An Unexpected Issue When Traveling Solo in Tuscany
A sense of paranoia was not what I expected to feel on my first trip to Tuscany.
During most of my visit I felt like I was getting weird looks when I would buy tickets, go in to restaurants, or even stroll around the picturesque downtowns.
Was I unaware of a wardrobe malfunction? Are tourists not supposed to be here? Is this all in my head?
There was one instance that made it clear it wasn’t me being oversensitive.
I was visiting Siena and walked into a small restaurant on a busy square that was completely empty. It was just me and the two employees. The waiter looked at me and then almost frantically behind me with growing surprise.
I nodded and he (I’m not exaggerating) looked panic-stricken as he glanced at the 10 empty tables set for 2 people, as if wondering where to sit this freak.
I found it pretty humorous, but by the end of the day it was old when even buying a single ticket for the cathedral generated surprise. The next morning I was telling my bed & breakfast hostess about it, remembering how the first morning at breakfast everyone had praised my courage and confidence in coming there alone.
She confirmed it wasn’t just in my head. That area of Tuscany doesn’t get many solo travelers and those that are tend to be older men or college students. So while I was completely safe, I was definitely standing out as unusual. Apparently I needed to be 10 years younger or 30 years older to not stick out.
We joked that next time a restaurant expressed surprise about a table for one, I should burst into tears and tell them my boyfriend and I had just had a big fight.
If you go to Tuscany alone you will definitely enjoy it, how could you not!?, but more so if you know in advance that solo travelers are not the norm and you might get some surprise or funny looks.
And if that kind of thing gets to you, here are some tips on lessening the feeling of isolation
- Stay in town vs the countryside. I stayed in the country and once I wrapped up my site-seeing around 4 or 5, I was too tired to get back in the car for an uncomfortable dinner at 8. But if it was just a matter of walking a block or two I would have poppd in somewhere for dinner and/or a walk around the town.
- Stay in a B&B to make friends – You can also do this at a hostel, but now in my 30s my hostel days are over. A B&B is the next best thing. Your hosts are good sources of information, even camraderie and I found all my fellow guests very friendly and welcoming.
- Take Group Tours – I strongly prefer to do my own thing on my own schedule, but if you’re not a fan of driving or taking public transportation solo, tours are a good way to see the sites and feel like part of a group.
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