I LOVE Italy. It’s where I lived for four years as a kid, it’s where my sister was born and it’s where I chose to go study for my Masters. But, but, buuut…
When it comes to travel (particularly solo), Italy was where I had the least comfortable experiences.
My Dad always, always asked me why I was ignoring all the Italian glory and traveling to far-flung places like Poland and Bulgaria when one of the world’s most wondrous countries was pretty much my backyard. Well, it was not entirely by choice. I wanted to cover as much of Italy as I could, but whenever I tried to research places to stay, I came to a blank.
And, well, everything can be managed. Food from supermarkets. Transportation can work out… If not buses, there’s the metro, train, carpools, the option to rent a cycle or just walk. But accommodation is non-negotiable. You do need to stay somewhere.
So, well, here goes… Why I didn’t go solo in Italy.
(1) Lack of Hostels
Unlike much of East Europe where I could find hostels super easily (because there were so many excellent ones!), in Italy, even Rome, I was hard pressed to find a single one which was rated over 90%!! I usually pick something over 95% rating on any of the hostel booking websites after carefully going through the reviews and making sure the price is at par. In Italy though, a lot of my weekends went wasted because the accessible cities had a list of shady looking hostels. The ones that did seem okay were either VERY expensive, or were guest houses and BnBs which didn’t have dorms and common rooms.
(2) POOOOOR Quality of Hostels
When I ended my 5 week trip last summer, I decided to spend a night in Ancona and another two in Rome. Well, that failed when I couldn’t find a place to stay in Ancona so I caught an earlier train to Rome, and since it was a last minute plan, I spent the train journey looking for hostels. And it’s Rome right? Of course it must be overflowing with hostels. Well… No. After a lot of searching, I found a few. After weeks of Eastern Europe, the prices were a shock. I stayed in three different hostels on three nights, each one worse than the last. But Hostel Beautiful 2 truly took the cake.
I got the little fan because the manager of the hostel was a Bangladeshi and I’m Indian from West Bengal (a state in the eastern part of the country) and speak the same language, so let’s just say, favouritism.
The walls had stains of I-don’t-want-to-imagine-what. And that window opened out to the shadiest area in the entire city. Generally, most backpacker hostels in Rome are in the Termini area, which is plain uncomfortable to be in. If I shut that window, I would suffocate, if I opened it, I was terrified I’d find someone peeking in and watching me sleep. Shudder.
That was the extent of the toilet. I had to bend over the shitpot to be able to get any water on me from the shower, and had to keep the door open while using the shitpot to have enough space. Weird, right?
(3) Creepy CSers
I had 2 hosts lined up in Rome. The first one (who I’ve briefly written about in this post) was so creepy I ran from his place about 6 hours after leaving all my bags at his place. After I was shaken from that experience, I decided to cancel the next day’s host and just stay in a hostel instead (and thus landed up at ‘Beautiful’), but this fellow still insisted we atleast meet for ice cream. ince we had been corresponding all day and he had good reviews on the CS website, I accepted and we drove over to a gelateria not far from my hostel. On the way back, he was driving while texting. Not texting while driving. No. His primary attention was on his cell. And when I exclaimed about that he said, ‘Relax! I’m Italian!’ :O RIGHT?! I say hats off to myself that I didn’t jump off crying!!
And, yeah, CSing has an option where people can send you invites if they choose to display your tentative dates. The NUMBER of creepy invites I got… They were really not much better than the ‘Will you fraandship me?’ messages that most of us have received on Facebook.
Disclaimer: This was only my experience, though. A girl I met at another hostel had just spent a few weeks traveling north, having started at Naples and she had had some wonderful experiences and stayed at some wonderful hostels. Maybe I just got very, very unlucky and I HOPE I get a chance to change my own opinion someday!
Have you traveled solo in Italy? Did you experience the same or do you think I’m nuts? The only place I did visit was Torino, but that was a plan I had made with a girl I had made friends with at an earlier trip. So it wasn’t a solo trip, and I’m glad it wasn’t because the hostel we stayed in was in a rather shady area faaaaar from the city centre.