Tips for Traveling in Rome


I embark on my Italian adventure tomorrow (you can follow along on instagram) and can practically taste the gelato. My sweet friend Mia emailed me these fun tips on traveling in Rome and I couldn’t resist sharing. The wisdom was penned by Mia’s friend Jack Waite, an American living in Italy (thanks Jack!). Without further ado, how to visit Rome like a pro:

#1 – When your plane lands, you can either take a taxi to the city (€50 flat fee plus maybe a small surcharge if you have extra luggage. No tip is expected) or take the train to Trastevere Station (€10 or so), then take a taxi (€10) or the tram (€1 or €2) if you feel confident in your map skills to your hotel.

#2 – Be sure to greet shopkeepers, hotel people, or really anyone you deal with by saying “Buongiorno” in the morning or “Buona Sera” in the afternoon and evening. It is considered impolite to do anything but that and you will get instant respect because you are being respectful.

#3 – Don’t order a cappuccino after the hour of 12 noon. I can tell you why some other time, but it is the equivalent of a foreigner coming to the US and ordering a beer with breakfast. It’s just not done. Everyone drinks them for breakfast, usually with a “cornetto” (a croissant). A cappuccino and a cornetto cost about €2 total.

#4 – You don’t need to tip much anywhere except fancy restaurants. Casual places are appreciative of a couple of euro, but it’s not expected.

#5 – If you sit down at a cafe, you will pay 2 or 3 times more for your food/drink. You’re paying for the real estate. Do as the Romans do and sidle up to the bar and drink your cappuccino (in the morning), caffe (espresso) or vino or birra or whatever.

#6 – “Latte” is italian for “milk.” If you order a latte at a bar, you’ll get a glass of milk. And “pepperoni” means “bell pepper,” not the hard salami we put on pizza.


#7 – In the evening, Romans go on a “passegiata,” which is a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood or down scenic streets and sidewalks. You should do this too. It’s a beautiful thing and exemplifies the Italian idea of “dolce far niente” — the sweetness of doing nothing.

#8 – Crime is very rare in Rome, and most of Italy with the exception of pickpocketing. Keep your passport at your hotel/apartment. If you’re going to carry a lot of money with you, use a money belt or stick it in your sock.

#9 – You will do a lot of walking. It’s a very walkable city. Wear nice but comfortable shoes. You are instantly judged by your shoes.


#10 – Eat gelato every day. Get a small gelato (copetta picola) after lunch or dinner. You’re going to miss it like crazy when you leave.

#11 – Trastevere is pronounced Tras-TAY-veray.

#12 – If you go inside the Vatican, you need to bring a shawl if you’re wearing a strapped top. Go to the top of the dome of St. Peter’s. It’s amazing. The Vatican Museum is one of the top 5 in the world.


#13 – Drink the house wine (“un mezzo litro di vino” is a half liter and usually costs about €4 or €5) with your meals. It’s cheap and is made to go with the local food. Or beer.

#14 – The first thing a waiter will say to you is buongiorno or buona sera (reply with the same), then you’ll be asked “De bere?” That means, “What would you like to drink?” Acqua frizzante (fizzy water), acqua lische (still water, pronounced “lee-shay), vino, birra, whatever… just get your order in. If you keep looking at the menu, it’ll be a while before you order your food.

#15 – If you stay in Trastevere, visit Biaggio at the little wine and olive oil shop at Via della Scala 64. We lived a block down at 44 via della scala and would stop here almost daily for a glass of prosecco (maybe €2?) on the way home from work or school.


#16 – Pizza is eaten usually only at night, unless it’s a shop that sells “Pizza a la taglia,” which literally means “cut pizza.” Don’t miss these places. You point to the pizza you want, show them how much you want, they cut it for you, and warm it up in the oven. You can eat a lot of amazing pizza for €5.

#17 – Every day at exactly 12 noon, you’ll hear a cannon shoot from the Janiculum Hill. It’s nothing to be concerned about.

#18 – When crossing busy streets, just maintain eye contact with the drivers barreling toward you. They will stop for you. If you don’t make a move, nobody will stop for you. Set one foot off the curve when there is a break in the traffic and you’ll see the cars slow down for your expected crossing. Do not dart across or run. Just walk quickly.


Hope you enjoyed Jack’s tips! And fear not, I have lots of fun posts scheduled in my absence. I’d better finish packing. A presto!

(images: Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Cy Twombly, Sophia Loren, Candace Bergen, Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn)

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16 comments on “Tips for Traveling in Rome

  1. Erin

    We went to Rome this summer and I can concur with all of these tips. We took a taxi up to Janiculum Hill to see the cannon go off at noon. It was a fun little excursion! Also, we LOVED the Capuchin Crypts. Enjoy your trip!

  2. michael troup

    Lische would be pronounced “liskay” and is incorrect anyway. Ch in Italian is pronounced like “k”. With respect to water it is better to ask for “aqua minerale naturale” if you want still water- easier to remember, hard to get wrong, easily understood even if mispronounced.

  3. Pamela

    I stayed in Trastevere in December 2012 and loved it! There is a great little restaurant called Marco G on Via Garibaldi…unassuming from the outside but charming once you’re inside.

  4. Laura Fabiani

    Do shop in the tourist areas. The prices are great. Also, you can take the bus and subway easily. There are stops to tourist areas like the Colosseum. Bring an empty water bottle and fill up at the “fontanelle” which are the water fountains. The water is refreshing and delicious. Enjoy your trip! I’m jealous. I’m Canadian with immigrant Italian parents. My mother is Roman and I have tons of relatives living there. :-)

  5. Yoshkarolinka

    Thank you for this post! I’ve been wondering whether they have a name for that square delicious pizza sold everywhere, even in supermarkets. It is a very convenient thing to eat for vegans – most places sell options without cheese. I particularly like potatoes, tomatoes, or eggplant for toppings.

  6. Melissa

    Chiming in with more pronunciation notes. I’m not sure what you mean when you say E is *not* pronounced like AY. I’m assuming it’s related to regional accents?

    In the US, words like “say” and “day” rhyme with the Italian pronunciation of the letter E. Famously, you can hear it in songs like “That’s Amore” and “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu” (Volare).

    To put it another way, it’s similar to the French pronunciation of é (with the accent aigu).

  7. La semaine d'une gourmette

    It’s “acqua liscia” not “lische”, and it’s pronounced “lisha”. And it’s “pizza al taglio” not “a la taglia”.
    Oh, and you can also say “Salve” (which means Hello) when entering a shop – it’s a bit less formal than “Buongiorno”, but it’s very commonly used.
    Enjoy Rome! I’t one of my favorite cities (and the food is to die for).

  8. Agnes

    Ah, the eternal city. I must say, that crime or theft in Rome is actually quite high. Hold your purse at all times and be especially vigilant on public transport. Nothing to be scared of just pay attention.
    People are lovely and most speak English. Enjoy your trip.


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