Alone at Sunset In a Land Without Singles

The New York Times
May 26, 2002

LAST year, I visited Reggio di Calabria, a city of 200,000 on the toe of Italy's boot. While Reggio is far from being Italy's most beautiful city, it is known for having a passeggiata with incredible views of Sicily. Walking Reggio's wide boardwalk with a nice breeze and views of the lights of Messina, I joined the city's evening stroll of couples holding hands, groups of teenagers, and children running around their parents.

Like most people who visit Italy, I love the food, the wine and the communal evening strolls -- the exuberant, expressive atmosphere is irresistible. I have visited Italy almost a dozen times, usually traveling with my parents or my wife. But this time I went back by myself. I couldn't have felt better prepared -- I spoke the language, could understand dialect and had a contract to write a book about Calabria. But I was in for a surprise. I never expected to feel alone in one of the most sociable countries in the world. I found that it's precisely because Italians are so social that the solo traveler -- however outgoing -- can feel an acute sense of loneliness.