Just a few years ago, I could not have imagined I would traipse all over the world as a solo female traveler in Italy and beyond. I was scared: what if something bad happened to me? I was worried what people would think: if I eat alone, will they judge me?
Thankfully, I’ve gotten over it.
Being a solo female traveler in Italy has opened me up to having some fantastic experiences. If you’re considering a trip to Italy on your own, here’s what you need to know.
1. You’ll Be the Center of Attention
It’s not all that common for women to travel alone in Italy, so be prepared for questions. Where is your husband/boyfriend? Why are you traveling in Italy? Why alone?
I was in Calabria, in tiny towns, and I could feel the curiosity from everyone I passed. Don’t let it deter you. Curiosity isn’t bad, and it might open you up to having interesting conversations with locals.
I’ve realized that, when traveling alone, I’m more likely to make friends (as I did on this and every trip I’ve taken as a solo female traveler in Italy). You’re sitting at a table alone, minding your business with your caffe macchiato, when someone leans over and starts a conversation. I love this! If you’re traveling with someone else, you’re more likely to be immersed in your own conversations and may miss opportunities to connect with locals around you.
2. You Will Feel Beautiful
I could write a book on how different Italian men from American ones. Italian men celebrate the beauty that is woman…ALL women. It doesn’t matter if you’re young, old, fat, thin, attractive, or not, Italian men will call you bella and shamelessly flirt with you.
If you’re single, they will ask how it is possible that a woman as lovely and young as you does not have a boyfriend. They will bend over backward for you, or at least pretend to: “I do this only for you. Don’t tell nobody else!”
The funny thing is, with American men, I bristle if they compliment my looks. I assume they have an ulterior motive. But here, celebrating women is part of the culture, and it’s not meant to be misogynistic or sexist. I let my feminist hackles down and actually enjoyed being flirted with by a 20something married waiter!
A caveat: this is not to say that it’s okay to give Italian men carte blanche (or the Italian version) to treat you any which way. As a solo female traveler in Italy (or anywhere), you absolutely must trust your gut. If a man crosses a line you aren’t comfortable with, get out of the situation. Immediately. Don’t try to convince yourself that “it’s just the culture.”
3. You Have No One to Please But Yourself
I remember having a travel epiphany years ago when I traveled with my German friend to NYC. We’d been wandering around Manhattan for hours, and I was tired. Cordula said, “Why don’t you go back to the apartment and take a nap? I want to keep walking. Let’s meet for margaritas later.”
Mind blown. When I was married, we always did things together on vacations, much to my ex’s chagrin. But if I could make my time my own and do what I wanted to do…that was a very different experience!
When you travel alone, you don’t have to go to the stupid museums your travel buddy wants to go to. If you want to wander through the streets of Capri taking photos of cats, there’s no one to roll their eyes at how you want to spend your time. If you get crabby, you can only get snarky with yourself. It is a glorious thing.
4. You Can Choose Your Adventure When Dining Alone
I get that many women don’t want to dine alone. I sometimes get a case of shyness and hide in my hotel room with meat, cheese, and wine to avoid the looks in a restaurant. But there are ways to deal with it. Also, you miss out on some amazing food when you hide in your room (as noted by the BEST Caprese salad of my life you see above!).
In Italy, people eat late. Lunch is around 2, and dinner 8 or later. If you want to avoid a crowded restaurant (and more eyes), eat early.
You can also take something light to go, like a panino (sandwich), then sit in a park or on the beach and enjoy it.
But I will challenge you to eat at least one meal in a restaurant. Realize that the people staring are likely a) curious and b) jealous because you ooze confidence as a woman dining alone. Your waiter will likely want to take you under his wing (and yes, flirt), so you’ve got an ally.
5. Your Accommodations Can Shape Your Trip
I’m a die-hard AirBnB lover. I find that renting an apartment gives me a better sense of what it’s like to live in a city. Plus you get a kitchen, so you can cook, or at the very least, reheat yesterday’s pizza. You see above the pasta I made in Scilla with a killer sunset view! And if you’re lucky, you’ll get a washing machine, which can cut down on what you have to pack.
But I’ve realized that I don’t always need to stay in an apartment. It gets lonely. I had a great apartment in Scilla (I’ll cover that visit soon) and had amazing sunsets, but I felt disconnected.
So consider what you want. Do you want total isolation but more amenities? AirBnBs in Calabria are super cheap. I think I paid $80 a night for a 3 bedroom apartment with a terrace overlooking the sea in Scilla.
Another option, one that will give you some human contact, is a hotel or B&B. You’ll have to drop your key with the front desk when you go out, so there’s always someone keeping an eye out for you. You’ll also have someone you can ask for help. I consider myself quite self-sufficient, but realized in Capri that I’d booked a ferry going in the wrong direction. A quick convo with the concierge, and he’d made a call to get me the right ticket. Sometimes it’s nice having a local take care of things like this.
Sure, it can be fun to travel with friends or a partner, but if that’s not an option (and even if it is), I highly recommend trying out being a solo female traveler in Italy. I promise you: you’ll have an adventure of a lifetime!