On many occasions, I like solitude. I even like to cook and eat alone sometimes. A oneness with a favorite knife allows a guy to venture into unknown culinary territory without offending others. You can fail without consequence except for perhaps a temporary hunger and on rare occasions the loss of a fingertip or two; failure is how you learn.
My mother is traumatized by this shocking revelation. “How did we go wrong raising you!” she exclaimed one day with a great deal of fear in her eyes. She finds solitude offensive when it is pursued, on the level of seeking out sex with barnyard animals. I can’t figure it out either, but it’s wrong.
In any case, I figure there are other people just like me, only prettier. We like a bit of solitude but we aren’t hermits. There are times we need to meet, drink, and laugh together with other humans.
So how does the “solo but social” introvert traveller survive in a foreign environment? This is the question I hope to answer.
So let’s say you are in Italy, alone. You are here to meet the culture head on. You are curious. As you pass along the narrow and winding medieval streets and inhale the perfume of simmering sauces and see the old women chattering away in the little chairs they’ve dragged onto the paving stones you have a hankering to eat with them, to see what they fix and consume day to day. Restaurants slowly become submerged in memory. You’ve stumbled upon what’s in the daily pot of Italians; real people, fingertips intact, stir it.
You’re not the first one to have these feelings. There is a market to satisfy them. The market is ramping up.
Recently Martha and I took a cab to a new neighborhood in Rome. We found an address given us, rang the bell and soon found ourselves zipping up the backbone of the building in a tiny elevator, ending up in a modest apartment.
A typical Italian family lived there. Simona cooks. Her daughter is shy but curious, an excellent dinner companion. We had a fabulous dinner there with Lorna of The Roman Guy (shown to the left of Simona and her daughter in the picture below).
Yes, you solo travellers can get temporary relief from bouts of loneliness and learn about culture and food for about the price of a mediocre restaurant meal. Here’s the program: Private Dining with Local Roman Chef
But there’s a rub. You can’t just go by yourself; you’d feel out of place anyway. There’s a four person minimum, they tell me. So gather some facebook friends (like me, for example) and have a go at holding your own soirée. That would be fun.
You don’t have to be in Rome to partake of great food while getting the opportunity to grill the chef about the best things to do in a city. A new venture called BonAppetour offers a similar experience in many corners of the world. This Friday we went to Pisa for a meal at Rosario’s Home Restaurant in Pisa, PI, Italy. It was fabulous. I learned much about not only Pisa, but about Puglia and other places while eating a slow food meal of five or so manageable courses.
A full, sit-down meal with wine is a fun thing, but what if you want to just have a Spritz or Negroni and nibble on tasty little somethings while you cuss and discuss the Italian health care system with a local? Let’s say you’re a spritz kinda person. Maybe here:
Where you can drink one of these (yes, even the flower is edible):
While looking at this:
Or, maybe you’d rather spend lots for your medical insurance and you don’t care about talking to anyone else. You’re the intellectual type who’d rather wrap your hand around a Negroni and watch the guys under a fig tree playing chess:
Here the bar and the piazza it is found in are all named after the tree. Yes, a fig tree in Rome is that important.
But how do you find a safe and welcoming place to drink? Why not sample a whole bunch of places with someone who does this for a living—of course I meant “shows people around” rather than “get outrageously drunk” for a living…
In its infancy is the Rome Cocktail Tour offered by The Roman Guy. Be the first in your neighborhood to try a variety of bars so you can pick the bar and libation that suits you. Again, you might have to find or make some friends to do this, but it’s a way to break the ice for sure.
They tell me that alcohol is the best truth serum known to man. Well, here’s to the truth then!