful, and may result in you being asked to leave.
As with any church, it’s also important to remove your hat upon entry and to dress quite conservatively. If you’re travelling in the heat of the summer season and wearing short sleeves, it’s a good idea to bring something to cover your shoulders and upper arms while you’re inside.
One of the easiest things you can do – and one which will actually be a direct benefit to you and your trip – in order to help reduce the impact your visit has on the environment is to make an effort to visit towns, cities and villages outside of Florence and Siena.
Of course, you’ll want to spend time in these two cultural, architectural and artistic powerhouses, but also getting out of the city and visiting some other, less well known tourist spots is a straightforward way to lessen the polluting effect tourism is having on both air quality and ancient architecture in these cities we all wish to preserve.
Doing so also enhances your experience, as whilst Florence and Siena offer the most famous and iconic sights, it is in in the smaller towns and villages and in the countryside that you can experience the distinctive way of life that is so precious to the local people, along with authentic food, ambience and song.
Eat Local Produce
Using local produce is not only more sustainable and better for the environment, but it is also a major part of Tuscan and wider Italian eating habits. If you’re buying ingredients for self catering, be sure to shop at the local market where you’ll get produce that has come from local farms – meaning you get better, fresher ingredients while simultaneously supporting local people and helping the environment.
If you’re eating out, head to restaurants in rural areas away from the tourist trail – it requires a little courage, but you’ll enjoy authentic cuisine in a traditional setting whilst also helping local businesses rather than large chains.
By following the above steps and thinking carefully about the chooses you make while in Tuscany, you can have a truly authentic Tuscan experience at no cost to the local community or environment, therefore preserving this beautiful and precious part of the world for future generations to experience and enjoy.