Budget: Budget ($500-$1000)
Destination(s): I flew into Rome, stayed for about a week, and then took a break to travel into Florence. I left the rest of my trip open ended (with my return flight out of Rome, but it’s very easy to travel by train so my options were there).
Recently I’ve been putting in an effort to say yes to life experiences…
I’ve had a history with anxiety and depression, and I’ve been struggling with the never-ending effort “finding myself.” I made a conscious decision to do things that scare me just a little and let life happen. I had some extra vacation days, and I was perusing flights online. The flight to Rome was so inexpensive that I had to buy it immediately. I was terrified. I knew I’d be going by myself, I don’t speak Italian, and I didn’t even think my passport was valid anymore. But I had a moment of temporary courage (or temporary insanity) and just bought it. Figure out the details later.
And I did. It was a very “I’m not lost, I’m exploring” type of trip, but it was the best experience of my life. So far.
Rome is a lot to swallow when you first get there. Florence, in my opinion, is more tourist-y, as a whole. Most everyone speaks English, the pace is slower, and it’s easy to navigate. You can explore the whole city in about three days. Two is fine for a fast pace. I still don’t think I’m done with Rome.
Other than my spectacles, wallet, and watch-type stuff, what can't I miss when I move overseas?
I got lost…
For the first day or so, I wandered around, getting to know the city and seeing what I could find. At one point, on my second day, I found a nice park where people were eating lunch and taking walks. I was tired, so I stopped to rest while I figured out where to go next. I took some photos, but when I checked out my GPS, I realized that I was right outside the entrance of the Baths of Diocletian, and a portion of the National Museum of Rome. I had happened across where I’d spend the rest of my day.
As a solo traveler, I had freedom…
The freedom to eat when I was hungry, rest when I was tired, say yes to adventures, and no when I felt uncomfortable. If I had jetlag or was in a bad mood, I’d stay at the hostel and read until I felt like leaving. If I was starting to feel antsy, I’d just grab my bag and go right outside. That freedom made my trip both restful and exciting — because it was on my terms.
During my first stint in Rome, I went on a food tour through Trastevere…
Which is a tucked away neighborhood with lots of older (read: authentic) restaurants and bars. The tour group was light and fun, I tried things I’d never eat at home, and I met friends that I’d spend the next few days with. (The tour group is Eating Italy — they really were fantastic!)
I’m very glad that I scheduled this early in my trip. I gained confidence from meeting other travelers, found new places to explore on my own time and started to get my bearings.
In Florence I learned to ride a Vespa…
Which was one of the most exhilarating and frightening experiences of my life. But the guide was fantastic and made us all very comfortable.
I also did a cooking class in Florence…
Which I planned at the very last minute because I had explored everything and was starting to hit my travel wall (kind of having fun, kind of ready to go home, kind of need a real shower) — and it was exactly what I needed to restart my engine.
One of my favorite parts of Rome is the cat sanctuary in Torre Argentina…
Stray cats are taken there and are cared for by wonderful volunteers. The more feral ones stay outside in the ruins, while the ones that want more human company can visit inside. There’s a vet that comes regularly to spay and neuter, and to update vaccinations. You can adopt a cat if you’re staying long enough for the process, or do it from a distance! It’s a wonderful system, and just a lot of fun for some kitty lovin’ while you’re in the city.
The rest of my time was spent trying to melt into the Italian culture…
I drank the coffee (no milk! No sugar!). I ate zucchini flowers. I had… too much gelato. But mostly I watched people and listened. The traffic moves quickly but they always stop for pedestrians. People really help old ladies cross the street.
My favorite Italian word is “Prego!” which means “you’re welcome.” But you’ll hear it more than when someone brings your food. You hear it when you’re being offered a seat on the metro, or when there’s an open café for lunch. It’s the theme of Italy.
There aren’t many things that I regret, but…
I would have probably brought a book bag instead of my regular duffle. That thing got heavy while trekking through! And I would have taken the metro earlier — it intimidated me at first, so I just walked everywhere. Once I got the hang of it, it saved me a lot of time, I realized how easy it was, and I had a much better experience.
Mostly, I wish that I would have learned to slow down and drink up my days a little earlier in my trip. But… it’s all about growth, and I wouldn’t trade my turning point on my Vespa for anything.
My best travel advice for others traveling alone…
You’re going to walk a lot. Wear comfortable shoes. Don’t listen to what everyone says about not wearing jeans or not wearing sneakers in order to “not look like a tourist.” You’ll be fine. Just be comfortable in what you’re wearing. You’ll look more like a tourist if you’re hobbling around because you’re blistered and uncomfortable.
Learn a little Italian if you can. Most people do speak English enough to communicate, but it’s good manners to at least utter a “buongiorno” and a “grazie.”
Be ready to pay in cash, especially when you’re traveling alone. If your bill is under $50, you won’t be able to use your credit card, so have euros handy. ATMs are everywhere.
Stay in hostels! There are so many really wonderful hostels in Rome and Florence. You’ll meet other travelers, and it will let you save money for splurges. Italy isn’t an expensive country. The best food is at the cheaper places, so spend your money on experiences.
Most of all, do it at your own pace. There’s so much to see, but you won’t see it all. Throw your coin in the Trevi Fountain and ensure that you’ll come back.
Comments on Prego! Traveling alone through Rome and Florence, Italy
I just have to say I LOVE THIS POST. And I think you are one brave ass mofo for traveling on your own. I can barely go to lunch by myself. FUCK YEAH, girl!!!
THANK YOU! I’m actually typing this while I sit in a restaurant by myself… I never did that before I ran away by myself. It forced me to have that kind of confidence. 😉
This is great. Solo travel is what it’s ALL ABOUT. I pretty much plan all my trips for just me, even though I’m married and have great friends who travel. The whole point, imo is to spend time reflecting, experiencing the world, growing, and enjoying things at your own pace, without being on an enforced agenda or dealing with other people’s wants and needs (we have enough of that in our day-to-day, typically – I know I do). Even the best of friends can interfere with making the most out of your personal adventure. Go!
(Love your photos too. Booking on a whim was a great idea.)
Nice! I went to London on my own last year, and I loooooove travelling alone. Hostels let you be as sociable as you feel like, and you’re never stuck going along with a plan you don’t feel like doing.
So true! I love Air BnB but hostels have a really special place in my heart now. Some of course are better than others, but I met wonderful people at every place I stayed – and when I wanted to be alone, I could. The best way to travel, I think.
In fact – at the last hostel I stayed in, one of my roommates actually lives 1 hour away from me. And we’re not in a metropolitan area, so this is a BFD. We joke that we had to travel 3000 miles across the world to find our soul sister. <3
This looks amazing! Thank you for sharing Amy! I used to travel for work and would explore on my own a bit, but nothing like a true solo vacation. This makes me want to do it.
There really is nothing like it. I’d love to travel more for work so I could have an excuse to stay a little longer! 🙂 One of the people I met travels for months on ends, and stays in hostels on the weekends because he gets to meet more people and experience the city more. I think that’s a great idea!
Ok so fun history nerd fact about the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary, it’s also the location where Julius Caesar was killed. It was being used as a temporary location for the Roman Senate while they were doing construction at the main senate building.
I’ve always been hesitant to travel alone abroad, but maybe in the future it’s something that I’ll try. It looks like you had a great time!
Oh! I forgot to mention that! How cool is it that the cats get to run around in history like that?! It’s kind of funny because there are some tourists there to see where Julius Caeser was killed, and they won’t even know the cats are there… and there are some that are there to see the cats and don’t know the historical side of it. Rome is full of stuff like that!
It really was the best time of my life – try it! If you feel unsafe, just remember that you “travel” through your regular city all the time. It’s the same thing! I felt much safer in Rome than I do in my everyday life.
I want to mention something about that pizza (which was delicious, by the way) … that was part of my cooking class in Florence, and we made everything from absolute scratch. They only had enough dough to have everyone pair up into couples. Well I was literally the only one that wasn’t already a couple and the odd-man out. It was the first time I felt a little uncomfortable being by myself (and I was about 8 days in at this point!) … but then Matteo gave me the dough to start rolling out and helped me toss it in the air (Matteo is the chef in the …6th photo?… HELLO, okay, please help me) – and I made that whole pizza by myself. And then ate it. BY MYSELF. Because it’s rude to not finish your pizza. And it was damn delicious.