Italy on Your Own as a Senior
By Don Bowling
|Typical street scene at a square in Florence.
Everyone seems to vacation in Italy. The people are wonderful, the food is wonderful, and you never run out of things to do.
Unlike the French, Italians do their best to make you feel comfortable. More important, they seemed to respect me, perhaps because I
have grey hair. Italians are delightful people.
As a single 72-year-old male, I felt as safe on the streets of Florence as in any large American city.
1. Look like you know what you are doing. Keep your energy up by resting when you can and always appear to be energetic and alert.
2. Plan your own trip. Tours move so fast you cannot catch your breath. Try to continue the pace of activities that you have at home.
3. Use a travel agent. If you plan four to six months ahead you can get better airfares and senior discounts on hotels near where you want to be. Visit Italy from mid-March to May or from September to October. The prices are lower and the museums and churches are less crowded.
4. Choose a hotel in the best location. If you can get along without an elevator, ask for a 1-star in Florence and Venice and pay less than $100 per night, and as low as $50.
5. Stay healthy and eat economically. I found a small family-style restaurant in both Florence and Venice and ate my largest meal there every day. This way you can become friends with the family and can get them to prepare you food to match your dietary needs. Keep snacks,
fruit, and vegetables in your hotel room. You can buy them at a nearby mom and pop grocery store.
6. Stay at least a week in each place. This allows for those "senior days" you may have, or just plain tiredness. Give yourself a day to rest up from each major move you make. During that day you can read up on the places you want to visit during the next few days.
Rick Steves' Italy guidebook even shows you how to make reservations online or via email on your own.
7. Don't walk yourself to death. Use taxis in Florence. They are reasonable and well regulated. You cannot hail one on the street, so have the hotels reserve them, or have a bar or cafe call one for you. If you land at the Florence airport, it will cost you $30-50 to go to your
hotel. It's worth it. Use the vaporetto (canal boat bus) in Venice. Route #1 is the most practical and gives you a welcoming tour of the Grand Canal. Water taxis are expensive.
Spend a week or more in Florence, then reserve a first class seat on the Eurostar train to Venice at a local Italian travel agency. Your hotel
can tell you which boat dock is closest to them.
DON BOWLING, an art educator and writer who lives in Napa, CA, is presently completing two books on Florence and Venice for seniors
and the disabled.