Every corner of the globe has its unique traditions and customs intricately woven into the fabric of a nation’s culture and it is important to be respectful towards them. There are also unspoken norms that you should be aware of, especially if you’re new to the area.
Certainly, Rome is no exception to this rule. A common saying is to “do as the Romans do,” so we have some valuable tips to help you navigate through Rome during your vacation.
1. Dress Modestly for Religious Sites
Keep in mind that when you visit Rome, you’ll be exploring important places, including churches. It is home to numerous religious sites where you need to follow a dress code before going inside. Modest clothing is a mandate while visiting these sites. You must keep a scarf or shawl to cover your shoulders whenever needed.
2. Follow the Roman meal timetable
If you’re accustomed to having lunch at noon and dinner at 6 p.m., you might need to adjust your schedule a bit when in Rome. Lunch is typically served around 1:30 p.m., and dinner is served around 8 p.m. While a few restaurants offer all-day dining, these are mainly intended for tourists. Genuine Roman restaurants usually close during the afternoon. If you’re waiting for your dinner reservations, you might want to explore the city’s aperitivo scene, a lively pre-dinner happy hour that serves light cocktails and snacks.
3. Greet Shopkeepers and Restaurant Staff
When entering a shop or dining establishment, it’s customary to greet the staff with a warm “buongiorno” (good morning) or “buonasera” (good evening). This simple act of politeness goes a long way in establishing a positive interaction while you are traveling to Rome.
4. Carry a water bottle with you
The tap water in Rome is safe for drinking. An important tip for your Rome visit is to carry a reusable water bottle at all times. Buying bottled water can be costly, so if you must purchase water, we recommend opting for larger one-liter bottles from convenience stores. Tourist-targeted small water bottles can cost around 2 € each.
5. Learn basic Italian words
Learning basic greetings in a new city is helpful. Before traveling to Rome-, get familiar with simple Italian phrases. Start with:
6. Enjoy Your Espresso Standing
At neighborhood cafés, it’s usual to savor your espresso while standing at the counter. This not only provides a fast and genuine encounter but is also frequently more economical than sitting. If you sit at a table for coffee in Italy, the cost might increase by two or three times to cover serving it there. So, when you order coffee, pay at the counter, get the receipt, give it to the barista, take your coffee, and enjoy it standing at the bar.
1. Don’t travel afar alone
Unless you’re accompanied by knowledgeable locals or seasoned guides, it’s wise to avoid straying from the well-trodden paths frequented by both residents and tourists. Whether it’s day or night, like in any city worldwide, wandering into less desirable areas might inadvertently put you at risk.
2. Don’t Overlook the “Coperto” Charge
In many restaurants, you might notice a “coperto” charge on the bill. This is a cover charge that includes the cost of bread and table service. It’s a customary practice, so be prepared for it.
3. Do not take photos of gladiators just like that
Avoid taking casual photos of gladiators, legionaries, and centurions. As you walk along Via dei Fori Imperiali from Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum, near the Palatine and Roman Forum entrances, around the Colosseum, and frequently near Castel Sant’Angelo, you’ll encounter well-known figures dressed as Roman gladiators in historical attire. It’s tempting to capture these moments for a lasting memory of your remarkable journey. However, to prevent any unpleasant surprises, make sure to agree upon the “fee” beforehand.
4. Don’t eat and stand
In Italy, meal times hold special significance, and Italians are known for savoring extended lunches and dinners. Even though street food has gained popularity throughout the city, the custom remains that you find a place to sit at a casual eatery, stand at the bar while you dine, or opt for takeout and find a bench in a nearby park. Unlike in some places, Italians don’t typically eat or drink while walking on the streets, and it’s best if you follow suit. It’s worth noting that this rule doesn’t apply to gelato.
5. Never Order Cappuccino After 11 AM
In Italy, there’s a cultural tradition tied to the consumption of milk-based drinks, particularly cappuccino. According to this belief, cappuccinos are considered a morning indulgence, best suited to kick-start your day. Here, it’s not common to order a cappuccino in the afternoon or evening. Locals prefer other drinks during these times, as they value enjoying different beverages at appropriate moments, following their culinary customs and daily routines.
6. Avoid Eating Near Tourist Hotspots
When at tourist attractions, beware of nearby restaurants. These are usually tourist traps. They may seem convenient but often charge more and lack authentic food. Opt for local trattorias a bit farther away, where you’ll find true flavors and traditional dishes. By venturing off the beaten path, you’ll enjoy affordable meals and a genuine taste of Rome’s culinary culture.
Exploring Rome goes beyond the conventional tourist checklist. Getting to know the unspoken rules of a city can give you a deeper appreciation for its heritage and lively atmosphere. With this guide in hand, you’re ready to navigate the cobblestone streets of Rome with confidence, respect, and a deeper appreciation for its timeless charm.
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