Being a solitary traveler keeps my eyes open; there is no one with me to share the travel guide responsibility. I am it and I love the responsibility. It keeps me sharp. For the past twenty years I’ve been swinging on my backpack and dragging my suitcase to Italy.
Traveling solo isn’t better than traveling with a companion; it’s just different. I must admit, however that it is better for me. I love to step out of my busy life and be by myself for a couple of weeks. I’m not getting away from anything; I’m just doing something different, and getting renewed to return to my busy life at home. My husband loves to stay home, and loves that I go.
Traveling solo doesn’t lend itself to the give and take discussion with a companion, but it does open my eyes to more than just making the right train or bus connection, booking an important reservation, or following the signs to a famous spot. It keeps me looking in vivid ways because I am not distracted by someone else’s noticing. Consequently my own sense of observation is heightened.
On my trip two trips to Italy this year I became aware of interesting signs as I wandered the streets of Rome, Assisi, Cortona, and Florence. Hilarious, serious and note-worthy, all worthy of a smile, a noticing, and a photograph. I’m not certain they would have caught my eye had I not been alone. Here they are; some need a translation or explanation, some speak for themselves.
2. This sign was across from the restaurant that I settled upon. How welcoming; just come on in and we’ll fix you up. I can state unequivocally that I will never get a tattoo, but if I change my mind, maybe I’ll return to that place in Trastevere and ask the artist to choose just the right tattoo for me and create it on the perfect spot on my body.
3. When the books explaining Trump were first coming out, it was April and I was Rome. Here was Sound and Fury prominently displayed in front of the Largo di Torre Argentina bus stop. It caught my attention.
4. While wandering somewhere off the beaten tourist trail in Rome I came across a billboard advertising a free concert featuring Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. What could be better than a Sunday evening concert at 6 PM at the Santa Maria in Aracoeli on the Capitoline Hill just a few block from where I was staying? The church will packed to hear the full orchestra and chorus.
5. This understated sign in Assisi needs no comment.
6. A different kind of sign that also needs no comment.
7. The carousel in the piazza in front of the church of St. Clare in Assisi invites the young and old. “Antique merry-go-round for children and adults.”
I must add this loving, welcoming photo message.
8. Peace and silence upon entering the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi.
9. In the pouring rain I hiked to the Basilica of Santa Margherita, the highest point of the hill town of Cortona, to be delighted by an area for children right in the sanctuary. The translation made me smile, and I noted that the children were not asked to help put away the toys.
10. This sign greeted me at the entrance to the Orti di Pinti, a communal organic garden in Florence. As an elderly, solitary traveler, I went there to get away from the crowds to read, write, and BE.
How unfortunate that people need a sign to reminds them to be kind to me. I shake my head at the implication that the elderly are ill, that elderly equals infirm. Or, does the sign mean that people have to watch out for the elderly if they are ill? Or, are we being asked to give free passage to the elderly or infirm? No one knows how to categorize us elderly/old folks. No one knows what to do with us. I’d say, watch out, give us a wide birth.
11. Yes, see you soon Firenze. I can’t wait.
12. Signs in my neighbor and front yard welcoming me home.