Hi there! My name is Kate, and I’ve been traveling solo in Italy for 15 years. Italy holds a special place in my heart, and despite my efforts to explore new countries, I keep finding myself drawn back to Italy time and time again.
If you’ve landed here, it’s likely because you’re considering traveling alone in Italy. But perhaps you have well-meaning loved ones who have expressed concerns about your safety. They may have even discouraged you from embarking on this adventure. You’re now seeking expert advice to determine whether these concerns hold any merit.
I’m here to provide you with the truth. There are few countries I know better than Italy. I’ve been there more than a dozen times, lived in Florence for four months, and have explored 10 of its 20 regions. As a career-driven woman teaching other women how to travel safely around the world, rest assured that when it comes to solo female travel in Italy, I know what I’m talking about.
So, let’s address the pressing questions on your mind. Is solo female travel in Italy a good idea? More importantly, is it safe?
Why Choose Italy for Solo Travel?
Italy is an exceptional destination for solo female travelers. Here’s what makes it so enticing:
1. A Dream Destination
Italy is a country that has captured the imaginations of people worldwide. Who hasn’t dreamed about gliding through the canals of Venice on a gondola while being serenaded? Italy possesses a certain magic that has enchanted us since childhood.
2. Exquisite Cuisine
Each region in Italy boasts its own culinary style and specialties. From the Emilia-Romagna region, renowned for its gastronomy, to the flavors of Tuscany, Italy offers a delectable food journey. Be prepared to indulge!
3. Architectural Marvels
Italy’s towns and cities are nothing short of breathtaking. From the grandeur of the churches, palaces, and piazzas to the charm of even ordinary buildings in the old towns, Italy’s architectural beauty knows no bounds.
4. Easy Travel
Navigating Italy is a breeze. Most major destinations are accessible by train, and numerous high-speed lines have been introduced in recent years, making travel between cities faster and more convenient. If preferred, buses and cars are also viable options.
5. Safety First
While crime exists everywhere in the world, it’s important to note that Italy is generally a safe destination. In fact, it’s on par with the safety of your hometown. More on this later.
6. Artistic Treasures
Italy is home to an extraordinary collection of art. While I can’t verify the claim that 50% of the world’s artistic treasures reside in Italy and 50% of Italy’s treasures are in Florence, it’s undeniable that Italy houses some of the most magnificent works of art globally.
7. Breathtaking Scenery
While Italy may not be as renowned for its landscapes as, say, Norway, prepare to be captivated by the picturesque hills of Tuscany, the mountains and lakes of the Dolomites, and the rugged cliffs of the Amalfi Coast.
8. Fashion and Shopping
Italy takes fashion seriously, and you’ll find an array of classy and fashionable brands throughout the country. If you’re a fan of gold and leather goods, Florence is the place to be.
9. Instagram-Worthy Moments
Italy offers plenty of Instagram-worthy sights. From capturing the enchanting sunset over St. Peter’s Basilica from Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome to the stunning cliffs of Positano on the Amalfi Coast, and the picture-perfect towns of Cinque Terre, your camera will be in heaven.
10. Heritage Exploration
For those with Italian roots, visiting Italy can be an emotional experience. Discovering the towns your ancestors called home, like when I visited Sicily, adds an extra layer of significance to your journey.
11. Bonus: Multiple Countries in One
Traveling to Italy can offer an unexpected bonus—a chance to explore multiple countries. The Vatican, nestled within Rome, and San Marino, near Rimini, are both fully surrounded by Italy. These destinations make for incredible day trips, allowing you to expand your adventure.
Is Italy Well-Suited for First-Time Solo Female Travelers?
Many travel experts recommend starting in an English-speaking country for your first solo trip. However, I believe Italy can be a fantastic option for first-timers. Here’s why:
1. Travel Infrastructure
Italy has long been a major tourist hot spot, offering a wide range of hotels, restaurants, and tours. Extensive train networks and buses make it easy to get around. Additionally, English is commonly spoken, especially among young people and in popular tourist destinations.
2. Well-Trodden Tourist Path
If you stick to the popular tourist trail, you’ll find plenty of fellow travelers in Italy. You need not worry about being the only foreigner in town unless you deliberately seek solitude. Italians are accustomed to dealing with tourists and catering to their needs.
Compared to many other countries, Italy offers a more familiar and accessible culture. You likely already have some knowledge of Italian art, architecture, and, of course, food. At the very least, you can always find pizza, pasta, and tiramisu (just avoid ordering fettuccine alfredo—it’s not an Italian dish).
If this will be your first solo trip ever, you may feel more comfortable sticking to the tourist trail. Fortunately, Italy offers an abundance of popular tourist routes. Another option is to join a group tour.
Group Tours to Italy
If you’re not quite ready to venture completely solo in Italy, consider joining a group tour as a solo traveler. One company I highly recommend is G Adventures. They offer fun and adventurous tours worldwide, including Italy. What sets them apart is their solo traveler-friendly approach, small group sizes, and commitment to sustainability.
Some of their most popular Italy tours include:
- Ultimate Italy (14 days, Rome to Venice): Explore all the famous sights of Italy, including Tuscany and Cinque Terre.
- Cycling in Tuscany (7 days, Rome to Chianciano Terme): Fulfill your dream of biking through the Tuscan countryside.
- Best of Sicily (8 days, starting from Catania): Immerse yourself in the wild and passionate region of Sicily.
- Local Living Italy — Sorrento (7 days, starting from Naples): Base yourself in Sorrento and delve deep into the beauty of the Amalfi Coast.
For more information on these tours and others, click here.
Is Italy a Suitable Destination for Experienced Solo Female Travelers?
Absolutely! Italy should not be underestimated, even by experienced solo travelers. For those seeking a break from the tourist crowds, Italy presents numerous regions that are both enchanting and relatively undiscovered by the masses, especially North American visitors. Calabria, Abruzzo, and Friuli are a few such hidden gems.
If you’re a seasoned solo traveler, cities like Naples may hold an allure. While they can appear intimidating to less experienced travelers, you’ll likely find them easier to navigate and explore. If hiking alone is your forte, regions like South Tyrol offer thrilling adventures.
If you’re ready to challenge your expectations of Italy, head to Sicily. Even as someone well-versed in Italian travel, I found Sicily to be quite demanding, particularly when venturing off the beaten path. Consider it Italy on “hard mode”!
Safety in Italy — Separating Fact from Fiction
Most women who dream of visiting Italy are often deterred by concerns about safety. These concerns are often fueled by well-meaning but misinformed friends and relatives.
So, let’s address the elephant in the room—hear it straight from an expert. When evaluating safety advice, consider the following questions:
- Does the person providing advice have travel experience?
- Does their travel style align with yours (e.g., backpacking vs. resort travel)?
- Have they been to the destination in question?
- Have they visited recently (within the past 3-5 years)?
If the answers to all these questions are affirmative, you likely have a credible source whose insights you should consider. However, if any of these questions elicit a negative response, it’s advisable to seek additional opinions elsewhere.
Many individuals who claim Italy is unsafe have never traveled solo or are recounting outdated information from cable news or decades-old anecdotes. It’s essential to separate fact from exaggeration.
Here’s the truth—generally speaking, Italy is as safe as your hometown. Violent crime is rare, and statistically, you’re more likely to face harm from someone you know than a random stranger on an Italian street. Rare events, like the Amanda Knox trial, make headlines precisely because they are extraordinary occurrences.
The primary risk you may encounter in Italy is petty theft. To protect your belongings, ensure they are secure in your accommodations. Invest in a portable safe and secure it to something sturdy in your room. When out and about, opt for a crossbody purse with a zipper to deter pickpockets. Consider using a Speakeasy Travel Supply Scarf, which features a hidden pocket for your valuables. And if you’re carrying a camera, choose a secure day bag, preferably one that locks.
Navigating Italian Men
Here’s a topic that deserves a word of caution—Italian men. Particularly when it comes to foreign women, Italian men can sometimes exhibit aggressive behavior. This may manifest as relentless compliments, flirtations, catcalling, or even unwanted advances.
The best response in such situations is to ignore their behavior. Don’t react to their advances or comments. In most cases, if you do not engage, their behavior won’t escalate further. Italian women are accustomed to ignoring such advances.
However, if the behavior persists or worsens, seek refuge in a shop or restaurant. Ask for assistance, as locals are familiar with this behavior and can help defuse the situation.
It’s important to note that I don’t share this information to frighten you. Most Italian men will stop their advances if you disregard them. Remember, their behavior is their problem, not yours. Your feelings and emotions regarding this behavior are valid, regardless of the choices you make in response.
I should also mention that I receive considerably less harassment in Italy nowadays. I attribute this to a combination of factors: my appearance has matured, my dress and behavior are more aligned with Italian norms, and I tend to explore less touristy areas in Italy.
For instance, during my early twenties, I experienced more harassment in Florence when wearing a denim miniskirt and a cream-colored tank top. Italian women rarely dress in this manner, and coupled with my youthful appearance and foreignness, it unfortunately made me an easy target. However, when I switched to a longer skirt, the frequency of harassment decreased significantly. More on appropriate dress below.
Essential Tips for Traveling Safely in Italy
Here are some crucial tips to ensure your safety throughout your Italian journey:
- Avoid Overplanning: One common mistake among Italy travelers is trying to cram too much into a limited timeframe. Embrace the fact that you won’t be able to see everything. Design an itinerary that allows for spontaneity. Constant packing, moving, and unpacking can be exhausting.
- Secure a SIM Card: If your phone plan doesn’t work overseas, refrain from expensive roaming charges. Instead, purchase a SIM card at the airport or a local shop. This will provide you with internet access in case of emergencies. Vodafone is my preferred choice in Italy.
- Dress to Blend In: Emulating Italian women’s style and grooming will help you maintain a low profile. Avoid athletic wear, shorts, baseball caps, or torn jeans unless they are fashion statements. Opt for nice flats, boots, or sandals instead of sneakers or flip-flops. The Walking Company’s ABEO flats offer excellent arch support and style.
- Always Validate Train Tickets: After purchasing your train tickets, remember to validate them at the designated machines near the platforms. Failure to do so may result in removal from the train, despite having paid for your ticket.
- Ignore the Roma (formerly known as gypsies): Be cautious around Roma individuals, who may attempt various scams targeting tourists. Do not give them money, as you would be supporting a system where men reap the benefits while women and children are forced into labor.
- No Obligation to Tip Musicians: While dining near or inside restaurants, musicians may seek tips. While you are not obligated to tip them, be aware that making eye contact or showing appreciation for their music may prompt persistent requests for gratuity.
- Consider a Speakeasy Travel Supply Scarf: These scarves, designed and hand-sewn by my friend, feature a hidden passport pocket. Not only are they chic, but they also keep your valuables discreet and secure.
- Carry an Extra Debit Card: It’s wise to have two debit cards linked to different bank accounts. If your primary card is stolen, having a backup, such as one from Transferwise, will prove invaluable. Keep the spare card hidden in your luggage.
- Driving Caution: Driving in Italy can be a challenge, and the further south you go, the more chaotic it becomes. While I didn’t encounter issues in Puglia, driving in Sicily was a nerve-wracking experience. Multiple navigators were necessary to navigate the craziness of the roads.
- Prepare for Heat: Summers in Italy can be scorching. If you’re visiting in that season (excluding mountainous regions like the Dolomites), expect temperatures in the high 90s (mid-30s Celsius). Many Italians stay indoors during the hottest part of the day, and it’s crucial to stay hydrated and wear broad-spectrum sunscreen. Look for water fountains throughout the country to refill your reusable bottle.
- Food Allergies Shouldn’t Limit You: Italians understand the severity of food allergies, especially Celiac disease, which is routinely tested in children. The variety of flours used in Italian cuisine makes finding gluten-free options easier than you might think. Consider translating and carrying a card detailing your specific allergy when dining out. My friend Jodi offers gluten-free translation cards, including one for Italy.
Unforgettable Experiences in Italy
Italy offers a plethora of incredible experiences for travelers. Here are some highlights to consider:
- Walking into the Sistine Chapel, finally beholding the iconic artworks you’ve dreamed of as the guards call out, “Sileeeeeencio.”
- Staying at an agriturismo, immersing yourself in the countryside, and savoring fresh meals sourced from local gardens.
- Taking a cable car to the top of Capri, where you’ll be enchanted by breathtaking views straight out of Greek mythology.
- Relishing moments at Caffe Rivoire on Piazza della Signoria in Florence, observing the world go by while indulging in their legendary hot chocolate.
- Mastering Italian dishes, as cooking classes across the country allow you to engage in gastronomic adventures.
- Enjoying aperitivo in Bologna, sipping an Aperol Spritz or a glass of wine while relishing the complimentary buffet.
- Posing on the beach in Positano, dressed in a vintage-style dress, feeling like a character from “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”
- Witnessing nuns on bicycles, a common sight across Italy that’s sure to bring a smile to your face.
- Embarking on a gondola ride in Venice, fulfilling your dream in the most quintessentially Italian way.
- Jewelry shopping on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, an opportunity to acquire truly exquisite pieces, often crafted from minimum 18k gold.
- Indulging in gelato at every turn, after all, you’re on vacation!
Where to Explore in Italy
Italy offers an abundance of exciting destinations catering to all tastes. Whether you’re seeking iconic sites or off-the-beaten-path adventures, Italy has something for everyone. Here are some suggestions:
- First-Timer Favorites: Rome, Florence, and Venice make a classic trio for first-time visitors. You can add day trips or additional destinations to suit your available time. Popular additions include the Amalfi Coast, with Sorrento as a base, or cities like Milan, Cinque Terre, or Bologna.
- Day Trip-Centric Trips: Consider staying in one city and using it as a base for day trips. This allows you to unpack just once and enjoy more relaxed travel. Florence, with its excellent train connections, tops my list for such trips. Bologna, Milan, and Verona also offer convenient train hub access. Rome is less ideal, as day-trippable destinations require further distances to cover.
- Dreamy Tuscany: This region captivates countless travelers. Explore the famous Tuscan hills immortalized in Renaissance paintings and discover the enchanting hill towns that exude charm. Alternatively, venture into neighboring Umbria for a less famous but equally stunning experience, accompanied by delectable cuisine.
- Puglia and Southern Italy: The heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia, boasts excellent infrastructure and makes for a great road trip. The town of Alberobello, with its distinctive white conical trulli buildings, is a personal favorite.
- Food Lover’s Paradise: Emilia-Romagna: If you’re a foodie, don’t miss Emilia-Romagna, my favorite food region on the planet. Bologna, often acknowledged as the pinnacle of Italian food cities, serves as an excellent base. Delve into local cuisine, and take day trips to Modena, Parma, Ravenna, Ferrara, Rimini, and San Marino for further culinary delights.
- Off-the-Beaten-Path: Sicily: For those seeking something different, Sicily offers intense and challenging experiences, with ample rewards. While less confident travelers should stick to popular routes, the East Coast holds particular appeal, with Siracusa as a personal favorite.
The list could go on, as Italy offers an inexhaustible range of destinations. However, these recommendations should provide you with a starting point for your Italian adventure.
Secure Your Travels with Travel Insurance
Before embarking on your Italian journey, obtaining travel insurance is absolutely essential. In the event of illness, injury, or the need for repatriation, travel insurance safeguards your health and finances. I highly recommend World Nomads for trips to Italy.
An acquaintance of mine once broke her foot while in Florence. Her travel insurance not only covered all medical expenses but also provided a business class ticket to elevate her foot during the journey home. Travel insurance ensures peace of mind, protecting both your health and your financial stability.
Italy Awaits—Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back!
Italy holds a special place in my heart, having brought immense joy into my life. I want nothing more than for you to experience the same happiness.
Consider this my blessing—read up on travel safety, embark on your Italian adventure, and have the time of your life.
When you return, I eagerly await hearing all about your incredible experiences.
Planning a Trip to Italy? Don’t Miss These Articles:
- What NOT to Do in Italy
- Ultimate Guide to Driving in Italy
- How to Stay at an Agriturismo in Italy
- 40 Italy Landmarks to Experience Once in Your Lifetime
- 30 Stunning Mediterranean Islands to Visit in Your Lifetime
- 30 Italian Cities to Visit Once in Your Lifetime
Explore Cool Places in Southern Italy:
Discover Cool Places in Sicily:
- 22 Best Places to Visit in Sicily
- The Joys and Challenges of Traveling in Sicily
- Where to Go in Eastern Sicily
- 23 Fun Things to Do in Palermo, Sicily
- Complete Guide to the Aeolian Islands, Sicily
- Aci Trezza: A Laid-Back Coastal Town in Sicily
- Visiting Sicily in the Winter: Worth It or Not?
- 30 Iconic Dishes to Try in Sicily
Explore Cool Places in Northern Italy:
- Three Weeks in Northern Italy: An Itinerary
- Parma, Italy: A Colorful, Artsy, Delicious Town
- Where to Stay in Rome: Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation
- Three Days in the Dolomites: A South Tyrol Getaway
- Best Day Trips from Florence, Italy
- The Immaculate, Bursting Mosaics of Ravenna, Italy
- 25 Best Food Experiences in Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Remember: Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
One last reminder—prioritize travel insurance before setting foot in Italy. In the event of illness, injury, or unforeseen circumstances, travel insurance protects you from financial hardship. I trust and recommend World Nomads for your Italian adventures.
Don’t Be Afraid—Italy Awaits Your Arrival!
Italy holds a special place in my heart, and I want you to experience the same joy it has brought me. Don’t let fear hold you back.
Consider this your blessing—gather all the information you need, venture forth into Italy, and savor every moment.
Once you return, please share your stories with me. I can’t wait to hear all about your incredible Italian adventures.