If you ever want to feel like you jumped out of 2016 and landed on a dusty page of an ancient fairytale where you feel guilty for using your iPhone in a place of such exquisite beauty, Italy is the place for you, the lone romantic!
The first thing that shocked our senses awake after we stumbled crusty-eyed off our 8am bus from the airport were the ancient archways and ruins we wove through as we drove through the city. On one side of the street we’d see a fairly up-to-date apartment building, and on the other, a historical monument, museum, or crumbling brick tower somehow still upholding its nobility, significance, and grace.
Let’s all agree on one thing; Italy is romantic. The Italians basically founded romance. You couldn’t even spell romance without Roman. We get it, you guys. You’re waaay ahead of us in love points. Always have been. The real question is, how could you not fall in love around every corner? Italy envelopes you in a surreal cloud of light, sound, and magic. One moment you’ll be inhaling the intoxicating scent of garlic and basil as you pass a cozy cafe, and the next you’re met with a bustling piazza filled with the sounds of classic accordions, splashing fountains, and children giggling. It’s a continuous flow of scenes right out of a movie and I swear they don’t even try.
I noticed how present everyone is. There’s no worrying about “where to next?!” or “we have to be at dinner by 7!” or any of the usual mind chatter that plagues most of us Americans. People in Italy just enjoy being on the date. The date with their gelato, the date with their afternoon walk, the date with themselves. All they focus on is enjoying it, whatever it may be. We all gotta take a lesson out of that book. Although Misako and I rolled in to Rome each with a nasty cold and fever, we still managed to find a few places where you can practice being romantic, even if you’re flying solo.
This is a charming pocket of town just west of the river. Its winding cobblestone streets present one surprise after another. There are endless restaurants, bars, and gelaterias, street vendors, piazzas, and performers. In the evening, everything is candlelit and warm, delicious scents float through the air, and people dance (alone or together) in the open squares. Find a cute place with sidewalk seating where you can feast and people watch (Tonnarello is a lovely option). But be warned; even if you are having a date with me, myself, and I… judging by the not-so-subtle twinkle in everyone’s eye, you may not be alone for long.
Piazza Navonna, Roma
This place is bursting with all the yummy feels. It’s a huge, long piazza with a gorgeous fountain and stone tower right in the center where people gather to enjoy the surrounding music, art, and of course, food. Navonna is lined on each side with restaurants competing for your attention. Seriously, if you need a confidence boost, just walk past any of the pizzerias and wait for the bell boys to lure you in to dine with bountiful compliments. I stopped by a string band playing old Italian songs and watched five couples dance, eyes closed, cheek to cheek, becoming one with the music and each others’ bodies. Others sit close by on the stone ledge of the fountain and smile to themselves, enjoying their date with life. And for more awe-inspiring exploration, seek out the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain nearby.
We took the bus from Rome to Bologna to visit a friend of mine who is studying there. If it weren’t for her, I don’t think this magical little city would’ve been on our radar. It’s so low key but will capture your heart as soon as you stroll through the narrow roads speckled with students on bikes and restaurant owners calling to you from their doorways. They certainly know the value of a self-date. It’s remarkable and inspiring how many people you see mastering their spread over a table for one. Women in serious relationships with their pasta and mid-day wine. Men indulging in their solitude, joined only by a decadent melting scoop (or three) of pistachio gelato. The most enchanting spots I found for solo dates were the Santo Stefano, Zoo Cafe, and Piazza Maggiore.
Now this one is really a spot you can fall in love with. You can basically hear the soundtrack to A Room With A View playing as you explore each pocket of the city. And you know how every city has a smell? For New York it’s something along the lines of hot trash. In Florence? Citrus perfume, freshly made waffle cones, fire-baked pizza, the must of the river clashing with the fragrant hillside. It’s a real life fantasy.
We climbed to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo to take in the view of the entire city. It was truly breathtaking. We sat for hours, just sighing with delight that such a tangible heaven exists on Earth. To our left, a lush rolling hillside of green behind which the sun was slowly setting and glowing up the trees and sparkling dewy grass. To our right, the browns, oranges, and yellows of the city rooftops, the regal Duomo, and church bells echoing their blessings over everyone walking the cobblestone lanes. Sure, there were other groups of friends, couple, and families. But mostly solo travelers, or maybe even the lucky residents of Firenze who were sitting solo and in silence, simply taking in this miracle of beauty.
In Italy, romance is the lifestyle, and it isn’t reserved just for people who have people. I think we could all take a lesson from the Romans and learn to enjoy ourselves, by ourselves. It’s a culture that embraces indulgence, pleasure, and joy. Each moment counts as a bite into the feast of life. So take yourself out, buy yourself a meal, give yourself a tour, and relish every minute of it. Chin chin!
Ready to plan your lone romantic getaway? Book with StudentUniverse for cheap flights. These 5 hidden Northern Italian towns are perfect for an authentic, romantic experience in Italy, away from all the tourists. Keep treating yourself and discover more of Europe while you’re already over there.