To me, Italy is one of the best countries to travel solo. There is so much to see and to experience. And yes, while it is a romantic place to share with a special someone, there is also a lot to explore on your own.
But, if you want some companionship, Italy is an easy place to make some new friends. As one of the most visited countries in the world – some 48.6 million people arrived for a look-see in 2014 – it’s a wonderful destination to meet other travelers. Especially as a solo female traveler.
So, on my first visit to this country in 2008, I did just that – I met some wonderful Aussies.
It was actually toward the end of my time in Italy. I had been in Tuscany for a while, photographing the wedding of my Irish friend, Aedín. I spent a few days traveling with Aedín and her boyfriend (now husband) after the wedding. We parted ways and I finished out my Tuscan time in Florence. From there, I knew I wanted to head north to Lago di Como, Lake Como.
As I trained to the town of Como, then caught the bus to Bellagio where I’d be spending a few nights, I took in the beauty of this region. Mountains sliding down into the lake. Villas dotting the shore. It’s stunning.
I found my lovely boutique hotel, Hotel Bellagio, and wandered about the town with my camera. Bellagio is a colorful place with winding pedestrian streets right on the lake front. It’s a gorgeous town.
On my second day there, I took the ferry to Varenna, another beautiful lakeside town. It was at this time that I met a young Aussie couple – Nick and his wife, Natasha, who was about 5 months pregnant. They had a car and were going on to St Moritz in Switzerland for the day. They too were staying in Bellagio. We chatted about our travels to that point and our plans for the day and parted ways.
The next day as I wandered about Bellagio, photographing and shopping I ran into Nick and Natasha. Then I ran into them again. We stopped and chatted, catching up, then parted ways.
That evening as I sat on some stairs outside a restaurant waiting for it to open, who do I run into again? Yes, Nick and Natasha. They kindly asked me to join them for dinner.
We had a wonderful dinner with lively conversation, sharing stories of travels and our lives back home – theirs in Perth and mine in Golden, Colorado. It’s so easy when you are traveling to become friends, even if just for a few hours. Everything else melts away and you live in that moment.
These too are travel moments, like the moments you have connecting with the locals. Yes, these are different times, as sometimes you are connecting with someone from the same country as you. But, they are still moments of meeting people who maybe you wouldn’t have otherwise sat down and had a conversation with. That’s the beauty of travel. You don’t know who you might meet, the conversations you might have, and what you might learn. Even from someone who shares your country.
In this case, I met folks who, yes, were from a different country. But, who shared a similar language and, in many ways, similar values. Did I learn something? Absolutely. I learned that Natasha, a beautiful young woman, was as any new mother, nervous about becoming a mom. And that Nick was into his work and very entrepreneurial – and looking forward to being a dad. And, I could tell he thought his wife was the most beautiful woman on the earth. They were sweet.
I learned, yet again, that we are all human. That we are all people. That we are citizens of the world. That we all have the same needs and wants.
Travel moments come when you least expect them. And sometimes they kind of knock you over the head as in running into the same people three times. But, in order to have those moments – those authentic travel moments – you have to say yes. Sometimes, we’re too shy to accept an offer. Or a little scared. But, usually, you end up not regretting saying yes.
Funny in that I had met a couple the day before, a British couple, who invited me to join them for lunch in Varenna. I said no, although in retrospect, I wish I had said yes. Perhaps running into Nick and Natasha a few times was the Universe telling me I need to say yes more often. So, I did. No regrets!