Why I Didn’t Go Solo in Italy

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 o_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.

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26 responses to “Why I Didn’t Go Solo in Italy

  1. I lived in hostels in Rome for about 2 months before I found a place to live when I moved there in 2010. Worst hostel experiences ever! They were just so dingy and gross. I totally got propositioned by some creepy italian one day too. Just creepy. Thank god I found an apartment finally but never again! I always suggest to people that they use Airbnb or just suck it up and book a hotel. It is not worth it!

    • Oh my God, RIGHT?! I was a little afraid I had an unusual bad experience, but high five!!! The propositions were wayy too common also. I lived in Milan for a year and really, there would be someone or the other behaving creepy almost everyday- whether I was out running or grocery shopping or just walking home from school!

  2. I travelled solo to Italy many, many years ago when I was a student. But I was lucky enough to meet up with some like minded people very early on so I wasn’t on my own very much. On the one occasion during that trip when I ventured out on my own I was propositioned, so perhaps not much has changed…

  3. Arghhhhh how gross!! What a shame!! I’m sure there must be some way to do Italy solo… maybe with a lot of money!! At least you didn’t let that experience tarnish your otherwise happy memories of the beautiful country 🙂

  4. I do agree about many of the hostels in Italy, and Western Europe in general in fact. There just isn’t the standards or the lifestyle that you find in regions such as SEAsia. I think one of the worst hostels I have ever stayed in was actually in Venice, but found similar standards across Italy. Very overpriced too. I was lucky in Rome though as I got to stay with someone I knew in her family home for an extended period. But apart from Rome I have mostly travelled solo throughout Italy and yes there are bad experiences, but there are great ones too. I wouldn’t say travelling solo is a bad thing.

    • You’re right, Michael! Western European hostels aren’t great value. I don’t know about SEAsia (yet), but Eastern Europe was great. And yes, traveling solo is an intense mix of good and bad experiences, but the good definitely wins. DEFINITELY!!

  5. Some friends of mine had a similar experience with hostels across Italy last year – in the end they started opting for guest houses instead and that seemed to work out cheaper and much better!

    • Yup, Emily… Guest houses and AirBnB would have been a better option, but with going solo, I didn’t have the option of sharing the costs. Maybe when I’m older and wiser (and richer) 😉

  6. I haven’t done solo in Italy, but it really sounds like the options in Eastern Europe are a lot better. Sorry about that sketchy CSer! I now have a better appreciation of what it’s like to be a solo female traveler.

    • Eastern Europe is insane, Dave! In a good way!! I couldn’t choose between hostels because they all seemed so great. And yeah, there are some disadvantages to traveling solo as a female, but there are perks too! 😀

  7. I have been to Rome so many times and I never would of thought there was a lack of hostels. I’ve always stayed in cheap BnB’s for around £30 per night. I have a friend who wants to CS in Italy and I have heard of plenty of horror stories of hosts in Italy. I have never met a creepy Italian but I know plenty of Italian men who can be overbearing sometimes 🙂 Hope your next CS is much better 🙂

  8. I agree that it is not safe for a woman to travel solo in Italy.
    My first ever solo travel was to Italy.. I did have a lot of bad experiences.
    1. My first day stay was in a hostel at Milan and I had to leave early to catch up the train to Venice the next morning. And there was this very old ‘Italian’ guy never allowed me to switch on the lights or shouted at me even if I made a small noise when moving things or walking. So terrible it was for me being the very first day of my first solo travel.

    2. Next day in Venice, I had to stay in hostel which was like a home-stay. My bad time it was that I had to stay all alone there for two nights. The owner gave me the keys and just told me to drop it on the table when I check out. One bad incident in that place was there was some stranger knocking at the door and right next to the door there was a warning written for guests ‘Do not open the door for a stranger’ which I just noticed. Luckily nothing went wrong when I opened the door.

    3. Then I stayed in Plus Hostel in Florence. Which I should say that was one best thing of my whole 12 days trip in Italy. But then I had a bad experience where my wallet was snatched on one of the stranded streets of Florence. Luckily I fought with those snatchers and got my wallet back. 🙂

    4. Since I did not find any highly rated hostels in the coastal areas such as ‘Cinque terre’ and ‘Amalfi’, I had booked some hotels where I felt much boring to be alone (bcos I loved my stay in the hostel in Florence)

    5. In Rome, though my hostel was fine near to the station, the streets leading to me hostel was always filled with chunks. So I had to be very careful when I had to walk along those streets.

    I should say that I was lucky to be back home safe after my trip in Italy. On the whole, since I had traveled alone in Italy. it made me more courageous to travel alone anywhere. So now, I have traveled alone in Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland out of 20 countries that I traveled during my stay in Belgium for 10 months.

    Sorry for such a long comment 😉

    • Nooo haha, I LOVE long comments 😀 Believe me, Santhosh, when I initially published this post I was prepared for a lot of hate. I mean how can a lovely city like Italy give you such experiences, right?? I’m (kind of) glad so many people agree with me!
      I wish I had known about Plus hostel though. I didn’t go to Florence because I couldn’t find a place to stay :/ And WHERE did you stay in Rome? I need to know (if there is ever a next time!). Yeah, that area is super shady though!
      It’s awesome you still went ahead and visited so many places. Our experiences were similar then 🙂 I did all my traveling during 11 months in Milan 😉

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  13. Completely agree with Italy. I went to Rome for 4 days by myself, I found what looked like a very cheap airbnb room a block from St. Peter’s Sq. The apartment had no kitchen, fridge, microwave or anything to cook with and eating out in Italy can be extremely expensive. It was also located in the basement something the host failed to mention in the description.The bathroom and room weren’t very clean either. and there was NO WIFI. which I found perplexing because the girl that lived there said she was a student.
    I did have my fare share of Italian men following me and being creepy and when I went to Rimini for three more days a man literally rubbed his crotch against me and when I asked him to stop he said “can’t help it, the bus is full.” Needless to say it left me with a bitter taste of Italy and even though I’m willing to give it another chance and travel to other parts of Italy, I’m very apprehensive about going back there soon.

  14. Hi!! It’s a very interesting post and thank you for sharing your experience!…considering I’m also planning a long solo trip across Italy this summer (for about 6 weeks).. I’m also a student of architecture from India, doing my masters in the Netherlands….Going by your post, I should expect a lot of surprises through out my time in Italy..

    Being that I am interested also in visiting works of architecture and the museums, I discovered Italy has a not so comfortable and affordable way to visit them… I just wanted to ask if you have any suggestions and tips that could make these visits to museums more affordable (like museum passes etc.. or anything else I should know about them).. And then again thanks for the information and this great blog!!

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