Solo traveller seeking company? Here's the answer

Lips sealed: What does a singleton do in one  of the  world?s most romantic spots?
Lips sealed: What does a singleton do in one of the world?s most romantic spots? Photo: Jessica Hromas

A couple smooch on the balcony. Actually, scratch that - there are about 20 couples smooching on the balcony. They're all lined up like footy players at national anthem time, with other couples behind them, patiently waiting for the front-runners to finish locking lips so they can dive into their place at the edge of the balcony and play tonsil tennis of their own.

It's sunset, which is prime smooching time at any location. Some of the couples here are being professionally photographed in this intimate moment, while others take selfies to immediately post on Instagram and wait for the likes of jealousy to arrive. A few others settle for simply burning the instant into their memories.

The place is Taormina, a mountain town on the eastern coast of Sicily. The balcony is part of the town's main square, a spectacular spot that opens out to views of the Mediterranean, the Sicilian coastline, a perpetually smoking Mount Etna and the slowly setting sun.

This might just be one of the most romantic places in the world, a fact that's rammed home by all the couples celebrating their couple-ness on the streets and lanes and balconies and restaurants of this lovely little town. A little kiss here, a bit of hand-holding there.

The weather is warm and the nights are long. It's perfect.

The only problem with all this love and lust is when you are doing what I'm doing: travelling alone. I'm the weird guy walking around on his own, sipping wine bought by the glass, taking solo selfies at spectacular locations and slurping spaghetti without the benefit of someone attached to the other end.

There's nothing wrong with travelling on your own. But in Taormina? In Taormina you're left to consider the wisdom of doing such a thing.

Thankfully, there's something that can be done, and it comes in the form of a cheap hostel and dorm accommodation. Doesn't matter if you're in Taormina or Townsville, if you're a traveller and you're hoping for company, a hostel is your answer.

I'm bunking down at Hostel Taormina, this expensive holiday town's sole provider of budget accommodation and a home away from home for the 25 travellers who squeeze in there each night. Everyone is in the same situation - if they'd visited Taormina with a partner, they wouldn't be staying in a dorm.

I've only been checked in for about 15 minutes before I've got a partner for dinner. Nadin, a Swedish-Iraqi backpacker staying in my dorm, wants to eat seafood tonight. I want to eat seafood tonight as well. We elect to do so together.

And so out we stroll into the warm Sicilian evening, finding ourselves a restaurant and taking an exceedingly lovely table for two instead of a slightly depressing table for one. Later, we walk the Corso Umberto as a twosome, a pair of friends parting a sea of coupledom, listening to the buskers in the main square, drinking wine in the outdoor bars, eating gelati from the local stores.

During the day, when it's not quite so romantic, you can fly solo. The next morning I'm heading down to Isola Bella, a stunningly beautiful - if pebble-strewn - beach in the shadow of Taormina. It's pretty couple-y down there as well, but at least you can lie in the sun without being bumped into by too many smooching twosomes.

By evening, it's time for this guy to find more company. Nadin has checked out, but in her place are an Australian girl, Jess, and a Kiwi guy, Ivan. They want to eat pasta tonight. I want to eat pasta as well.

So on this evening we've got a table for three as our little band of Antipodeans sits down to a beautiful dinner while we heap casual scorn on all of the happy couples and contemplate a way to spend the rest of the evening. Taormina isn't a party kind of place - it's a hand-holding over candlelit dinner kind of place. We opt for another bar and a few more drinks.

By night three I'm getting into the swing of being a solo man in a romantic world. On this evening I've got even more hostel-goers to hang out with: three Spanish girls and a Brazilian guy.

We eat pasta, again. We take a table for five - which involves squeezing together a couple of tables for two - at a little patio bar and sit among the couples listening to a live duo sing cover versions of Volare, sipping wine, talking travel and loving life. Tomorrow night, we agree, we'll go up to the balcony for sunset. They'll have to make room for all of us.

The writer travelled at his own expense.

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

Have you found yourself a solo traveller in a romantic destination? How did you deal with it? Do you find hostels the best way to meet fellow travellers? Post your comments below.

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