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Well, yes, technically you can. Perhaps the better question is, would you want to?
I’ve now spent just over two weeks in Italy – the country that everyone else seems to claim is their absolute favorite – and, honestly, I don’t love it. I’ve had a decent time, nothing has gone completely wrong, I’ve seen some pretty things and been savoring filling up on pasta and pizza instead of rice. But it hasn’t wowed me, and some aspects of the trip, particularly trying to follow the Italian way of doing things (I think I tried about five different doors and ticket offices before I could get into the Duomo in Florence) and accommodation, have been surprisingly frustrating.
My previous experience traveling alone for a decent amount of time was through Southeast Asia. I spent a month and a half backpacking through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and while there were a few difficult (100+ degree fevers) or lonely (more so boring) moments, it felt exhilarating and empowering to be constantly on the move on my own. I saw incredible sights, met interesting people and enjoyed the time to myself sipmky soaking up wherever I was.
Here, when I’ve ventured out by myself (I’ve been with my cousin for part of the time who’s based in Florence) I haven’t gotten that feeling of excitement or independence. It’s actually all seemed like a bit of a chore, which makes me question: is solo travel in Italy worth it?
I completely underestimated the expense and steps required to get a room. Yes, I’ve been completely spoiled being in Southeast Asia too long where you can splurge on trendy, boutique hotels and not bat an eye. However, while I knew prices would be more expensive, I still assumed I could find some deals since I’m not picky about where I stay and am happy to stick with hostels. In reality, hostels haven’t even really been an option in several of the cities I’ve visited and when they are available, they certainly haven’t been a good deal. I just booked a 14-bed dorm room in Venice for €34 Paying more than $45 to share a room and bathroom with 13 other people? That. is. ridiculous.
Many places (hostels/hotel/bed and breakfasts) have listed prices per person for private rooms with the minimum guest option marked as two people. Singles aren’t even an option.
In short, accommodation prices have been almost impossible traveling alone as a 20-something without someone else to share the costs with. Naturally accommodation is a big factor in any travel budget, but while traveling solo it’s something that requires extra consideration as it can make or break the trip. Fortunately, I’ve been able to stay with my cousin for a while, if not there’s no way I could afforded (or wanted) to stay in the country as long as I am. Not worth it.
I also have stayed a couple places where I had to let myself in to the building and spent the night alone, or was handed the key by the proprietor who then left, never to be seen again. Everything was relatively secure, but when traveling solo, particularly as a female, it’s not the safest or most reassuring thing to be spending the night completely alone in a building, in a foreign country, where you don’t know where you are or how to speak the language. And it’s now happened to me twice.
There also have been other annoyances and frustrations that I didn’t run into when I backpacked solo through Southeast Asia. People say you never have to worry about feeling lonely traveling by yourself because you’re bound to meet other travelers.
Well, I haven’t spoken to another traveler. Both while going on a short trip with my cousin and on my own, I have not met or spoken to anyone else traveling.
I haven’t been lonely, but I have certainly been alone.
Italy is one of the most-visited countries in the world…I know there are other travelers here. But I’m getting the feeling they’re in large groups, studying here for a semester, or holed up in their honeymoon suite – not traveling alone and open to meeting people. Sizable groups of tourists and students are everywhere…as are couples. It’s not that I feel like I’m missing out on the romance aspect (I find Paris to be more romantic than anywhere I’ve visited in Italy so far and have been completely content wandering its streets solo several times), but a popular honeymoon destination just isn’t really conducive to winging it solo.
I’ve felt pretty safe by myself the entire time (aside from spending nights in strange buildings alone), but it hasn’t felt completely comfortable and somewhat isolating.
All trips and places come with their own sets of quirks and annoyances – it’s part of the fun. But when the frustrations start adding up and there’s no one else to share them with, it can quickly suck out the fun and adventure of a situation.
The Italian train system has been both a friend and a foe – cheap transportation, but it seems like the online timetables and destinations don’t always match up with electronic ticket booths at the station, which don’t always list trips the same as the large reader boards showing arrivals, departures and track numbers or the poster-sized printed timetables. I’m sure it seems this way just because I’m not familiar with the system (but then again I did jump on a train last minute, after being told it actually was going to my destination, but for some reason just had a different destination and number listed on the train itself…???), but it’s definitely become a sore spot. Same with having to complete a scavenger hunt to find the right ticket office to get into museums and churches, and signs pointing completely different directions for the same location. When you’re with someone, these little things could because a source of inside jokes and shared experiences, alone they just become irritating.
So, is so travel in Italy worth it? I’m still debating, and have a week and a half to go, but so far it wouldn’t be my first choice.
Have you traveled in Italy by yourself? What was your experience like? Am I just whining, or did you run into road blocks as well?