Am I crazy to try to do this solo at my age and inexperience? I would like to travel to Rome, Positano, Montepulciano, Florence and Venice and can NEVER find a friend who wants to travel. I have to admit, the whole train transportation thing is my biggest challenge. Then I have to consider that no one will be along to bounce thoughts off, do I trust strangers to take important photos so that I can actually prove that I was there??? Any thoughts or do I just jump on an organized trip. I want to travel ASAP.
Hi garnetgold! My situation is very similar to yours. I travel alone most of the time. Go for it. Don't worry about asking strangers to take photos, I have often had other tourists offer to take mine for me, especially after I've offered to take theirs (couples have the same problem if they want a photo together!).
Trains in Italy are very easy to use. Sometimes, at the small train stations, you will have to go up and down a flight of stairs to get to your platform. I have almost always been helped by someone else. The same goes for getting my suitcase on and off the train.
I often begin conversations with nearby tourists when I feel the need to chat. Most people are happy to exchange their thoughts and experiences and a chance conversation has sometimes turned into having lunch or dinner partners. I went to Berlin (and enjoyed it very much) after my "seatmate" on the train from Florence to Rome told me what a great time she had there. You'd be surprised how many couples are eager to talk to someone else after being together 24/7 for awhile.
Chani, thanks so much for the prompt reply. Perhaps I have been doing too much research and too much reading about all the bad things that "can" happen. LOL I am going to give it a try and if this a success....I will be on the hunt for my next adventure.
One other question...how do restaurants receive solo diners?
My experience is like Chani's - all good if you do your research, trust your capabilities, and talk to whomever may be able to help you. The only place where you're not taking a fast, direct train is Montepulciano, served by bus. You might want to watch Rick's Travel Skills TV episodes online and see also tips for traveling solo. Italian restaurants have not turned me away for being solo. I usually buy a full meal at meal times (not take up a table and then order just one dish at a serous restaurant), but a casual pizzeria is happy to sell just a pizza.
I am about 10 years younger than you, but I almost always travel alone. Italy is no more difficult for this than anywhere else.
As for solo dining, you won't have any problems. I've never been refused service as a solo diner or gotten worse treatment, although as a single you can't expect the best located table in a place. It's rare in Italy for food to be designed to be ordered by more than one person (some cuisines are really hard to order for one, but not Italian food). One quirk in Rome you will quickly appreciate: Romans do things in large groups, and so it's very typical to see tables of 6-8 people at meals. The couples in Roman restaurants stand out almost as much as the single diners!
There is indeed a learning curve in getting used to trains. But the key thing to remember (in addition to watching Rick's videos) is that while for you it's a new and scary event, for the locals it's as common as a drive to the mall. Just ask for help if you need it - from anyone but an obvious tourist! They may seem more approachable, but may not know any more than you do. (This applies to directions, buying tickets, etc. If you need help lifting your bags above your seat, ask anyone tall, regardless of nationality). Here's the part of Rick's travel skills special just about trains: http://tinyurl.com/ac82c92 and here's an Italian telling you about specific directions for Italy: http://tinyurl.com/mvjjbyh
For photos, Chani has it exactly right. Offer to take photos of a couple, than ask them to take a picture of you (if they haven't already offered). By the way, this is also a great way to start a conversation with others. And surely you've heard of selfies? If there's no one around when you want a photo, take one of yourself.
It's true that you can't count on having people to bounce ideas and impressions off, although as Chani said, there will more opportunities than you may think, if you take them. I e-mail people at home with updates every few days, which I find feels like I'm sharing my experience even though it's one-way. You may feel better if you plan on making calls home to some people (you can do this with Skype or FaceTime, or can get a cell phone that works in Italy).
Evenings can be difficult in some countries, but dinner in Italy is both later and longer than further north. So, I find I have less time alone between dinner and bed. This time is usually spent walking around the city. In Rome, EVERYONE does this, so you won't be "alone" at all. Rome is all lit up at night and it's a wonderful experience to walk around after dinner.
It is not at all uncommon to dine solo. Or to sit at an outdoor cafe and have a drink solo. If it's around mealtime and you just want a drink, simply tell the waiter before you sit down. At some places, they will politely tell you that seating is for diners only, but usually there is a section for "non-eaters." At dinner I usually have house wine. Your choices are usually a single glass, a 1/4 liter (1/3 of a bottle), or 1/2 liter (about 2.5 glasses). The price is reasonable and the quality is usually good. If you aren't sure, ask for a taste. If you are in the mood for something better, you can get a bottle and take what ever's left with you.
The other issue with dining alone is what to do besides staring at your plate. I usually take my iPod and listen to downloaded podcasts or an audio book. Sometimes I'll take a guide book and use the time to plot out the next day's activity or make notes in my travel journal. I find I quite like dining alone because I can concentrate on savoring each mouthful!
I love this forum, you guys have been very helpful and seem to be giving advice from experience. I appreciate all your thoughts and look forward to my trip. Thanks so much for taking your time to settle my nerves. ...now my only challenge is getting my airfare. WOW, prices are silly right now. That is one of the great things about being flexible with travel dates...perhaps I can just shop until I get a decent rate. Again, thanks to all.
I am Mia. I am traveling solo from June 10 to august 16 starting in London. From there I'm not sure, but I'm trying to make an itinerary before I go. I will be in London for about a week, and hope to have full plans from there. If you want, we can meet and travel together as far as we both agree, and split when we desire different cities or places. I will visit for sure the following places:
London, Paris, Rome, Athens, Venice, Spain.
I will be on a tight budget, and staying in hostells. If you are not, maybe this arrangement will be hard for both but it will be ok. It is a trip of a life time after all.
Here is my email if you or anyone else wants to pair up on this travel. Bellamia4972@msn.com
Sounds very interesting and hostels work for me. I sent you an email with some thoughts. Perhaps this will work at least for a portion of the travel time. Thanks for reaching out!
I just want to add that I am also in my 50s and I am traveling in Italy solo this summer. I was planning to go to Positano but ended up in Cinque Terre instead. I have always traveled solo (but never to Italy) and preferred it because I do not have to cater to anyone else's desires. Sorry if that sounds selfish but traveling costs a lot of money. Enjoy your trip and the people on this forum have been very helpful to me and I know they will be for you as well.
Yes, everyone has been a wealth of information to make my travel plans more manageable. I really don't mind the solo thing...it just would be nice to have someone to share the experience with even if that other person went their own way thru the day. I want to thank everyone on this site for all the help and support.