Tips for Woman Traveling Alone in Italy?

Old Aug 17th, 2004, 07:16 AM
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Tips for Woman Traveling Alone in Italy?

I am going to Italy in late September, I will spend a few days alone in Rome, take the train to Florence and meet up with a bicycle tour group for Tuscany, then return to Florence and spend a few days alone there. I have never traveled by myself and am a little nervous.

My friends have told me that I will be hugely "appreciated"/harrassed because I am petite, fair-skinned, have red hair, and appear to be about 22 (though I'll be 30 in two weeks). It would be fun to meet some locals (or fellow travelers) but I don't know how to balance caution/paranoia with openness to new people. I do NOT want to get myself into any dangerous situations, but I'd prefer not to be in a situation where I don't interact with other people for days at a time.

Does anyone have any advice for me?

Also, a few specific questions

-Would it be safe for me to stay around Termini? Especially my last day, I'll train from Florence to Rome and spend the night in Rome before my flight, and it would be very convenient to stay in that area. But I've read it's kind of unsavory. I plan to go out for late dinners and walk around at night.

-I fly in Sunday morning. Do most hotels let you leave your luggage in the morning and then come back later to check in after 2:00? Or is there any other solution that will let me sightsee on Sunday before check-in time without carting my suitcase with me?

-Is the Santa Croce area far from the sights in Florence? I love A Room With a View and would love to stay in that area for the sheer novelty value of it, but not if it will be too inconvenient. (Walking two miles is a leisurely stroll for me--do it every morning to work.)

Phew, this is a long post. Thanks for slogging through it!
nicegirl512 is offline  
Old Aug 17th, 2004, 07:29 AM
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Hi
I've traveled in Italy on my own at times, and have had no problems. I wasn't 22 or 30 at the time, but at an occasional sign of unwanted attention I just frowned and kept going. "Vai Via" means "get lost!"
I've found that the breakfast room at my hotel, or at a small cafe for dinner, is a great way to start a few conversations. In one case I ended up having dinner with some fellow travelers (a couple). We didn't stay friends, but did have a pleasant dinner.
How about posting a heading here about fellow fodorites going to Rome and Florence, give your dates, and perhaps arrange to meet some of them for a drink?

Most of Termini area looks on the sleazy side to me, lots of cheap hotels and cheaper cafes. I'm sure there are some gems in there somewhere, but it's not an area I'd want to walk around in at night, and I live in NYC. It may not be unsafe, but I don't think of it certainly as attractive.

There is nothing inconvenient about the Santa Croce area in Florence. At most,it would be a 15-20 minute walk from the church itself to the Duomo.

Oh yes, I've never known a hotel not to allow me to check in and leave my luggage with them before my room was ready. They do this all the time.
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Old Aug 17th, 2004, 07:33 AM
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Hi ng,

Keep in mind that European women are more formal than those in the US. They do not readily smile at or respond to remarks from strangers, as is done here.

When eating out, a small book is always handy.
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Old Aug 17th, 2004, 07:48 AM
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If you're not blond and you're not going to Naples...you will be fine.

I agree with Elaine regarding the other questions your asked. Try to stay away from the termini area if you can, and santa croce area in florence is fine.
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Old Aug 17th, 2004, 07:55 AM
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I really second Ira's suggestion to bring a book or a newspaper when dining alone!

I traveled for two weeks in Italy by myself when I was 23. I have dark hair and eyes but don't look Italian. I did receive some comments (nothing really rude or sexual, just "Ciao bella!" type of stuff), and a few times when I sat on a bench to relax, a man would join me and try to start a conversation. I'd just get up and walk away. If you ignore them or tell them to leave you alone, they will. I never felt truly frightened.

I stayed in hostels and met TONS of people that way--I often had dinner companions and people to walk around with at night. Fellow travelers are often eager to make new friends! Just trust your instincts... really, that does make a difference. I did meet one guy from Australia in an Assisi hostel that tried to "befriend" me, but he gave me the creeps for some reason--I just didn't trust him, and preferred to spend my time in Assisi by myself. Better safe than sorry!

I have heard that the area around Termini is kind of dodgy. When I was in Rome I stayed at Gulliver's House, a small hostel (it has a few single rooms, I think) run by a lovely Italian couple in their early 30s. It's about a 15 minute walk from the train station, but in a nicer neighborhood. Not everyone there was in their early 20s--one woman I hung out with was in her mid-40s! Check out www.gullivershouse.com.

You're going to have a wonderful time!!
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Old Aug 17th, 2004, 08:11 AM
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Check out the Piazza Navona/ Pantheon area to stay in for your first couple of days in Rome.As far as walking around and having late night dinners i think this area is safer for you.When i initially went there last year i was alone for the night and next day. I felt so safe getting up and walking to find a cafe and spent the rest of the day exploring my new suroundings.Before you know it i was in the Piazza Navona and from there it took 10 min. to find the Pantheon. later i discovered Castel St. Angelo( another 10 min. walk) so i really felt like i was in the center of it all. In my opinion it was a great place to stay.As far as being "harrased" i think that if you put yourself out there to begin with -yes, you might have a problem. Just be cautious to begin with.
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Old Aug 17th, 2004, 08:29 AM
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Hi, nice. I have been traveling alone to Italy since my 20's, and the only time I've had trouble was, sadly, in Naples, where my pocket was picked. But you're not going to Naples, and maybe I just had bad luck.
In Rome, I do not stay around Termini - don't know what your budget is, but check out www.reservationitaly.com. I stayed in a double for 180 Eur in June this year (140 single occupancy) at Hotel Pone Sisto. An oasis of calm near the Campo dei Fiori, four star, air-conditioned.
In Florence I try to stay at a B&B to practice my Italian with the owners, and I always carry my Italian-English Dictionary with me to meals, where I "study" when I'm not eating. I like to stay in the "centro storico." My favorite B&B is www.inpiazzadellasignoria.com. I am staying there this October for EUR 140/nt. Not inexpensive, but gorgeous. Check out their website.
I've also bicycled Tuscany, Umbria and Puglia with small bicycle groups - like you, traveling on my own before and after. You'll have a blast!
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Old Aug 17th, 2004, 08:45 AM
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WHOOPS, TYPO! That's Hotel Ponte Sisto in Rome (don't go to their website, rates start at EUR 310).
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Old Aug 17th, 2004, 09:06 AM
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I have traveled alone in Italy and had the best vacation I think in part because I was alone and it provided lots of opportunities to meet people. However, it was not my first trip traveling alone. I was in my late 20's at the time (1996) and I also looked younger than I really was. I'm also Asian which makes me stand out in Italy.

I found myself to be an easy target for conversation with locals, other tourists in my age group and older, inquisitive tourists wondering about the young girl all by herself. I was approached regularly walking down the street or while in a restaurant. I really thought that people were usually just being friendly or curious but if "overly friendly" just annoying and not cause for alarm. I was open to conversation with almost anyone for the fun of it. Then if I got a bad vibe I would say "It was nice meeting you. I'm going to walk/sit by myself now." and that person left and there were no problems.

In the hotel at breakfast might be good time to spot other travelers to make plans to tour or hang out with later. During lunch or dinner I usually ate alone and sometimes ended up talking to other people eating near me or became friendly with my waiters. If dining alone waiters inevitably will hit on you and it's up to you how you respond. On two occasions I met up with waiters I had and we had a really nice time hanging out after work - completely platonic. I am still somewhat in touch with one of them (both of us now married, he with 2 kids) and on that trip I ended up going to his mother's to meet his family for dinner one night....but I digress.... I've also eaten meals with other solo travelers spotted as we were reading menus on the street or trying to figure out where to eat.

Regarding Termini - it may not be the best area to stay in, but there are places around that are definitely acceptable. For example, I've stayed at Hotel Quirinale which is right off of Piazza Repubblica and Hotel Universo nearby and I would recommend these if you need to stay by Termini.

Hope this has been helpful and encouraging. I had the best time traveling solo in Italy and hope you do too!
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Old Aug 17th, 2004, 09:52 AM
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Thank you so much everybody! I feel reassured. I was a bit grumbly about having to go alone (since everybody else on earth is in a relationship), but once I made the decision I started to get really excited about going to Italy.
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Old Aug 17th, 2004, 12:37 PM
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I traveled to Rome and Venice in my early 20's, and as a blonde girl alone, and obviously American, I got hit on a lot by men who were much more aggressive than anything I've encountered in the USA. I traveled all through France alone on the same trip without any problems and found the Parisian men nothing but charming (a little too charming on occasion, but nothing like Italy).

It was quite unnerving at times, and on one occasion, a stranger even intervened on my behalf to shout at the guy in Italian, but if you are reasonably assertive and are willing to shout "go away!" (I forget the phrase I was taught to use), you should be all right. If I were going to be anywhere late at night, I usually would take a taxi back to the hotel or have one of my dinner companions walk with me.

I find that is easier to meet people when I'm alone, including other tourists and locals, and if you are reasonably prudent, you should not have any problems. When traveling alone, I frequently would meet people sightseeing during the day who would invite me to join them for dinner (usu. couples or other women) and I don't think I ever ended up alone by dinner time. Just take the same precautions you would at home -- meet at a public place, etc.

As much fun as it is to travel with friends, I almost prefer the trips I've taken alone, or the days I've spent on my own while traveling with a friend. Traveling alone opens you up to experiences in a way that being with a group does not - both good and bad.
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Old Aug 17th, 2004, 01:34 PM
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I'm a solo traveller as well.
On the Fodor's home page...there is a really nice "article" about solo travel with tips on packing (hehehehe...), safety, accommodations, eating, etc.

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Old Aug 19th, 2004, 08:44 PM
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I went solo to Italy in April and going back in September. The main thing I would say is pay as much attention to yourself and your surroundings as you do at home. Beyond that, use your common sense and you will have a great time. I am a person who goes through life with a smile and some people respond and some don't, that happens both in the US and in Italy. I had great conversations with interesting people. One of the advantages is that if you want to change your plans, you don't have to convince anyone that it is a good thing to do. Have a great time.
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