If you’re attracted to amazing art, delicious carbs, and seriously old architecture, then chances are Rome is already on your list of cities to visit. But, if not, it should be! Rome is a popular tourist destination and bustling metropolis that seamlessly blends new with old in a never-ending whirlwind of museums, world-class cuisine, and breathtaking sights.
Want to learn how to navigate the crowded central squares, vistas, and sidewalks? Search no further – here are five Italian-approved do’s and don’ts for avoiding the crowds and cultural faux pas during your time in the “Eternal City.”
1. Put on your walking shoes
Let’s be honest, Rome has a lot of great things to offer, but public transportation is not one of them. If you really want to explore, ditch the metro, definitely forget the buses (they don’t really work anyway), and start walking. After all, the city is pretty much an open-air museum. Everywhere you go, you can spot romantic narrow streets, small churches, and hipster boutiques.
Pro tip: If you get thirsty from all the exercise, no worries: you’ll find a fountain in almost every square.
2. Nights and early mornings are your best friends
This is especially true during the high season (June-August) when the city is flooded by millions of tourists. Having to battle with huge crowds just to take a shot of yourself throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain? No grazie! Visit these spots in the early mornings or even at night and you will have a completely different experience. During dawn and dusk, the city is calm and silent, and you will be able to appreciate the real beauty of the monuments.
Pro tip: Piazza del Popolo at night is a true gem, don’t miss it!
3. Grazie and per favore will take you a long way
Italians really appreciate everyday acts of kindness. Learning how to express gratitude in their language will save you a lot of trouble, money, and will make your overall experience in Rome better. Small things like saying “Grazie” with a smile at the person who serves you coffee could get you a free glass of water or a small chocolate.
Pro tip: Don’t want your communication with locals to be relegated to just ordering coffee? Learn Italian while you live in the city.
Speaking of coffee…
4. Know thy caffè
It’s true, Italians are completely obsessed with coffee. In Rome, coffee is consumed as a ritual, morning, day, and night. But, don’t think you can walk into any Italian cafe and just order away. No, this is coffee in Rome. There are rules.
First things first, check the time: if it is after 11 am or after you just ate, no cappuccino. Sorry, but Italians cringe at the idea of all that warm milk mixing with food in the stomach. Secondly, don’t mess with your coffee. Please, no pumpkin spice lattes or mint frappuccinos. Third, don’t say “espresso.” In Rome, a caffè is an espresso. There is no drip coffee. Also, please refrain from saying “expresso.” This is not a fast food restaurant. That said, you do need to be fast. Order fast, order loud, have your money ready, and you shouldn’t sit down to drink unless you want to pay 20-50% more.
Pro tip: A caffè latte is an espresso and steamed milk (no froth). Unlike at Starbucks, if you order a “latte” at the bar, you will get just that – a glass of milk. So, remember to ask for a “caffè latte.”
5. Breath in the history
Get a guide, a book, or just use your phone to learn about Rome’s famous buildings, squares, and paintings. There is nothing better than walking through the centuries-old cobbled streets and truly understanding the symbolism and historical context of the art, architecture, and Italian culture surrounding you.
Pro tip: My last and simplest piece of advice is this:to avoid the crowds in Rome, just walk the opposite direction. Go through the narrow passage, follow the side street, look around, try the other entrance. Get lost in the experience.
Hope you will have a great visit, and until next time, arrivederci!