Solo Travel in Europe - A Week in Italy
Italy was my first ever Solo Travel adventure in Europe, so it’ll always be one of my favourite places.
I always thought that travelling solo was for the extroverted, confident traveller who could talk their way across the world and make friends at the drop of a hat. This is why I always put it off because that’s not me…
I eventually got to the point in my single life where I needed to take some action, disregard my anxiety and do it solo.
I decided to go with Italy, because of carbs and Italian boys.
I’d wanted to go to Italy for years and the flights worked out quite cheap (European internal flights are the bombbb). My return flights from Edinburgh to Rome (Fiumicino) cost me around £120 at the start of Summer. I obviously booked way in advance because I’m a super organised nerd!
After looking at where to go and what I wanted to see, I decided to make Rome my base. This eased my worries about booking multiple accommodation spots and potentially getting a crappy place or having a really awkward stay at a hostel.
Italy has super speed trains too, so I could get out and about for a day at a time and keep all my luggage at my base in Rome. My plans changed a lot but when I left, I had a fairly solid plan:
- Arrive in Fiumicino & Train it into town
- Spend a few nights in Rome
- Tour to Vesuvius and Naples
- Back to Rome
- Day Trip to Florence or Pisa (possible nights stay at a hotel there)
- Back to Rome for flight home.
Since it was my first time travelling on my own, I had some major Hostel Anxiety. I opted to stay in a (very) cheap hotel in the center of town. It wasn’t until one of my friends checked the reviews and saw it was full of complaints about smelly showers, cockroaches and rat poop… I immediately cancelled it and searched for another.
I managed to score a place at the Helena Domus Guesthouse, close to the main train station for around the same price of the previous place. Luckily, this one had much better reviews.
It wasn’t until I arrived that I realised it was a Guesthouse that was run by nuns. At first, I was nervous about the whole religion aspect.
- Did I have to pretend to be a Catholic?
- Will they kick me out if they knew I was gay?
- Do I have to go to mass & pray?
Turns out, the nuns were lovely and really looked after everyone staying there. The rooms were very clean and tidy and the location was excellent.
The only downside was the curfew. They had gates at the entrance to the Guesthouse that were locked after 10pm. Originally, this didn’t seem like too much of a hassle because I wasn’t expecting to be out late. Once I met other travellers and started to have nights out, I felt guilty for waking up the nun on call to come open the gate. Poor lady.
Instead of my planned train from the airport, I opted for the bus because it saved me a heap of money.
Once I found the bus and spent the whole journey with my headphones in, looking out the window (wishing nobody would chat to me), I arrived in the City Center.
I had chosen to wear jeans to travel in because I was a rookie and immediately started sweating profusely. I had a cheap suitcase with wheels on. Three of the wheels melted when I was dragging it through a rough looking area, struggling to find my accommodation. Absolute Nightmare.
I eventually found my home base, checked in, then went to explore Rome! It’s a beautiful city and perfect for walkers. I spent the next few hours wandering round taking pictures and being so overwhelmed that I’d actually made it.
I had dinner alone and hardly spoke to anybody other than waiters and the guesthouse staff for the next day or two. Rome is quite busy with loads of tourists and traffic so it’d be easy to get overwhelmed and let your Introverted side take over.
I challenged myself to talk to at least one person on my third day; the day of my tour.
Booking a Tour
When I was in high school, I made the best Papier-mâché Vesuvius anyone had seen. To get the chance to hike up it was unreal (also on my Bucket List!). I booked a Viatour tour for Vesuvius & Pompeii and it included:
- Transfers from Rome
- Audio Guides
- Vesuvius: Hike to the top
- Pompeii Tour
- Authentic Italian Lunch
- Return Transfer to Rome
All within a day!
This was THE BEST thing I did when I was Solo Travelling. Not only was the trip amazing, but it gave me the chance to chat to other backpackers and make my first travel friends!
The morning of the tour, I walked across town (because public transport was too intimidating) and got myself the strongest Italian Coffee. I downed that just before meeting up with the group to get checked in for the tour.
I kept to myself while they were splitting us into groups and checking tickets etc, then the coffee kicked in and I saw a girl standing on her own. I went over and blurted out “are you doing this tour?” then we just started to chat. The usual “where are you from”, “where are you going” etc. Turns out we were both first time solo travellers! Whitney was lovely and we chatted the whole way to Naples.
My secret for making friends? Coffee.
Coffee = Fake Confidence ?
With my friend by my side and my new found confidence (from my Coffee High), I spoke to a few other people on our tour. We were all first time solo travellers so we bonded and formed a little group.
We stuck together for the rest of the tour and went out for dinner afterwards. We figured out that some of our plans matched and I ended up going to Florence a day early with two of my new pals. No stress, no big deal. I’ll just change my strict itinerary and go out of my comfort zone… It worked out very well and we had a blast, visiting all the museums, drinking all the wine and eating all the carbs.
On our last day together, none of us had any plans.
Our tour to Pompeii was overrun with tourists and it turned out to be jam-packed with people, very loud and not very enjoyable. Whitney had read about a place just outside of Rome called Osti Antica. It had an ancient ruin site but unlike Pompeii, it was much less populated but still well preserved.
After some organisation with trains and tickets, we made our way out there and it was quiet and beautiful. This last minute decision had manifested into one of the best days of the whole trip.
Having a plan can do wonders for easing anxiety but try to stay a little flexible. Some of the best experiences come from spontaneity ✌
My first Solo Travel Adventure was a success! I highly recommend pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and booking a Solo Trip. It gives you a chance to find out what you like, what you don’t like and just learn to be happy by yourself. Not everybody will need or like a Solo Trip but I think everyone should try it once. It taught me a few things at least!
- Check Reviews for your accommodation.
- Don’t wear jeans for 30-degree weather.
- Get a Backpack rather than a suitcase.
- Caffeine helps me make friends.
- Allow yourself to be flexible with your plans.
- You don’t have to be extroverted to slay at Solo Travelling.
Now that you know my lessons, what's the biggest thing you've learned from solo travelling?
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