Pros, cons of being a tourist

Right when I arrived at the NYU Florence campus, I was given tips on how to not look or act like a tourist: Don’t go to any restaurants around the Duomo. Don’t order a cappuccino in the afternoon. Don’t tip your waiters. Don’t go to Venice during Carnevale.

But on Feb. 14, I went to Venice with a group of friends and became one of the thousands of tourists in the street during the last weekend of Carnevale, a Christian festival before the start of Lent.

Everyone warned us against it. NYU even offered cheap trips to a different Carnevale festival in Viareggio. An email from the NYU Florence Office of Student Life read: “Unlike the somewhat touristy Venice Carnevale with hordes of cruise-ship visitors, the Carnevale di Viareggio is a super fun cultural event attended every year by thousands of Italians.”

Until this semester I had never been to Italy, nor most countries in Europe, but now I have the chance to see all the attractions. Sure, Venice was packed that day, but it was beautiful to experience the festival and the excitement of a crowd.

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Being a tourist is thrilling. There is something amazing about seeing beautiful architecture, art and sights that you have never seen before. I look up at the Duomo every time I walk by it, and every day the soft pink and rich green accents on the exterior reveal something new. I am not sure how people who live in Florence ever get used to such a magnificent structure.

At the same time, there has to be a balance between seeing tourist attractions and knowing your surroundings. There is merit in the advice to not look like a tourist. After all, we are students living in a city for four months — we should try to live like locals.

NYU Florence students have the opportunity to visit some of the top tourist attractions, including Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast and the Colosseum. It is important that we see and learn from these places as students and tourists. By studying abroad, I can experience the culture of Italy first-hand. But I can also go sightseeing and take that classic picture with the Leaning Tower of Pisa — even after seeing pictures of the field of tourists looking ridiculous with their hands in the air.

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