Maine to Italy: My Journey as a Solo Female Traveler [With Pics & Tips!]
I was born with the innate, fiery need to travel.
Most people have a love for traveling but my desire and need for it consumes me. I scout for constant opportunities to explore a new place, try new food, and bask in new scenery.
I took a solo trip to Northern Italy a few years ago in the middle of winter but recently fulfilled my dream of traveling to the Southern coast of Italy in the warmer months. This trip required significantly more public transportation and exercising my bare minimum Italian.
My Solo Adventure to Italy
I rarely plan ahead; most things I do are on a whim. I booked my flight at the very last minute, booked some random Airbnbs, and hoped for the best.
I’ll try to make this short and sweet since I know you’re really just here for the pictures.
I do everything through Booking.com, mostly because I’ve used it so much that I get killer deals and money off when I go through them. My first tip is to think outside of the box when it comes to flights, especially expensive last-minute ones. It was an outrageous price to fly from Boston to Sicily but I knew flying within Europe is dirt cheap, so I booked a flight to Rome and booked a separate flight from Rome to Sicily, which was only $60.
I took a Megabus from the station on Congress Street in Portland and it dropped me right off at my terminal at the Logan Airport in Boston!
I’ll share the journey of my travels through the photo gallery below but for this part of this story, I’ll just break down some of my thoughts, tips, and tricks.
Travel Tips & Tricks, Especially for Solo Female Travelers
- Book everything in advance. I spent way more money than I should have just by procrastinating and not committing in time.
- Pack LIGHT AF, especially if you’re staying in multiple places. I moved around the Southern coast of Italy throughout my trip, so I had to lug around all of my belongings for a huge chunk of it. I personally use a hard-shelled suitcase with wheels that fits as a carry-on and a backpack as a personal item.
- Use an over-the-shoulder bag so nobody can yank it from you; Europe is an extremely safe place to travel but as with anywhere you go, you should have your guard up for pocket-pickers.
- Make sure there are no weight requirements for your carry-on!! I didn’t even know this was a thing until my bag was 7-pounds too heavy and rather than spend $150 to check it last minute, I THREW AWAY 7 POUNDS WORTH OF MY CLOTHES. (Luckily, I primarily shop at Goodwill and my extra sneakers were from Walmart.)
- Speak Italian. This should be a no-brainer. Just because most people do speak English, does not mean that should be your first route. You are in another country, speak their language. Always have a translater on deck, while the translations aren’t always perfect, it will get the point across.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. As annoying as tourists are, people really do not mind helping you out.
- Figure out an international phone plan. While you can use iMessage and whatever you need while on WiFi, the most crucial times when you will need directions or guidance from your phone will be when you need your cellular data.
- WALK, ACT, AND SPEAK WITH CONFIDENCE. This one is for my fellow solo female travelers. You don’t want to be a target or look like a clueless tourist, or you will stand out. If you need directions, look at your phone for a second, figure out your next move, and walk as if you know exactly where you are and what you are doing. Walk and act like you are not somebody to mess with.
- Use your acting skills. There was one point in time in the dark when I was walking alone at night when I felt uncomfortable for a second. I waved to nothing in the distance and spoke into my phone with nobody on the other end and said, “yes I see you. Do you see me? I’m waving.” Seems stupid, but making sure people don’t think you are alone could save your life.
- Book your stays for 2+ people. The prices don’t change per person, so book your Airbnb for “two people” so nobody knows you are traveling alone.
- Always have cash. A lot of places take cards but in Europe, cash is king. Plus, you’ll need coins and cash to ride the bus. Some things are even cheaper if you pay in cash, so if that’s your plan, tell them you’re using cash before they give you the total!
- Download the Trenitalia app. This isn’t America, you can rely on public transportation. The train system in Europe could not be more simple and the train app makes it crystal clear and so easy.
- Don’t stress out. Even if you miss a bus or it takes you to the wrong place, you can hop on another one and get to where you are going. There is no need to bug out.
- Ask the waiter what they recommend. Every region in Italy is known for something specific. Find out what they are known for and try it! Don’t just rely on your classic go-to's.
- Avoid tourist traps. The price difference between a tourist trap and a local area is astronomical. Be brave and go off the beaten path, it will always be worth it. And trust me, the places with the stereotypical Instagram posts are not that great (I hated Rome).
- Make friends. Nobody knows the area or the best places to go or eat like a local. It doesn’t hurt to socialize, even if it’s asking for a place you should visit that somebody recommends.
- Ask for the check. Italy has a strong emphasis on quality time and enjoying drinks and meals. You will never, ever be given the check unless you ask for it; the last thing they ever want to do or will do is rush anyone out. You could post up at a restaurant for hours and nobody will blink.
- Restaurant Hop. Try new places! Places don’t mind if you’re just stopping in for a quick bite. Enjoy a cocktail at one restaurant, apperitvo (happy hour) at another, have an appetizer somewhere, and your meal somewhere else. Tipping isn’t required, you aren’t spending more by trying new places. In most areas, handfuls of restaurants are within walking distance.
- Sit down, don't wait for a host. Nothing screams "tourist" like standing outside of a restaurant. If somebody is there to help you, follow them to a table but in most cases, you just help yourself to a seat and someone will come by to take your order.
I’m sure I have more stored in my noggin but I’ll come back and edit this if I think of more tips and tricks to share with you.
But for now, we can get to the fun stuff. Here’s a photo gallery from my trip to Italy.