The fine line between well-marketed and overrated lies in a different place for each of us. I tend to overlook crowds and tacky souvenir stands, both of which bother most people I know. For me, it's all about being where history happened. If I'm walking the halls where Venetian power brokers once cut their business deals, I don't mind waiting my turn or running the souvenir gauntlet.
And so I present my unscientifically-assembled list of destinations I love, despite their reputations for crowds, tourist traps and unfriendly locals. Your results may vary.
While locals tend to be indifferent, at best, to the tourists who flock to their canal-laced city, Venice itself defies description. It's frighteningly easy to lose yourself in Saint Mark's Basilica, looking at gem-encrusted treasures and amazing mosaics, or to start wandering the tiny pedestrian-only alleyways and discover that you're looking into an entirely different world, one bounded and defined by water. In a place where deliveries and even funeral processions take place on waterways instead of roadways, why worry about your fellow tourists?
Tip: Avoid visiting in July and August, if possible, when water levels are low and odors are correspondingly high. Don't expect smiles; tourism revenues keep the city afloat, at least figuratively, but many locals would prefer to live lives sequestered from videocameras and sketchbooks.