It's a brisk winter night in Rome. After a long day of sightseeing, I'm settling down in my room overlooking the Teatro dell'Opera, which is adorned with a large sparkling Christmas tree. It's late and I'm ready for bed. Everything is perfect -- except that I'm awakened by the screams of teenage American tourists playing in the hallways.
This has happened three nights in a row. We complained to the hotel, and the manager gave them a warning they wound up ignoring. Why would these kids care? They're away from home, out of school, without parental supervision and staying in a hotel. They're more interested in throwing little hard candies down the hotel's steps, kind of a no-no in your average hotel.
I've seen rude tourists overseas before. In Rome, in the summer of 2011, some young men who spoke of being from Chicago were sitting at a hotel computer, looking at pictures and making vulgar comments. While at the Vatican museums, a young woman who mentioned she was from Texas took photos of herself with a cellphone, posing provocatively in front of statues, as if she planned to be a model for Victoria's Secret. If she and a friend had any interest in admiring the art or the landmarks, they kept it a secret. They just wanted to look good for pictures to be posted on Facebook.
I, of course, feel otherwise. When in Italy, I want to take in all the beauty and learn something new.
In the museums, signs warn visitors against taking photos of the priceless, irreplaceable art. Still, some tourists from America (and probably some other places) take photos on the sly, even after the guards say to stop. Such flash photography is said to risk damaging the art. The statue of David has no understudy. It's much too late to ask Michelangelo to paint another Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel is a chapel, a place of worship, so respect should be given.
American tourists are rude in the United States, too. I live in New York City, the capital of the rude tourist. Once at a Broadway show, I sat next to a woman visiting from out of town who took off her shoe to pop a blister. Seriously. The stereotype of the rude American tourist exists because it's true.
I'm no grumpy old lady, griping about every petty annoyance. I'm 24 years old. I try to show respect wherever I'm visiting. I expect others to do the same.
To American tourists, either at home or abroad, I say this: Grow up. Put down your iPhones and forget for a minute about your next status update. Instead, try admiring what's in front of you. Appreciate the culture you have an opportunity to experience, an experience available only to the lucky. Consider yourself an ambassador representing your country and your hometown.
Remember when you were a little kid and you went visiting? Your mother would remind you, "You're a guest in someone's home, so you should be on your best behavior." That rule still applies.
Caroline Chirichella Brody of Forest Hills is an opera singer and blogs at La Cucina Prima Donna.