Traveling solo can get you into a lot of trouble. There’s something about wandering alone that opens up serendipitous occasions; you never know what might happen when you step out into the world with no expectations and an open mind. This is precisely why a solo bar crawl in a foreign city is both a great way to discover new places and a fun way to make new friends.
During my month in Rome, my goal was to see as many places as possible and to enjoy each day like a local. And while I’m a social person, I also like to have some space for myself. Here are a few places I visited in Rome that are perfectly suited for a solo bar crawl, offering a comfortable space to relax while positioning you for new experiences.
This aperitivo and cocktail spot in Trastevere isn’t a secret to travelers or locals. Located near the Tevere river, it’s one of the most popular meeting places for whiling away late Roman evenings. With a full spread of food during their aperitivo hours, it’s easy to get full here with just a few euros added to your cocktail price. But it’s the lounging area outside the bar that makes Freni so down with the young; sitting along a wall covered with graffiti with hip Romans will make any traveler feel like they belong. Try the mint julep, served in a derby cup with ice both inside and crusted on the outside. It’s literally cool!
2. Open Baladin
Located near the Campo de’ Fiori, Open Baladin is the bar in Rome for craft beer. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that beer brings the world together. Featuring a full range of great brews alla spina (on tap) and in bottles, it’s not possible to run out of beers to try. The long bar area is a great place to enjoy a drink. Order some delicious gastropub snacks like their Le Fatate, possibly the best potato chips I’ve ever had, then pair it with one of their artisan burgers. Open Baladin may not be the best place to meet strangers, but they provide free Wi-Fi, so you can make friends with Facebook or the Gogobot app.
3. Draft Book
Just on the other side of the Campo is Draft Book, a small bar-slash-libreria. Sit among the books in this classy spot as you watch people pass outside through the bar’s giant windows. Draft Book offers food, cocktails and free wireless Internet; enough to pass the time for a few hours. And the hip bartenders and locals surely make good conversation partners. Pick a simple rum drink for a deal.
PRO-TIP: When you’re done here, head directly across the small street and enter the dark passageway to discover a classic Italian courtyard.
In the winding streets of Monti, nestled within the buildings and bathed in the yellow glow of street lamps, sits Caffè Bohemien. Another libreria-bar, Bohemien offers a great happy hour special (5€ for a selection off a list of cocktails), a modest aperitivo and lots of comfy places to rest. It’s another spot mentioned in the travel books, and the staff seem poised to accommodate non-Italians. Still, it’s a lounge that’s not exactly in the middle of the bustle, and you won’t find a heavy tourist crowd here.
Still hungry after your Negroni? Head up the street to Gelateria Fatamorgana, the best gelateria (in my opinion) in Rome.
Sometimes you want to eschew the chic, toss away the cool and head to a decent bar with real barkeeps and a dark place to wallow in. This is Fiddler’s Elbow, the self-proclaimed “first Irish-owned and -run bar in Italy.” While the Centro Storico pubs offer a haven for non-Italians to do vodka shots on their birthdays (you will hear more English than Italian in some), Fiddler’s Elbow is low-key. The bartenders talk about life and literature with regulars, refreshing topics if you’ve been surrounded by tourists all day.
Of course, the absolute best experience is to grab a cheap bottle of beer and sit in a piazza with all the other Italians. It’s not a coincidence that congregating should be a popular pastime in a city with such beautiful evening weather.
Keane Li is a Gogobot travel correspondent and freelance writer. His work has appeared in Performer Magazine, and he currently covers Italian culture in his home of San Francisco.