There is a paradox that faces all travelers. I believe there is a general yearning for an authentic experience that all who travel crave. The catch being that an authentic experience is reserved for those living where travelers are only visitors. There is another issue that faces well traveled locales. Is it possible for authenticity to remain when the main source of economic revenue is tourism? Perhaps places like Cabo or Cancun remain authentically tourist destinations, but for places like Rome, Paris, Venice and other popular cities whatever culture that existed prior has been wiped out almost entirely by tourism. Street after street of unique boutiques and cafes are replaced by storefronts pushing crap merchandise, tourist trinkets, and restaurants selling ‘authentic’ food. It begs another question, is a hamburger made in the heart of Rome authentically Roman on the basis that it is created in Rome and is thereby Roman? These are the questions in my mind as we road a tour bus through the ancient streets of Rome past the Temple of Hercules the Victor and paused momentarily in front of the Vittoriano while honking cabs tried to edge past.
I sat in San Marco Piazza sipping a beer and puffing on an Italian hand rolled cigar. Across from me Josh re-lit his cigar. Istrian stone monoliths and statues towered above us as tourists rushed about, snapping selfies and indulging in gelato and Italian pastries. News had just reached us of yet another attack, in Monaco this time, one in a string of terrorist lead or inspired transgressions against Europe’s ‘soft targets.’ It was easy to forget the turmoil facing the world while watching children chase bubbles and old men sip on wine. The underlying danger was still evident. Assault rifle toting Italian soldiers in berets took up posts around the piazza. Behind me came a loud bangthat made us all jump. A gunshot perhaps? Turning around I saw that it was nothing more than a child who had pop his balloon animal. We laughed uneasily.