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Traveling Single and Happy in Italy

May 11, 2008
Want to travel to Italy but nobody you know wants to go? Have specific dates for your holiday in Tuscany but none of your traveling friends can get away then?

You're not alone--you're part of the fast growing single traveler market. As a frequent single traveler in Italy for many years, here are my tips on companionship, safety, money matters, and quality of life for traveling solo in Italy.


1. Look for restaurants or hotels with communal tables. Sit down, relax, eat with whoever is there, smile and start a conversation. Sharing food and wine around the table opens people up and conversation flows easily. Also look for restaurants with tables close together so it's easy to strike up a conversation with fellow diners.

For example, I've enjoyed staying a family-run B & B in Sorrento where I've happily chatted to people from all over the world around their big dining tables.

2. Offer to help other travelers as a spring board to start a conversation. For example, while traveling on the Amalfi Coast on a bus to my hotel in Praiano, I overheard a man asking about the area.

Knowing the coast, I gave him directions and advice. It turned out we were staying at the same hotel. That evening we shared a lovely dinner of fish and cool, white wine and a good conversation on a restaurant patio at the sea's edge.

3. Break up your time alone with half or full day guided tours that focus on something you're passionate about like food, art or gardens so you have fun with people with similar interests.

For example, in Florence you'll find city walking, cycling, garden, leather & gelato, history and food tours.

4. Find tours that cater to single travelers. For example, two Italian families offer cooking tours, one in the Chianti hills and one in Sorrento, and accept solo travelers for any dates they request. Generally other people are staying in their B & Bs so you have congenial company. A family member takes the single traveler on the same excursions as a group.

Safety For Solo Women

5. Use your common sense and intuition. No matter what hour of the day, if a street is deserted you may not want to walk there. In general, stick to streets where other people are walking.

Strolling along the Arno River in Florence at 10:00 p.m. admiring the reflections of illuminated buildings along with lots of people is wonderful. Walking down a deserted little street in Palermo in mid-afternoon may not be wise.

6. Out and about, dress down in ordinary clothes and leave your jewelry at home, so you avoid becoming a lone and profitable target for theft.

7. Take a handbag with a shoulder strap you can put diagonally across your chest. Wear a money belt under your pants. Be alert to who is around you, especially in crowded places where pick pockets thrive.

8. Walk with a strong, confident bearing, so you don't look like a victim. All the above apply in any big city. In small country towns you can relax, since little happens there.

9. What about men chatting you up? Just like at home, stick to public places until you're comfortable with him. If you're not interested in him, politely say "no thanks" as many times as it takes.

Over the years, I've found Italian men respect my boundaries. I only got into one "tight" situation in my 20s where my fast running made up for my clueless behaviour. Other times I've met new friends and big loves of my life.

Money Matters

10. Find tours that have no single supplement. They do exist. Many tour companies in Italy match you up with a roommate. For example, I went on walking tours in Tuscany and Sicily, shared rooms and found hikers are generally a nice, down to earth, fun bunch. Be open to new people, make new friends by getting to know your roommate and avoid the supplement.

11. When looking for a hotel in Italy, I like to e-mail the hotel directly about a single room and not book online.

When you email, fax or call them, you can ask for a double room for single use (often a small double at a lower price than a double room) or for a single room. Since single rooms are scarce, asking for a double for single use will often get you a room.

By email or phone you can also make other special requests like a quiet room not overlooking the street.

Quality of Life

12. To give yourself the best eating experiences in Italy, go to restaurants on the early side (12:30 for lunch, 7:30 for dinner or 7:00 in big tourist cities) and get the best seat.

For example, at these hours in the beautiful Cinque Terre town of Vernazza, I find no one minds if I occupy a table for two with a front row view of the sea at a restaurant patio on the main piazza.

13. Accept help and reach out to other travelers. If someone offers to help you carry your suitcase up the stairs in a train station, say yes, thank them and give them a big smile. Look around for other travelers who may appreciate your help in small ways.

As a single traveler, if you extend your friendship to fellow travelers or local people, especially in places conducive to conversation, look for people with your interests on tours, take sensible safety precautions and pay attention to your quality of life, you'll have a fabulous time and some fun adventures in Italy.
About the Author
Since 1995 Margaret Cowan has owned a tour company, Mama Margaret Italian Cooking Holidays.

For a free report on finding the right Italy cooking school tour for you, see http://www.italycookingschools.com
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