You are in one of the most romantic cities in the world but your other half isn’t. Is this a problem? “Not at all!” would be my answer. While of course, I would have loved Neill to have been there to share the experience with me, travelling to Rome alone did have some advantages.
Above: A particularly busy night by the Spanish Steps for a Vogue fashion show
Travelling to Italy alone gives you the flexibility to do exactly what you want, when you want and at the pace you want. The result is you can fit a lot more of what you want to see into your trip.
Did I feel safe in Rome alone?
Yes. I had it on good authority from someone living in Rome that it was safe for a lone woman to walk around central Rome at night on her own, assuming she wasn’t staggering around drunk, of course. I’ve travelled to Italy alone a few times and I’ve always felt perfectly safe on my own in the evenings.
The only thing that I had been warned about was the pickpockets, who ‘work’ in the day rather than at night, especially around the train stations and on the metro. Having fallen victim to them last time I had visited Italy I was very conscious of this. I knew first hand just how skilled a professional pickpocket was.
When I visited Bologna last July with Suzanne (from The Travel Bunny) we once walked into town along a quiet side street rather than the busier main route into town. When we reached our destination I took off my rucksack and found that all three zipped pockets were open. My phone was gone. We had seen no one else in the street and I had felt nothing.
Lesson learned, although I did still have a rucksack in Rome, I kept all my valuables zipped inside an inner pocket in a small handbag worn with the strap across my body so that the bag was in view at all times. Not fool-proof but a lot safer.
I’m pleased to say my phone was insured and I now have a replacement but it was still an upsetting experience. Luckily the police had an office in Bologna railway station, which was just the other side of the road from my hotel, so it was easy to report (which you have to do if you want to make a claim on your travel insurance).
On the plus side, I did meet some very nice Italian policemen so it wasn’t all bad.
Recommended for you: Things to do in Rome
Tips for visiting Rome alone
- Join a group walking tour and avoid eating alone by making it a food-themed tour. I love the sound of this street food tour and walking tours are a great way to meet other people.
- Take a plate, spoon, knife and fork, corkscrew and bottle stopper so you can enjoy a feast of local food and wine in your hotel room. Check out the next section for more on this.
The rest of these tips apply to everyone, whether you’re travelling alone in Rome or not.
- Avoid the crowds and longest queues at major attractions as well as the hottest months by travelling in spring, autumn or even winter.
- Buy a joint ticket for the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum but don’t buy it at the Colosseum, as that is the most popular of the three, instead, pop round the corner to either of the other two attractions and buy your ticket there where the queues will be shorter.
- Better still, buy a Roma Pass from free use of the city’s public transport and to save money on major attractions.
- Stay hydrated and refill your water bottle at the water fountains or nasoni as they called here, meaning nose. There’s over 2,500 of them dotted around the city. Not only will you save money but you’ll save the world from a few more plastic bottles.
- Scams to avoid include:
- If you see a rose on the ground don’t pick it up, you’ll be asked to pay for it.
- Don’t pose with a gladiator for a photo unless you want to pay for it.
- Likewise, if someone fills your hand with grain and then calls over the pigeons!
- Look out for pickpockets on Bus Route 64. They may have a jacket draped over their arm to disguise their wandering hand.
- If someone gives you a free ticket for a nightclub the drinks will probably cost an absolute fortune.
- I found the taxis fine in Rome and was never overcharged, however, others haven’t been so lucky. Always agree on a price before getting in a taxi and make sure it includes your luggage and any other people with you.
- If someone asks if you want a taxi, say no. Even if you do. They will take you to an unofficial taxi that will charge you more.
My friend Suzanne also has some great tips for visiting Rome.
I will admit that I’m not a fan of dining alone which I first had to do in a foreign land when I started photographing holiday homes in France and Italy. I remember one particular evening in Corsica sitting alone in my hotel’s alfresco restaurant on the top of a cliff looking out across the ocean at the setting sun thinking – this is just wrong to be somewhere so beautiful alone.
It was when I started travel writing that I discovered quite by accident a useful little tip. I started taking my notebook out whenever I was at a restaurant to jot down my thoughts about the experience, what I ate and so on. The restaurant staff always notice and usually assume I am a restaurant critic. Not only do I get great service but it makes it easier to strike up a conversation and find out more about the restaurant. This is exactly what happened last year when I visited Pigna, home to one of my favourite restaurants.
Another plus of being on your own for a travel blogger is that you don’t have to frantically wave your arms about to stop everyone else from starting their meal so that you can photograph it. (Thank you, Neill, for your patience.) Instead, you can photograph your meal to your heart’s content and then tuck-in. Admittedly, that isn’t a problem for most people but travel bloggers are a bred apart.
Another option is to book yourself onto a food-themed excursion as mentioned earlier. Viator has a great selection of food and wine walking tours in most cities including Rome. I’ve used them many times and always found them excellent. You can also book airport/hotel transfers through their site which is perfect for anyone shy of public transport in an unknown city.
It’s also worth considering eating in your hotel room if you really hate eating alone in public. You can pick up some fabulous cold cuts, cheeses and fruit from a local market such as Campo de Fiori and pizzas and pastries from a local bakery. My favourite is Antico Forno Marco Roscioli, on Via dei Chiavari (just around the corner from the market). As well as a vast array of breads and other sweet and savoury baked goods they have a renowned pizza counter. Pizza bianca (a type of pizza that comes without any toppings, not even tomato). It’s surprisingly good. Really good!
The Rewards of Travelling Solo
While the thought to some may be daunting, travelling solo does wonders for your confidence and gives you a sense of freedom and adventure that you can only experience alone. Here are my solo travel tips and my experience of travelling to Rome alone. There are certainly pros and cons of travelling alone but if you haven’t already tried it you really should. You don’t have to go the whole-hog with a round-the-world solo trip. You could just start off with a long weekend in one of the many beautiful cities of Europe (or closer to your home if you live outside of Europe). You might be surprised at how liberating it is!
Looking for a hotel in Rome? Compare prices for hotels in Rome on TripAdvisor.
Of course in some cultures, it is not acceptable for a woman to travel unaccompanied. If that is your experience I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on this.
More Posts from Rome
Roman pizza and peaches in red wine
Learning to cook pizza in Rome including the recipe plus a simple dessert of peaches drenched in red wine.
The authentic taste of Rome!
Join me on a wonderful food tour of Rome including the oldest market, numerous tastings and where to find the best coffee and the best food souvenirs.
Pairing Italian Wine and Food
Learn the basics of wine tasting and pairing food and wine.
On a mission to discover Rome’s food and wine!
My arrival in Rome when I discover where to find the great gelato and how to tell if it is genuine artisan gelato plus I visit a cafe in a fashionable district of Rome where you can buy a plate of pasta with a glass of wine for just 4 euros.
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I am planning to travel to Rome alone and I feel better about it when I read your post. How long would you suggest that I should stay in Rome ? I hope to visit Florence after that, any comments on that ?
That’s good to know Era. How long to stay probably depends on the individual and their interests and whether you like to cram lots in or take it slow, allowing time for just relaxing. I’d say you’d want a minimum of 4 days if it’s your first visit and you want to see the main sites, longer of you want some leisure time too and longer still if you want to do more than scratch the service. Joining organised excursions and walking tours are great if you get a bit lonely. Walks of Italy are superb. Eating Rome are too (although I’ve not done their Rome tour I’ve done their London one which was excellent). Those tours aren’t cheap though so if you are on a budget check out Viator for a wider choice. Florence is stunning and an easy place to walk around to see the main attractions. I’d happily go there on my own, although I’ve never actually stayed there overnight as yet. I’d suggest a central hotel if you are on your own anywhere, even if it is a bit more expensive, simply to make it easy to get back to your hotel at the end of the day. I hope that’s a help and have a fabulous time.
And check out the site Browsing Rome and Browsing Italy for more ideas and advice. And this blog posts tells you about free city walking tour apps that are cheap to upgrade to a GPS navigated version if you wish.
This a well-written piece. For me, I’d rather travel solo because I can go to any place I desire without contradictions from anyone, such like if you have someone accompany you. And Rome is one of the best places I like when I’m doing this.
I just traveled to Rome alone this past summer and I have to say, not having to stop people from eating to take pictures is definitely a plus 😀
I am due to travel to Rome alone end of this month (Nov 2014) It was a birthday trip for my boyfriend and he has ended the relationship. I need to decide sharpish if I am going to go ahead on my own? I think I’ll be fine during the day and have no problem eating alone, its at night in the accommodation if someone suspected I was alone and took advantage? Any help or votes of confidence would be so much appreciated. I’d love to go but if honest, a bit scared!
Hi Sam, I really hope you do go. As a travel writer and photographer I have stayed in many hotels around the world on my own and have never had the slightest problem.
To reassure yourself though you could buy a door stopper like this one, http://www.door-jammer.co.uk/
I’ve never tried it myself but I’m sure it works well and if it helps you feel secure then it’s well worth it.
Rome is a wonderful city and it would be such a shame to let this hold you back.
Assuming you do go I’d love to hear how you get on. I’m sure you’ll have a fabulous time. I did!
Hi Kathryn, thank you for coming back to me. I am going to go. My trip is for almost one week at the end of November and I will most definitely let you know how I get on. Many, many thanks for the prompt reply. I am going to turn my focus to getting excited about the trip! Regards Sam.
Can’t wait to hear about the fabulous time I know you are going to have. You might want to check out the blog ‘Browsing Rome’ for more ideas on things to do. best wishes, Kat
Kat, Just wanted to say thank you for the encouragement! I had a wonderful time in Rome and will be back!!!! Many thanks, Sam.
P.S for anyone travelling there soon so that you are not too disappointed, the Trevi Fountain is under construction and they reckon will be for some time.
That really is great Sam and thank you so much for letting me know. I’m going back myself in February and I can’t wait.
I am turning the big 40 next year and have decided to dig deep and try and find my solo traveller again. I did a lot in my early 20’s and then got stuck in a rut and too scared to travel on my own. I am just looking at hotels in Rome so please post a quick message and let me know where you stayed, best places to eat etc.
Your best bet is to contact Diane who runs Browsing Rome and Browsing Italy. She’ll be able to give you up-to-date advice. I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time and I certainly felt very safe there.
I’ve written a couple of posts about food in Rome https://travelwithkat.com/2012/10/04/the-authentic-taste-of-rome/ and https://travelwithkat.com/2012/09/19/on-a-mission-to-discover-romes-food-and-wine/ Hope there is something useful in there.
Just back from room and stayed at St Peter’s Six Rooms and Suites via Booking.com. I would give it a 10 all round for location, staff, breakfast, cleanliness. I stayed in the Carravagio Room and it was spacious, just great. Also highly recommend you get a Roma Pass at the very start, it will save a lot!
Just popped over to your blog Chanel, and oh my, you have some mouthwatering photos on there. Heading back now to read it properly.
I remember the movie “When in Rome” while reading this. It’s just so beautiful here that I can’t wait to visit this place. It would be a dream to travel this place especially alone where you get to experience everything by yourself for the first time.
I really enjoyed this post! I am currently working abroad in the Netherlands on a temporary assignment and my boyfriend had to stay behind in California. Needless to say I could not waste this amazing opportunity to see Europe just because I was afraid to travel alone. After being here for 1 month I am so incredibly happy I am taking full advantage of the opportunity; it has been one of the best decisions of my life. I love your tip on bringing a notebook and writing about your experience at restaurants! After eating out alone a number of times and getting odd looks this sounds like a great solution that also leaves you with a great momento of your experiences. I leave for Barcelona this Wednesday for a long weekend by myself and booked my ticket to Rome last week! Thank you for making me even more excited than I already was to travel and see as many beautiful countries as possible solo 🙂
Thank you Emily! So glad to hear you are making the most of your visit. Living in England, I do feel very lucky to have so many lovely countries on my doorstep. I’ve yet to travel to America (North or South) though and dearly hope to one day.
Rome is my Dream Destination…. In future I am sure I will be there. Thanks for sharing…. I love this post !
Thanks Alina. Hope you make it there soon.
Rome is one of my favourite destination as it is very beautiful and I feel safe while travelling solo.
Great blog and judging by the images it seems like you really did have a great time exploring and enjoying Rome. I never been to Rome yet, but its still included in my list of places and countries to travel. I have always wanted to travel solo. I guess I kinda have that scary feeling to travel alone. I have been traveling to places and other countries with friends, the last destination place were in was in Greece. Most of them have traveled solo and they re assure me that traveling solo was indeed one of the best experiences they have.
Yes I had a great time, thank you. While it can seem a little scary at times there is something very liberating about travelling alone.
Rome is very beautiful! wish to go there someday..
Also Kat, u take very beautiful pictures! 🙂
Hi Florence, Sorry for the delay in approving your comment – it slipped into the spam folder! I hope you get to visit Rome one day soon. I would love to go back again to discover more. And thank you for your kind comment about my photos 😀
Haha, yes you probably have a point there – I’d love to see more of Europe, so that would possibly be a much wiser option 😉
Go for it! 🙂
Travelling alone is something I have yet to experience, but after reading your post I think I may well have to take the plunge!
I’m thinking of visiting Brazil next year, so if I do go alone I think I’ll be investing in some pacsafe gear – especially after hearing about your pick-pocket incident 🙁
That’s really great to hear that my experiences may have tempted you to try solo travel. Personally I might start a little nearer to home than Brazil though!
Nice post. I used to be very wary of travelling alone. Not so much because of safety, but because it was something unknown – how fun could it be, not being able to share your experiences with anyone? I did it once though, in Scotland, and it was great.
I do love travelling with others, but as you say there are many positives to travelling alone. The ability to do things on your schedule alone, to engage in self reflection, to really get into the place that you’re visiting. Of course, being able to take photos of food knowing that you’re not annoying anyone is nice too 🙂
Thanks Paul. I’ll be spending much of next week solo in The Gambia but I have numerous friends there so it will be a bit of both. Perfect!
So true. I have traveled the world and Rome is the most romantic city………even for solo visitors. It’s what’s inside that sparks the romance of any destination.
Thanks for popping by Lisa. 🙂
I am going to travel solo in Prague next week and I’m so excited. Hope I’ll have as good time as you did in Rome. It feels so weird not to travel with Cez, but as you said there are always pros and cons, so I’m focusing on pros at the moment. Was the Italian pasta nice?
Oh Prague! How wonderful. Have you been before? Try and check out the Jewish cemetary while you are there. Very moving exprrience.Have a fantastic time. and yes, great pasta in Rome. My favourite is pesto and spaghettii. Kat x
Oh no – I’m sorry you had your rucksack broken into in Bologna. I think Rome Termini station is the most threatening place I’ve been to – it seemed full of people looking for bags to steal.
I had heard it was bad there but I didn’t go there myself. That’s a real shame though as rest of Rome is wonderful and not in the least threatening.
That’s incredible how someone can pickpocket you without even noticing it. We saw something similar to that on the Buenos Aires subway. I used a Pacsafe on my RTW which is hard for anyone to open. Great post!
Hi Larissa, yes I was impressed with how they did it, despite being very upset. What surprised me was how we didn’t even see anyone. I expected pickpockets to work in busy, overcrowded areas. The Pacsafe range does look very good and worth investing in I think. Thanks for popping by, Kat
What a lovely post. Shame about your phone. I have been facing the ‘eating alone in a beautiful place’ problem for years. When it comes down to it I think to myself, “What is worse- having a sandwich for tea and being comfortable, or having a beautiful meal, in a beautiful place, alone?” Common sense always prevails, but it’s not always easy! I read once, from another travel blog, if you are ever feeling uncomfortable, just remind yourself that you are a travel journalist doing research. Always helps me, even though I don’t quite have that title yet!
You’re writing a travel blog so that makes you a travel journalist to me! Thanks for following. I hope you enjoy the journey.
You make some great points about traveling on your own. And I think you can really focus on the travel experience too. Thanks for such an informative post!
Thanks Meg. Have you travelled much on your own and did you enjoy it?
You too – most definitely would love to share another adventure with you 🙂
I’ve not travelled much alone but think I would enjoy going at my own pace and, as you say, not have to worry about my other half not being able to eat until I’d photographed our food. Well – we both know all about that!
Having said all that, you were certainly a wonderful travelling companion and I hope we have another adventure together before too long!
Loved this post!
I enjoyed Italy but found Rome to be very overwhelming as a vast city. It was my first time traveling to Europe and I went with my boyfriend. I am willing to give it a second chance though!
I have yet to really travel solo. My sister and I are thinking of going to France next year but then again I do wonder if it is worth experiencing alone as our tastes and intentions of traveling differ. Something to think about.
Thanks Murissa. So glad you are coming back to Europe. France is a beautiful country. Where were you thinking of going and for how long?
If you are worried about being over whelmed again maybe you should compromise – go over together, find your feet and then split up and depending on how long you are going for you could always meet up again, catch-up and then go off on your own again!
Wow it looks like you had a great time!
I like sometimes traveling solo, or take a day off from my travel buddies to photograph, explore and breath the new land. Italy is a very nice place to travel alone, since the people are friendly! 🙂
Hi Kathryn, I loved your blog on Rome. I lived there many years ago and since then I try my best to go back every year. When I went to live there originally, I went alone and it was such a fantastic place to meet people. Something about travelling alone certainly does give you that confidence to get out there and meet new people. Rome is one of the most captivating places in the world in my opinion and one day soon, I plan to go back to write a book there. It’s an inspirational place and while my heart really does belong at home in Ireland, at least once a year or more, it belongs in Rome. Thanks for this, it’s triggered some nice memories.
I enjoy creating it. Good luck
I haven’t done a lot of solo travel so it’s still feels a bit strange to me, especially the eating out bit as you say. Though I’ll be using a few of the photography/notebook tricks next time. There is something nice about being somewhere and only having to please yourself and do whatever you like.
There certainly is! It is something that didn’t come naturally to me at first but I had to do it for work (photography assignments) and I’m so glad I did. 🙂
I am in a huge dilema, I work in a school so I have the summers off. I was planning for years to go to Rome in the summer , then I remembered how hot it gets in the summer and now that I am 57 , I dont do well in the heat. So now I am looking to go in April.
it seems so much cheaper to do the tour thing , but I dont like to be stuck to a schedule and I am not shy at all and not worried of traveling alone, but I do want a safe hotel. Is there one that you can recommend?
I have often written in my notebook at meals when travelling alone and, like you, have noticed the more attentive service. Taking a photograph of the food as well seems to reinforce the idea that I am a restaurant critic.
Love this week’s “where in the world” but I don’t have a clue!
….Actually now I’ve had a better look I might have an idea. I’ll tweet it 😉
What I always love about traveling alone is that I can be selfish with my time: wander when and where I want, the same with eating and shopping, without always having to coordinate with my family members. To me, that is one of the great pleasures of solo travel.
and I think it is good to be selfish sometimes! 😉
I have started making myself do more ‘solo travel’ lately.Even, as you say, if it’s only a short distance from home. The more you do it, the more you begin to enjoy it. There are always some places and experiences though that you wish you could share.
It can be wonderful to be able to share those special moments with someone, however, I am sure solo travel is very good for building confidence and yes, the more you do it the better it gets! So I try and do a bit of both.
I agree, travelling on your own gives you the flexibility to do exactly what you want, when you want and at the pace you want and it looks like you had a great time. Rome’s very safe, thanks for sharing!
My pleasure and I enjoyed reading your post about the floating markets. Great photos too. Would love to go there one day.
Funny – I normally enjoy solo travel (many of the same reasons you suggested), but for some reason, I found Rome a little overwhelming this time and was craving someone to share it with! I did feel quite safe and had no backpack – only a camera bag – so I had no pickpocket issues as my hand was always on my camera bag. Somehow, I felt Rome was a place I just wanted to share with someone else! While I enjoyed wandering around and visiting some of the traditional sites – I am looking forward to another trip – with my partner! After all – with so many amazing restaurants to choose from – two dishes can be better than one!
I think Rome is wonderful either way! I hope you get to go back soon with your partner so you can share the magic of Rome.
You’re so right about taking a notebook to restaurants if you have to dine alone. I used to bury my head in a book but scribbling in a notebook is an entirely different experience. I use the time to reflect on the day and make notes while I can still remember them, as well as to take notes about the restaurant.
And yes, it makes it much easier to take photos without your fellow diners groaning in impatience 🙂
Mind you, I do get some funny looks when I start photographing the menu but it certainly saves time on writing everything down!
I love to travel alone and do it often. It is great for all the reasons you mention. I will be alone in lovely Rome soon on my way home.
Hi Debra, Have a really wonderful time. I hope I get the chance to go back again before too long.