If you’re short on time, 4 days in Rome can be enough to see some of the major sites and also give you some time to relax and people watch.
When planning my stay in Rome while I was mindful that it was the last stop on a busy 3-week European trip, I wasn’t sure when I’d be back so I needed to pack in as much as I could. I only had 4 days in Rome, I know, I know, not nearly enough time! With that in mind I basically hit the ground running after checking in at my Airbnb.
Coming from Florence (Click on the link to find out about my 6 days in Florence experience) via fast train, it was an easy (and safe) 10-minute stroll from Roma Termini to my apartment which was located in the Monti area. I chose this area simply because it was within walking distance to the Colosseum, the Forum & Palatine Hill, the main reason for my stop in Rome.
Also, I’d heard it was filled with great bars, awesome food, cobblestoned streets, vintage stores and a mix of younger and older people. That is what I am always looking for. Immersion into local life is how I like to travel. Monti, is a bit off the tourist path as far as accommodation goes and that is something that really does appeal to me.
With planning accommodation in Rome, is that it is really important to get a place that is close enough to the sights you want to see and what you want to do. There are much more touristy places where hotels and apartments tend to be more on the high-price side of accommodation. If you can afford it do it. You’ll save yourself some money from not having to catch taxi’s everywhere.
But if you are like me and conscious of what you’re spending then an area slightly off the tourist path could save you a lot of money AND get you fit at the same time. In saying though, the train system in Rome is really good so base yourself close to a station and you’ll be right.
As a whole, my advice to anyone going to Rome for the first time and if you have a limited amount of time, is:
Plan ahead! Plan your days, plan what you’ll be seeing and how you are getting to and from places.
Book your tours before you go to skip the lines (because they can get quite massive).
Research places to eat and drink too.
Normally I like to not plan as much except for a few tours, I am more of a go with the flow kind of person. But I knew that I would miss out on too much if I didn’t make some serious plans. And there were times where I stuffed up big time and wasted a whole afternoon getting lost. But at least I saw some amazing sites along the way.
For my 4 days in Rome experience, I planned:
A get myself acquainted with the Monti area kind of day.
Straight on tour to the magnificent Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. The tour took approximately 4 hours so afterwards I took myself out for a drink and meal.
This tour was absolutely brilliant and you can read my review here ***.
An early start to tour Vatican City (you can read my review here) and a walk back to Monti seeing the following on my way home:
Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
It was a LONG day! I think I was up at 5.30am to be at the Vatican at 7am. I am calling it my ‘cram in as much of Rome as possible’ day! I was on my feet all day stopping only in Piazza Navona for lunch for a delicious pizza and for Gelati in a piazza not far from Monti on my way home. I think I clocked up over 20,000 steps on my Fitbit that day and slept like a baby once I finally got back to my apartment.
I just had a day of relaxing, washing clothes, packing & tidying up my Airbnb, strolling around the back streets of Monti, and eating out.
Ideally, I would have liked to have had a week in Rome, and really that wouldn’t be enough to see everything. But honestly, how much time is enough time in a city like Rome?
Unless you live in a city or can afford to spend a lot of time in one, can you ever really see everything? I know there was a lot that I missed, but with only 4 days in Rome, I think what I did was enough and afforded me time to spend strolling around and taking some time out to people watch.
There is a lot to be said about cramming as much in as possible in a holiday, but I am simply not that kind of traveller. Sitting in a bar talking to locals made me happier than some of what I did on day 4 of this trip. I mean, you can’t get that kind of experience ticking historical sights of a list. Yes, I could have done more, but knowing I’d be back some day, I did the basics and made a list of things to see and do next time. Some of which, the colosseum mainly, I will do again.
Hope my itinerary helps, if you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments section below.
What more can be said about the Cinque Terre other that it is just amazingly stunning. Beautiful. Picturesque. Tranquil (after the tourists have left for the day). One of the highlights of my trip to Italy.
If you don’t have a car, the journey can be a relatively long one unless you’re staying close to La Spezia. Me, nah I was coming from Bologna via train. On the map it looks like maybe 2 hours, but my trip took 7. Three connections and two delayed trains (Italy sort your shit out with that please), but I eventually got there, determined to see the famous Cinque Terre!
From Bologna I took a train to the outskirts of Florence. Train delay number 1 for 2 hours! Then a train to Pisa and no I did not get off and go visit the ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’ after seeing the impressive ones in Bologna (you can read about that here) there was no need to. But you know, another train delay meant that I probably could have. Another train to La Spezia then it was FINALLY onto my destination, Monterosso al Mare.
The Cinque Terre (five towns in Italian) is five cliff towns on the west cost of Italy in the Liguria region. Centuries old seaside villages each with their own charm but all filled with colourful homes and vineyards that cling to steep terraces. Pretty much all of the Cinque Terre is steep! But oh, so beautiful. Post card stuff! For the five towns, their harbors are filled with fishing boats and trattorias that turn out seafood specialties along with the Liguria region’s famous sauce, pesto. Which is divine. The Sentiero Azzurro cliffside hiking trail links the villages and offers sweeping sea views. If you are into hiking and are fit enough the trek between the five towns is meant to be quite special. But I am not that fit and I was on a tight time schedule.
Monterosso al Mare is the furthest away from La Spezia (or Florence if you don’t know where that is) but the closest to Portofino and Genova. Next is Vernazza, followed by Corniglia, Manarola and lastly Riomaggiore which is the closest to La Spezia/Florence side of the Cinque Terre.
Staying in the Cinque Terre can be expensive but worth it if you can stretch your dollar. A lot of tourist stay in nearby towns like La Spezia and train it to the Cinque Terre daily. It is after all only a 15-minute train ride. Speaking of trains, the 5 towns are linked by a fabulous train system of which you can buy daily passes. Italy train system got that one right!
I chose to mix it up on my stay in the Cinque Terre. The first night I stayed in Monterosso al Mare which is the flattest of all the towns. The second night was in Riomaggiore. Sadly, only had two nights in the area. Next time I will definitely stay a week and totally chill because it certainly is the place to do so!
My arrival in Monterosso al Mare was met with a short 10-minute walk from the train station into the main part of town. That walk alone was enough for me to know I’d be having a super relaxed time in the Cinque Terre. People just seemed happier; I mean why wouldn’t they with those views. Hawkers sell items on the beach and on the roads and for split second I thought I was on a beach in Bali. The whole vibe, the shops and hawkers were all a little hippie, a lot coastal and quite alternative. Not so mainstream Italian which was for me, a nice change of pace being a bit of an alternative seeker myself.
I managed to find my hotel/boarding house called an Affittacamere (you can read my review of Affittacamere Sull’Arcohere) quite easily and after unpacking went out walking around, and finding a spot to people watch and shop watch. From where I sat, I could easily pick out 3 shops from which I just knew the next day I was going to make some serious purchases from.
Being late into Monterosso al Mare after the too many train delays, I found a great little Osteria off the main street and sat myself down to do my favourite of all the things in Italy, Aperitivo of Aperol Spritz. What I love about Aperitivo is the food that accompanies that is all complimentary. This place gave me fresh hot focaccia, olives and potato chips. That was simply enough for me, not wanting to spoil myself of a bowl of pasta for dinner. However, no matter how many drinks you order, you get a fresh plate of food every time. Damn. And I like to drink! Alas, money saved, no dinner needed! Of course. I left myself enough room for Gelati.
I wasn’t expected at the next Affittacamere in Riomaggiore until midday the next day so off I went spending my hard-earned Aussie dollar (little battler)! Managed to get myself a beautiful olive-green linen top, stone necklace and….. bag number 1 (of many) on my trip to Italy. I wish I could remember the name of the shop because this lady was selling some really beautiful clothes, bags and jewelry (all of the hippie variety) and she was super lovely giving me items for free because she “loves Australians”. Ah I know where the shop was so when I get back to the Cinque Terre, I will find her… I will buy from her… I will, I promise!
I was met at Riomaggiore train station by the hotel staff as they didn’t want me to get lost finding the Affittacamere . And thank the universe they did! I went through such a maze of back alleys and buildings that I was 100% sure I would get lost time and time again. My room at Alla Marina Affittacamere was divine, you can read my review here. Again, settle in and then explore. Big photo opportunities in Riomaggiore when exploring. Nothing was more satisfying than the perfect shots I took and the obligatory gelati with beautiful Riomaggiore as a backdrop.
Riomaggiore is much steeper than Monterosso al Mare so you know what’s a girl to do but find a bar in the sun and chill for a while. From my little table I managed to start chatting to some new friends from Texas (who have since followed The Bright Eyed Explorer), Germany and the UK. Got to love being a world traveller and someone who can converse with strangers at whim. I think I spent the most of my afternoon talking & drinking with strangers.
My hotel recommended a lovely place for dinner which ended up being not overly great but I had steak and Cinque Terre is famous for seafood (which I sadly don’t eat) but this was the most expensive meal for my entire trip. Ah give me pizza or pasta any day! I managed to have a bit of an altercation with bar staff at the place I went to after dinner. I’d passed this bar several times during the day and thought it would be a great place to head to later in the evening. But, no toilet, bad communication meant that I was duped out of a pint of beer. Alas, a minor thing and there was always the bar across the street (the one I had been to earlier in the day) that was far more friendly and accommodating.
The worst thing about the Cinque Terre was leaving. But Florence was calling my name. I am so so so glad I went because I almost didn’t. A shame that it was only for 2 nights because I was super relaxed and damn happy being there. I can certainly see myself back in the Cinque Terre some time when the weather is warm and the drinks are flowing. A week to unwind and chill and write would be my ultimate dream.
And then maybe I would go visit the other 3 towns. I’ll admit I was pretty lazy on my trip to the Cinque Terre but, well needed time to chill was what I was after and I succeeded with that on a great level. The only regret I do have is that I didn’t get out on a boat and see the towns from the water. I did try but would have been the only person to charter a boat and at 80 Euro, that was something the AUD didn’t stretch to. I’ll be back, it’s ok.
Bologna is the largest city in the Emillia Romangna region of northern Italy. It is kind of half way between Venice and Florence. Known as La Rossa (the red), La Grassa (the fat) and La Dotta (the learned), Bologna is famous for its ancient architecture and terracotta colour buildings, rich beautiful food and being home to the first and oldest university in Europe. Not as busy as Venice, Rome, or Florence but certainly a city that is worth a visit when travelling through Italy.
For me, it was all about the food! Being a huge fan of Italian food and in particular Spaghetti Bolognaise (hey that is what it is called in Australia) I knew I had to make Bologna a stop on my recent trip to Italy. After two hectic days in Venice, Bologna was a very welcomed change of pace for me.
To get to Bologna from Venice, I jumped on a train that took about an hour and 20 minutes and cost $25 AUD. Too easy! I chose to stay in the university neighbourhood in the Centro Storico (historical centre) of Bologna which is literally a 10-minute walk into Piazza Maggiore and the Fountain of Neptune. Through Booking.com I managed to find a lovely 1-bedroom apartment to which the owner was simply lovely and very accommodating giving me loads of handy hints, places to eat and areas to explore. My review of Le Casine Di Vladimir (my apartment) is here.
After familiarising myself with the apartment I was off to explore the area. I spent a few hours roaming around Bologna’s famous (and very beautiful) porticos, people watching, grocery shopping and beer drinking at Cluricaune Irish Pub. Upon numerous recommendations from locals and people back in Australia it was an absolute must that I try out one of Bologna’s most famous Osterias ‘Osteria dell’Orsa’.
The place is loaded with people at all hours looking for a cheap, simple but authentic meal. Often there is a wait for a table with people queuing out the front, but the lines apparently move fairly quickly. With this in mind, I decided to miss the crowds and line up and have an early dinner. I managed to score a seat on a shared table filled with the united nations of diners. My table was mixed with a few locals, Germans, Singaporeans, a solo Israeli traveler and this solo Aussie chick. Every single one of us ordered the same. Tagliatelle al Ragu. Or as Australian’s like to call it, spaghetti bolognaise (I promise to never call it that again!)
Let. Me. Tell. You…. How AMAZING this simple bowl of pasta was. It was freaking delightful, never have a tasted a pasta dish like it. So good that I am pretty sure that my eyes rolled back in my head at one point. My dinner comrades must have felt the same as you could hear a pin drop at our table while eating, only 5 minutes before that we were all laughing and telling travel stories! The food is all sourced locally and the pasta is home made. The wine is sourced from a town called Imola which is located 40 kilometres from Bologna. If you’re in Bologna, definitely definitely, definitely put Osteria dell’Orsa on your must do list.
With a full belly, I left the Osteria, grabbed some wine and headed off to Piazza Maggiore to do more people watching while reading, writing and drinking my wine like a local. On a warm spring night there is no better way to enjoy the best of Bologna, the locals certainly enjoy it probably more than the tourists.
The next day I had booked myself on a walking foodie tour. Being in the food capital of Italy doing a food tour was simply a must. You can read more about the food tour in my review ‘Best of food in Bologna’ but, this is when I had my first of many gelati on my trip to Italy. I was soon to become hooked! I was also able to take in more of Bologna’s famous sites, including the famous leaning Asinelli towers. Situated in the heart of Bologna, the towers were built in the 12th century and both have an impressive lean on them which is an interesting view from below when looking up. These two towers have more than a lean on them than the famous ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’. Pretty impressive. After the tour I wandered around the food market and purchased my dinner Lasagne alla Bolognese as well as some really rich balsamic vinegar and other foodie treats for the rest of my trip. It was an early exit to the Cinque Terre the next morning so a home cooked meal fresh from the market in my humble little apartment was a perfect end to my short stay in Bologna.
Bologna really is an Italian food lover’s paradise. The Bolognesi are clearly very passionate about their food, wine and produce and so they should be! It all really is of such high quality. The absolutely lovely thing is that they also nurture the recipes that have been passed down from generations. The food is traditional and while it is simple you really can feel the love and care that has gone into perfecting these recipes. When eating out in Bologna you really get the impression that you are eating food that has been lovingly passed down from the chefs Nona.
Although my stay in Bologna was quite short, it was really enjoyable. I felt safe, comfortable and relaxed. It is a picturesque city with a really cool vibe. I will definitely head back to Bologna and stay longer the next time I am in Italy.
I stayed two nights in Le Casine Di Vladimar whilst in Bologna. The apartment is about a ten minute walk from the main train station and less than ten minutes from the Centro Storico (main centre). There are some great café’s, bars, restaurants and grocery stores close by. Easily accessible on the second floor of the apartment building. The apartment is secure and you don’t hear much from neighbours or from the crowds in the Piazza close by.
It’s a quaint apartment fitted out with all the necessities needed for your stay. Importantly there is a washing machine which comes in real handy when you are travelling around Europe using only carry on size luggage.
The one bedroom is huge! You could fit a cot or another single bed in there if needed. The bed is super comfortable and dressed in modern bed linens. In the bedroom there is a wardrobe to hang clothes, hair dryer, clothes horse (to dry clothes), an iron, ironing board, desk and anything else you could need.
The lounge and kitchen area leads out to a small balcony. The couch in the lounge can fold out into a bed for more than two guests. There is no TV but seriously, who needs a TV when you are on holidays. The kitchen is fully equip with everything need for your stay and to cook meals. The owner supplies coffee and tea and other such things you may need for your morning wake up drink.
The owner is really lovely. She says she doesn’t speak English that well but I thought she really did very well. She gave me many recommendations on where to eat, drink and what to visit.
If you’re headed to Bologna and looking for an apartment to base yourself I would highly recommend LeCasine Di Vladimar. I’ll definitely stay again when in Bologna next.
As a frequent traveller I am often asked why I choose solo travel over travelling with others. It is not that I don’t enjoy the company of others when travelling, it is just that my preferred form of travel happens to be by myself. In the last few years I have had family, friends, and even strangers try to understand my reasoning so it has compelled me to put this piece together.
If you are seriously considering solo travel, I hope that this post gives you the motivation you need to commit to it. If you’re wary, curious, sceptical or don’t think solo travel is for you then I hope that this gives you some insight into the wonders of solo travel and how it can impact your life in such a positive way.
Personally, I have found that there is nothing in life more challenging, yet so fulfilling and life changing than solo travel. By being pushed so far outside of my comfort zone, solo travel has given me the ability to trust my own instincts and has elevated my confidence in ways that I would never have imagined.
Simply put, solo travel is liberating.
It is freedom.
And it is sooooooooooo rewarding!
My solo travels have been periods of extreme growth as an individual. It is where I have learnt more about myself and the world around me than I ever would have done sitting at home waiting for someone to travel with me.
On that topic let me just get this off my chest straight away. DO NOT wait for other people to accompany you on a trip. Just go. Do it. Don’t fall into that trap of letting other people hold you back from your dreams. Once you are out there, you WILL meet people and oftentimes you will forge lasting friendships with people from all over the world. What a win!! For me, if there is somewhere I want to go and I can afford it, nothing holds me back from booking that holiday.
Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed travelling with family, friends and partners and for most parts have had some truly memorable experiences. Some of my happiest travel moments have been experiencing or witnessing something spectacular and sharing those moments with someone else. It is just that my most favourite form of travel is done solo. I do happen to quite appreciate my own company and the bonus is having the freedom to do what I want, when I want and how I want.
For me there is nothing more satisfying than booking a trip, researching locations, choosing accommodation, booking tours and embarking on a solo trip when it is all for my own enjoyment. All without having to take into consideration the needs and wants of others.
Selfish? I don’t think so, life is short. Why not embrace and do what makes me happy! My mother’s early departure from life taught me to grab life with both hands and just do everything I possibly can. For me complacency and not fulfilling my dreams is akin to a slow and painful death, so travel on my terms, when I want and how I want is definitely for me.
I get that solo travel is not for everyone and not being one to sugar coat things, I will say that travelling by yourself can be hard and it will test you. Solo travel really does push you well outside of your comfort zone, and I understand that may not be very appealing for some people.
There have been many times where I have doubted myself. I have worried about my personal safety and general well being. I have wondered about the intentions of strangers, hoping I have got their motives right. I have gotten myself so lost in cities and wondered around for hours. Accommodation and tour bookings have fallen through last minute and I have missed a flight AND a train or two. But never once in all my solo travels have I run into any major issues that couldn’t be fixed.
Solo travel can be a lonely affair at times so the one thing you need to be able to do is enjoy your own company. Eating and drinking alone in a foreign place has been an unexpected obstacle for me to overcome. In the past I have been so worried about being judged for sitting there on my own but now, I am so comfortable with solo dining that I even do it back home.
Another consideration is the loneliness of not having someone to share amazing experiences with. For example, I would have LOVED to have shared with someone the excitement of seeing the Northern Lights in Norway or that time I stumbled across Paul Kelly busking out the front of Shakespeare and Co in Paris. But having those moments on my own far outweigh not ever having had the experience at all.
Have I enticed you to give solo a travel a go yet?
If you are hesitant to go it alone rather than jumping in the deep end and doing a massive adventure that you could potentially hate (unless of course that floats your boat) my advice is to give yourself a solo travel taster to begin with. Start small and somewhere that is familiar enough to you. It could be that you holiday in your own city, state or country. Or like me, to a country that you had been to before. If that seems too much, start by taking yourself out for dinner on your own. The important thing is to learn how to travel by yourself. See if you will be ok on your own.
I started my solo adventures in Bali because to me, it was familiar. I had been there numerous times with others and for me it was important to put myself out there but gently, dipping my toes in the solo travel waters one inch at a time. Bali was easy. If shit hit the fan, I was only 6 hours from home. I knew where I was, I knew the Balinese culture, food, and people. I even had a group of locals that I call my ‘Bali family’ that I could rely upon IF needed (I never did by the way).
That one week in Bali changed my life for the better. I don’t think I had ever been so relaxed and happy, and I felt like I had really nailed travelling on my own. After Bali I was hooked so as soon as I got home I booked another solo trip to France. I followed that up with trips to Norway, Denmark and Uluru. This year I am off to Italy, Germany, Austria as well as the US and Canada (some solo, some with friends). I am so thankful for the experiences I have had and incredibly excited about what is ahead!
Some other valuable discoveries about solo travel that I think are incredibly important:
I am more capable than I ever gave myself credit for. Stepping outside my comfort zone has been a life changer!
To be totally transparent, when I embarked on my first solo trip, I was shit scared and so worried that I wasn’t capable of doing it. I thought that I needed someone with me to have fun with or to rely upon to navigate the holiday. In fact, I still have some of those doubts before every trip (mostly when I am on the plane and it is fortunately too late to back out).
Self-doubt and low confidence have been somewhat of an issue for me my entire life. Jumping into solo travel has really tested me, but with having no choice than to face my fears I have gained a new and profound sense of independence and understanding that I am more than capable of travelling on my own. All I have needed was to trust myself and listen to my gut instinct.
From my solo adventures I have had to talk to people I would normally shy away from. I have had to ask strangers for help, I have had to face eating and drinking on my own, going solo on tours and the list goes on but, by facing those fears I have not lost a thing. Only gained new friends and some fabulous new experiences.
People are inherently good
One of the greatest realisations that I have had while travelling solo is that most people are good and are not out to screw you over. In fact, in my experience, locals are often willing to help someone asking for directions or are full of useful information and recommendations. Generally, they are proud of their home and want to show it off to you by being helpful.
Fellow travellers are often in the same boat as you and can turn out to be the source of endless fun and unexpected adventures. I have been very fortunate in all of my solo travel experiences and have met some wonderful new friends all from asking for directions or getting over my own scardy cat bullshit and striking up conversation.
I have had dinners with a couple from Germany who have invited me to stay with them in their home, a night out in Tromso with a total misfit 70 year old woman from Brisbane, bonded over beers with a new friend from Hong Kong while sitting next to each other on a flight, an awesome new friend in Svolaer who happens to own a bar there (handy friend to have) AND I’ve even had a waiter attempt to pick me up in Strasbourg (ah huh, that happened much to my delight).
Yes, there are some jerks out there, but do as you would do in your own home. If someone looks dodgy, common sense would mean that you probably wouldn’t approach them to ask for directions. Same goes for when you are travelling.
Things can and will go wrong and that is ok.
Sometimes shit just happens and while it can be quite frustrating, when you are holidaying you can’t afford to waste precious time holding onto the what ifs and what nots. Just roll with it.
I mean, what is the point of stressing over things beyond your control while travelling? The only outcome is that the stress will lead to you having a miserable trip and who wants that? So yeah, you missed that flight? Go find an airport bar and drink a bottle of wine (like my friend Loz did in Oslo). Your accommodation is not what it looked like in the pictures? Move places or better still stay, you’re not on holidays to spend the bulk of your time in a hotel room.
It really does pay to lower your expectations of what your holiday should or could be as it inevitably will lead to less disappointment and a more enjoyable trip.
A new sense of freedom.
The first moment I realised how liberating and freeing solo travel was occurred after a 24-hour flight from Melbourne to Paris. After I landed, I navigated through the airport and train into central Paris, found my hotel and now my holiday was to begin. I had done it. I had made this trip happen, I saved the money, researched, created an itinerary, booked tours, hotels, Airbnb’s, train trips and now here I was, totally relaxed, very excited and utterly content on my own in a wine bar sipping on some of France’s finest.
This was what freedom was and is to me. Being able to decide for myself on doing something that makes me incredibly happy. And just simply doing it. This is how I continue to feel every time I travel solo.
Solo travel means being vulnerable, and it really is a beautiful thing.
Travelling solo is ALL about being vulnerable. Not all of us are ok with feeling vulnerable and to be transparent once again it took me a long time to embrace the idea that accepting my own vulnerability was going to be one of the best things for me. So good that it has been a part of transforming me into being the best version of myself.
The moment you start thinking about solo travel is the moment you step outside of your comfort zone. The moment you step outside of your comfort zone onto another city, state or country with hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of people you do not know who speak a language you do not understand you are ultimately vulnerable.
Being vulnerable is by no means comfortable. But neither is masking our vulnerability and failing to put ourselves out there and take a chance. Everything I have done, things that I am proud of, every brilliant memory I have, my accomplishments, successes, and fabulous life experiences have come about because I allowed myself to be vulnerable and take a chance. I took a chance on solo travel, allowed myself to be vulnerable and I am so glad I did for my life is so rich because of it.
So next time you are wishing that you had the courage to get on a plane, train or in a car on your own to have an adventure I hope my words of encouragement help push you in the direction of saying a big YES to solo travel. Don’t wait for someone else to be ‘available’ to holiday with you, trust me you CAN do this. Those first few days may be a little rough, but I promise you that it will be the best thing that you ever did for yourself.
What are you waiting for? Treat yourself and book that solo trip! Go on, I dare you!