When you receive a message from Rick Steves’ assistant telling you that he would like to spend the day with you, there’s just one thing to do: clear your calendar.
It wasn’t going to be my first time meeting Rick (our family-run vacation rental agency has been in his Italy guidebook for years and years) but it was going to be my first time hanging out with him for the day. And I must say, it ended up being a glorious (albeit long, wet and windy) day!
I walked away from my time spent with Rick with a few observations that I thought I’d share with you:
- The guy walks FAST. I’m pretty tall (5’8″) and I have long legs but even I had to hightail it to maintain his pace! When he’s on the go, he’s definitely like a man on a mission. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be “vertically challenged” and trying to keep up with him.
- He is a selfie master. Personally, I’m terrible at them, but Rick is absolutely brilliant (I think it has to do with his height and those extra long arms). He explained to me that his stellar selfies with smitten fans are actually a time-saving strategy. Did I mention this guy is smart? Oh, and for the record he abhors selfie sticks (ha!).
- Fame is overrated. Now, this really has nothing to do with Rick (as he was most gracious when we were stopped for photos and autographs what seemed like every five seconds) but really it was my own observation at the conclusion of our day. There’s definitely something to be said about walking anonymously down the street without being recognized or having people screech and hyperventilate when they see you. Kudos to Rick for not donning a hat and sunglasses and for embracing the people who have put him in his position.
- Rick is very conscientious. If you follow him on social media I’m sure you already know that he uses his fame (and following) to bring attention to issues that might be out of the usual media limelight (he just finished filming a documentary on world hunger and development in Guatemala and Ethiopia). I love that he views travel as a political act. But on a much, much smaller scale, Rick is a conscientious person even in little gestures. In the case of our day together, every time he was stopped by adoring fans he made a point to introduce me. To be honest, most of these people couldn’t have cared less who I was (to them I was just a +1) but I did recognize and appreciate Rick’s thoughtful gesture.
- He’s firmly against cronyism. This is something that Rick is diligent about while he’s doing his research. He wants people & places in his guidebooks that merit to be there (and not because they’ve gotten their foot in the door via friends or relatives). In Italy we call this raccomandato and it’s a very, very common practice (so it was quite refreshing to see his obstinate stance against it).
- While Rick takes his work very seriously, the quirky Rick we know from his TV programs still comes out on occasion. When we visited the church of St. Laurence in Manarola we had the place to ourselves. Rick spontaneously started testing the echoey acoustics (La-la-la-la-laaaaaaaaa) and I couldn’t help but crack up on the inside.
Let it be known that Cinque Terre villagers have a deep sense of gratitude to Rick Steves. He is, after all, the person who put this beautiful slice of the Italian Riviera on the map for Americans decades before it hit the mainstream radar. And now, all these years later, he’s showing his readers and followers that you can still get a slice of Cinque Terre paradise if you get off the beaten path and take a slow travel approach.
Here are some short video clips that Rick took while he was here in the Cinque Terre (and there are even more… you’ll find them on his YouTube channel):
Sexy Bruschetta (with yours truly)
You can purchase Rick’s latest guidebooks on Amazon.* I recommend his Best of Italy and also a smaller pocket-size guidebook dedicated exclusively to the Cinque Terre!
*Full disclosure: If you purchase through the Amazon links I will receive a small commission from their Associates program, at no extra cost to you. These commissions help to cover the costs of hosting and upkeep of the blog. Grazie mille!