As the pandemic travel restrictions lifted, many people booked their flights for long-delayed vacations, often after spending months (or years) doing their travel research on Instagram. The Italian town of Positano, off the Amalfi Coast, has become a particularly sought-after spot for influencers looking to land the perfect “easy” holiday snaps.
But is it really worth traveling to such a well-known hotspot?
Rebecca Jennings, a senior correspondent at Vox, wrote about her own experience traveling to Positano in an article titled, “The Instagram Capital of the World is a Terrible Place.”
Marketplace host Kimberly Adams spoke to Jennings to find out why. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Kimberly Adams: Describe Positano and why you focused on it for your piece, or perhaps chose it for your piece.
Rebekah Jennings: So Positano is this very small town on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Many guidebooks call it “the jewel of the Amalfi Coast”. So basically it looks like all these little pastel colored houses are stacked on the cliff and there is a little bay and it’s very like crystal blue water every day. About 12,000 people live there. But it’s only built for about 4,000.
Adam’s: Wow. So you decided to go. I’m curious what your experiences there have told you about how people travel in general these days.
Jennings: Sure, so this is a really tiny resort, the Amalfi Coast was sort of a vacation spot for the super-rich, but since travel is so much more accessible than it’s ever been in history, really, for a middle-class person, you can visit all of these places , but that doesn’t mean you’ll have a luxurious experience. And I think that was something that really caught my eye. Still, I really enjoyed the experience. But the whole time I was like, “Man, that really reflects what Instagram trips are.”
Adam’s: What does it mean for local residents when so much of the local economy depends on tourism in this city and many other tourist cities around the world?
Jennings: Yes, I think that caused too much tension. They have a lot of local politics where it’s like, OK, we care too much about the tourists compared to the locals. And I know that happens on the Amalfi Coast where there is a road you can drive that goes to all the towns on the Amalfi Coast and you might be sitting there for hours because the traffic is so heavy because people rented cars and wanted to see every stop. So they actually passed a law that only cars with a certain number plate could drive every other day of the week. And obviously there are some people who find that really good and stimulating for the economy. And some people who find that just like to wipe out the local culture entirely. And that will only be a point of tension. No matter where in the world you are.
Adam’s: You wrote that traveling at the moment feels like going to a Chanel store but never being able to put the clothes on. But people generally avoid going to a store where they know they can’t buy anything. And yet even budget travelers still travel to these destinations, where those beautiful shots really only come from places that rich people can afford. Why is that?
Jennings: Yes, because I think all these images that we see are marketing. You know they’re beautiful pictures, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean they’re accessible to everyone. I think travelers not willing to spend money [for], you know, $5,000 a night for hotel accommodations, you’ll have so much more fun going somewhere else that’s more tailored to you. For example, I don’t feel like going to a place like Monaco because it is, what will I do in Monaco? Walk around and feel really poor. Like, I don’t feel like doing that. Yes.
Adam’s: If you’ve been to Monaco, do just that.
Jennings: Good to know.
Adam’s: How did your experience in Positano change the way you will travel in the future?
Jennings: I think I’ll be spending a lot less time taking other people’s reviews super, super seriously and I think lingering more in one place rather than trying to see everything I think is important.
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