Solo Traveling In Italy: 9 Tips For Female Travelers

You don’t need to wait for anyone to start living your best dolce vita.
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You don’t have to convince most people to travel to Italy. From its rich history to the amazing food, architecture and culture, there are plenty of reasons why it’s one of the most visited countries in the world. But when it comes to solo traveling, Italy doesn’t usually come to mind. In fact, Italy is usually seen as a romantic or honeymoon destination.

Well, I’m here to tell you why you can and should put Italy at the top of your solo adventure bucket list. You don’t need to wait for anyone, or anything, to start living your best dolce vita.

In the summer of  2021, I spent two months traveling by myself across Italy. From the Ligurian Coast down Sicily, my goal was to explore the places where Italians spend their summers. I revisited favorite cities like Milan and Rome, and also under-the-radar destinations like Varenna, Sperlonga, and Ortigia. Here are a few things I learned along the way to help you plan your own solo travel adventure.

1. No one cares as much as you think they do

There’s a stigma associated with solo travel, and a belief that there’s no point in taking a trip if you’re not sharing it with another person. Women in particular feel the pressure of having to travel with a partner or a friend. And that’s understandable. We live in a world where safety is a concern for all women — whether they’re traveling or not. We have safety tips below to help you feel more confident venturing out on your own by planning ahead and making responsible choices.

But if you’re worried that people might stare at you or feel sorry for you, remember that most people are focused on themselves and their own problems. I can promise they’re not watching you sip a glass of wine in front of a marvelous sunset in Portofino thinking “poor her, she’s alone”. It’s much more likely they’ll see you as empowered and confident, enjoying your own company. When I spent two months traveling through Italy, people were also much more inclined to talk to me because I was alone.

That being said, it’s always good to stay alert and avoid advertising to the world that you are, in fact, traveling alone. Trust your gut and use your judgment when to share.

2. You can, in fact, dine alone

This comes up every single time I travel solo. “But how do you go to a restaurant by yourself?!”

I get it. Dining alone is intimidating for most people if you haven’t done it before, especially in a foreign country. But remember, you deserve to eat delicious food and drink vino — whether you’re in good company or all by yourself. So I urge you to embrace the awkward “OMG, they are all looking at me” phobia because I promise you, they aren’t. Everyone around you is busy concentrating on the person sitting across from them, or enjoying their own food. 

Trust me when I say the hardest part is making the reservation or just walking in. Once Italians know you are alone, I found they were more inclined to talk. Many times I ended up talking to the table next to me, though I was equally happy to fully embrace my surroundings and be really present in my experience.

Don’t be shy to ask for a different table if you don’t like the first one offered. Just because you’re a party of one doesn’t mean you’re less of a customer so ask for what you want. 9 times out of 10, I was able to get a table with a view because I asked. Nobody puts baby in the corner.

3. Il dolce far niente

One of the best parts of traveling alone is you’re on your own schedule. Which is a true gift if you’ve never experienced that before! It can also be overwhelming at times having to make every decision. So going in with the attitude of “don’t sweat it” and “go with the flow” is key. Things will go wrong, and you will probably get lost at some point, but don’t dwell on the mishaps. Sometimes those lead to the best stories.

Italians have a saying: Il Dolce Far Niente — “the sweetness of doing nothing” — and no one does this better. There’s something to be said for enjoying life’s simple pleasures. So, if you get lost or feel overwhelmed, take a page out of their book and relax and enjoy yourself. You’re on your own schedule so you can do whatever you want, whenever you want! Learn to embrace the slow life and your travels will be so much richer than you ever imagined.

4. Embrace the art of the aperitivo

Generally, Italians start dinner at 8:30pm which is why aperitivo is so important! Where else can you order a drink that comes with salty chips, olives, roasted nuts and mini pizzas (for free)? Enjoying your snacks and embracing your solitude will distract you from being anxious. You’ll also be able to concentrate on all the people-watching happening all around you, which is the greatest pastime ever.

It’s entertaining, especially since it’s usually happening during “magic hour”. You’re also more likely to perhaps even be approached by that cute person who might have a vespa. Last but not least, having a drink before dinner will usually feel safer than late-night or after dinner drinks. Just be sure to know your limits when it comes to drinking.

Ischia

5. A few safety tips…

Feeling safe while you’re traveling alone is key to enjoying your trip. With some planning and practice, you can feel more confident on your own. As a rule of thumb, it’s important to look like you know where you’re going and what you’re doing when in public (even if you don’t!). Traveling can be confusing and distracting at times, and pickpockets or others might notice if you happen to look as confused as you might feel. Try not to make yourself a target.

Here are a few practical and safety tips:

  • Get a local sim card (or e-sim with Airalo) so you can have access to Whatsapp, Google Translate, Google Maps and Uber. Google translate is helpful with the language barrier and also makes for a very comical (sometimes helpful) interpretation of menus.
  • Download “offline google maps” so if you lose access to wifi, you will still know the route you planned and where you need to go back too. Send your google maps location to a friend or family member this way tracks you even without data.
  • When walking and listening to directions, always wear one wireless headphone in your ear so you don’t have to be staring at directions on your phone and everyone won’t be able to hear the fact that you have them on. Avoid wearing both headphones at once. 
  • Leave your debit card at home and don’t bring all your credit cards with you. Try to split up your cash so in the worst case scenario, you’re not left with nothing. You can buy tiny satin money pouches on Amazon that attach to your bra strap. These are great for travel days when you have to have everything on you. 
  • It may sound extreme, but sometimes wearing a fake wedding band can help ward off unwanted attention from strangers. That being said, you should generally avoid wearing fancy jewelry or expensive watches. You want to stay under the radar, especially on public transportation or busy tourist sights.

6. Live like a local

I’d recommend staying at a hotel if you have a very early or late arrival. Book your taxi in advance to be safe. But after that, embrace the slower solo travel lifestyle with an apartment. You get a much better sense of the culture when you’re able to shop at the alimentare (local grocery store) or farmers market and cook simple meals at home. I also love to make coffee in a moka pot each morning when I wake up. It’s a new routine you can embrace no matter how long you’re staying.

Airbnb offers “rooms” as an option which is a good alternative if you’ve outgrown the idea of hostels but want the opportunity to meet fellow travelers. A few additional safety tips: try to avoid the ground floor, always check the reviews and never post your location in real time on social media. Try to avoid checking in after dark. Always share your location with a close friend or family as well.

Ischia

7. Public transportation is your friend

Public transportation in Italy is by far one of the best I’ve experienced from all my travels. While it might be nice to rent a car, driving in Italy can be stressful and expensive. So thankfully for solo travelers, the train and bus systems are reliable, convenient and easy to use. You can search for routes and book tickets here.

8. Avoid overpacking

I am an over-packer. It’s who I am but I want you to “do as I say not as I do” on this one. There is nothing more humbling than dragging an oversized suitcase across cobblestone streets in front of Italian people sipping on their morning coffee. And since public transportation is the easiest way to get around, you will be responsible for your own stuff. Roads can be super tiny and one way, so even hotel drop offs can be a few blocks away from where you need to go. Packing too much will slow you down and eventually make you grumpy. Trust me on this.

I learned this the hard way lugging my suitcases across the cobblestone streets of Rome, Naples, Catania, Procida. And don’t get me started on why Italian train doors aren’t even height to the platform. You will have to lift your belongings in most cases while everyone is boarding. Ferries have lots of stairs and no elevators for the most part.

Since you’re traveling solo, no one will really know if you re-wear that outfit. You can easily change up your wardrobe with accessories. In the summer, you can easily get away from a pair of cute comfortable sneakers and sandals.

9. The most growth comes from leaving your comfort zone

Traveling alone can be intimidating, but few experiences force you to open up as much as solo traveling does. Travel is all about breaking out of your comfort zone and growing beyond your own self-set boundaries. It’s exploring new borders and it gives you the chance to do things you wouldn’t normally do. Talk to locals, go out to eat, try new food, book the tour alone and embrace the journey. Things that don’t come naturally to you can be some of the greatest experiences you have on the road and will probably be the memories you cherish the most. 

And let’s face it, Italy is indeed one of those countries that brings out the romantic in us all. The landscapes, the food, the vino, the music and the culture all scream ROMANCE but it doesn’t have to be reserved for couples only. That love can be shared and found with like-minded women from around the world who you are sure to meet in your travels.

Most importantly, the more you do it, the better you get at it. So don’t wait, because traveling solo is sure to remind you of how capable you are. I guarantee it will help you fall back in love with yourself and your life. After all, the relationship we have with ourselves is ultimately the most important relationship we will ever have!

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