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Solo Trip to Italy – 2018

Preface: My husband & I have traveled to Europe 10 times. Other than our 3 RS trips, I have been the person who planned the details of our itineraries, researched places, etc.; it’s a major hobby of mine. Last Fall, my husband thought we should skip Europe in 2018. I still wanted to go, and since the RS Village Tour would have duplicated places we had already been and missed some I wanted to see, I planned my first solo vacation to Europe. I read some place that “Solo travel is empowering, renewing, intellectually challenging and gives you the opportunity to reintroduce yourself to yourself - much cheaper than therapy and certainly more fun.” Since I retired in July 2018, this trip was perfect timing.

What I did differently since this was a solo trip:
1. I didn’t book any apartments. For safety, I wanted to make sure there was either a front desk person or the owner lived at the location (or was at restaurant next door).
2. I planned more 2-day stays vs. longer stays. I knew that I could cover what I would enjoy in a town faster since it was just me. (I was in Lucca four days, and I felt like it was at least one day too long.)
3. In my planning, I was much more thorough. For example, I not only had each train ticket, but I had the info readily at hand for Plan B & C if I missed any train. This allowed me to really relax during the trip, knowing that possible issues were already considered & solutions decided.
4. I never left my money belt in my hotel room. I wore my passport, cc, ATM card & larger Euros at all times.

5. I planned periodic activities during the trip where I would be with other people speaking English. I figured this would be a nice way to avoid feeling lonely, and it was an excellent solution for me.
6. I connected with my hubby on FaceTime at night. We enjoyed catching up on our days and only had a couple of locations where the wifi was too slow.

What happened differently because this was a solo trip:
1. I spoke more Italian. I had concentrated on studying Italian with Duolingo, reviewed my Italian for Dummies book & some games that filled in the gaps for clock times & numbers. Since I was by myself, I felt less intimidated to try speaking Italian, and the more I tried it, the more confidence I gained. Most of my communication up to Montepulciano was just Italian language & hand charades.
2. I talked to more people. If I heard anyone speaking English, I would ask them where they were from. I talked to many people from England and others from Australia, USA, Poland, France & Canada. I also had an interesting conversation with an Italian biologist on the train about the difference in job career opportunities in countries. Her dad had worked in the US with an opportunity that they could have moved when she was young.
3. I didn’t enjoy dinners as much. It just wasn’t fun to eat a long dinner by myself. A few times, I would have a nice lunch & just pick up some veggies & fruit from a local market for dinner.
4. I was outside earlier in the morning. Possibly because I wasn’t staying up too late, I really enjoyed my mornings. I would eat a nice breakfast and be out taking photos while the colors were still vivid and before the streets were filled with people.
5. I shared my journey with my friends on Facebook. Previously, I never posted photos until we were home due to home safety, but since my husband was at home, I shared a few photos of Stresa, and people enjoyed my photos & commentary so much that I continued. It felt like I was talking to friends throughout my trip, and it even caused me to take other extra types of photos to help share the story.

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My 3-week trip

Stresa – 3 days: Thanks to Priscilla on our Travel Forum, I knew to reserve the Alibus from Malpensa to arrive at my first destination, one of my favorites – Stresa. When the small shuttle peaked over the top of the hill with Isola Madre, Isola Bella & Isola Pescatori far below, I couldn’t wait to be back at Lake Maggoire! I stayed two nights at Hotel Milan Speranza in a tiny single room. I laughed thinking the room was so small, but it was larger than the first class beds I walked by on the plane, so I was having a “first class experience” at a cheap price! This trip was not only planned around special locations, but I moved the dates up to be able to attend some special activities. The night I arrived, I attended the Stresa Music Festival EU Symphony, and it was a magnificent performance and such a wonderful beginning to my trip! (I’ve played classical piano for 55+ years.) Luckily, I threw in a dressy pair of shoes last minute in my suitcase to match my nicer dress because the crowd for this event were dressed very formal. Wow, Italians dress beautifully in their suits, tuxes & beautiful dresses! I don’t know who was there, but a professional photographer was capturing photos.

Day 2 was one of my favorite days. I woke up early, so I took the earlier ferry up to Villa Taranto. It was a perfect, peaceful morning to sit outside in the boat, and I was the only tourist along with a few workers who would drop off at different islands on their way to work. I arrived at Villa Taranto just as it opened, and I didn’t see anyone else except gardeners the entire time I explored the beautiful grounds until tour groups started up the walkway as I was exiting. Villa Taranto gets two thumbs up! I had considered possibly going to Santa Caterina del Sasso Monastery in the afternoon, but a thunderstorm changed those plans.

Day 3 – move to the island. I love Isola Bella and had reserved my last night on the island at Boutique Hotel Elvezia as a special splurge. After spending time at Isola Pescatori for lunch & the afternoon at the villa & formal gardens on Isola Bella, I relaxed in my special room and watched the final boats & birds from my balcony quietly finishing the day after sunset. The end of this calming evening was moonlight, some lights from shore, and the light from Isola Pescatori’s church steeple. I slept very well! The next morning after breakfast, I caught the early ferry after walking the length of the island and enjoying one last serene view of the surrounding islands and land as the island workers were preparing for their day.

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Milan – 1 Day: Our dear, late Zoe had recommended Hotel Berna, and I was thanking her. This hotel has the ultimate customer service – professional, cordial, and the room had my favorite soft drink, water & juice stocked (when you book on their site). They even had subway tickets for sale when I checked in, and their delicious breakfast buffet options catered to multiple nationalities. Since I was in Milan on a Monday, I was unable to see the Last Supper. But, I enjoyed going through the magnificent Duomo, walking through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and area. I walked a few blocks to tour the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, a home containing a private collection of paintings, glass, weapons, furnishings, interesting time-keeping pieces, glass drawers of beautiful lace, etc. There were only a few other people in the museum, making it a very enjoyable time.

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Verona – 2 Days: Another activity that dictated my itinerary dates was attending the Aida Opera at the Roman Arena. What an experience to sit under the stars in the historical arena and hear an opera in Italian in Italy! Since my husband & I had previously stayed several days in Verona, I also had reserved both a bike tour & a cooking class with Veronality to fill my two days here. I thoroughly enjoyed both of them, although the cooking class in Lucca was even better. I booked Hotel Bologna because it was within site of the arena, and I knew the opera would finish around 12:30am. In hindsight, there were plenty of people walking around, so I could have stayed a few blocks further away.

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Ravenna – 2 Days: When I was initially selecting towns for this trip, a friend mentioned her cruise and seeing a snippet of Ravenna. I’m so glad that two days in Ravenna were in this trip! When I walked into the first location of the Mosaic Combo Ticket, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, I just stopped in my tracks! Wow, the mosaics are so vivid and sparkly – just amazing! The second morning, I toured the TAMO museum which was very interesting and informative after seeing the mosaics the day before. I also walked through the underground museum, Domus dei Tappeti di Pietra. I stayed at Hotel Centrale Byron, and the best feature of that hotel is that it’s located next to Papilla, the best gelato in town! I had read that one way to counteract the feeling of being lonely when traveling solo is to buy a gelato and walk the streets with everyone else. I wasn’t lonely in Ravenna – ha! I enjoyed exploring Ravenna and found the people to be friendly.

By the time I was finishing Ravenna, my new dressy shoes were giving me a blister even though I just wore them to dinner. I left the shoebox in my hotel closet with a note to please donate them to someone who needed them. Even though I could have used them at home, it was a good decision to not carry extra bulk.

A side-story of train connections: I connected through Bologna both ways to go to Ravenna. On the way to Ravenna, my train was late from Verona, so I only had two minutes to go from the lowest underground level of Bologna’s train station up through a few corridors & out to the lowly Regionale train track area. Stories have been told about me racing quickly through airports (it was even a topic at my retirement party at work!), but those are nothing compared to the streak of a blur of me trying to catch that Regionale train! (Yes, I know that I could have ridden the next one an hour later.) I reached the train (it was still there!), but the doors were locked. (Darn!) The train started to move, but then it stopped. The conductor stepped out and motioned for me to get on the train. (Yeah!) I was so out-of-breath that I had to just hold onto to the door inside the train for a few minutes!

On the way back through Bologna, leaving Ravenna, a guy grabbed my suitcase when I was on a stairway and insisted on carrying it the last 4 steps down the stairs. Then he wanted a tip. My alarm bells went off, especially seeing his grinning accomplice. I left them in the dust (see previous story). Bologna is not my favorite train station!

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Arezzo - 2 days: this is one of my new favorite towns. I had wanted to see Arezzo, and since they have two jousting festivals, one in early September, I timed my stay to be there for it. (When I first stepped into Piazza Grande where they were practicing the day before, I was sad that my husband was missing such a special event that he would have loved!) I stayed at small De’ Montetini B&B, and the location was perfect. I enjoyed taking many photos in the medieval portion of Arezzo, loved the jousting event & entire day’s activities leading up to it, and the food in this city was wonderful. My B&B host wrote down a few recommendations for me, such as Antica Osteria dell ‘Agania, and they were all good. (I couldn’t believe how many locals kept coming into Antica Osteria dell ‘Agania the night I was there!) There’s also an antique fair each 1st Sunday of the month, so both activities were happening that day. Arezzo is also a good uphill workout to be ready for Montepulciano!

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Montepulciano – 3 days: This was another town that I’ve had on my “must see” list for a long time. The little orange shuttle bus that runs through the town and takes people up, up, up to the top of the town was the best 1.20 Euro bargain! Just after I arrived, it started to sprinkle, so I grabbed my raincoat and headed to Osteria del Borgo for a delicious lunch of truffles & pasta. I loved exploring all of the lanes of Montepulciano and enjoyed the courtyard next to the music school at Palazzo Ricci with the view overlooking the valley – beautiful music & a view! I stayed at Albergo Duomo which is just around the corner from Piazza Grande. I was really surprised how dead the town was in the evening! (Is everyone at their agriturismos in the evening?) Usually the piazzas are busy at night with people, but there were times only a couple of people were walking around or sitting on the duomo steps. I enjoyed a morning walk down to San Biagio for photos & the ambiance.

Day-trip to Pienza: While I was researching for the trip, I thought I would want to visit several of the nearby towns, but I was enjoying Montepulciano so much that I only took the local bus to Pienza on the third day. There were two reasons why I wanted to see Pienza. 1. The Romeo & Juliet movie by Franco Zeffirelli has always been a favorite of mine; the Capulet’s home in the movie and some of the other scenes were filmed at Pienza. (I loved seeing them!) 2. There’s a top gelato shop located at this little village, and I wanted to go there. I had read that he’s very creative and the gelato can be sold out by early afternoon.

The Saga of the Pienza Gelato. 10:00am. Time to see what flavors he’s made today. ....not open? No signs of anyone making gelato inside!! Well, I’ll take more photos of this cute medieval town. The second time I stopped by was 11:30am because one of the neighbors said, “Sometimes he’s not open. Usually he opens at 11am.” Still not open! Licking my wounds - no gelato, and I’m not going to substitute this experience with the other lesser gelato shop I walked by earlier. Well, I’ll go to lunch. Beginning lunch with the usual - bread & sparkling water. Pienza is famous for their sheep cheese, pecorino, so I ordered a delicious salad that was so fresh! The cheese was excellent! Since I missed the gelato, I was going to order dessert! On the dessert menu was a mousse that was tiramisu without the ladyfingers or the coffee. Instead, it was topped with salted caramel! Oh, wow! I need to make this for a special occasion at home! A relaxing finale to lunch – espresso. Now it’s time to walk off that lunch. As I’m walking through all of the lanes again, I see orange chairs in front of Buon Gusto! “Buongiorno, you’re aperto! I stopped by this morning and you were closed.” He opened “a few minutes” after 11am. He was really friendly and told me some people have moved there from Seattle. They vacationed in a villa and decided to move there. …And, his peanut butter/Himalayan salt gelato was fantastic!

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Lucca – 4 days: I had reserved a cooking class & a photography lesson in Lucca. The month before my arrival, the photographer e-mailed me and said he wouldn’t be in town. My second day in town was the cooking class with Extra Virgin Cooking Class. The chef met us in a piazza, and we walked to a bakery, a pastry shop (bakeries are bread, only, ha!), & a veg/fruit shop. I had walked past these stores the day before, and it was so fun to walk into them with a person who knew the owners for years. They brought out a piece of Focaccia bread that was the size of a camping cot! The chef’s father had been an olive oil farmer, so our chef began the class explaining the difference in different extra virgin olive oils, along with having us taste the different samples with bites of the focaccia bread and different cheeses afterwards. The chef & we 7 participants made a wonderful meal in his elegant home – a lovely day! The rest of my time in Lucca was spent walking the perimeter of the wall, eating great meals, stepping into churches and watching a cross-bow tournament. For this location, I stayed at the Anfiteatro B&B. The owner has a restaurant next door, also.

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For my last night, I stayed at MOXY Milan Malpensa, located across the street from Terminal 2. It was a modern hotel and extremely handy to catch my flight home.

Misc. comment: I received the nod of approval several times. When I would order my café in the morning or at a stand-up counter mid-morning, sometimes they would ask me if I actually was asking for an Americano. When I said, “No, espresso.” I received a smiling nod like I had gained access into the Italian coffee club. I would like to join that club! : )

Expenses: The entire cost of this trip was $3250. I used miles for my airline ticket.

What I learned from traveling solo: I’ve always been an independent person, but this solidified that I could travel by myself and have a great time. Also, I like to challenge myself & continually be learning. It was a great jumpstart into retirement!

Some of you know that I followed this trip by immediately flying to Cambodia with my husband to help a school that is almost doubling in size. Staying in a village in Cambodia was even more of a stretch. I’m still processing all of the personal learnings from that trip!

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New things I tried this year:

I learned about TripIt during the RS free Technology class. I really liked this app, and it helped me double-check that I had everything I needed. I also made a paper copy and placed it in my daypack, so I didn't need to pull out my phone on the trains. And, you will laugh - I could look at TripIt and double-check whether I was moving to another location the next morning! Past events are grayed out on the app. A sign of a true vacation; I needed to verify the date! : )

Oil of Olay Dry Face Cloths - thank you Cindy H for telling me about these! I cut them in half, and they worked great for the trip, and I'm using them all of the time now.

LL Bean Toiletries Hanging Bag - I really liked using this! It was so fast to be able to unzip it at each new location and have everything instantly organized.

The RS adapters. I bought a couple while I was in the RS store. They took less space than our previous ones. Also, some of the outlets wouldn't accept my 3-prong version.

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901 posts

Thank you, Jean, for such a fun, informative trip report. I also travel alone and agree especially with two points you made about solo travel — 1) Eating alone isn’t fun. and 2) It’s nice to arrange opportunities for human contact like cooking classes and guided tours. While I miss traveling with my late husband, I also find solo travel enjoyable and empowering.

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Nice trip report, thank you. I too enjoy the planning process, and I feel it enhances my trip. Glad you enjoyed yours!

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What a wonderful trip!! I love Italy and travel there every summer on my own. 😀

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Thanks so much for taking the time to do this Trip Report! It sounds like you had a really wonderful time.

I'm so glad you were able to choke down the gelato after having had dessert already. This is the sign of a true aficionado!

I like your choice of stops and laughed that you had to refer to your itinerary to see if you were traveling the next day! Yes, this was a great way to start your retirement and get the knots out of your brain.

I also agree with your thoughts on picking lodging. As a solo traveler I also prefer staying somewhere that either has a monitored front desk or that I know the owner is nearby.

All I can say about eating alone is that it doesn't particularly bother me but I've done it for years. I think the more you do it the more you develop coping skills to make it more fun. Yes, I eavesdrop a lot if I can and always have my Kindle/iPad with me!

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Hi Jean!

Thanks for sharing your wonderfully detailed and fun trip report with us!

I’ve now added Arezzo, Montepulciano, and Pienza to my bucket list for my next trip to Italy!

That peanut butter/Himalayan salt gelato sounds amazing!

I love your attitude and description of your tiny room at Hotel Milan Speranza!

Funny, I encountered a few tiny single room on my solo trip too, but I was content as long as the bed was comfy and there was running water for a nice warm shower.

Jean, I’m curious, what did you learn to make in the cooking class?

Ciao! 😊

Edited to add...
Congrats on your retirement!!!

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Hi Priscilla,

In the cooking class in Verona, first she taught us how to make a delicious Italian Verona cup of espresso. Then we made bruschetta, homemade fettuccine with a thick tomato basil sauce, risotto with a vegetable base that had smoked ricotta as a shaved option on top, and the finale was tiramisu. There were only 3 students in the class, and our instructor was excellent & very thorough to help us understand the Verona area way of home cooking.

In the cooking class at Lucca, we made three courses: 1st course was a variety of greens with three different types of tomatoes and Zucchini Blossom Timbale. 2nd course was Florentine Gnudi w/ spinach & ricotta in a tomato basil sauce and Carnarolli Risotto w/ leeks & white truffle butter. 3rd course was Lucchese Buccellato (a cousin to fruitcake) w/ lemon vanilla custard & fresh berries.

The food was more complex & delicious in the Lucca class, but the Verona instructor spent more time having each of us really learn how to make the dishes. In the Lucca class, the instructor controlled more of the cooking.

And during our Cambodia trip, I learned to be content even when the bed wasn't comfy and the water from a sprayer for a shower was always just one temperature. ; )

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Pam, I had picked two B&B's thinking that the environment would be more hospitable, and I would be talking more with the owner. That was true of the first B&B, but the Lucca owner barely said a word other than pointing out their restaurant, and that they gave a discount to B&B guests if we ate there. Since all of the hotels provide breakfast, the advantages of B&B's wasn't as clear as what we receive in the States.

I had my few pages of the RS book with me while I was eating in Pienza, and after that, I always brought a few pages or something small to read at dinner. It helped to pass the awkward minutes until the meal was served. I talked to a woman from England my last evening in Lucca who was also dining alone. We ended up having a great conversation, sitting at two side-by-side tables.

And, yes, there's always room for gelato! ; ) I even keep my gelato spoons as a souvenir.

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Kristen, what are your favorite Italian towns besides the usual top tourist ones? I'm always looking for ideas for future trips.

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David, yes, the planning process enhances the trip and makes me feel like I almost took the trip twice - once in my imagination and then actually being there.

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Patricia, I'm glad you are still traveling! Do you have other hints or ways to connect with other people during your trip (besides cooking classes) that have made traveling solo more enjoyable?

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Wow, Jean!
All the food sounds so delicious!
Thanks for sharing this information!

I’ve not taken a cooking class on any of my travels but now I’d consider taking the one in Verona.

Jean, I love your attitude😉

Grazie mille!

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653 posts

Jean, I really enjoyed this - not only your destination information but your comparisons of the things you deliberately did differently traveling solo. I, too, have been the “planner of trips” and I like having details in hand. However my husband recently passed away so while I will keep traveling (and most likely for longer periods of time than our usual 10-12 day limit), it was helpful for me to read the concrete steps you planned in advance for the change to solo traveling. Lots of solo travelers on this forum who inspire me!

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Great report and brava for making the journey solo! Now I want to take a cooking course. Have not done that in years and I remember it was so much fun.

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Travelmom,

I’m so sorry to hear of your husband’s passing away... Sending you my heartfelt condolences.

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1445 posts

hi jean
loved your report. we took a cooking class in florence, had fun and had lots of laughs. my friends always say how can you travel alone, only to see family in hawaii and kentucky, not the same or attend festivals here in the bay area by myself. haven't traveled oversees alone, something i would have to think about. i'm so happy to see you had it planned out. i'm the planner and researcher for all our trips, we are all single "seniors" 63+ that go to europe together. i do give you credit that you enjoyed yourself and went to places you haven't been. maybe you can check out the frascati area, or castel gondolfo, summer home of the pope or torino, lake garda is really pretty congrats on your retirement, i retired 18 months ago. love it.
aloha

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Great trip report, thank you! I love your detail and the various sections you added. Very useful!

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Jean, I LOVED your trip report.
I sometimes travel alone and your recommendations are spot on.
Depending on the location I also like to do walking tours that are relatively inexpensive. I haven't made any life-long friends on them but I have enjoyed the camaraderie for a few hours.
I also don't really like dinner alone in a restaurant so I try to have a late lunch (less emotional "baggage" for me) and then some kind of smaller take out or walk away salad in my hotel room or apartment.. I might still go out after for a walk but I won't feel conspicuous like I might in a cafe.
Thanks for sharing your ideas and experiences.

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Jean - what a wonderful trip report! I have bookmarked it for future reference.

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5256 posts

Stellar trip report. You are correct, a simple pleasure to get the “coffee club,” when ordering coffee in Italy.
Well done!

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Jean, Vicenza is a favorite city- I was lucky enough to live there for a few years and it’s really charming! Other favorites- Matera, Padova, Bologna, Sorrento, Tuscan hilltop towns...my next visit will include Trieste for the first time, Rome is always on the list- never run out of things to see and do there- and Salerno. 😀

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1529 posts

Great report-still need to get to Italy!
I don’t really count my one and only visit at 18—it was a whirlwind and I was sick in Rome and missed everything!

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Hi, Jean. In response to your question to me about other ways to make contact with people other than taking cooking classes while I am traveling alone, I have a few suggestions.

I am a bit of a foodie and love combining my interest in local food with walking tours of neighborhoods. In Italy I have done this by taking tours by the company Eating Italy.

I’ve also discovered Global Greeters. These are folks who love their hometowns and enjoy taking strangers on walking tours of their city. Tours are free and can be customized to special interests if participants. While greeters are not available in every city, they’re usually present in larger cities. Tours must be arranged at least 2 weeks in advance. I look forward to my Global Greeter walk to places off the tourist path in Vienna next month. I’ve already heard from my greeter, who will meet me at my hotel for coffee as we start our walk.

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970 posts

Fabulous trip and trip report. Thank you for sharing.

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Fabulous report. Thanks for sharing and good for you for stepping into retirement by doing something so exciting!!

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679 posts

Loved your report. Cooking classes happen to be one of my favorite travel activities.

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Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments! I enjoyed reliving fun moments in each of these locations as I was writing this trip report!

Kristen, how lucky to live temporarily in Vicenza! We stayed one night there and had the best tiramisu at a restaurant with tables on the charming piazza.

Princess Puple, we also really enjoyed Torino and consider it a hidden gem. When we were there, the MITO (Milan/Torino) Music Festival was at Torino where we finished one night by singing Italian songs with 1000plus people in a piazza -amazing experience!

Travelmom, I’m sorry for your recent loss. I hope you can continue to enjoy traveling in the future.

Thanks again to Travel Forum participants who shared ideas when I posted questions during my planning process!

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Diveloonie, so far our plans for 2019 are a trip to Hawaii (in search of sun during winter in Seattle).

Edited addition: I’m heading back to France in 2019 for three weeks!

In 2020 we want to go to Great Britain/Scotland. I would like to go in June to see the English rose gardens in bloom.

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Jean, you totally inspire me! This makes me so excited for my future solo travel this fall. It’s very overwhelming, never been to Italy so there’s just so much to see. But I figure research an see what I can then I’ll just have to keep going back! This trip I am going to hit the bigger areas, hopefully day trips to smaller ones.

I was wanting to take a cooking class or two (in different cities, I love to cook) glad to hear yours were enjoyable. Was thinking to do one in Florence, maybe I should look into Lucca.

Traveling alone in the states I like staying at small hotels or b&bs it’s comforting knowing others are always there, maybe that sounds weird.

Congratulations on your retirement!

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1442 posts

Jean - thank you for your fun trip report. I loved your anecdotes!

I am single and usually travel with my parents or couple-friends. While I love them all and enjoy their company, last year I told them all that my next trip - to Central Europe - would be solo. Oh my gosh, how much I loved it! I'm used to eating dinner alone, so that doesn't bother me. I find it relaxing after a busy day of sightseeing. I enjoy looking back at the pics I've taken that day, while sipping a glass of wine.

Do you have other hints or ways to connect with other people during your trip (besides cooking classes) that have made traveling solo more enjoyable?

Here are a few ideas based on things I did on my solo trip which helped me engage with fellow travelers and resulted in some wonderful memories!

  1. Guided Tours: I took several guided tours; I met lovely people for the day and exchanged travel tips and stories.
  2. Breakfast: I look for someone who might want to say hello at breakfast (not everyone wants to talk in the mornings!) and ask them how they're enjoying their travels or our current city. In Krakow I met a lovely couple from NY; we exchanged tips for seeing some of the busy sights.
  3. Offer to Exchange Picture Taking: I'm not much for taking selfies. Instead, if I see someone alone or a couple taking pictures of each other (but not able to get a nice one of themselves together) I'll offer to exchange picture taking with them, which often strikes up a conversation.
  4. Meet a stranger / make a friend! In Budapest I saw a gal by herself on a bench. I sat down on the bench and heard that she was speaking Italian. We struck up a conversation ...in Budapest in Italian! And exchanged picture taking.
  5. Join someone for dinner: I love to sit outside for dinner and had been doing so in Budapest until one night when all the tables were taken at my go-to restaurant; There was a young man sitting by himself, so I asked if I could join him. From South Korea, he was also traveling alone. We had a great conversation about his country's political issues as well as ours. Such a learning opportunity!
  6. Book dinner events: in Budapest I booked a dinner cruise with folklore music and dancing. A Mother-daughter pair from Australia was seated next to me; I said hello and we chatted throughout the evening and exchanged picture taking. Even if you don't find anyone to talk to, you have the entertainment!
  7. Book evening entertainment: I didn't want to spend every evening by myself at dinner, so I booked evening entertainment. An opera in Prague. A ballet in Vienna. A Chopin piano concert in Krakow. In each case, I'd strike up a conversation with someone sitting near me, even if only for a few minutes. Or ask someone to take a photo of me there. And then I'd use the time before the entertainment to enjoy the magic of the venue and snap a few pictures.

  8. Finally ….some evenings I was expecting to dine alone. I booked dinner entertainment or paid for the privilege of a table on the main square….and spent the time people watching, or enjoying the entertainment. Sometimes, someone would strike up a conversation with ME!

In Prague, I was seated alone for an evening dinner with folk dancing at an enormous shared table for which they apparently hadn't sold any other tickets. Soon, a family of 3 came to join me at the table. Turned out to be a very famous actor (who I couldn't place at the time!) with an adorable little boy who wouldn't eat his dinner. I played "let's eat" games with him for the evening. When he came to sit by me, Mr Famous Actor walked over to retrieve him and started up a conversation. So, you just never know who you might meet while dining alone!

Jean, I enjoyed hearing about your cooking classes. I think I'll try that one during my next trip, which, coincidentally, will be to a similar region to where you visited. Thanks to you, I've added Arezzo to my research!