Alone in Rome

My family is from Italy and most of them live in the Venice area. I have been to Italy a few times, but always just to Vicenza/ Venice area to visit my family. Being Italian, I wanted to venture out and see more of the country where my family is from. A few summers ago, I went to visit my family in Vicenza for 8 days with my mom and sisters. As always, I was grateful I got to spend time with my family, even though we communicate through Google translate 70% of the time. After the 8 days were over, my mom and sisters hopped on a flight back to the U.S. and I hopped on a crowded bus without air conditioning to Rome. This was going to be my first international trip alone, but as I had been to Italy several times and can kind of hold a conversation in Italian, I wasn’t worried.

After the five hour bus ride, I arrived in Rome and headed to my hotel. I stayed at Hotel Villa Riari which is a mix between a hostel and a “no-frill” hotel. I decided to get a room alone instead of getting a shared hostel room, and for 35 EUR a night, I couldn’t beat it. Hotel Villa Riari is in Trastevere which is a fascinating neighborhood near the water.

On my first night, I walked around the narrow streets and stumbled upon a dimly lit, small restaurant called Glass Hostaria. When I got to the restaurant there was a family of four and a couple seated, and then there was just me, sitting alone. This was my first time going to a fancy dinner alone. At first I felt extremely uncomfortable and I felt like the people there were judging me. I thought they must be thinking, “poor girl can’t get anyone to take her to dinner”. But in reality, I could have went on this trip with someone, or met someone in Rome to go out with, I just chose to go alone. It is an unfortunate stigma that when women travel alone or do anything alone, they are seen as lonely and lacking something. I was uncomfortable at first but eventually the uncomfortableness became liberating. After I stopped caring so much about what these 6 strangers might have thought of me, I started to enjoy my time. I looked out the window and admired the bustling crowds of people all looking for something to do on a Friday night. I didn’t use my phone as a scapegoat for the awkwardness I was feeling. I watched, tasted, and felt everything; I was 100% present in the moment. I highly suggest everyone travel  alone or even going out to eat alone at least once, it is liberating.

Slightly tipsy from my wine at dinner, I went wandering around on that sweltering Roman night. Tourists filled the narrow cobblestone streets. I walked past gift shops and gelaterias and men outside cafes smoking cigars and playing cards under the street lamps. I passed by a restaurant with live music and the performer was singing “Strangers in the night” and I stopped in to listen. In that exact moment, thousands of miles away from my actual home, I felt at home. I felt at home alone in a place I’ve never been before because I pushed past my comfort zone. I felt at home because I was a stranger in the night but it felt warm and welcoming, just like home.


The next day I had plans to go the Vatican. I waited in line for several hours and when I got to the front I wasn’t allowed in. That is a long story, which I’ll save for another blog post. My time near the Vatican had taken up about 5 hours of my day. I was tired and had a headache and was looking to escape the 105+ degree weather so I went back to the my hotel. As soon as I got back I wound up getting sick, I was nauseous, dizzy, and vomiting. At first, I was nervous because I didn’t know why I was sick and I was alone, so tons of thoughts ran in my mind. How was I going to get to a pharmacy and try to figure out what I needed? It’s not like I had someone to run out and get me medicine if needed. I also realized I was flying back in a couple of days and worried that maybe this was a stomach bug so I may be sick on my long journey back home. I decided to drink lots of water and sleep it out and once I woke up I realized it was just heat exhaustion and dehydration.

I felt much better the next day so I went exploring and found the Porta Portese Flea Market. I love going to open markets while traveling, much more than going to malls or brand name stores. There are so many neat and antique items that you can find, plus you can haggle for cheaper prices, try doing that at Zara’s! While there I found old photographs and found a newspaper from 1969 which reads “The First Photo of the Moon”, which I bought for 25 cents! How cool?!


After that I headed over to the Colosseum. The Colosseum is an absolute must see if you are in Rome as it showcases Rome’s rich history. There are tons of different ticketing options online, from group, to audio to underground tours. Whatever you decide, I highly suggest you buy the tickets online in advance because the lines can be extremely long. I didn’t realize that before I went so I had to wait in line for a while. When I finally got in, I went exploring the beautiful historic monument. I learned that the Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire and in the world today. It was the premier venue for wild animal hunts and bloody gladiator combat. I spent about 2 hours there and it was truly an amazing experience.


My final day before my flight I decided to take the train to the beach. I wanted to do anything to escape that sweltering heat. I didn’t really have a plan, I just knew there were beaches nearby and in Europe, you can get to most places by train. I went to the main train station in Rome, Stazione Termini. Using my little bit of Italian and years of taking public transportation, I figured out I needed to take the train to Santa Marianella which is about an hour train ride out of Rome. The lines for the ticketing agents were incredibly long so I just went to a ticket machine. There were women standing by in polo shirts who seemed to work there and one of them came up to me and asked where I was going. I told her Santa Marianella and she chose that ticket on the ticketing screen for me and then I paid. I thanked her and as I did, she said “That will be 5 euros”. I asked what for, as I had already paid $20 for my train ticket and she responded by saying “for her assistance”. I told her I didn’t ask for her assistance nor did I need it, I could have figured a ticketing machine out on my own. She kept insisting that I owed her money but I got my ticket and walked away. I realized that those women do not work for the train station, they are just there to get money from tourists. And they were making good money, all the people around me were giving them money to help them push a button on a screem when they could have done that themselves. Moral of the story is trust yourself, especially when you are traveling alone. I knew I didn’t owe her money and she wasn’t going to intimidate me into giving it to her. Locals may target you when you are alone and you just need to mindful of that and use your best judgement.

Once I got my ticket, I got on the train to Santa Marianella. An hour later I hopped off just steps from the beach. It was a beautiful scene, bright turquoise water, white sand, and green, white and red umbrellas representing the Italian flag. The beach was crowded but I was able to relax on lounge chairs and go in the ocean. I finished off the beautiful day with a sea side restaurant. I ordered garlic butter pasta with fresh, head on shrimp, paired with a glass of white wine. It was the perfect ending to a perfect trip. 


Finding Francesca

  1. Grandma says:

    Reading that was so beautiful, I felt like I was with you. I remember being at the Colosseum and it was so hot I couldn’t even enjoy it, wanted to get back on the bus with the air conditioning. Loved seeing the beach that you were at, never having seen it in person.

  2. francesca says:

    Thanks, Grandma. Yes, their heat there is BRUTAL!

  3. QQPokerRaja says:

    Hi there, I check your blogs regularly. Your writing style is witty, keep doing what you’re doing!

  4. Rylie says:

    Wow, it sounds like a good time, also thank you for your tips on buying tickets online! Sometimes I go for in person cause I trust it more, but I would hate to waste time anytime when I go to Rome.

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