As I hurried hastily out of Roma airport rolling along my bright yellow suitcase, my heart fluttered with nervous excitement. I couldn’t believe I had done it! I was actually travelling to Rome on my own. Something about it made me feel so alive as if I was braving some sort of unchartered territory that few women had dared to venture before – Solo travelling. As females we love company, we love to talk and connect with each other and are more disposed to travelling in groups and having ‘girls only’ trips or trips with a loved one or family. We meet up with our girlfriends for our morning cardio/run, meet with each other for coffee or lunch, I mean heck we don’t even travel to the bathroom by ourselves let alone to another country but here I was doing that exact thing; I felt terrified and exhilarated all at the same time. The silliest of questions had crossed my mind leading up to the trip but suffice to say all these thoughts that rambled through my brain were overpowered by the excitement and exhilaration of the unknown.
When I finally arrived at the Roma Termini Central, I immediately noticed the uniformed guards walking around with what looked like AK-47 guns, as someone who lives in a country where the police barely have Tasers let alone guns it was definitely an eye opener for me. There are a few different exits out of the Roma Termini and if you don’t go out the right one you could end up taking an hour instead of 5min to arrive at your destination but thank God for google maps and fantastic directions from the hostel staff as I navigated out of that terminal like a bird navigating to the tropics. As I walked along the cobblestone pathways with my yellow suitcase still in tow within 10minutes I had reached my destination, I stayed at Generator Hostel and I couldn’t recommend them more, the hostel was clean with funky decor and a cheap price, friendly staff and I was able to get an early check in…So far so good.
I arrived into my room, heaved my suitcase into the locker, and after a quick make-up check off I went again ready to start exploring this city. In Rome the buildings are huge and have a majestic grandiose feel to them, some have ornate and intricate designs and I couldn’t help but feel in awe as I walked around feasting my eyes on the beautiful sights. Eventually though the physical signs of hunger set in so I settled in a lovely restaurant called Ristorante Elettra with a singing waiter who resembled a blonder version of Al Pacino in Scarface and greeted anyone and everyone with the friendliest Bongiorno all the whilst singing away without a care in the world. I was given a free glass of sparkling wine thanks to my singing waiter and after a short wait, out came my Pizza. I have to say that delicious was an understatement, apart from the unusual egg on top of it the taste was simply divine. The base was beautiful and the flavour was spot on, when it comes to food the Italians do it better!
After finishing my glass of wine, a top up was kindly offered to me but given the wine is only sold by the bottle I decided that getting drunk at 3pm on my own was probably not the best way to start my adventure so I asked if they would instead consider pouring me another glass. My friendly singing Al Pacino lookalike kindly agreed to just a glass… But somehow in his convincing Italian way I ended up with the bottle anyway. As we got to talking and I got to drinking he started showing me videos of him singing karaoke at a local bar…Well need I say more… As a fellow karaoke connoisseur I wanted to know exactly where and when. He drew me a questionable map on a blank piece of paper (trust me it wasn’t a Michelangelo) and kindly told me the karaoke times, the free bus service and 24hr bar that is open after the karaoke finished as well as ‘drawing’ these directions onto his map with arrows of where I can find each. By the end I was full, drunk and happy… Would I visit again? Heck yes…The waiter was kind enough to give an elderly homeless women his spare change and to top it off I was never charged for my bottle of wine. Pretty good deal for 13EUR I thought.
I woke up bright and early, fortunately with no hangover from my wine adventure the previous day and ready to head to my first day tour. I had pre-booked a 3 hour Viator tour of the Vatican City and St Pauls Basilica and I cannot recommend it enough. The Vatican is packed, but because our group was small (10-12), we were equipped with a tour guide audio system, we got to skip all the lines with early access and we could easily hear and see our guide amongst all the hustle and bustle. My tour guide was Sev who was also an archaeologist so his knowledge and passion of Roman history was simply infectious. Every question we asked he knew the answer to and more…It wasn’t cheap for this tour but it was well worth the cost and I would pay it again in a heartbeat. We were shown room after glorious room of ancient art and sculptures and an overload of information about each item from our awesome tour guide. Finally we arrived to the ‘crowned jewel’ aka The Sistine Chapel, photos are strictly forbidden although people were still taking sneaky shots and risking the growling from the guards there. I truly believe though that the best way to experience the Sistine Chapel is to simply look up and soak it all in with your eyes, put away the camera and just be in the moment, it is a once in a lifetime experience so sometimes you just need to do exactly that – experience life with your own eyes not with a camera. After the tour I decided to just walk around the city of Rome, so I walked and walked and walked. I saw beautiful buildings, tried an espresso as that seems to be the Italian drink when it comes to coffee, spoke with friendly strangers and checked out shops along the way. Eventually I decided to head back to the hostel as my legs were getting really tired. I had walked for around 2-3 hours just getting lost in the city – it was so much fun!
Back at the hostel I met another girl sharing my dormitory – the pretty and petite California girl Emma. We hit it off straight away and decided to check out the Trevi fountain and have dinner together that night. The Trevi Fountain was beautiful in the day but at night it is simply stunning. There is no need to take a tour for this, I would recommend just travelling there either on subway or Taxi and viewing the fountain at your own discretion. Afterwards we shared life stories a Pizza and a 1 Litre Carafe of beautiful Italian red wine at a Restaurant nearby. We then walked to a Gelato store to try an authentic Italian Gelato before we left, it was of course delicious and I don’t think I can eat another Pizza or Gelato again without fond thoughts of Rome. Because the shops were still open at night it brought the city to life as families were still out, people were still shopping and life was still happening in this majestic city.
Back at the Hostel I decided to make my way to the karaoke bar that my singing waiter recommended the previous day. The bar is called Scholares Irish Bar and it is packed with a great international atmosphere. As I chatted with the lovely Irish bartender two girls came beside me and ordered drinks, I started chatting to them only to realize they were both Irish also, “Wow, so is the bartender” I said with genuine surprise only to have the response of “Well this is an Irish bar”…Duhhhh.. Well the girls laughed at my faux pas and their duo became a triple as I hung out with my new friends for the rest of the night. I sang Amy Winehouse – Valerie, and was pleasantly surprised to see my singing waiter there too. We ended up singing Footloose together and it was a blast!
In the evening I decided to travel to the Colosseum and as I hadn’t pre-booked this I simply booked with one of the many tour guides which wait in front of the Colosseum for us tourists, unfortunately it failed miserably in comparison to my first tour. The guide was good but the group was so big everyone kept getting lost and it was difficult hearing and understanding the guide at times. If I had to do that again I would not pay for a guided tour of the Colosseum and Palatine Hill and would instead walk around on my own terms discovering these delights.
On my trip back at the hostel I discovered two more lovely girls were bunked in the same dormitory as me – Giovanna from Sicily, and Fernanda from Argentina. Although neither girls spoke English as a first language, and I did not speak any Spanish or Italian we somehow managed to connect and set off for another discovery of the city together. I had no idea where we were going but we jumped on the rickety old bus that looked like it hadn’t had a service since 1982 and after missing one bus, and asking directions from 2 foreigners we made it to our destination – an uber cool little restaurant called Ombre Rosse located in the Trastevere area who had cute waiters and the best Carbonara Pasta I have ever tasted which I washed down with an equally delicious cocktail called the Casablanca.
With full bellies and a drizzle starting to happen we decided to head back to the hostel and call it a night. I was sad to see my Rome trip come to an end but I have precious memories and new found friends across the globe. I met 3 beautiful female adventurers all with different stories and different cultures but somehow we connected and shared the common bond of solo travel, and in our quest for a solo adventure we inevitably wound up finding each other and sharing our journey and adventures together. In our desire to travel on our own it was paradoxical that our trips became so much more fulfilled being intertwined and despite the language barriers, I guess you could say us females just love to talk as we still managed to find a way to chat and connect. Rome you will hold precious memories for me and I will forever cherish the wonderful trip that was made and the first time I had travelled alone. Why do I believe that every woman should travel solo at least once? I believe it will push you out of your comfort zone, it will force you to meet strangers and make new friends, it will give you the freedom to travel by your own rules and not be confined to other peoples desires, and yes you might get lost, yes you might have to eat an awkward dinner or lunch on your own, nobody may talk to you but that is where fate is in your hands so strike up a conversation with the person next to you maybe it will lead to nowhere or maybe you will get a lifelong friend from it. However it ends I guarantee you will come back a different and more empowered woman and you will be an inspiration for your girlfriends back home to take a solo adventure one day. If you are considering travelling overseas but don’t have anyone to go with I encourage you now to take the plunge and buy a single ticket to your desired destination I guarantee you won’t regret it.
- Take the Leonardo Express to Roma Termini Central, 14 EUR one way and travel is roughly 30min. Remember to validate your ticket beforehand.
- Didn’t pre-book a tour? Don’t stress… Plenty of tour guides waiting outside the main tourist spots and you will inevitably be approached by a few when you arrive.
- Viator tours are fantastic, but book in advance as they can be booked out quickly, the link to my Viator tour is here – Viator Tours – Skip The Line
- Try a Pasta from Ombre Rosse – Their Pasta’s are made from scratch, the waiters are cute, service is great and music even better. What more could you ask for?
- Have a Pizza and wine from Ristorante Elettra – you might just get that wine for free but if not there will be a friendly waiter who can sing you a song or two.