I have written about which shoes are best to wear in Europe before. I wrote about the best summer shoes  and also about winter shoes to wear in Europe, both of which I will re-link at the bottom of this post. A series of events happened last week that made me decide to write a post about the best pair of sandals I have ever worn in Europe.

This is not a sponsored post. This post does contain affiliate links

Venice Grand Canal

My sandals in Venice in June 2017

I wore the same pair of sandals everyday in Europe last summer on my May/June Glam Italia Tours, I wore them half the time in Paris in September (I wore these Adidas sneakers the days I didn’t wear my sandals), and then I wore them every day for a month this past June on this year’s Glam Italia Tours.

Portofino Italy

June 2017 in Portofino Italy

A Confluence Of Events.

1. My week started with an email from one of my blog readers. She was in Florence and had been doing everything on the list from my 10 Things You Absolutely Must Do In Florence blog post. She was super excited about it all  and ended her email with “oh by the way, I got those Sofft sandals that you, and you’re right – they are the most comfortable shoes ever!”

2. Then when I was looking through my photos from Venice trying to find something to put in my Don’t Be A Tourist In Venice post I kept noticing my sandals in every photo that showed my feet.

3. Finally, I was scrolling through the notes on my phone and found a page where I had bee keeping a total of the steps and the flights of stairs I was doing each day in Italy. I was pretty wowed at just how many miles I walk on my tours, and more wowed that these shoes not only didn’t fall apart, but are still going strong!

Burano Island

Walking in Burano, Venice in my Sofft Mirabelle sandals, June 2018

Which Sandal Is It??

This is the sandal in question. It is the Mirabelle by Sofft. Here is the affiliate link: sofftshoe.com sandals page

 

Why Do I Love This Sandal?

So here is what I love about this sandal:

*It is unbelievably comfortable. If you have been to Europe before than you already know that you spend your days walking and walking, so you need a good cushy sole to not only protect your foot but also to cushion the pressure on your lower back. Also you are walking on cobble-stoned streets and uneven surfaces, both of which put extra hardship on both your feet and your shoes.

*It takes zero breaking in – the leather is super soft but still good and strong. No blisters, no rubbing, no hurting your feet, yet at the same time offering really great support. You can put the Sofft Mirabelle on straight out of the box and walk all day long with no problems at all.

* It goes with everything. My rule is only 3 pairs of shoes can go with me on a trip, which means I need shoes and sandals that can work with everything I am going to wear. I have the Mirabelle in the color pictured above which is called Luggage.

*It is well made. This sandal is really well made. Even with the non-stop walking up and down hills and the average of 25,000 steps per day, the sole hasn’t pulled apart, the sandal hasn’t ripped and it hasn’t lost its shape.

Shop Sofftshoe Site today!

Paris book stalls along Seine

Walking along the left bank in Paris in the 6th arrondissement. Sometime in 2017

So How Many Miles Have My Sofft Mirabelles Done?

This blew my mind! In 2017 my Sofft Mirabelle sandals did 3 Glam Italia Tours and two Glam Paris Tours. In Paris I wore them half the time on one tour and every day on the other.

Paris, Montmartre

Montmartre, Paris, sometime in 2017

In 2018 they have done two Glam Italia Tours.

I also wear them at home in Phoenix on photoshoots, commercials, ad campaigns, music videos and other long days when I am shooting in studios with concrete floors.

I haven’t kept track of the steps I do here in Phoenix each day but in Europe I am always keeping an eye on it.

In June 2018 on my Glam Italia Tours I walked 158 miles total. So that is about 79 miles per tour, give or take. (I have 2 days in between each tour, arrive 2 days before the tours start and stay on for a few days after they are over. I walk and walk all day long on these days, checking out new places and seeing new things).

Mirabelle by Sofft

Florence, 2017

Working with that average and adding in 3 Glam Italia Tours in 2017, that’s another 237 miles in Italy alone, without factoring in my Paris tours.

Just adding the Italy numbers that’s 395 miles!!! Put into perspective the distance from Phoenix to Los Angeles is 360 miles.

Piazza San Marco, Venice. June 2018

How many pairs of shoes do you own that could walk from Phoenix to L.A. and still keep going strong??

How Do You Keep The Soles White?

One of my friends turned me onto this cool trick. When soles are looking scuffed and dirty you can clean them back to nearly new by using a little bit of bathroom cleaner or Mr Clean and a cloth or rag. If you have a Mr Clean Magic Eraser handy that works brilliantly too. I don’t clean mine while I’m away, but when I get home they really need it.

I wish I knew someone at Sofft Shoes to show this to – they should be sponsoring  my tours! Or something. Maybe they should be sending me free shoes – none of which is happening by the way. But I do think that at more than 395 miles these sandals probably are the best value for money I have ever had.

Sofftshoe.com offers free shipping on all orders, easy returns, and free exchanges.
Chances are you won’t be putting your sandals through the hard work I put mine through, but regardless, these are a great buy!

RELATED POST: THE BEST SHOES AND SANDALS TO WEAR IN EUROPE THIS SUMMER

RELATED POST: CHIC AND COMFORTABLE SHOES TO WEAR IN EUROPE THIS WINTER

Don’t be a tourist in Venice.

Be a traveler.

Venice, the most unique city on earth, gets a reported 25-30 million visitors per year.

Venice grand canal

Most tourists spend only 8 hours in Venice, coming in with a cruise or day trip.

I admit to being guilty of bringing some of my Glam Italia Tour groups in for just one day when the itinerary won’t permit a longer visit. The way I see it, to spend only one day in Venice is a crime, but to miss Venice all together is a worse crime!

Sometimes I get lucky and am able to stay in La Serenissima for several days. I was there for a week recently and with some days to myself was able to observe tourist culture in Venice from many different angles. Unfortunately I found that unlike my little groups who are perpetually in awe of this magnificent place, and who are respectful and polite, there are an enormous number of tourists who come here and treat Venice appallingly.

RELATED POST: DON’T BE A TOURIST, BE A TRAVELER

I worry about Venice. I worry that it may not still be around for my grandchildren, should I have any.

I worry when I watch the wake from the cruise ships splash up against the walls of buildings that are slowly sinking.

You should treat every place you travel to with respect, especially Venice.

How To Not Be A Tourist In Venice

1. Don’t Take A Cruise.

The average cruise ship holds 3000-4000 people, all of whom converge on a very small area of the city at once. The day I left Venice I went past the cruise ships and counted 5 of them, which means that day there were probably 15,000 – 20,000 cruisers descending on the city and hovering in the same small neighborhood.

Imagine that in your neighborhood at home! It would be awful.

The problem with this is that Venice was not designed or built to cope with this influx of thousands of humans. In my opinion the cruise ships are contributing to the demise of the most unique city in the world.

 

2. Don’t Crowd The Bridges.

The connection between the cruise ships and the bridges is significant. Venice is a series of tiny islands connected by bridges. These bridges were not built to take the weight of the thousands of tourists pouring over them from the cruise ships, and the volume of people is contributing to the destruction of the bridges.

Not all the tourists are from cruise ships, plenty come in by train as well.

One thing to remember when crossing the bridges in Venice is that these are the thoroughfares over which the people who live here go about their daily life. This is how they go to and from work, to and from their appointments, to and from everywhere they go during their day. Can you even imagine how annoying it must be to try and get to where you need to go and be stuck in the middle of a tourist crowd?

Be respectful when crossing the bridges.

3. Don’t Throw Trash In The Canals.

It is ridiculous to even have to say this, but don’t throw trash in the canals. While I was there this summer I was horrified to see all the plastic bottles and food wrappers hitting the banks of the canals with the tide.

If you watch the locals moving around the city you will notice they don’t carry plastic water bottles with them and they don’t walk around eating fast food. That is the domain of the tourists, and it is tourists who are throwing this  trash into the canals.

 4. Explore Different Sestieri

Venice Canals

Wandering Venice, not a tourist in sight

Venice is divided into 6 neighborhoods or sestieri. (One sestiere, 2 or more sestieri) Cannaregio, the largest, stretches from the Santa Lucia train station to the Rialto Bridge. Santa Croce, the oldest and least touristy abuts San Polo, the sestiere that runs between Santa Croce and the Dorsoduro. San Polo is home to the Rialto fish market and Dorsoduro is home to the easily recognizable Guggenheim museum and Santa Maria della Salute church.

Canals in Venice

San Marco meets Cannaregio at the Rialto Bridge and encompasses the area of Piazza San Marco, the Basilica, The Doges Palace and Bridge of Sighs, before it meets Castello the sestiere that ends at the lagoon, with the Arsenale shipyards and the Fondamente Nove vaporetto stop, which is the gateway to Murano, Burano and Castello.

Venice Canals

Most tourists stay in the area from the Rialto Bridge to the far side of St Mark’s Square. That wouldn’t be such a big deal except that we are talking about a very small area and an enormous number of people.

Venice has so much to offer and so many beautiful things to see. Get out of San Marco and go explore some of the other sestieri. This is where you will see the magic of the city. When you wander along the smaller canals and the less tourist-populated parts of Venice you will fall in love with it. The cost of food and drinks is drastically less outside of San Marco than in San Marco, the walkways and bridges are not congested, and this is where you will find the artisan shops instead of the made-in-China merchandise that has flooded the market.

5. Explore The Other Islands.

Burano Island

Walking in Burano

The islands of Murano, Burano, Torcello and Lido are all fabulous and easily accessible by vaporetto.

You may not think about a day at the beach while in Venice, but the beaches on the Adriatic side of Lido Island are fabulous! The water is warm and the beach is clean.

Beach Lido venice

Beach day on Lido Island, Venice

Although it looks similar to colorful Burano, Murano is quite different. Either island is a fabulous place to get away from the crowds and enjoy a quiet lunch.

 

RELATED POST: WHY YOU NEED TO VISIT TORCELLO

Torcello is very different again. The island is small and the main attraction, the basilica, is spectacular.

Torcello Island

6. Buy From Artisans.

Don’t buy cheap, knock off, tourist souvenirs. The vendor stands in Piazza San Marco and along the waterfront, and the cheap souvenir shops all sell cheap trinkets made in China. This is not merchandise made in Venice, and not only does it not help the Venetian economy, it hurts it. Venetian merchants have had to move out of the city, their shops taken over by the sellers of this junk.

Why not be respectful, wander the other sestieri, and buy from the remaining Venetian artisans in their artisan stores. Before it’s too late.

Find out my Secret Top 10 Places in Venice HERE

7. Hire Local Guides.

Italian guides have to be licensed. They are required to have degrees in Italian history or in art history. They study hard and work hard to earn the right to be an official guide. Here is an excerpt from the SeeVenice.it website:

The exam was really hard and it took months to pass all its steps. Written exams, oral exams, compositions about the history, the art and the city in all its aspects. Its museums, churches, palaces, even the ones that no longer exist… all its narrow alleyways! And of course, that wonderful and complex environment, the Venetian lagoon. And wait, let’s not forget there’s more. Language tests, three languages spoken fluently required. University degree required.

When Luisella from SeeVenice.it took her exams hundreds of people applied, only 26 were approved. Tour guiding here is a serious profession. Make sure the guides you hire are licensed local guides in Venice, not interlopers.

** A word to the wise. Venice is very small and all the professional guides know one another. Non-licensed guiding in Venice is forbidden.

*** Disclaimer: I don’t know Luisella and haven’t booked See Venice for my tours. I work with another guide in Venice. However, if I am quoting her website it is only fair that I put a link to it. And face it, in order to be a licensed guide in Venice you have to be both qualified and good, so I don’t hesitate to refer her!

RELATED POST: 15 THINGS YOU MUST DO IN VENICE

8. Eat The Local Cuisine

Venice cicchetti

Cicchetti is the tapas like finger food famous in Venice. This cicchetti bar was in San Polo along a little side street.

Italian cuisine is entirely regional. The food is different everywhere you go in Italy and one of the big tourist mistakes is ordering what we here in the USA consider to be Italian food, regardless of where you are.

Fritto Misto Venice

Fritto Misto and salad for lunch.

Lasagna and pizza are not Venetian foods, so don’t order them here. Try cicchetti, (the local version of tapas), baccala’, and the famous local pastries. My book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy has a chapter devoted to Italian cuisine with a region by region guide to what to eat, where.

On the subject of eating…

9. Know Where You Can’t Eat.

There are places where it is not ok to eat. Don’t eat sitting on the steps of churches, on monuments or the steps of monuments, or on the steps of bridges. This is actually punishable by fine. If you want to have a picnic or eat while on the go, there are plenty of open spaces, parks and benches to find a good spot at and have a meal with a view.

Piazza San Marco is considered to be a monument. You can eat at an outdoor café or restaurant there but technically you cannot just buy a sandwich and a drink and hang out in the piazza eating.

MY NEW BOOK, GLAM ITALIA! HOW TO TRAVEL ITALY IS NOW AVAILABLE WORLDWIDE ON AMAZON.COM! GET YOUR COPY HERE

10. Don’t Feed The Pigeons

Piazza San Marco is famous for its pigeons. You can stand in the piazza with your arms out wide and pigeons will land on you. To me, pigeons are flying rats, so I would rather die than have them on me, but plenty of tourists enjoy the idea of having pigeons land on them.

spritz aperol venice

A fearless pigeon stealing pretzels from our table.

Just don’t feed them. Venetian pigeons are quite aggressive. They are used to tourists feeding them and will fly up and try to steal food from your table. So as a sign of respect, don’t feed them.

spritz aperol venice

Flying of to raid the next table

11. Swimming and Swimwear.

Swimming in canals, bathing in the fountains, and wearing swimwear in the streets is both forbidden and punishable by fine. There are great beaches on Lido island if you want to swim. And no matter how hot it is, it is never appropriate to wander around town in your swimwear. Have a little respect.

Before you say that cruise tourism is funding the city, stop and think for a moment. The thousands of tourists arriving on ships every week aren’t filling the local hotels. They aren’t eating breakfast or dinner in Venice. They buy a gelato, and maybe some lunch, then buy some made-in-China trinkets before heading back to the ship. Some will buy tickets into museums and the Doge’s Palace. A few will spend money on gondola rides. But when you weigh out the dollars coming in versus the damage cost to the most unique city on earth, a city already facing the reality of sinking, is the cruise business really worth it?

What are your thoughts on tourism in Venice? Let me know in the comments below.

Would you like to know my Top 10 Secret Spots in Venice? These are places that won’t be on my blog and are only available to my private list members!

CLICK HERE for your free downloadable PDF

 

My dear friend Pasquale was talking to me about my book, Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy, and my Glam Italia Tours while we were driving along the beautiful Amalfi Coast Road this past June. He said to me “You are a traveler, not a tourist. You teach your tour groups how to be travelers, not tourists, and the core message of your book is leading readers to be travelers, not tourists.” It was a fantastic compliment.

I keep thinking about that, and the importance of being a traveler rather than being a tourist.

Be A Traveler Not A Tourist

One of the best travel guides to Paris is a book called Don’t be a Tourist in Paris. The book guides you through hundreds of incredible places to see and things to do in the City of Light, things that tourists either don’t know or don’t care about.

RELATED POST DON’T BE A TOURIST IN PARIS

There is a huge difference between a traveler and a tourist. Both like to travel, but they seek and find intensely different experiences while they are away. They have very different characteristics and are viewed and treated very differently by locals in the places they travel to.

In my experience being a tourist is exhausting and can leave you quite depleted at the end of a trip. The path of the tourist is lined with crowds of other tourists, and being stuck in crowds all the time can be unnerving as well as really tiring.

The path of the traveler sometimes intersects those crowds, but it veers off in other directions too. Travelers enjoy human interaction in the countries they visit, they seek out a new understanding of the place they are in. When their trip is finished the traveler typically feels filled up by all the new experiences they have had.

I really do work hard to make sure that my Glam Italia Tour ladies walk the path of the traveler. I want them to come away from their tour feeling filled up by the experience.

RELATED POST: WHAT IS A GLAM ITALIA TOUR

This is a big part of why I wrote my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy. I hope the book will convert tourists into travelers and have them find a deeper love for Italy.

Here is a breakdown of 8 core attributes to each. I hope you will consider this next time you travel, and make the effort to be a traveler, not a tourist.

TOURISTS vs TRAVELERS

1.Tourists Sightsee, Travelers Experience.

Tourists typically just want to see the main attractions, the “Must See” places. They take their photos, check the attraction off the list and move on to the next. They don’t want to immerse themselves in the culture, they don’t need an experience.

Travelers do the reverse. They may go see the famous sights but they also venture off the beaten path and explore other less well known things in the area. Travelers crave new, unique experiences, and want to immerse themselves in the local culture, meet and talk to local people.

Example. The Eiffel Tower. Most people going to Paris for the first time will go to the Eiffel Tower. A tourist will wait in line for hours, go up the tower, take some photos and then move on to the next tourist attraction.

Picnic Eiffel Tower

Sunset picnic at the Eiffel Tower

A traveler might wander down Rue Cler, buy items for a picnic, and take an uber to Champ de Mars, the park in front of the tower. Maybe they will time it so that they arrive in the late afternoon, get to see the tower in the sunlight, but are opening their bottle of wine when the sun goes down and the Eiffel Tower lights up. To the traveler creating a wonderful experience is paramount, and in this example they have taken part in local culture, interacted with locals, and created incredible memories of one of the most iconic sights in the world.

RELATED POST: THE PERFECT PICNIC IN PARIS

2.Tourists Stick Out, Travelers Blend In.

water fountain Taormina

Blending in in Taormina

One of the easiest ways to separate the two is in how they present themselves. Tourists tend to stick out both by their dress and their behavior. From athleisure-wear to fanny packs around their waists to I Love New York t-shirts (is that a challenge to the locals? Are you saying New York is better than here?) to any inappropriate form of dress, they tend to stand out visually. They dress for comfort (and some of them dress to advertise their patriotism.)

Behavior-wise everything from clogging up the sidewalk to take their selfies or look at their maps, oblivious or uncaring of the local people getting to and from their jobs, doing their errands, living life in their cities, to being loud, being rude, making a commotion. Behavior that falls into the category of disrespectful. Tourists typically don’t think about how they would feel being on the receiving end of this same behavior at home.

A traveler makes an effort to blend in and to connect with locals. They tend to have a When In Rome mentality. Travelers make the effort to plan a wardrobe that works with the culture of the place they are visiting, they feel like guests and behave respectfully. They don’t need to draw attention to themselves, don’t think they are better than anyone else. Although they want to be comfortable they will also factor in style and a sense of what is appropriate.

Example: When In Rome. A tourist sees no problem in walking into a church wearing shorts and a tank top and is more likely to argue with anyone trying to stop them. A traveler understands that even though it is a hot day shoulders and thighs must be covered, so has on a knee length skirt and has a scarf to throw over her shoulders as she walks into the church.

A tourist walks around snapping pictures and snapping chewing gum while the traveler heeds the no photos signs and understands that flagrant gum chewing is both frowned upon and leaves locals wondering if you will be leaving wadded up pieces of gum behind you.

A tourist marches off to the next attraction on the list, a traveler interacts with the locals, asks questions, wants to know about life here. A traveler will be polite and will make sure to say please and thank you.

3. A Tourist Complains, A Traveler is Curious

Tourists tend to compare everything to home, invariably with the attitude that everything is better at home. They criticize, demand and complain. Tourists are more likely to by myopic and to have a closed mind. Travelers are curious, ask questions, and go with the flow, knowing that they are here to have a new experience. They approach everything with an open mind.

Example: Eating Out. A tourist will demand fat free ranch on the side, swap the greens beans for asparagus, demand salad be brought out first and complain that they are being charged cover charge for bread baskets.

A traveler understands that fat free ranch dressing (as well as regular ranch dressing) are not part of the cuisine. He or she understands that it can be considered rude to ask for foods to be exchanged and know that the order the courses are served in is specific to that culture. And isn’t that why we are here anyway? To experience something different from home?

While we are on the subject of food…

4. Tourists Eat Comfort Foods, Travelers Explore The Local Cuisine.

Marzamemi lunch

Lunching on local cuisine in Marzamemi, Sicily

Tourists tend to stick to the foods they know. They are less likely to try something new. Tourists gravitate towards familiar food chains or eat at tourist restaurants, ordering foods they know from home. Tourists are comforted by seeing a bottle of ketchup on the table, whereas travelers are repelled by it.

Quiche in Paris

Local lunch on a quiet street in Paris

Travelers know that the key to understanding a country or a people is tied up in their cuisine. Travelers may keep a wide berth from foods that seem too extreme, but overall embrace the local culture and want to try the local foods. They will normally have researched it as part of their upcoming travel experience and will be aware of typical and traditional meals in the place they are visiting.

RELATED POST: THE BEST SHOES TO WEAR IN EUROPE THIS SUMMER!

5. Tourists are Oblivious, Travelers are Sensitive.

Tourists don’t pay attention to their surroundings or to other people. They don’t care if they get in the way of locals going about their daily lives. They can be completely oblivious to local customs, offending the local people without realizing it.

Travelers are more sensitive to local customs and norms and make an effort to embrace and participate in them, or at least not to offend. Travelers are always cognizant of the fact that they are a guest here and as such don’t want to get in the way of local life, so are more apt to step to the side, not take up the sidewalk, not be a nuisance.

Travelers also make an effort to communicate with the locals.

While we are on the subject of communicating…

6.Tourists Stick To Their Own Tongue, Travelers Make An Attempt To Speak/Learn the Local Language.

Tourists will only speak their native language and make little if any effort to learn even a few things in the language of the country they are in. They expect everyone to speak their language, especially English. In fact you will often hear them complain to each other and to locals that this city runs on tourism, so the locals should speak English!

Travelers try to speak the local language. At very least they will learn greetings, please and thank you and a few useful phrases. They may have them written out so that at worst they can point to them when in need. For example being able to point to the phrase ‘Excuse me, I am lost. Which way is the train station?’ followed by a thank you in that language.

Travelers know that wherever you are in the world making the effort to learn even just a few things in that language is appreciated!

7. Tourists Love Souvenir Shops, Travelers Seek Out Artisans.

Canal St Martin, Paris

Off the beaten track exploring the artisan stores in Canal St Martin, Paris

Tourists love souvenir shops. They don’t care that the mini Eiffel Towers and London Bridge kitchen towels are mass produced in China and aren’t adding to the local economy. They see them as being authentic, settle for them, check it off the list and move on.

Travelers appreciate authenticity and try to support local artisans. They attach value to locally made soaps from little local stores, hand painted ceramic kitchen magnets rather than those factory produced in China, and they see value in keeping local economies and crafts thriving by supporting them.

Example: Venetian Masks. Walk along the Grand Canal in Venice near St Mark’s Square and you will see tourists flocking to the vendor stalls that line the waterfront. Tourists will happily pay for imitation Venetian masks, imitation Murano glass and Burano lace, all of which are of inferior quality and mass produced in China. This doesn’t support the local economy and actually puts local venetians out of work.

Travelers by contrast want the real thing and will seek out the little owner operated artisan shops, will take pleasure in conversing with the owners, learning about how many generations of their family have worked at this craft, and create an experience out of buying a piece of the local culture to take home and treasure.

8.Tourists Stick To Their Maps, Travelers Like To Explore

Tourists tend to have a list of famous sights and use maps to get them from sight number one to sight number two in as straight a line as possible. They have a fear of getting off the beaten track and as such will stand in the middle of a busy sidewalk consulting their map rather than stepping down a side street and getting out of the way.

Tourists are more likely to take transport from sight to sight rather than just wander and find something new.

Venice San Polo

Seeking out the side streets in Venice – not a tourist in sight.

Travelers might be visiting the same sights but will seek out the side streets and look for the lovely things they would otherwise miss if taking the most direct route or sticking to the main roads. They enjoying walking and exploring and finding their way, seeing local life happening, and feeling if only for a moment that they are a part of it all.

Ortygia Sicily

Exploring the side streets in Ortygia, Sicily

Tourists are excited to get back home to their own bed and to everything that is familiar and normal to them. Travelers leave a little bit sad, not quite ready to let go of the new experiences they have been having and the new world they have discovered.

Did you get your copy of my new book yet? Learn more fabulous tips for travelers, both to Italy and to anywhere else in my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy.

If you have more tips for tourists vs travelers, please tell me in the comment section below!


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