My trip to Rome was far from my first solo trip (you can read about my first one here), so I thought that it was going to go exactly the same as the other trips that I have taken on my own. Oh, how I was wrong.
I found that in a place like Italy, where even most casual cafes have table service, it is practically impossible to eat without being in a relatively formal setting (unless you’re happy eating under a particular set of golden arches for your entire holiday). Shying away from eating alone in restaurants is something that I admitted to on my Boston food guide. I typically eat in casual eateries which don’t have table service and I also tend to avoid big meals in order to avoid eating in ‘proper’ restaurants. But Italy was a whole different ball game.
I was so hungry when I arrived that I just walked into a restaurant that looked popular with the locals, which was a few streets away from the Pantheon. It took me quite a while to actually be seated after waiters continued to walk past and ignore me (this became a recurring thing that I learnt to deal with) – I’m pretty sure that they were wondering if this tired looking, red faced English girl had stumbled in because she was lost down one of Rome’s many winding streets. Once I was seated, I had no problems and felt really comfortable – even more comfortable once a giant bowl of cacio e pepe and a glass of wine was sat in front of me.
The second meal that I had was at a beautiful restaurant down a side street, and I was seated at a table outside. At the table next to me, which was only about a foot away from my table, there was a couple eating dinner. They spent their entire meal glancing over to my table and not being subtle about the fact that they were occasionally talking about me in a different language. At first it made me extremely uncomfortable, until I realised that they had spent the majority of their meal on their phones instead of talking to each other, to the extent that they also might as well have been dining solo. After that realisation, it took all of my self discipline to not stick my middle finger up at them with a load of carbonara hanging out of my mouth the next time that they threw an unfriendly glare in my direction.
I was surprised at how easy I found dining alone once I got over the initial nerves – apart from the disapproving couple that I just mentioned, people honestly just didn’t care. There was also a lot more people eating alone in restaurants than I expected, including an old Italian lady who I shared a smile with that was half mutual respect and half ‘you go girl!’.
All in all, I am glad that I went to Italy just because it helped me to build up my solo-dining confidence massively, as well as helping me to get out of the rut of just eating in quick service food establishments. Here’s to branching out more on future trips!