My 5 Fave Things About Solo Travel in Italy
So, could I be deemed to be a 'Nigel No Friends' or just a Solo Traveller by choice?
How often do we see or enjoy something so much that all we want to do is share it with those closest to us? It is a natural urge; we like to share the love and fun around...but sometimes it's good to just go it alone.
I was at a point in my life late last year where I needed to run away to Italy. I had an itch that just had to be scratched. I felt I was missing an important part of my life and I wanted the thrill of going beyond my comfort zone to find it.
Instead of sharing the fun of a trip with my (then) partner or a friend, I chose to go solo.
Booking on a tour seemed a sensible option for my maiden solo journey overseas, as it would give me some security. I chose Insight Vacations 'Easy Pace Italy' tour which included 3 nights in Rome, 3 nights in Florence and 3 in Venice. I figured by being on a tour, someone would notice me missing during a headcount if I happened to go astray, which gave some comfort to my adult children that their 56 year old mother hadn't totally 'lost it' and would be taken care of by someone.
With my 'make it happen' attitude, the flights and tour were quickly arranged ....and then I told my partner I was going! OK, so that went down like a lead balloon...which I could understand...but.. I was going anyway.
Free time to concentrate on my writing, photography and ... future .. was what I was after. I'd visited Rome and Venice on previous trips, so I could easily be excused from the tour group to do my own thing when they were off checking out the incredible sights these destinations have to offer. I preferred having the free time rather than revisiting these attractions.
The ten days away proved to be a perfect mix of making new friends within the group, and time on my own. Enough time on my own to give me a taste of travelling alone...
...and my first taste of solo travel was very palatable.
Six months later, Italy called me back again. By then I was a single lady and there was no question - I was going solo and I couldn't wait! This time the trip was for 24 days with 13 days on another Insight Vacations tour and the rest on my own. A perfect opportunity to put my recent basic Italian language lessons into practice.
My accommodation was pre-booked so I had nothing much to think about other than finding my way around. Working out which restaurants to eat in, which bars to drink in, what pics to pump up my Instagram account with and what made for good writing was basically all I needed to focus on. Perfetto!
This time I ventured further out of my comfort zone and tackled the Italian train system. It was easy enough to pre book the tickets online, but the logistics of finding departure schedules, platform locations and getting myself, and my luggage, from one to the other was a new experience.
The final night of this trip was spent in a hotel in Milan. I caught the train from Venice (after a last minute itinerary change to incorporate spending a night there) found my hotel, got up to my fourth floor room....
...and burst into tears!!
Looking around my last hotel room I was suddenly overcome with emotions. My 91 year old father had been critically ill back home in South Australia, so stress and concern over that was obvious. Deeper than that, though, was sadness that my holiday was ending, feelings around a conversation with an Italian friend and, despite a feeling of total empowerment about my solo activities, I also felt overwhelmed.
As they say in Italy, "piano piano" slowly slowly - and that is a good way to describe my transition from group travel to more adventurous solo traveller. Italy is already calling me back for my fifth visit. One day my itinerary will be quite different and will have a number of loose ends and flexibility built into it. I now have the confidence and curiosity to explore further off the regular tourist trails on my own.
I will always be a very social person who is energised by having people around me. But variety is the spice of life and stepping out of your comfort zone can do wonders for your soul
My five favourite things about travelling solo in Italy:
- You engage more with the locals and other travellers
- You choose where to eat and when. No time wasted in deliberation
- The feeling of empowerment of going it alone
- Full flexibility in your itinerary; spontaneous changes can be made at will
- The flirtatious Italian Waiters - you'll never feel alone with their attention. They are so much fun, they don't hold back and I absolutely love that!