3 Weeks Backpacking Solo - Italy


Good afternoon everybody... I went on my first backpacking trip through Italy in June of this year for three weeks, solo. Prior to my trip, I managed to receive a lot of helpful advice and tips from the people who are actively posting on this website. I thought the least I could do was post about my trip, share any knowledge, experiences, and anything that could help someone in the future who is going to do the same thing.

I was supposed to fly from Memmingen down to Rome via Ryanair. My flight was cancelled due to protests in Rome, or so I was told by the airport. I live in Germany and have a Bahncard 50 which saved me some money. Took an overnight train down to Rome that same night.

Rome - 5 days/6 nights
Florence - 3 days/4 nights
Pisa - 1 day/1 night
Cinque Terre - 3 days/3 nights
Genova - 2 days/3 nights
Bologna - 2 days/3 nights
Venice - 2 days/2 nights

I became fully aware of the whole "2 nights equals 1 day" concept after being in the first city. I made it a point to arrive in cities early so that I would get the most time out of each city and avoid losing out on most of that first day. As I said, this trip was throughout the entire month of June. The larger, more touristic cities such as Rome, Florence, and Venice were very crowded. Personally, I found 5 days to be enough time in Rome. However, I am in well above average shape and traveled alone so I was able to manage time more effectively than others. I only mentioned that so whoever is reading this can get a better idea of me, the traveller, in comparison to their own capabilities, travel plan/situation, intentions, etc... Florence was very nice as well. I enjoyed the museums, although very crowded. Pisa was a cool little city. I actually wish I had stayed longer to see the light festival there (forgot the name of it). One recommendation I have is if you have the chance to visit Cinque Terre, then do it! Please visit those beautiful villages and hike from one to the other. Especially if you are traveling with a significant other. I changed my itinerary and went to Genova instead of Milan because a friend told me about Parco di Portofino, which is along the coast, about a 45 minute train ride from Genova Brignole. I hiked from Camogli, all around the coast to Portofino and then back inland to catch the train from Santa Margherita Ligure back to Genova. Awesome hike! Genova has the worlds second largest aquarium too, so definitely worth a visit if you're into sea life. The only city that I could have lived without visiting was Bologna. I don't regret going there, but I could visit Italy again without wanting to visit Bologna again. Venice was a really cool city, but very crowded. I stayed on the island and don't regret doing so.

Overall, a very successful and life changing trip. I'm thankful to say that my first backpacking trip was safe and positive. I enjoyed every city that I visited and would visit any of them again, except Bologna. However, the Ducati factory made it worth the trip. I felt that I could have spent more time in Pisa, Cinque Terre, Genova, and Venice, but only a day or two more per city. One thing that I didn't do on this trip was make day trips out to smaller towns which I will do next time. Just to give a better idea of myself so that travelers can better gauge off of me... I'm a young male, between the ages of 22-26, endurance athlete, traveled solo, was not necessarily on a budget, but was conservative, and my interests were culture/sightseeing, food, museums, nature, relaxation, and nightlife. I traveled completely by train with no Eurail pass. Every city has it's own characteristics and charm. One thing I would like to do next time is plan my first destination and how I am going to get there then wing the rest of the trip and go where the wind takes me. That way it's more of an adventure ;). Thanks, happy travels!

Posted by beaconj015
18 posts

Just some more details from the trip as I did not have enough room to type everything in the initial post... I saved a good deal of money by not eating out for every meal. I ate breakfast at the hostel on many mornings, unless I thought it was too expensive. Throughout my journey, I purchased loaves of bread, jars of Nutella, and fruit, such as oranges and bananas that I ate for breakfast and/or lunch. Ziplock bags were a lifesaver throughout my trip. I only had laundry done once because it was so cheap. All other times I hand washed everything in the sinks with a bar of soap. Most of my clothes were made out of quick drying materials too. Bungee cords came in handy when I needed to hang dry. I had two pairs of shoes that were amazing, Salewas and Salomons. My pack weighed about 18 pounds which I didn't find heavy at all, but I definitely could have packed lighter. Rome is awesome as far as hydration goes because there are little potable water fountains all over the city. I didn't pay for one bottle of water while in Rome. One item that I will try out next time is a money belt. I never felt unsafe, but having one of those would be a good idea. Also, I would bring a Camelbak because it has a bladder that you can fill with liquids and is just as good, if not better, than a regular small backpack. Especially if you plan on doing some hiking or trail running. The only thing that I wasn't prepared for was having a way to backup my pictures from my iPhone as iCloud wasn't working for me, nor Dropbox. Maybe next time carry a small laptop and an external hard drive or something. My phone made it back in one piece and I have all my pictures, so it's okay.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
8835 posts

Thanks for sharing your experiences! (if not your exact age.)

Posted by Brian
Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA
213 posts

Andy, Sounds like a great trip. I guess you stayed in a lot of hostels. Can you elaborate on that part of the trip? How was your experience with them traveling alone? Safety, protecting your docs and valuables while showering etc.? They provide sheets and towels? Cost? How did you choose them? Proximity to train stations etc? Any issues? Thanks.

Posted by beaconj015
18 posts

@ Brian

Yes, I stayed in hostels throughout my entire trip. Overall, my experiences with them were good. By good, I mean that I was at least content and satisfied with my stay, from all aspects. With that being said, some hostels fail to provide some "fine print" information such as the cost of wifi (only one hostel charged for wifi). I had only stayed in one hostel prior to this trip so I was cautious at first. Complacency could easily lead to you losing hundreds of euro, as it happened to one girl on my trip. I think it would be safe to assume that the average age in any given hostel is around 21. We could only wish that everyone we encounter in a hostel is at least a decent enough person to not steal your belongings, but that is not true. Personally, I felt completely safe during my stays. As far as my valuables and documents while showering goes, I simply just locked my locker every time I left the room. Even if I was just going down the hall to brush my teeth. The extra 15 seconds that I had to spend constantly unlocking my locker was well worth the outcome of not having anything stolen. Now, of course, somebody a little more ambitious could simply pick or break your lock and steal your valuables. If you're that worried, then you could just bring a small daypack and carry all of your important documents and electronics with you when you're not at the hostel or stay in a hotel. One thing that I did was communicate with the people I was staying with just to get a feel for their character. If you're any good at reading people's character then that could actually help put you at ease a little. I chose all of my hostels through hostelbookers.com. The great thing about this website (hostelworld.com does it too) is that all hostels are rated on several different categories, such as cleanliness, atmosphere, safety, location, etc. Also, you'll find dozens of reviews by travelers. The rule of thumb that I go by is that if a hostel has a rating of at least 80% (100% being the best), then it's more than likely worth staying at and I wouldn't even have to read any reviews, although I'd read a few anyway. Using that website, or one similar to it, will not serve you wrong. Just pay attention to the details such as whether or not it has free breakfast, free wifi, linens provided, air conditioning/heating, or whatever it is that you value most when choosing a place to stay. You could even check out the hostel website just to be sure. I didn't stay in one hostel that I wouldn't stay at again. Another thing to be attentive to is close out times. Personally, I preferred hostels that were close to the main train stations because that also placed you directly in the city center. Some may choose to stay a little further out, but I found it more convenient. Plus, it's a time saver for arriving/departing from cities. No worries on taxis, buses, or trains once you arrive because you're only walking distance away, as most of the hostels are located close to the main stations. I've heard some "horror stories", I'm using that term very lightly here, about people who have stayed in less than satisfactory hostels. It's just the risk you take when choosing to stay in hostels. However, if you use one of the websites that I've mentioned, then you can't go wrong. The prices ranged from 18 to 30 euro per night. Prices will depend on what type of room you want to stay in and the country/city you're staying in. The most I spent was about 30 euro per night because I chose to get a private room just for myself. The service was good as well. Obviously some will be better than others, but all were polite and welcoming. At the end of the day, it depends on who you are and the conditions you want to stay in while traveling. I hope this was of help to you. Happy travels.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
4241 posts


Not entirely pertinent to your experience in northern Italy, but I agree with staying at hostels using both dorm rooms and private room options close to the train stations....wise decision, provided the evaluations show 85-100% as you point out. I do the same too, solo. Where I have stayed close to stations in hostels in Vienna (Westbahnhof), Weimar, and Munich Hbf, the experience is favorable. No need to depend on public transportation or taxis (with that extra expense) to arrive at the train station on dep. date. Walking a couple of mins to the station is all it takes and alot more reassuring if you time everything accurately..