The weekend after Easter I visited Florence by myself. Alone. Solo. Party of one.
It wasn’t my first time traveling alone, so I knew I could overcome all the pre-trip jitters: worries about safety, anxiety about missing trains and getting lost, uncertainty about dining alone. Time has proven that all those unknowns and What Ifs do nothing but weigh me down.
I felt so wound up from the winter that I wasn’t able to relax until I dumped my backpack in my hotel room. The world of possibility finally opened its doors, and I stepped through them with my guide book in hand.
There I was, in a beautiful, historic city with no agenda and no whims to cater to other than my own. I could do whatever I wanted, no compromises. So I started walking.
I stopped for lunch when I was hungry without checking to make sure the restaurant served something my kids would eat. I had to share exactly none of my amazing gelato. I took a guided tour and heard every word. I marveled the magnificence of Michelangelo’s David for as along as I wanted. I got a little lost and didn’t feel guilty about it. I had a spritz in a piazza without having to tell my children to not feed the pigeons. I climbed towers, wandered cathedrals, overwhelmed myself with art, took the long way through the park, shopped, ate MORE gelato…at night! I did it all because I could, freely, and I was there.
But I was alone.
“Un bottiglie d’acqua naturale,” I’d say, and they would hand me two waters. “Uno per il palazzo,” I’d say, and they’d had me two tickets. “Only one?,” they’d respond when I’d ask for a table for one. Yes, yes, I am here alone. It’s spring break for everyone, it was a last minute trip, it’s my momcation, and anyway the friends I could count on for trips like these are now elsewhere in the world or universe.
Florence is saturated with American tourists. Families. Honeymooners. Sorority sisters. Basketball teams. Tour groups. My little fantasy of making a new friend a la Julia Roberts’s Liz Gilbert in Eat Pray Love was dashed immediately. (Let me state for the record that I despise the movie and love the book.) I expected to hear another solo traveler failing at Italian with an American accent. We would make eye contact and I would nod with a sympathetic smile, and we would pair up for dinner to compare notes on what we’ve seen. But there was none of that. Just English everywhere so that no one thought it was cool and interesting that I was also an American in Florence. They were too taken with the city itself.
Which was fine. I get it. It’s spectacular and I’ve had 9 months to get used to the awe of being in Italy.
I saw nearly all I wanted to see. I got a couple of days away from my responsibilities. I walked myself into the ground then read a book. I didn’t have to try to think of Italian words for anything, though I did come to realize that I know far more Italian than I suspected. Best of all, I gained the satisfaction of having done it. I wanted to go someplace and I went. I put aside my anxiety and I went. I chose to not let the opportunity disappear and I went. And now I’ve been to Florence.
I’d love to know if you’ve just up-and-gone some place on your own in the comments below!