What to expect when traveling Rome, Italy alone | Rome Solo Travel

This solo travel to Rome guide was written by Christen Thomas, the creator of Travel Wander Grow. She is a certified travel advisor and is an expert in planning trips focused on city history and culture.

Rome is one of my all-time favorite cities. I am a history buff and dreamed about visiting it one day as a young girl.

As our history lessons in school often revolve primarily around Western civilization, I itched for a time when I could visit the sites we learned about and bring the historical stories I learned to live. 

I knew that there were several sites that I had to visit, and these include the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, the Sistine Chapel, and the Circus Maximus.

I was finally able to make the visit for the first time while in college nearly 15 years ago, after finishing up my Spanish studies in Spain.

Being so close, I could snag a cheap flight to Rome from Valencia, Spain. My love for Rome grew 10-fold the first time I was able to step foot in the city. And because of this, I have made three additional trips back to the Eternal City.

solo travel to Rome
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❤️ What I love about Rome solo travel

Italian Food

Growing up in a vegetarian household, pasta was a major staple. So, as you might imagine, I was dying to try pasta in the country it originated in -Italy.

I can honestly say that I have eaten pasta (and pizza) every day of each trip that I have been to Italy. And I have nearly eaten just as much gelato. 

solo travel to Rome
With over 600 pasta shapes in Italy, you could try a new one every day for almost two years!

Some of the dishes I have enjoyed most in Rome include Cacio e Pepe, Penne Arrabiata, and Tiramisu. I have learned in my multiple trips back to Rome that not all pasta there is created equal.

I now avoid all restaurants within a block radius of any tourist destination to make sure I have the best-tasting pasta possible. I mean, it should be worth it for all those carbs, right?

The Vibe 

I can very honestly say that I love nearly every place that I visit around the world. But the X Factor that makes me want to return to a place is what is hard to describe – the vibe.

solo travel to Rome
Italians celebrate ‘la dolce vita’ or ‘the sweet life,’ embracing every moment with passion, style, and a love for leisure!

And what I mean by this is the feeling you get when you arrive at a place that you get along with. The best way I can describe it is like meeting a new person and just knowing that you are going to be friends with them.

Rome gives me an amazing vibe – it is a place that I feel I could easily move to and feel right at home. The city has an energy that hits all the right notes with me. 

Warm and friendly people

Italians are known for being very affectionate, friendly, and welcoming. They truly know what it means to offer superior hospitality and do it without thinking about it.

solo travel to Rome
Italians often express themselves with animated hand gestures – there are over 250 recognized gestures used in everyday conversation!

Part of this is that the way of life in Rome is simply slower and more chill than it is here at home in the USA. Every restaurant you visit will encourage you to take your time while you eat, and the waiters treat you like you are long-lost friends. 

I’ve also had no problem getting around – ask someone nearby for help, and they will graciously help you get to where you need to go. 

History is everywhere

I mentioned earlier that one of the reasons why I wanted to visit Rome is for the history. I knew what sites I wanted to visit, and made my way to each one.

However, what surprised me was the prevalence of historical sites literally EVERYWHERE in the city. For example, I had no idea I’d find apartment ruins in the city, and somehow missed the existence of the Roman Forum.

solo travel to Rome
Rome is known as the ‘Eternal City’ because ancient Romans believed that no matter what happened in the world, Rome would remain forever.

I also had no idea that the Pantheon was a beautifully intact 2000-year-old building. I remember being simply ecstatic when I found out you could visit the catacombs. 

I swear I could make an entire trip out of just visiting the sites available near the Colosseum, and that’s not even half of what you’ll find available in Rome! The city is truly a history-lovers paradise. 

The weather

What surprised me when I first went to Rome in early December was how warm it was. I went in December and could have gotten through the day with a jacket.

solo travel to Rome
Known as the ‘City of Seven Hills,’ Rome enjoys a Mediterranean climate with over 2,500 hours of sunshine per year – that’s more sunny days than most cities in Europe!

To give you a sense of the weather, palm trees grow in Rome! In my opinion, Rome is a city that is best visited in the fall or the spring.

The temperate weather allowed me to unexpectedly enjoy the city more at a time when most tourists were not there.

💃🏽 Solo travel to Rome experiences

First time in the Vatican Museums

As I mentioned earlier, I was all about seeing historical sites in Rome when I first got there. At the top of the list was the Vatican Museums, as I was keen to see the Sistine Chapel.

What I did not realize was how long the journey to the chapel could be. I had assumed that after an hour in the museums I would be at the chapel, but no this was not the case.

So I decided to pick up the pace and essentially speedwalk until I made it there.

solo travel to Rome
Fun fact: If you spent just one minute admiring each piece of art in the Vatican Museums, it would take you over four years to see everything!

Unfortunately, this detracted somewhat from my enjoyment of the really amazing displays that were up on the way to the Chapel. I have had the opportunity to revisit the museums several times since this, so I have remedied this, but I honestly don’t even remember why I was in such a rush back then.

However, the Sistine Chapel was just as amazing as I would have hoped – and I even managed to snag a (slightly illegal) picture of the ceiling as a bit of a keepsake!

Getting lost in Rome

As I mentioned above, I’ve experienced incredibly friendly and helpful people while in Rome. 

As my first example, I got lost while riding the bus (first public bus ever), as I did not realize that riders had to pull the cord to get the bus to stop.

As a result, I overshot my hotel by quite a distance, and it was late at night too. I walked for a while and started to get blisters on my hands. Someone pulled up in a car and offered to help me get to my destination.

Now, I don’t recommend anyone hop into cars with strangers as a general rule. But my thought at that time was that the only alternative was to sleep outside. But thankfully, this kind person took me right to the hotel. I will never forget the feeling of relief I had that night!

solo travel to Rome

As another example, on my second visit to Rome, my friend and I got lost on the way to our Bed & Breakfast. As this was the time before working GPS outside the country and given it was late at night, we were very worried we would not get there. 

I was able to get my cellphone to work thankfully, and wound up having a conversation with the Bed & Breakfast owner in a mix of Spanish, English and Italian. The owner was able to piece our story together and found us, and helped us with our luggage on the way home. 

We went on to have a wonderful experience at this B&B, which although it was simple, offered breakfast in bed each day!

I made sure to leave the owner a very lovely note before leaving since he was such an important part of making our stay memorable. 

Tourist traps in Rome

Like many cities where tourism is very dominant, there are tourist traps in the most popular destinations. I did manage to avoid the luggage scam where someone offers to help you with luggage and then charges a fee.

solo travel to Rome

However, I fell prey to the trap where someone offers you a beautiful flower for “free” and then forces you to pay for it. I do think having an experience or two like this is good from a character-building perspective.

This one helped me do a better job at gauging what is general niceness vs. what is not. A good lesson learned. 

Very flirtatious Italian men

As a black female traveler, I can validate the perception that Italian men do seem to have a bit of a fascination with black women. Typically I do not mind a little attention, but there were a few instances where I experienced late-night catcalls.

solo travel to Rome

While in Italy, I  even had a complete stranger come and kiss me on the neck! This experience in particular was quite shocking, but given my age and inexperience when it occurred, I couldn’t do much more than laugh it off.

Again, in general, the flirtatiousness was more of a nuisance typically than anything majorly bothersome. But it is something I think is worth noting for other female travelers of color.

Change how you travel and see the world by going deep into the culture. Come and travel with me!

✨ Rome solo travel tips

Learn basic Italian phrases

While many people in Rome speak English, especially in tourist areas, learning a few key phrases in Italian can enhance your experience. A simple “Buongiorno” (Good day), “Grazie” (Thank you), or “Dove si trova…” (Where is…) can go a long way in your interactions with locals.

Embrace “La Passeggiata

Italians love to take a leisurely evening walk, known as la passeggiata. Join in on this tradition and stroll around Rome’s beautiful streets and piazzas in the evening. It’s a great way to experience the local culture and enjoy the city’s romantic atmosphere.

solo travel to Rome

Wear comfortable shoes

Rome’s historic center is best explored on foot, but bear in mind that cobblestone streets are common and can be hard on your feet. Comfortable shoes are a must to navigate these beautiful yet uneven paths.

Plan for a siesta

Many smaller shops and restaurants in Rome close for a few hours in the afternoon for siesta. This is the perfect time for you to take a break from the midday sun, rest, and recharge before heading out for evening activities.

solo travel to Rome

Respect dress codes in churches

When planning to visit any of the city’s magnificent churches, remember to dress appropriately. This often means covering your shoulders and knees. It’s a good idea to carry a scarf or wear longer shorts on the days you plan to visit religious sites.

Pre-book major attractions

The lines for popular attractions like the Colosseum, Vatican Museums, and Borghese Gallery can be incredibly long. It’s best to book your tickets in advance to save time. Some of these tickets can be purchased online before your trip.

solo travel to Rome

Use public transportation

Rome’s public transportation system is extensive and can save you time when trying to reach destinations that are further away. Familiarize yourself with the bus, tram, and metro systems. Remember, tickets must be purchased before boarding and validated once on board.

Eat where the locals eat

Avoid restaurants around major tourist sites as they tend to be overpriced and less authentic. Instead, explore the side streets where locals dine. Try traditional Roman dishes like cacio e pepe, carbonara, and supplì.

solo travel to Rome

Visit local markets

Visit Rome’s local markets such as Campo de’ Fiori or Testaccio Market to experience local life, shop for fresh produce, and sample a variety of delicious foods. These markets offer a vibrant and authentic Italian atmosphere.

Be prepared for museum closures

Many museums and sites in Rome are closed on Mondays, while the Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays (except the last Sunday of the month when it’s free to enter).

Always check the opening days and hours before planning your visits. It’s always best to book your museum visits in advance.

🫱🏽‍🫲🏻 How to meet people in Rome

Join a walking tour

Walking tours in Rome are not only a great way to learn about the city, but also a perfect opportunity to meet fellow travelers. Look for themed tours based on your interests for even more chances to connect with like-minded people.

Attend local events

Whether it’s a food festival, a public lecture, a movie screening, or a concert in the park, local events are a great way to meet Romans and experience the city’s vibrant culture.

solo travel to Rome

Sign up for a cooking class

Rome is famous for its cuisine. A cooking class can provide a fun, interactive way to meet people while learning how to cook traditional Italian dishes.

There are many options for cooking classes in Rome according to your preference. It can be about pasta, desserts, or even cooking with a local nonna!

Explore neighborhood markets

Rome’s neighborhood markets like Campo de’ Fiori or Mercato Trionfale are bustling places where you can strike up a conversation with local vendors and shoppers.

Join a language exchange

Many language schools and cafes in Rome host language exchange events where you can practice your Italian and help others with your native language.

Connect through social media groups

Look for Rome-based groups on platforms like Facebook or Meetup catering to expats, travelers, or specific hobbies. They often organize regular get-togethers.

Take a group class or workshop

Whether it’s a drawing class, yoga session, or a photography workshop, group activities provide a natural setting for meeting people with shared interests.

Get involved in volunteer work

If you’re spending a longer time in Rome, consider volunteering. It’s a rewarding way to meet locals and give back to the community.

Stay in social accommodations

Hostels often organize social events like group dinners, movie nights, or pub crawls. Even if you prefer private accommodation, you can still join in.

Strike up a conversation in a local cafe or bar

Italians are generally friendly and open to conversation. Don’t be shy to chat with the barista at a coffee shop, or with locals enjoying an ‘aperitivo’ at a bar.

🚫 Safety tips for solo travel to Rome

Beware of overly friendly strangers

While Romans are generally friendly and hospitable, be cautious of strangers who seem overly friendly or offer unsolicited help, especially around tourist sites. These could be potential pickpockets or scammers.

Stay alert in crowds

Pickpockets often operate in crowded areas and on packed public transportation, especially Route 64 bus, known locally as the “pickpocket express”. They may also strike in crowded restaurants. Always keep an eye on your belongings.

Secure your bag

When at a restaurant or cafe, never hang your bag on the back of your chair or leave it on the floor. Instead, keep it on your lap or secure it to the chair leg.

Use ATMs wisely

Use ATMs in well-lit, busy areas or inside banks, and always shield your PIN. Be wary of anyone offering to help you use the ATM.

Fake petition scam

Be aware of people approaching you with a petition to sign. While you are distracted, their accomplices might attempt to pickpocket you.

Learn key Italian phrases

Knowing phrases in Italian like “Aiuto” (Help) or “Polizia” (Police) can prove helpful in emergency situations.

Validate your transit ticket

Always validate your ticket when using public transportation to avoid fines. Ticket validation machines are usually located at the entrance of buses and trams, and at the access points of metro stations.

Gladiator photo scam

Around iconic sites like the Colosseum, people dressed as gladiators might offer to take photos with you but will demand exorbitant fees afterwards. Politely decline if approached.

Be careful when crossing streets

Romans are notorious for their aggressive driving style. Don’t assume vehicles will stop for pedestrians, even at marked crossings. Be particularly cautious when crossing the road.

Avoid late night public transportation

If you’re traveling alone late at night, it might be safer to take a registered taxi or use a reputable ride-sharing service rather than public transportation. Be sure to verify the driver and car details before getting in.

🇮🇹 Italy Travel Planning

✈️ What’s the best platform for booking flights to Italy?
Kiwi.com is one of the most trusted sites to book cheap flights to Spain. They compare all prices for all airlines! Also try WayAway if you want to get cashback for every booking.

🏥 Is travel insurance mandatory in Italy?
YES! You need to get into the habit of buying travel insurance, not just for Italy. SafetyWing, is my digital nomad/remote worker insurance, while I use Ekta Traveling for short trips (from $0.99 per day).

🚗💨 Is it safe to rent a car in Italy?
ABSOLUTELY! Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com for the best car rental deals in Spain. Remember to book online prior to arrival and don’t do it in person as cars run out fast!

📞 Personalized itineraries and moving to Italy services
Whatever you need for Italy, I can help you with that! Get in touch using the contact page in this website and our team will get back to you as soon as possible.

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