39 Italy Travel Tips From People Who've Actually Been There

We asked the BuzzFeed Community about their best tips and recommendations for traveling to Italy. Here’s what they said!


Stevanzz / Getty Images

1.

Always give the house wine a try! And drink the local varietals.

No matter what, eat local and if you enjoy drinking, ALWAYS GET THE HOUSE WINE! I guarantee it will be great quality, local, and unique to every location that you can’t get anywhere else.

hollyb31

Drink the local wine (Falanghina for Rome, Chianti for Tuscany, Prosecco for Venice).

stephanielynng

2.

Try the local cuisine, too!

Try the LOCAL food. Going to Tuscany? Try maybe panzanella or crostini. Going to the Amafi coast? Try something with fresh fish or crustaceans. Going to Naples? Definitely get pizza. Believe it or not, spaghetti and meatballs and alfredo aren’t actually Italian.

carlied2

3.

Check for free days at the museums.

If you’re interested in museums, try to look up when they do free days. Usually they do a free day like once a month.

carlied2

[Editor’s note: If there’s a holiday on a day that’s usually the free museum day, it might be rescheduled! For example, if a free day was supposed to be on Easter Sunday, it might be on the Monday after instead.]


Givaga / Getty Images

4.

If someone in your party is disabled or otherwise has trouble standing for a long time, ask (politely, and preferably in Italian) if there’s a disability line at the major sites.

This goes for the elderly, people who are pregnant, people who have bad knees…if you think you’ll have trouble standing for that long, it never hurts to ask!

—Andy Golder

5.

Check YouTube for local vlogs if you want some personal recommendations for restaurants.

Before visiting Rome i watched some vlogs from ladolcelisa on YouTube. She has the best recommendations for restaurants and gelaterias. I tried almost every food spot and loved every single one.

a407ae015c

6.

Learning some basic Italian will go a long way.

Learn your basic italian, locals are very grateful of you trying to speak their language and they’ll be more friendly and kind.

kaatm

If you’re not sure where to start on learning Italian, just aim for learning some “transactional” phrases, like how to order food, buy tickets, or ask where the restroom is. Even just asking in Italian if someone speaks English will go a long way!

—Andy Golder

7.

Wander around! If you’re able to walk, it’s usually the best way to experience a city/town.

Don’t take a taxi! Walk as much as possible, getting lost usually ended up being a highlight of my trip.

stephanielynng


Katarina_b / Getty Images

8.

If you don’t like crowds, you can still see amazing things in smaller cities.

Don’t underestimate the amount of tourists that go to Italy! Consider the season you’re going and consider incorporating smaller, less popular cities into your trip.

This summer we did Florence, Cinque Terre, and Genoa and LOVED Genoa because it felt so underrated and gave us space to breathe at the end of the trip. There weren’t selfie sticks in our faces at every turn, locals seemed more apt to befriend us, and we had the best food of our entire trip on one of their recommendations (Cavour 21 — the best pesto you’ll ever eat!). We also had a breathtaking rooftop apartment with full view of the city that cost less than accommodations in other cities.

bens4d5ee73b1

9.

If you want to be able to use data on your phone, consider a portable router instead of getting a new SIM/phone for everyone in your group.

Instead of buying a phone number with internet, it is much cheaper and smarter to buy a router with internet and share that with your travel buddies. I traveled with my aunt, uncle, and cousin, and we shared one Vodafone router for the week. There was more data than we knew what to do with, and so much cheaper than buying individual SIMs!

englishmajor93

10.

Remember the rules for finding good restaurants:

Rules to finding good, authentic restaurants:

– Don’t eat anywhere that advertises multilingual menus, free wifi or air conditioning

– Don’t eat anywhere that advertises a fixed tourist menu

– Don’t eat anywhere with picture menus

– The further away from squares and big tourist attractions, the better

– Often, the older and crappier the place looks, the better

– Eat where the locals are eating (so nowhere where everyone looks like obvious tourists)

– The fewer things on the menu, the better

– Ask locals for recommendations

sophievanderm

11.

As always while traveling in big cities, keep your belongings secure.

Be wary of pickpockets! Make sure your bag is zipped up, and use cross-body bags if you can. They have a ploy where one guy tries to distract you (often by giving you something free like a bracelet) while another comes up behind you and tries to take your bag/something from it. Be extra conscious when in touristy spots especially!

sarabrownie

12.

Keep the season in mind when choosing to travel.

Don’t go in August. It’s really hot, super crowded and all the Italians are on vacation. So you’ll be surrounded by pretty much only other tourists and many shops and restaurants are closed, because the owners are on vacation. The best time to visit Italy is May/June or September/October.

sophievanderm

The only week my family could get together to travel was Easter week, so Rome was especially packed. On the plus side, we got to see lots of cool stuff (the explosion of the cart in Florence was pretty neat, albeit super crowded) but tourist sites and museums had longer lines than usual.

—Andy Golder

13.

Consider taking a cooking class as an activity.

Wherever you go, take a cooking class. It’s such a fun experience and you’ll have a recipe to take with you. That way you can relive the vacation in the comfort of your own home whenever you’re missing that beautiful country.

nikkiantonelli

14.

If you’re planning on visiting a lot of churches or other holy sites, consider taking a shawl or scarf to cover up.

I would suggest carrying a large scarf with you that way you can tie around your waist or drape over your shoulders when visiting churches and other sites. Also good for keeping the sun of your shoulders! I did this in Italy and other parts of Europe.

ilanacs

15.

To save money at museums and other sites, consider downloading free audio guides and booking tickets/passes in advance.

Definitely get the Rick Steves Italy guide! You can get it on iBooks and use it on your phone during your trip. It has great walking tour guides and a ton of interesting information about the stops along the way. I went to Italy as a student with very little money, so it was great to be a sort of free tour guide for my friends and I.

laurenf49a2aef81

I also recommend getting a Firenze card in Florence if you’re going to see a lot of the art and museums. This will save you a lot of money rather than paying for each individual museum or venue. [Editor’s note: This can be great if you’re visiting a lot of venues, but be sure to check regular ticket prices as well to make sure it’s worth it for you!]

hilaryt4c2912791

16.

Don’t buy fluffy gelato. Look for the stuff that has a lid on it.

You can tell the gelato is done properly when the pistachio flavour is a pale brownish green and is covered with a lid. Look for artisanal gelato and don’t buy from ones that fluff it up like clouds — it means there is a lot of air whipped into it.

amandad4aa6a2ab6


Jackf / Getty Images

17.

Palermo

I was born in Northern Italy and I have family in Rome and Palermo. Both places are so full of rich history. If you want beaches, go to Palermo or Conca dei Marini. The Sicilian beaches are rivaled only by those on the Amalfi coast. If you go to Conca there is this charming little town on the cliffside leading to the beach, its on a bunch of google image searches for the area but not a touristy place like you would think. There it a little taxi boat service to take you from there to other little coves on the coast. Make sure you eat the seafood pasta!

cristinagz

18.

Verona

Verona is one of Italy’s most underrated cities. The historical north Italian city served as a setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, so you can imagine how much beautiful architecture there is to explore and take pictures of!

karinaj411e90661

19.

Sardinia

Visit Sardinia! it has the country’s most beautiful beaches and the friendliest people, also the seafood is great and, because of it being an island apart from the country, it has a lot of different traditions and typical costumes and food but just as beautiful and delicious!

kaatm

For a affordable “tropical island ” feel visit Sardinia! It hasn’t been discovered by tourists yet. Sardinia has the most beautiful beaches in Italy and the people are among the healthiest in the world due to the healthy yet delicious food.

karlsels


Maniscule / Getty Images

20.

Arezzo, Lucca, Cortona, and other Tuscan towns

Florence is great, but don’t forget about other great Tuscan towns like Siena, Arezzo, Lucca, Cortona, so many good cities that at are cheaper, more charming, and still have extensive Italian history. Best place to eat in Arezzo is Miva, or if you missing American food I recommend Alo burger. Want some Japanese? Head to Tao which is just outside of the train station.

carlied2

21.

Dimaro and Fanano

I lived in Italy for three months and saw all the high-tourist spots (Rome, Florence, Sicily), but every single bit of Italy is gorgeous. My best memories were at a northern ski town called Dimaro, and another northern farm town called Fanano, where I stayed at a stunning Agriturismo (basically a farm-to-table airbnb with cows, horses, dogs, cats, hiking, waterfalls, and anything else you could want). These places had either the architecture or drop-dead gorgeous countryside of Italy without any of the crowds, I met more people and tried more authentic Italian food, and I felt like I learned much more about the culture than if I would’ve stayed in a larger town.

jessicat474e40bcd

22.

Orvieto

Visit the smaller towns! I went to Orvieto when I was there, a small town up on a rock cliff and it was one of the most memorable parts! Way less crowds with all the beauty and good food that Italt has to offer.

juliet4a055d7de


Black-crow / Getty Images

23.

Puglia

If you have the chance, try to get to the coast. The Puglia region is so beautiful. The Adriatic coast will also be cheaper to visit compared to the Mediterranean cities like Naples. You could take the train or a coach bus, it is pretty inexpensive.

rinaldia2

24.

Capri

Go to the island of Capri, it’s gorgeous! Sure, it is known to be a “ritzy” place, but while studying abroad I was able to get great food and wine, and found some jewelry that I am in love with all on a college kid budget.

partylovingchic

25.

Genoa

One of my favorite cities in Italy was Genoa. It’s an incredibly overlooked destination with a lot of history and personality. The food is also amazing, and since the region is known for its pesto, that’s a must-try! My favorite restaurant there was Il Genovese. Another great food option is the Apertivo, which is when restaurants or bars offer an early-evening deal where if you order a drink you get access to an unlimited buffet. It’s a great way to try a bunch of local dishes at once, as well as being very budget friendly! On top of all that, Genoa is a great place to stay if you’re interested in visiting Cinque Terre, one of the most beautiful regions in Italy, and it’s definitely one of the more affordable cities in the area.

lily9

26.

Emilia Romagna (Bologna, Parma, Modena, Ravenna, Ferrara)

As an Italian living in Italy I recommend visiting my region: Emilia Romagna. Food is great: in Bologna there is Fico (a theme park about food and wine), Parma with ham and Parmigiano, Modena with balsamic vinegar, on the coast you will have great fish and of course the wine everywhere is simply great. Art and monuments are all over, for example Ravenna is the capital of mosaics (where you can also attend a mosaic class from one of the artist living and working in Ravenna) or Ferrara with the wonderful Duomo and the great exhibition in the Palazzo dei Diamanti. And we can talk also about cars: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati… or the great spas we have, the mountains and the hills with castles, the welcoming coastal cities — all in one region!

g4d96b5415


Shansche / Getty Images

27.

Rent a luxury sports car and drive through Tuscany:

Test Drive Firenze in Florence was the highlight of our trip. My husband drove a Ferrari through the countryside of Florence to an exclusive hidden hotel overlooking the city where we received some hors d’oeuvres to enjoy in the most beautiful garden I have ever been in. Not to mention the whole drive was recorded for us on a CD.

cincin86

28.

Book a Tuscan wine tour! Sure, it’s touristy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun:

We did a Rome/Florence/Venice trip but while in Florence, we took a day trip to Tuscany with a tour group called TuscanyOnABudget. It was only 60 Euros and they took us to two wineries where we got to taste a ton of different wines and snacks. It was a perfect tour for three grad students backpacking on a budget. And we got to meet some really cool travelers on our tour that I still stay in touch with! Highly recommend it for anyone who’s trying to get an authentic experience without spending a ton of money!

jennal43f1628ac

29.

Have some antipasti right on the Arno river or eat at a restaurant with a panoramic view:

If you like antipasti, check out Alimentari Uffizi in Florence. It’s close to one of the entry points to Ponte Vecchio — probably the best cured meats I’ve ever had or ever will. We got a very generous platter with delicious red wine, just the BEST.

Also not too far from there is where had the best meal I’ve ever had, hands down. It was at the Panorama Restaurant in the Hotel La Scaletta. Book the top terrace if you can! Simply beautiful view with THE BEST food.

kristinm4545aa529

30.

Take a moment to sit outside the Duomo at night and enjoy an Aperol spritz (or another drink of your choice):

When in Florence, sit outside of the Duomo at night and enjoy a spritz or two. It is a beautiful memory I’ll never forget. It’s so beautiful lit up.

sfeichtinger

31.

And here are just a bunch of suggestions from a Florentine local:

Hi, Florentine girl here!

When in Florence make sure to eat at local restaurants, not the ones on the main streets (high prices, low quality), look for hidden restaurants. Otherwise, street food is great, if you have some time to stay in line, I recommand Antico Vinaio (via de’ Neri), it makes “schiacciate” with traditional Tuscan food, but every shop in that street is great! Also Mercato Centrale di San Lorenzo is great, so many types of food in one location.

Best gelato is not in the main squares or street! Look for Gelateria la Carraia and Gelateria in Piazza della Passera.

If you want to drink, go to San Frediano, the left side of Arno River. Quiet at day, full of pubs and bars at night!

Speaking of churches, visit Santa Croce, you’ll find memorials of Galileo Galilei, Michelangelo, Rossini and many others.

Boboli Garden is literally one of the best places in the world, you’ll feel like a dame in Renaissance Florence walking there.

elesantons


Shansche / Getty Images

32.

Visit the nearby towns of Burano, Sienna, and Assisi:

Getting lost in Venice is magical and amazing. Nowhere is too far away to walk, except I recommend making a visit to neighboring Burano. No tourist restaurants, beautiful photo opportunities. Also, Sienna and Assisi are these fairytale-esque villages that are insanely beautiful and slow paced. I went in May when the weather was perfect no matter where we were (though Vatican City was warm midday because of all the concrete). Best food I had in the entire country was in San Giovanni Rotondo. Amazing. I dream about the sheep’s cheese I had there.

maginwagon

33.

Avoid scams like gondola rides and just walk around instead:

I spent a week in Venice and it was absolutely beautiful. The best tip I received while there was to not spend any money on gondola rides. It’s extremely expensive and a huge tourist trap.

In the squares, there are a lot of scammers who are trying to sell you stuff such as roses or flying toys, don’t buy it.

Tour the cathedrals, they’re absolutely breathtaking.

And walk the city at least once at night. It feels as if you’re transported back in time.

sarahfelicityr

34.

Eat at Antica Trattoria Bandierette, Bistrot de Venise, or La Zucca:

When in Venice go eat at Antica Trattoria Bandierette. It is hard to find and doesn’t look like much but the food is amazing! I had one of the best squid pastas ever, looked terrible but the flavour!

jenniferf21

The best meal I had in Venice was here: https://bistrotdevenise.com/?lang=en. It’s definitely a splurge, but it was incredibly worth it! If you want to go big on one meal in a city that has too many restaurants to choose from, I highly recommend Bistrot de Venise.

lily9

La Zucca in Venice – get one of the lasagnas, you won’t ever be the same.

daniellet4a096c9f4


Shansche / Getty Images

35.

Try a food tour in Trastevere:

Rome is fabulous! Book a food tour in Trastevere — you won’t regret it. If you stay near the Pantheon, all the major sights are within walking distance so you can burn off all that pizza. Don’t eat at the restaurants in the piazzas, but do grab a glass of wine or an Aperol spritz because they are great places for sitting and people watching.

karlyh4bc1528df

36.

If you’re checking out the Trevi fountain, try to go early or late.

When it comes to the sites, go see the Trevi fountain but do it in the early morning or late afternoon, those alleyways can get very crowded. Piazza Navona is another favorite from my childhood. It is much too expensive to sit down at a restaurant for dinner there but if you grab some pizza nearby and sit in the square it is the pest place to people watch. Il Colosseo, la Bocca della Verita, and other classics are always nice to see as well but they are always crowded.

cristinagz

37.

Check out the archaeological site of Ostia Antica to avoid the big crowds and expensive tickets:

Visit Ostia Antica, the old seaport outside of Rome. You can basically walk among the ruins and see and do whatever you want because there’s no tour guides. Not many people go, so you won’t have to fight the crowds. Great place if you want to see the historical sites.

m4ad55b619


Mgallar / Getty Images

38.

Take a stroll at night (but be sure to stay safe and go with a group!):

Walk around Rome at night! Little or no crowds at all the monuments you want to see. Plus, it’ll feel very ~romantic~ to walk in the street light (regardless of who you’re with, went with three of my best friends and it was the best time).

samanthar495908f21

39.

Eat at Roma Sparita and Rifugio Romano:

Roma Sparita’s Cacio e Pepe, which is Anthony Bourdaine approved and insanely delicious.

daniellet4a096c9f4

I went to Rome over spring break and had the best meal of my entire 21 years of life at a restaurant called Rifugio Romano near the Termini train station. They have an extensive vegan menu and my friends and I were able to get a full three course meal. They also have a big non vegan menu as the restaurant isn’t vegan. I highly recommend the vegan spaghetti carbonara, it was delicious and I still think about it to this day.

evar415441640

Be sure to follow BuzzFeed Community on Facebook and Twitter for your chance to be featured in an upcoming post!

Note: Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.

25 Things You Need To Know If You're Flying On A Plane For The First Time

If you’ve never flown on a plane before, don’t let the first-time jitters get ya! Here are 25 basic things to keep in mind before you hop on that flight:

1.

First things first: Know what you’re not allowed to bring on a flight!


Tatomm / Getty Images

If you need to pack something either kind of big, weird, or potentially dangerous, check the TSA site to make sure it’s even allowed on the flight.

2.

Before you get to the airport, you should know which terminal you’re going to.


Baona / Getty Images

Especially if it’s a big airport, where terminals can be spaced super far from each other. To find out with terminal you’re flying out of, check which airline you’re flying with and look up the corresponding terminal online.

3.

Plan on being at the airport 2-3 hours before your flight.


Vladteodor / Getty Images

The general rule is to arrive at the airport two hours early if it’s a domestic flight, and three hours if it’s international. During the holiday season and other peak travel times, you may want to give yourself even more extra time to get through the lines!

4.

Don’t forget to check in!


Weedezign / Getty Images

You can usually check in online the day before or at the actual airport — up to an hour before the actual flight. Usually, this is when you can choose your seat, so the earlier you do it, the better!

5.

Figure out what your deal is with checked vs. carry-on luggage.


Jchizhe / Getty Images

The former will be stored in the aircraft hold, while carry-on or hand baggage is the one you’re allowed to take with you to your seat. Your carry-on baggage should have all of your travel documents, cellphone, wallet and anything you want to keep close. Know that each airline has its own rules about how many of each type of luggage you can bring, and some are very strict. Keep in mind that if you go over the weight limit, you will be charged an extra fee.

6.

Even if it’s hot out, bring a sweater with you on the plane.


Puhimec / Getty Images

Plane air conditioning can get VERY cold, and that way you’ll also be prepared for any changes in climate, depending on where you go.

7.

If you’re bringing along several suitcases, you’ll have to check them.


Beer5020 / Getty Images

You’ll have to take all your baggage to the airline counter, where it will be weighed and checked. It’s a good idea to put a (TSA-approved) lock on your bag, as well as a “Fragile” tag so that it will be handled delicately. From this point on, you won’t see that bag again until you get off the plane, so make sure you don’t forget anything important in it.

8.

If it’s a long trip, wear comfortable clothing.


Weedezign / Getty Images

Don’t worry too much about how you look — it’s definitely better to wear comfortable clothing on a decidedly non-cushy flight.

9.

Once you’ve checked your bags, you have to go through the security checkpoint.


Chalabala / Getty Images

Before going through a metal detector, you’ll have to place your belongings in a tray (belt, cellphone, jewelry) and take your shoes off. If the detector goes off, don’t panic; it’s possible that you’ve forgotten some change in your pocket. Just do as you’re told and you’ll be fine.

10.

After the security checkpoint, you’ll move on to the boarding area.


Yakubovalim / Getty Images

After you get through security, you need to figure out which gate you are departing from. Your boarding pass should indicate which gate it is, but it will also be displayed on several monitors inside the airport, since gate assignments sometimes change at the last minute. Go to your gate and wait until they call you!

11.

In order to get on the plane, they will be ask you for your boarding pass (and potentially) a passport.


Xijian / Getty Images

Have these documents in hand so that the whole process will be faster, and handle them carefully! For domestic flights, you won’t need your passport.

12.

Only get in line to board the plane when the gate agent tells you to.


Suman Bhaumik / Getty Images

Chances are that the gate agent will call passengers up by their boarding group, which should be listed on your boarding pass.

13.

Chewing gum can be helpful during take-off.


Nyul / Getty Images

The sudden change in air pressure on take-off and touchdown might make you you feel a blocked-up sensation in your ears. To release some of the pressure, pinch your nose with your fingers and try to breathe out. Chewing gum also can help!

14.

Try to get a window seat if you can!


Peopleimages / Getty Images

If it’s your first time on a plane, you really won’t want to miss the view. Get your phone ready to take some great pics — but keep it on airplane mode, of course.

15.

Some people find flying to be very peaceful.


Enes Evren / Getty Images

For the most part, your flight should be smooth and even a little boring. If you feel dizzy, you can use the sickness bag that should be in the back of your seat, or ask a flight attendant for water. There may be mild turbulence, but usually the pilot will warn you beforehand over the intercom.

16.

Your phone should be on airplane mode during the entire flight.


Pojcheewin Yaprasert / Getty Images

Send all of your texts before taking off because, once you do, you’re to have your phone in airplane mode during the entire flight. Some planes offer Wi-Fi, but it’s usually shaky AND expensive.

17.

Bring ear plugs.


Anetlanda / Getty Images

You never know when you’ll have to sit next to a crying baby or a really loud snorer. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

18.

If you’re taking an international flight, you have to fill special forms and go through immigration when you arrive.


Peopleimages / Getty Images

If you’re traveling outside the country, the flight attendants will give you a customs form during flight for you to fill out. Usually it’ll just ask very basic questions about your visit. If you didn’t fill it out during your flight, there will be more of those forms at the airport when you arrive.

19.

If you checked your bags, you’ll have to pick them up at the baggage claim.


Casanowe / Getty Images

There will be a big conveyor belt that brings out all of the bags, and every person has to get their own. Look for the flight number on your boarding pass and check which conveyor belt will your luggage be on. And don’t freak out if you don’t see your bags immediately; sometimes they take a while to show up.

20.

Many planes will have personal TV screens for each seat.


Egdigital / Getty Images

You can always download stuff to watch on your phone or tablet, but it’s not really necessary, since most airlines will have TV screens for each seat (especially for long flights).

21.

It’s important to stay hydrated during long flights.


Izusek / Getty Images

The air on planes will really dry you out, so you have to drink lots of water. For that same reason, try to avoid alcoholic beverages and coffee.

22.

Investing in a neck pillow is almost always worth it.


Ajr_images / Getty Images

If you’re going to be spending a lot of hours on a plane, do everything you can to be comfortable. Bring your toothbrush, a blanket, warm socks and a neck pillow to help you relax.

23.

The amount and quality of the food you get depends on the airline.


Jannoon028 / Getty Images

It also depends on the flight time. If it’s a short flight, you will probably only get a snack and something to drink. But if it’s a long trip, you’ll get more than one meal. You usually also have the option to buy fancier/more food.

24.

When the plane first lands, don’t stand up immediately.


Undrey / Getty Images

Wait in your seat and be patient. The flight crew will let you know when it’s safe to stand up and get your things.

25.

After you’ve flown once, chances are that you’ll want to do it again and again!


Fatcamera / Getty Images

Flying for the first time can seem overwhelming because of all of the procedures involved, but don’t worry. If you follow all of the steps properly, you’ll realize it’s not difficult. Besides, the view you’ll get high above the clouds will make everything worth the hassle!

This post was translated from Spanish.

20 Photos Of Greece That Are **Almost** As Good As Being There Yourself

1.

Fact: Greece is one of the most gorgeous places on this planet, and these pictures prove it.


Aleh Varanishcha / Getty Images

2.

I mean, just look at this photo, taken from the Greek island of Santorini, for starters.


Iamjiere / Getty Images

3.

And this one, with that beautiful staircase just casually color-coordinating with the sea, nbd:


Grinvalds / Getty Images

4.

Honestly, sometimes we look at pics of Greece and it’s like…**Chandler voice** could it be any more picturesque?


Proslgn / Getty Images

5.

No water is really THAT brilliantly blue, right?


Ihor_tailwind / Getty Images

6.

Beaches can’t possibly be this immaculate…


Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP / Getty Images

7.

And honestly, this landscape game is just a little ridiculous:


Poike / Getty Images

8.

Show of hands if you’d love to trade spots with this kid right now…


Aris Messinis / AFP / Getty Images

9.

And can you even IMAGINE what it would be like to wake up to this view?


Gatsi / Getty Images

10.

Obviously, Greece’s gorgeosity isn’t limited to just its islands…


Taken By Dawn Beachy At Beachy Photography Llc / Getty Images

11.

Or to the daytime:


Araelf / Getty Images

12.

There’s just something about all that ancient architecture…


Majaiva / Getty Images

13.

And literal blue lagoons…


Pocholocalapre / Getty Images

14.

And all that classical art…


Marioguti / Getty Images

15.

It just makes you really ~feel~ something, ya know?


Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP / Getty Images

16.

Even the moon looks cooler when it’s photographed with Greece!


Aris Messinis / AFP / Getty Images

17.

(More proof:)


Neirfy / Getty Images

18.

And the sun doesn’t do too shabbily, either:


Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP / Getty Images

19.

Anyway, this is all to say that, in case you needed a sign to book your next trip to Greece…


Hocus-focus / Getty Images

20.

This is it!


Lucianbolca / Getty Images

Bring us with??

This post was translated from Portuguese.

These 4 Destinations Should Be At The Top Of Any Brit Lit Lover's Travel List

1.

The Jane Austen’s House Museum


Jane Austen’s House Museum © VisitBritain

With just a 15-minute train ride from London’s Waterloo station, you can find yourself in Chawton, a small town in the county of Hampshire where Jane Austen lived and wrote five novels, including Pride and Prejudice.

Austen’s former home is also a museum that celebrates the her work. You might even find yourself feeling like one of her characters as you walk through her garden. Inside, you will find more than 40 objects including her writing table, bookcase and piano.

Get visiting hours and more details here.


knowledgerush.com, Bronte Parsonage Museum

If you’re a fan of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, you’ll want to head up to Brontë Country in western Yorkshire, England, to the town of Haworth, where the sisters lived and wrote their novels. It’s where the Brontë Parsonage Museum is, as well as Top Withens, an old semi-derelict farm that was the inspiration for the house where the Earnshaws lived. You’ll also find Ponden Hall, a mansion that also served as inspiration for Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Today, you can even go visit the nearby town of Thornton — the birthplace of the sisters and where their first home still stands.

You can find the information you need to start planning your Brontë-inspired journey here.


Fotomicar / Getty Images, National Trust

Torquay is a town on England’s southern coast, in the county of Devon, which has known for many years as the English Riviera due to its fantastic climate. It is also the town where crime master Agatha Christie was born, and it’s where you can also visit the places inspired many of the locations in her novels — like the Imperial Hotel, Anstey’s Cove or the body beach.

Make sure to spend some time in Greenway House, where Christie spent her summers. It’s also where you can see her family’s huge collection of china, boxes, and books, bordering on more than 11,000 items.

4.

Virginia Woolf’s haunts in Charleston and Monk’s House


Monk’s House

Charleston was the home of Woolf’s sister, the painter Vanessa Bell. Alongside Bell, her lover and fellow artist Duncan Grant, the writer David Garnett and the couple’s children all lived in the house, and Virginia Woolf visited often. Inside these walls, you will be able to find paintings from both Grant and Bell, but also from Picasso, Fry and Derain among others.

Not too far from there, you will find Monk’s House, the residence that Virginia and Leonard Woolf moved to in 1919 and where she worked on the novels To the Lighthouse, Orlando and The Waves. The nearby River Ouse is where Woolf drowned herself in March 1941. Her husband continued to live in Monk’s House until his death in 1969, and he was buried alongside Virginia in the house’s garden. Today, a bronze bust marks the site of where they are buried.

This post was translated from Spanish.

Health Experts Say People On Three Quarantined Flights Had The Flu And Colds

Health officials are concerned about more serious respiratory viruses, such as MERS-CoV, and quarantined the planes as a cautionary measure.

Posted on September 13, 2018, at 6:29 p.m. ET

Nurphoto / Getty Images

Remember last week when it seemed like we were living in a real-life version of Contagion starring Vanilla Ice? If none of that rings a bell, here’s what happened.

An Emirates airplane from Dubai that was carrying 549 people — including rapper Vanilla Ice —  was quarantined at New York’s JFK airport after 100 passengers reported feeling sick with coughing, fevers, and vomiting.

The next day, two American Airlines flights from Paris and Munich were quarantined in Philadelphia after 12 passengers reported feeling sick with similar symptoms.

The planes were met by local authorities and officials from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Meanwhile, fears of a plane-related outbreak took off on social media. People compared the news to the 2011 movie Contagion, where Gwyneth Paltrow starts a pandemic because she flies back to the US after contracting a fictional virus called “MEV-1” in Hong Kong.

Fortunately, there was no deadly disease outbreak from the planes. But the word “quarantine” and dramatic response from health officials had people concerned. So here’s what actually caused people to feel sick, why the quarantines happened, and what travelers need to know.

On the flight from Dubai, only 19 people were actually sick out of the 100 who initially reported symptoms and 11 felt sick enough that they agreed to go to the hospital to be checked out.

“For the individuals taken to the hospital, preliminary tests indicate that some patients tested positive for influenza and/or other common respiratory viruses,” a spokesperson for the CDC told BuzzFeed News. It appears that the sick passengers on the two flights into Philadelphia were also suffering from colds and flu-like illnesses.

These passengers were probably sick before they even got to the airport. The incubation period for influenza is two to four days and the longest quarantined flight was 14 hours. So it’s highly unlikely that any of the sick people caught it on the plane.

The unique thing about the flights was that multiple passengers were sick with the same respiratory symptoms, at the same time. Here’s why this happened, according to an expert.

Cdc / Getty Images

The quarantined flights were carrying passengers who had participated in the Hajj, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. The Hajj is an annual Islamic religious pilgrimage to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which took place in late August this year.

Millions of people traveled from different countries to attend, crowding into the same places over several days. “Any kind of mass gathering like the Hajj is a place where people can exchange viruses and diseases will spread… in this case it was influenza,” Adalja told BuzzFeed News.

The flu spreads through respiratory droplets produced during sneezing or coughing, or by direct contact with a contaminated surface. In the US, flu season lasts from October to April but in the Southern Hemisphere, flu activity peaks between July and September. So it’s normal to see clusters of flu cases around the world at this time of year, Adalja said.

So why was there such an aggressive response from officials if passengers were sick with run-of-the-mill viruses?

Erik Witsoe / Getty Images

“The plane had multiple people sick with the same respiratory symptoms […] and when you’re looking at travelers from the middle east after the Hajj, you’re looking for MERS,” Adalja said. MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome, is a viral disease that can cause flu-like symptoms and progress into severe or potentially life-threatening pneumonia. There is no vaccine or antiviral drug for MERS.

“MERS has a high morbidity and mortality and it has caused explosive outbreaks in the past, for example in South Korea, tied to a sick traveler… so the aggressive response was appropriate,” Adalja said. The planes were met by police, EMS, Customs and Border Protection, and officers from the CDC and passengers were held until everyone on board had been evaluated.

“The quicker you can identify patients, especially before they leave the airport, the easier it is to contain [an outbreak],” Adalja said. In the end, none of the sick passengers tested positive for MERS-CoV, the virus that causes MERS. But Adalja calls the quarantines a “good exercise in pandemic preparedness.”

Nidal Naseralla / Getty Images

So if you’re flying any time soon, you don’t need to be concerned about anything but your typical infectious diseases like the flu or common cold. And there are germs everywhere, so it makes sense that an airport — which has a massive number of people passing through each day — is full of bacteria and viruses.

In a recent study published in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases, researchers swabbed a variety of surfaces in Finland’s Helsinki airport during the 2015-2016 flu season. The results suggested that the plastic bins that travelers use for personal belongings as they go through security had more respiratory viruses than the toilets.

There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself and fellow travelers from these common pathogens. Proper hand hygiene is very important, said Adalja, whether that means washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer if you’re on-the-go.

If you’re sick, you should avoid close contact with others and cough or sneeze into your elbow — if it’s the flu, the CDC recommends avoiding travel for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone. The best way to protect yourself against the flu is by getting the seasonal flu vaccine.

This Artist's Cool Painting Was Inspired By The Time He Got Parasitic Eye Worms

Ben Taylor contracted Loa loa worms and painted them before he even knew what was happening.

Posted on August 8, 2018, at 4:14 p.m. ET

This is Ben Taylor, an artist, avid traveler, and someone who’s witnessed a worm wiggling around in his own eye.

Taylor, who is based in the UK, is a frequent traveler to Gabon in Central Africa. On one particular trip in 2013, he spent several weeks deep in the forest with the Indigenous population and, while he didn’t know it at the time, that’s where the trouble started.

It was six months later when things started getting weird. At first, it was a strange feeling in his forehead, like a muscle snapping. Then there was a lump, followed by more, and some strange swelling. Over the next year, those symptoms were joined by joint pain, abscesses, and gut issues. Even his usually happy-go-lucky demeanor had plummeted. Both Taylor and doctors were perplexed.

Then, a new symptom: blinding pain in his eye, accompanied with photosensitivity.

“I remember going and looking in the mirror and there was a whitish yellow lump on the outside corner of the white of my eye,” Taylor told BuzzFeed News.

He took to Google and in what would become a moment of irony, scrolled past the Loa loa worm, feeling thankful at least he didn’t have that.

He went back to the mirror, and this time the lump was gone, but a curved line at the bottom of his eye had appeared.

“This time when I touched this object, it wiggled.”

A speedy trip to the hospital confirmed his diagnosis — Taylor had indeed been infected by Loa loa worms, and they were having a party in his eye.

Dr_microbe / Getty Images

Doctors pulled out a 3.5-centimeter worm — that’s over an inch long — from Taylor’s eye, and it “was wiggling for about a minute before it died,” he said.

Loa loa worms cause loiasis, or African eye worm, according to the CDC. They pass to humans through a bite from a deer fly in West and Central Africa, and people who have them may have no symptoms for many months after they are infected.

They aren’t contagious — you can’t pass them from person to person — but they can eventually cause symptoms like itching, muscle and joint pain, and fatigue. It’s also possible to see them wiggling around under the skin or in the eye. About 3 to 13 million people worldwide may have loiasis.

Once diagnosed, surgery can remove any obvious worms and medication is used to kill any that remain.

“I remember thinking, Thank goodness that’s over with,” said Taylor.

It wasn’t, of course, because where there’s one worm there are bound to be more. He ended up staying for a week at the London School for Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and it was discovered he was also harboring hookworms and threadworms, two other types of wormy parasites, which can be transmitted via infected soil.

But something hauntingly beautiful also came out of it.

Ben Taylor

When his symptoms were at their worst but before he had a real diagnosis, Taylor went to his studio. He didn’t have a plan; he just started an abstract piece and something strange happened all on its own.

“For some reason, I just felt drawn to spend hour upon hour working on this painting with intricate wormlike patterns,” said Taylor.

“I couldn’t understand why I felt compelled to do this piece,” he said.

He decided the piece was a failure and stashed it away. At this point, he had no idea a bunch of worms had taken up residence in his body.

Months later, after his diagnosis and treatment, he found it again, and this time it made sense.

“That painting seems to be influenced by the parasites I was carrying around inside me,” he said. He took his new perspective and reworked the piece into a representation of what he’d been through with his eye health.

He posted it online and that’s how the folks at the CDC found it. It’s now on the cover of the latest issue of a medical journal titled Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Taylor said he just heard from the CDC again, saying how pleased they were that people like the cover. He’s also had the doctors who treated him express interest in the print.

“It’s a bit of a weird painting, not everyone’s cup of tea, but my goodness — medical people, they love it,” said Taylor.

Taylor has a lot of other cool paintings you can check out.

This Guy Got Parasitic Worms In His Eye And Turned It Into Art

Ben Taylor contracted Loa loa worms and painted them before he even knew what was happening.

Posted on August 8, 2018, at 4:14 p.m. ET

This is Ben Taylor, an artist, avid traveler, and someone who’s witnessed a worm wiggling around in his own eye.

Taylor, who is based in the UK, is a frequent traveler to Gabon in Central Africa. On one particular trip in 2013, he spent several weeks deep in the forest with the Indigenous population and, while he didn’t know it at the time, that’s where the trouble started.

It was six months later when things started getting weird. At first, it was a strange feeling in his forehead, like a muscle snapping. Then there was a lump, followed by more, and some strange swelling. Over the next year, those symptoms were joined by joint pain, abscesses, and gut issues. Even his usually happy-go-lucky demeanor had plummeted. Both Taylor and doctors were perplexed.

Then, a new symptom: blinding pain in his eye, accompanied with photosensitivity.

“I remember going and looking in the mirror and there was a whitish yellow lump on the outside corner of the white of my eye,” Taylor told BuzzFeed News.

He took to Google and in what would become a moment of irony, scrolled past the Loa loa worm, feeling thankful at least he didn’t have that.

He went back to the mirror, and this time the lump was gone, but a curved line at the bottom of his eye had appeared.

“This time when I touched this object, it wiggled.”

A speedy trip to the hospital confirmed his diagnosis — Taylor had indeed been infected by Loa loa worms, and they were having a party in his eye.

Dr_microbe / Getty Images

Doctors pulled out a 3.5-centimeter worm — that’s over an inch long — from Taylor’s eye, and it “was wiggling for about a minute before it died,” he said.

Loa loa worms cause loiasis, or African eye worm, according to the CDC. They pass to humans through a bite from a deer fly in West and Central Africa, and people who have them may have no symptoms for many months after they are infected.

They aren’t contagious — you can’t pass them from person to person — but they can eventually cause symptoms like itching, muscle and joint pain, and fatigue. It’s also possible to see them wiggling around under the skin or in the eye. About 3 to 13 million people worldwide may have loiasis.

Once diagnosed, surgery can remove any obvious worms and medication is used to kill any that remain.

“I remember thinking, Thank goodness that’s over with,” said Taylor.

It wasn’t, of course, because where there’s one worm there are bound to be more. He ended up staying for a week at the London School for Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and it was discovered he was also harboring hookworms and threadworms, two other types of wormy parasites, which can be transmitted via infected soil.

But something hauntingly beautiful also came out of it.

Ben Taylor

When his symptoms were at their worst but before he had a real diagnosis, Taylor went to his studio. He didn’t have a plan; he just started an abstract piece and something strange happened all on its own.

“For some reason, I just felt drawn to spend hour upon hour working on this painting with intricate wormlike patterns,” said Taylor.

“I couldn’t understand why I felt compelled to do this piece,” he said.

He decided the piece was a failure and stashed it away. At this point, he had no idea a bunch of worms had taken up residence in his body.

Months later, after his diagnosis and treatment, he found it again, and this time it made sense.

“That painting seems to be influenced by the parasites I was carrying around inside me,” he said. He took his new perspective and reworked the piece into a representation of what he’d been through with his eye health.

He posted it online and that’s how the folks at the CDC found it. It’s now on the cover of the latest issue of a medical journal titled Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Taylor said he just heard from the CDC again, saying how pleased they were that people like the cover. He’s also had the doctors who treated him express interest in the print.

“It’s a bit of a weird painting, not everyone’s cup of tea, but my goodness — medical people, they love it,” said Taylor.

Taylor has a lot of other cool paintings you can check out.

I Walked From Selma To Montgomery

My arrival in Selma, Alabama, on April 4, 2017, was less a choice than a matter of self-preservation. Following years of unarmed shootings, bombings, hate crimes, gentrification, voter suppression tactics, pay gaps, school segregation, dwindling reproductive freedoms, refugee bans, jeopardized health care access, and all of the indignities of life in America as a visible Other, I traveled to Selma because the fury in me had nowhere left to grow.

On Feb. 9, 2017, 20 days after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence as attorney general. The travesty of that sentence, the sinister potential of it more than a year later, fuels my anxiety still. It is the reason why, mere months after returning from the Appalachian Trail, I emailed my father on Feb. 22, 2017, to see if he might be interested in meeting me in Alabama for a thru-hike of sorts. I wanted to walk from Selma to Montgomery — following in the footsteps of the civil rights marchers who had come before me — to protest Jeff Sessions’ entire political career, specifically his most recent and wildly dangerous appointment as the head of the Department of Justice. It had been five days since Scott Pruitt was confirmed by the Senate to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. A week later, Ryan Zinke and the literal horse he rode in on would seize control of the Department of the Interior. Within a year, both Zinke and Pruitt would be responsible for shrinking national monuments sacred to indigenous communities, forcing the entire National Park Service board to resign, removing pages “detailing the risks of climate change” from online resources, perpetuating environmental racism, and implementing so many other disastrous policies — while squandering financial resources — that the rest of this essay could consist of them alone.

I often think of this day, Feb. 22, 2017, when people ask me how it feels to be a black outdoorswoman, what it means to never shrug the reality of my identity from my shoulders in exchange for a backpack and freedom. While the white hikers I’d shared the Appalachian Trail with from Georgia to Maine were busy planning their next adventures, each day in America under the new administration served as a reminder of the myriad ways I’d never be one of them. My feet were bound tighter and tighter by the dual diseases of vanishing civil rights and threatened public lands. The best I could do most days was stand in the pooling blood. I traveled to Selma, Alabama, because I had to, because no other walk on Earth made sense to me, or my rage, at a time when walking was the only activity for which my despair made a small hollow. And fam, let’s be clear — I did it for us.


Rahawa Haile

Today, Selma, Alabama, hosts an annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee that sees thousands descend upon the city to commemorate “Bloody Sunday” and reflect on the work ahead. Rep. John Lewis and Martin Luther King III were among the many to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge earlier this March in tribute to the Americans, mostly black, who risked their lives for the right to vote. Every five years, a full reenactment of the walk takes place, with Jubilee participants continuing all the way to Montgomery.

At 54 miles, the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail is the shortest of America’s 19 National Historic Trails, the majority of which (including this one) are meant to be driven, not hiked. At present, no designated safe path exists for pedestrians hoping to walk between the two cities along the dangerous truck route; the road shoulders repeatedly switch sides or disappear altogether, though perhaps this may change someday.

Regardless, my hope was to walk alone on the margins of US Route 80, also known as the Jefferson Davis Highway, for approximately 10–12 miles a day — a leisurely pace for a recent thru-hiker that would allow plenty of time for exploration. My father would then pick me up before sunset and drop me back off in the same spot the next morning. We would stay in Selma for two nights as I walked the first 20 miles, followed by Montgomery for two nights as I walked the middle 20–25. After I completed the final 10 miles and climbed the steps of the Alabama State Capitol, my father and I would drive back to Atlanta, where we’d flown into initially, he from Miami, and I from New York City.

But a sketch of a plan, no matter how well-intentioned, is only that — a sketch. And I can credit much of my walk’s success to the work of an accomplished Japanese American thru-hiker named Liz Thomas (trail name “Snorkel”) who walked the Selma to Montgomery NHT in 2015 and has hiked over 15,000 miles around the United States. Hers was the first website I found when researching what a solo walk of this nature would entail, and her blog posts provided me with a treasure trove of data, including a list of mile markers and notes about places to refill water bottles, grab a snack, or duck behind a shed to pee. Granted, a day with Google Maps might have revealed some of these opportunities. But there is no world in which I could have convinced my father to let me walk on the side of a busy highway for five days had I not been able to point to another hiker’s similar desire and subsequent success. It helped greatly that she’d created a trail guide with recognizable landmarks he could see and understand. Thomas’s foresight to document and share the logistics of her journey for those seeking to walk the same path someday is the kind of outdoor allyship a person like me dreams about and rarely gets to experience.

“There’s something profound about walking a trail that was not created because people wanted to have fun and highlight cool natural features — a trail that people walked because they had to,” writes Thomas on her website. The two of us spoke on the phone recently about the aspects of her walk that have stuck with her most over the years. “Walking is a political action,” said Thomas. “Many people want to treat hiking or walking like they’re getting away from politics, and I think — especially for people like me who are pretty good at walking — there’s a privilege that comes with hiking in natural areas, but there’s also a statement that can be made walking in the places we choose to walk.”

“Walking is a political action.”

As with most conversations about trails, Thomas and I discussed our shoes and foot pain on the Selma to Montgomery NHT at length. Roadwalking might not offer the same challenges as traversing a scree field or ascending slick granite, but it is far from comfortable over long distances. The hardness of the ground tires feet more rapidly than a natural surface like a forest trail would, while the sun bears down on the asphalt relentlessly, adding to the already substantial heat. That said, roadwalking on most highways beats navigating the grass beyond the shoulder, which can slant even more than the canted asphalt in anticipation of rain. This results in walkers extending one leg farther down than the other, approximating a limp that sacrifices stability and strains the opposite leg.

It might surprise some to learn that roadwalks play a significant role in connecting many sections of America’s famous long trails. Between 200–300 miles of the Florida Trail’s 1,100 miles consist of pavement. The Eastern Continental Trail, which spans 5,400 miles from Key West, Florida, to Newfoundland, Canada, and includes the Florida Trail and the Appalachian Trail, involves a section simply called “the Alabama Roadwalk.”

The wrong footwear can quickly lead to agony. Before arriving in Selma, Thomas accidentally selected a pair of Altra Olympus trail runners that were light but too small for her feet. By the time she reached Montgomery, most of her toenails had turned black in protest after 50 miles of slamming into the front of her shoe. I, on the other hand, chose a pair of low-cut Oboz Sawtooth hiking boots for my walk — overkill for the road, and twice as heavy as the trail runners I should have brought instead. “Still,” emphasized Thomas toward the end of our conversation, “I wore shoes that were actually made for walking long distances. To think of the people who marched from Selma to Montgomery in their Sunday best, in fancy [footwear] — it just blew my mind. To have grandmothers and people of all ages doing that.”


Getty Images

Participants marching from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.

Thomas wasn’t wrong. I had the privilege of dressing comfortably on my first day on the road, in an airy, navy blue cotton T-shirt with a fake pocket on the left breast and a pair of khaki-colored convertible hiking pants zipped into shorts, the same ones I’d worn on the Appalachian Trail. A few snacks, some sunscreen, and a tube of ChapStick were stashed into one hip-belt pocket of my pack, a knife and a small coil of Leukotape (in case of blisters) were tucked away in the other. A rain jacket and a liter of water rounded out the remaining contents of my bag, while a lemon-lime Gatorade dangled from a shoulder strap’s bungee cord positioned over my chest for easy access.

I cannot begin to imagine what drivers must have made of me during my five days along US 80, as I repeatedly stopped to sob on the shoulder of the highway to the songs on a playlist my friend, the music critic Chris O’Leary, compiled for me. Many of the usual suspects for a walk from Selma to Montgomery were present. Mahalia. Odetta. Nina. But it was Dorothy Love Coates’s “Ninety-Nine And A Half” that brought me to my knees less than 7 miles in.

Earlier that day, I’d stopped at the Selma Interpretive Center after visiting Brown Chapel AME, where the final march to Montgomery began in 1965. I spoke briefly with the National Park Service employees at the center, snagged a “Selma to Montgomery” patch to sew onto my pack after completing the trail, and stepped outside, bracing myself for the humidity. A tornado warning had been in effect less than an hour before, and the high for the day was 86 degrees Fahrenheit. I was nervous enough to forget not to smile when my father photographed me on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Despite my late start at 3 p.m., I wanted to make it to the campground where the marchers stayed on their first night. Today, camping is not permitted, and a large sign marking the historic occasion stands in what is essentially the front yard of someone’s private property.


Rahawa Haile

It is difficult for those who have not walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to fully understand just how high it sits above the Alabama River. Looking down into the distant, muddy waters brings a devastating, visceral understanding of the marchers’ vulnerability on that expanse of concrete and steel — what they were willing to risk to reach the other side of freedom.

Shortly after crossing, I spotted four monuments arranged in a row, dedicated to heroes of the march. One honoring Rep. John Lewis, his likeness floating above the words “GET IN THE WAY”; another dedicated to Amelia Boynton Robinson and Marie Foster, “MOTHERS OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT BEFORE AND BEYOND THE BRIDGE.” These monuments and others like them, presented by the Evelyn Gibson Lowery Heritage Tour and SCLC/WOMEN, Inc., would serve as some of the high points of my 54-mile walk, the majority of which felt like a testament to infrastructure’s power to — at times literally — cement racism into the lives of black communities, regardless of evolving legislation.

Looking down into the muddy waters brings a devastating, visceral understanding of the marchers’ vulnerability — what they were willing to risk to reach the other side of freedom.

In some ways, the subsequent three days of walking were similar to the first. Guzzling water for miles before running into any building, school, or gas station that would let me use its bathroom. Wrapping my pylon-print bandana around my nose and mouth while walking through endless clouds of gnats. I’d treated my shoes and socks with permethrin, an effective tick, chigger, and mosquito repellent, in order to minimize my risk of infection while shuffling through stretches of tall grass. I quickly fell into a rhythm during the non-paved sections, scanning the sloping green footpath ahead of me as best I could for snakes, ant mounds, and freshly rotting carcasses. In the beginning, I shut my eyes every time a semitruck seemed as though it was seconds away from plowing into me. By Montgomery, I barely blinked at terror.

The Viola Liuzzo Memorial sits just 5 miles east of the Lowndes County Interpretive Center, in what is one of the poorest districts in America. The Interpretive Center, to its credit, does not mince words, spelling out what many of the black tenant farmers in the South lost after the Voting Rights Act was signed into law. White landowners punished their newly liberated occupants by rendering them homeless, resulting in the rise of tent cities that would house black families for years at a time.

I found that the ritual of walking gave me an opportunity to move meaningfully in the present through a place whose importance was so deeply tied to its past. At my pace, I had time to discover how the Selma to Montgomery NHT continues to be shaped by those whose lives run along its borders. In contrast, many careless drivers treat the highway as their garbage dump, and much of the roadside is littered with the detritus of those hurtling through the state at 60-plus miles per hour. A discarded construction glove, an oil canister, several diapers, a peeling bootleg Yo Gotti CD, Heart’s greatest hits, a blue ice cube tray, one decapitated broom. More bottles and cans of beer than I consume in a year, with Budweiser empties the most common offenders.


Courtesy Rahawa Haile

I repeatedly ran into signs on or near the road that offered no explanation as to their meaning but clearly signified something to locals. A green mile marker sported a white rectangle beneath it that read “Prayer Mile.” And in the patch of grass opposite the designator for campsite number three, a large sign with a dramatic orange arrow above it stated: “ANNIE MAE’S PLACE. BLACK LIVES MATTER. BLACK HISTORY MATTERS. STOP RACISM AND SEXISM.” My father and I followed the arrow in search of Annie Mae’s Place, to no avail, down a grid of black excellence. A turn onto Frederick Douglass Road. Another onto Langston Hughes Drive. Some backtracking and another turn onto Harriet Tubman Road. A sharp right onto Ida Wells Way. We would later discover we’d driven right past it. A heatwave in 2000 had killed most of the crops grown in nearby residents’ gardens, except for okra, so neighbors Alice Stewart and Barbara Evans started an annual Okra Festival for the community. Evans named the small house containing the art she’d collected from around the country “Annie Mae’s Place.” Many of the works highlight the struggle for civil rights, and the Okra Festival still takes place today.

My last day on the Selma to Montgomery NHT would also be my hardest. If you think walking a highway for 50 miles is difficult, try walking against traffic onto an on-ramp for that highway on the day of an airshow. I shook for 10 minutes in the chips aisle of a gas station afterward and tried to remind myself of how close I was to completing my walk. I’d left the smell of cow dung from the farms along US 80 behind and properly entered the outskirts of Montgomery, Alabama. An egret in Catoma Creek watched as I ran screaming across the last bridge I’d brave without a walkway.

Less than a mile from the City of St. Jude, the fourth of the marchers’ campsites, I approached a tall, gray slab on the sidewalk that resembled a headstone. The monument read: “ENTRANCE TO CRADLE OF THE CONFEDERACY. PLACED BY SOPHIA BIBB CHAPTER U.D.C. 1928.” Its location next to a local bus stop — the normalcy of it all — left me shaking with anger. Months later, as Confederate monuments were removed in New Orleans and North Carolina, this ominous slab was the one my mind drifted to. Even in 2017, the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail still had to put up with this shit.


Bettmann Archive via Getty Images

With National Guardsmen on the roadside, civil rights marchers begin the 50-mile march to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest race discrimination in voter registration.

Interpretive signs placed by the city of Montgomery lead walkers along the remaining miles toward the state capitol. One sign describes how highway construction destroyed historic black neighborhoods in the area, as it did black communities around the country. The intersection of Mildred and Moore Street, one of Montgomery’s former black business hubs, stood deserted. In a walk predicated on all that the civil rights marchers had gained, everything black communities had lost in the years afterward lay equally apparent.

The Rosa Parks Museum was closed when I walked past. One block separated it from the Jefferson Davis Apartments, a low-income housing complex for seniors in a city that is more than 55% black. Black footsteps had been painted upon the wide, gray crosswalk facing the Alabama State Capitol to honor those who walked from Selma over 50 years ago. Sitting opposite the crosswalk was another monument, built in 1942 and paid for by the Sophie Bibb Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It commemorated Jefferson Davis’s inauguration as president of the Confederacy. All around me, the distant past fought the near past for dominance. A reckoning was nowhere to be found.

In a walk predicated on all that the civil rights marchers had gained, everything black communities had lost in the years afterward lay equally apparent.

I climbed the steps of the Alabama State Capitol on April 9, 2017, the day Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant in 1865 — roughly 100 years before Martin Luther King Jr. asked, “How long? Not long” — and blinked back tears. Walking, even when challenging, had been the easy part: I had no idea how we’d endure the rest of the year.

Ultimately, the line between hiking and walking is thinner than most would imagine. Both activities can empower, but only one is accessible to the majority of the American population. We walk to protest. We walk to remember. We walk to demand better. Despite what outdoor magazine covers emphasize, our intentions always matter more than the nature of the terrain that carries them.

When I first told friends of my plan to walk from Selma to Montgomery, most thought I’d lost my mind. It made less sense to them than my desire to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. A roadwalk along a highway in rural Alabama months into our fresh hell — why? When several of them asked if I was afraid, I did my best to explain the fear was the point. That their fear for me was the fear I lived with every day.

I did not tell anyone that maybe I needed to walk into oncoming traffic for 54 miles — those 54 miles — to see people choosing not to kill me each day. That perhaps I could walk my way to reclaiming enough of an illusion of safety to survive the next four years in this country. And that it would have to be enough for now. ●


Rahawa Haile is an Eritrean American writer. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic, the New Yorker, Outside Magazine, and Pacific Standard. In Open Country, her memoir about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, explores what it means to move through America and the world as a black woman and is forthcoming from Harper.