Friday, April 26, 2013

Italy, Go Solo, Enjoy


Solo Travel In Italy


I usually post anything about Italy on http://www.hometoitaly.com, but Solo Travel In Italy some challenges I shall add to this blog as well.

Italy may have more travelers than many other countries in Europe.   After traveling there for years and for 4 to 6 weeks at a time, I fully understand why.
With all those ‘tourists’ being a traveler has some challenges. 

I never thought it was ‘odd’ to travel solo.  I am solo but not sad.  I travel solo because I have no friends who would EVER travel in the style I do.   And the one  perception I continue to receive is that only gay people travel solo.  What?    During my 3 month sabbatical I became friends with two lovely much younger woman who I met at the local Internet cafĂ©.  While having dinner early in our friendship the both agreed that ‘no Italian woman would this’.  I was VERY surprised.   Apparently it may not have been socially unacceptable but solo travel was NOT something an Italian woman would do…..

There are endless benefits to solo travel but I want to cover a few of the ‘challenges’ solo travel in Italy may present:
1.  With the crowds of tourists in Italy it can be difficult to visit ‘tourist spots’ solo.    Tour buses do not know what to do with a solo.  Other travelers do not want to sit with a solo person….
2.  Reaction of Italians that solo travel is ‘odd’.   In Italy the family has great importance.  It may not occur to Italians to go off by themselves and travel.
3.  Economics:  Italy as other countries are in an economic situation.   A solo traveler may be perceived as wealthy.    On one trip I wanted to compare living costs in Italy with the USA and as I compared the salaries with the USA, I understood this misconception.   Housing is expensive in Italy and this may be another reason family members remain at ‘home’ until they marry.
4.  Travel in Italy during tourist season means crowds on buses and trains.  Solo travel means you have no one to ‘watch your bags’ while you use the WC or even go to an ATM.
One year, before ATM’s were on each corner, I could not enter the money exchange at the Rome termini because they used a revolving door and my bag would not fit in the door!
5.  You spend more time planning and organizing solo, no one to share the work.
6.  For me dining is the hardest part of solo travel anywhere but the USA.  Here in the USA we have so many casual restaurants and my favorite, diners, that you are mostly unnoticed.  The disadvantage is you are unnoticed in some restaurants and service is ‘different’.  I understand the tip will be less than a couple, but I also don’t take up as much time at the table.

In Italy eating is VERY important.  Going to diner is the entertainment for the evening often taking hours.   I only remember seeing one other solo diner in a restaurant in Florence.  And they put us next to each other.   I have had waiters look at me with pity and surprise that I am sitting alone.    Why do people assume solo is sad?

While these may be some challenges to solo travel, some of the perks in Italy:
vendors in markets will often chat with you
You can often observe without being noticed….take a peek into daily life.
You can walk by the same corner countless times while looking for the correct turn and no
             one notices, no one ridicules you, no one gets impatient.
You can stroll the town center without dragging a reluctant companion or child with you.

One of the sadist days in Sorrento was hearing a couple just off the cruise line for the day.
The husband loudly insisted, pick ONE thing you want to see.......implying that that was         enough    and back to the boat.    One look at the woman's face was enough for me to pledge to always go solo.

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