A tale of two trips to Italy.
There are times when solo travel is the only option and times when it’s a conscious choice. The stigma of solo travel is fading more and more.
There are advantages of solo travel. No arguing over where to have dinner. No feeling guilty about skipping that all day bus tour. No compromising on where you want to go and when.
There are advantages of together travel too. Shared expenses, being motivated to do something, and having someone to help you navigate when you’re lost.
As mentioned in my about page I did a long weekend getaway to Rome in 1996. I couldn’t convince anyone to join me but wasn’t going to let that stop me! When I arrived on a cold, rainy Thursday morning in November, I jumped in a cab to Hotel Diplomatic, asked them to hold my luggage, grabbed a free tourist map and headed out into the rain. My first stop was Castel Sant’Angelo because it was so close to the hotel.
I explored St Peter’s Basilica and then stopped for pizza right outside St Peter’s Square. (Side note, it was horrible pizza.) I walked over to the Sistine Chapel and after about 15 minutes in line, a guard told us we wouldn’t be getting in that day because it closed early on Thursdays. [NOTE: It doesn’t close early on Thursdays anymore.]
I could’ve whined or complained but instead shuffled my plan and started walking. With solo travel spur of the moment, adjustments are easy. I ended up at Villa Borghese and was amazed at the gardens and the interior trompe l’oeil paintings.
The cold, rainy weather made for less than picture perfect photos and a sudden stop into Museo Napoleonico just to get out of the rain. I have to admit, even as a European History major in college I had no idea how big the Bonaparte family was. The museum filled in a number of gaps for me. If you are a Napoleon fan, it’s worth a visit. Or, if like me, you’re in that part of Rome on a cold and rainy day…
The next morning I had to decide if I wanted to go to the Sistine Chapel, it wasn’t in the direction of the other things I wanted to see, but it’s the Sistine Chapel, so I went.
And I had one of the most amazing experiences, that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been alone. As I stood there looking up, people in groups or couples were pointing out specific aspects of the ceiling. While individually they were speaking in hushed tones, the cavernous room is a big echo chamber. I’d been there about 10 minutes when a robed monk comes out of a doorway and shushes everyone.
Oh, the giggling in my head. “These people just got shushed by a monk in the Sistine Chapel!” I’m not sure where that lands on the list of sins, but it can’t be good.
If I hadn’t been solo, I might have been shushed too.
The other Italy trip was a meeting up with a friend in Venice. She’s fluent in Italian and an art teacher, so it promised to be a great trip. We decided to go all in on “Venetian-style” and found it at Hotel Gorizia “A La Valigia”. [NOTE:I tend to prefer smaller local hotels not huge, anonymous chain hotels.]
She didn’t mind re-seeing Murano and we saw a glass blowing demonstration for €3/each.
Because I’m a good friend I managed to talk her out of a €1000 Murano glass sailboat.
We splurged on lunch at Hotel Danieli. The food is good, if expensive, but the view is outstanding.
I talked her into a gondola ride. It’s touristy, but a to paraphrase, “When in Venice…” She had a *great* idea to buy a bottle of wine to share during the ride and we toasted everyone on every bridge we passed. The best part, asking the gondolier to pull over so I could buy another bottle of wine from a restaurant along the route. They opened the bottle and graciously offered plastic cups. Clearly, this wasn’t the first time someone had bought a bottle for the [water] road!