The Instagram capital of the world is a terrible place to be

The Instagram capital of the world is a terrible place to be

Just because you can (sort of) afford to go somewhere doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy it.

This time last week I was wandering the stony streets of Positano, a small village on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Positano rests almost vertically on the steep cliffside, with peachy pastel houses stacked on top of one another against zigzagging streets where local vendors sell sips of limoncello and colorful ceramics. At the bottom there is a pebbly beach where, if it’s warm enough (which it usually is), you can swim in the clear, turquoise waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Positano is blessed with a mild Mediterranean climate and a proximity to luxury and wealth; it is home to one of the most famous and majestic hotels in the world and provided the backdrop for Diane Lane’s whirlwind romance in Under the Tuscan Sun. Twenty years later, the town has become synonymous with the grandest of influencer travelscapes, clogging Instagram with photos of beautiful people on boats, staring back in wonder at the skyline behind them.

It is also the most unpleasant place I have ever been. This has little to do with the town itself, which has been home to resorts and villas for the European elite since the Roman Empire but contains only small traces of its ancient past; as our tour guide explained, “there is no history here, it is just for relaxing and for pictures.” Fewer than 4,000 people live in Positano, and tourists outnumber them three-to-one.

Nor is it really the fault of the crowds, though like seemingly everywhere else in Italy, they are rampant and inescapable and at times contribute to a sense of claustrophobic doom so great that the only way out is divorcing yourself from your body and disassociating until you finally reach open air. Rather, what’s most disturbing about being in Positano is the knowledge that you have been suckered, and the realization that just because you have the means to go somewhere does not mean that you are owed anything more than the experiential equivalent of flying Basic Economy.

To be in Positano as a middle-class person — someone who can afford to travel and take time off work but not, say, afford to buy real estate in the city where they live — is to feel like an idiot for believing it could have been any better, or that being there is actually a benefit to the lives of the people who live there.

The fact that there are so many more people traveling internationally now than ever before in history is not necessarily a bad thing; luxuries that were once only afforded to the ultra-rich have been democratized by low-cost airlines and cheap deals on sites like Airbnb,, and Expedia. For many people, the summer of 2022 was their first time traveling internationally since the pre-Covid era, and despite the continued risks of traveling at all and the confusing and contradictory regulations about masking and vaccines, planning an international trip is now a nearly seamless experience: online travel agencies serve their users only the highest rated itineraries, thereby guaranteeing a publicly vettable experience. And if you could go to the best possible cities, eat at the best possible restaurants, and take the best possible pictures, why wouldn’t you?

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This is an excerpt from an article by Rebecca Jennings earlier published by Vox.

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