Ciao a tutti! Today I’m pleased to bring back my friend Victoria De Maio for a second guest post about solo travel in Italy. We’ve been friends online for a while, but back in May of last year we got to hang out in Rome for a couple days as guests of the Baglioni Hotel for their Grande Bellezza Tour.
Last time as guest on my blog she wrote an emotional piece about growing up in an Italian-American family. This time she’s back with more practical advice for travelling alone in the Bel Paese. And within the article, she has placed a few useful links back to posts on her own blog where she goes more into depth on each topic, such as dressing, packing, and staying safe.
Without further ado, here’s Victoria…
Italy is calling YOU! You’re ready to enjoy la dolce vita!
Ah, but there’s one little problem—you want to go, but you don’t have someone to go with.
Perhaps your spouse/partner/best friend doesn’t want to, or can’t go when you can? Or maybe they don’t want to go where you want to go, or do what you want to do? Now what? Well, why not go solo?
Oh, I know, perish the thought! I have friends who won’t even go to a movie alone, much less travel to another country. Well, I’m here to encourage you to consider a solo trip. OK, before you say “no way,” hear me out.
I have the perfect compromise to get past the “going solo anxiety:” join an escorted tour. Whatever your interests; wine tasting, photography, cooking, art and history, shopping, learning Italian … you name it, and I promise that there’s a tour group specializing in it.
That’s what I did several years ago when I wanted to go to Italy and no one could come with me. I joined a tour and it was fabulous! Traveling with a small group with similar interests, we quickly became new best friends. I had my autonomy, but the umbrella of a group. I arrived a few days early and stayed a few days later on my own to test drive solo and guess what? Not only did I survive but I loved it!
Ready to go solo? Italy is a wonderful destination for solo travel. I went last year for several weeks and plan to again this spring. Sure, there’s more to plan, so I begin with the basics.
Solo Travel in Italy
After I know when and for how long I’m going, I get my accommodations taken care of, as well as my transfer/transportation arrangements.
- Deciding where to stay: I’m on budget, so I look for smaller, moderately priced accommodations – typically bed and breakfasts or small hotels – in convenient and safe neighborhoods. I like to be near the historical center with cafes, restaurants, and shops nearby. Do your research and ask for referrals from friends/reliable sources.
I love smaller venues and getting to know the owners/staff. I practice my very beginner Italian and seek out their advice and suggestions on where to eat and shop, etc. (Locals give the best tips!)
I want to take a moment to address eating alone which can definitely be a bit uncomfortable for novice solo travelers, especially women. It takes a bit of getting used to so, my advice? Practice at home. Go to a coffee shop or take yourself to lunch.
Italy is full of wonderful cafes with fabulous views. Choose one and enjoy people watching while sipping that espresso or glass of vino and just revel in being there. Think of it as a new adventure!
- Maximizing your visit: This not only includes having all of my transfers/transportation outlined/reserved before I leave home, but planning what I want to do once I arrive. Remember: you’re on your own, you can do anything that you want to do!
I like to be flexible but still have a general game plan for how I spend my time. (An example is finding out when sites/museums are open and if I can get advance tickets/reservations to avoid standing in line or arriving when they’re closed.)
I would also caution (and I learned this from personal experience) that it’s important not to try to cram too much in to each day and just enjoy what you do.
- As a solo female, personal safety is understandably a priority. Keep in mind that, although it has its fair share of petty thieves, Italy is a very safe country to travel.
First of all, I pack and dress to blend in, i.e., not look like a typical tourist. I have a purse with a cross body strap and have learned (the hard way) to never bring more than I can carry and manage on my own.
When I go out, I always bring ID (copy of my passport) and information about where I’m staying with me. I only bring enough cash for that day (credit cards/ATM can supplement if needed) and I usually take a small tote bag that will hold maps, water and any small purchases.
I stash any other valuables (including my passport, extra cash, jewelry, iPad, etc.) in locked luggage or the room safe.
- Budget for those occasional splurges: In spite of your promise to yourself not to succumb, this is Italy! Those fabulous leather gloves, that pair of shoes, and that scarf…
Be prepared for little splurges both in your budget and your luggage. I’ve learned to budget for taxis (especially in a city like Rome), not to mention my gelato obsession.
Besides the obvious temptations you’ll encounter shopping, one of my other highly recommended splurges is taking guided walks and activities. For example, in Rome I researched tours that offered experiences that appealed to me and it was so worth it. Consider local walking tours, food tours, museum/site tours, city walks…they are fabulous!
- Last but not least, I encourage you to learn some basic words and phrases in Italian. Don’t worry if your pronunciation is terrible. Italians happen to be very patient and appreciative whenever you try to communicate in their language and a little goes a long way.
With a little planning and preparation, solo travel can be enriching and, yes, fun! Hopefully, with these tips and some encouragement, you will consider that solo trip to Italy and, when you do, I want to hear all about it!
La dolce Vita sums up Victoria’s passion and love for all things Italian. An American living in California, her heart is always in Italy.
As a travel consultant, blogger, writer, and tour leader, Victoria loves sharing practical no-nonsense travel tips and insights on her travel blog, PostcardZ from Victoria and in her newly released book “Victoria’s Travel TipZ Italian Style.” She’s also a contributing writer for Italian Notebook, Italian Talks and L’Italo-Americano.