how to explore the byways of Europe

Roman amphitheater in Verona (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all right reserved

Excellent advice was offered in today's column by Rick Steves in many Sunday newspapers: avoid destinations congested with tourists and look for what he calls back doors. In Steves' words, "Many travelers go to crowded, touristy places — then complain about the crowds." Here's my takeaway from his article.

Seek out secondary destinations. Rome is a very crowded tourist destination, and the Colosseum has long ticket lines. If getting up-close-and-personal with an ancient Roman colosseum is on your bucket list, consider the smaller (and very walkable) town of Verona in northern Italy. Pictured above is the Arena di Verona, a historical colosseum minus the crowds. You can even attend live opera there in the evening.

Avoid (what have become) tourist traps. While the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay are both world class museums in Paris, you'll have to contend with the crowds. If you want to check the Louvre off your bucket list, enjoy the spectacular but relatively empty Napoleonic bedrooms and avoid the hundreds of tourists pushing up in front of the (tiny) Mona Lisa. If you love the French impressionists, visit the lesser-known Marmottan Museum (that houses the world's biggest collection of Monet's art).

Spend the night in destinations that are crowded during busy daytime hours — but are perfectly delightful in early morning and evening. Saint-Paul-de-Vence is a cute little town near the French Riviera. The pedestrian pathway through the town's center is inundated by day with visitors from bus tours and cruise ships ... but if you spend the night at Virtuoso hotel Le Mas De Pierre, you'll have the town practically to yourself.

Look for ways to skip the lines. Google secret entrances to the Louvre; you don't have to queue up in front of the pyramid. Purchase museum passes — or timed admission tickets — and bypass ticket lines entirely. It's even possible to arrange private tours before and after regular hours for many popular attractions.

Best of all, you don't have to figure this out on your own. Together with our trusted Virtuoso travel partners all over Europe, we get you Insider Access. Do you want to plan a trip that maximizes your precious time? that explores the byways of Europe? that takes advantage of the lesser-known back doors that local experts know best? Just drop us an email, and we'll help you Discover More.

copyright (c) 2017 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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