A trip to the Caput Mundi doesn't only deal with historical, artistic, scenic, and gastronomic itineraries. Visiting Rome means getting to know Roman people, their habits, and their way of being: the authentic culture of a people.
Every single place in the world has its own traditions and customs which are part of a nation’s culture. However, also some unwritten rules do exist and you must absolutely know them and taking them into account, especially if it’s your first time in a city! Indeed, Rome or the Caput Mundi is no exception so that for many people “when in Rome, do as Romans do”. So, we would like to give you some little but useful advice in order to avoid unpleasant inconvenience…
1) DON'T WEAR HEELS: it is well known that most of the streets in the historical center of Rome are paved with ancient and famous stones called sampietrini or sanpietrini (cobblestones). Therefore, we suggest wearing trainers or comfortable shoes both to avoid turning a pleasant walk into torment and to avoid women getting literally stuck between the characteristic blocks of stone in their reckless attempt to defy this physical law!
2) NEVER EAT NEAR MONUMENTS OR MAJOR SQUARES: this is a regulation of the City of Rome which expressly forbids eating near sites of interest or monuments. One of the most targeted places in this respect, until a few years ago, was the Spanish Steps. It's not a pretty sight to see this picture-postcard view submerged by wrappers, plastic glasses, chewing gums, cigarette butts, and rubbish of all kinds. Watch out because you can risk heavy fines!
3) DON'T BATH IN THE FOUNTAINS: even though Rome can reach very high temperatures in summer, we strongly advise against bathing or taking foot baths in the numerous fountains you will find during your walks or itineraries. The days of Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg bathing peacefully in the Trevi Fountain in Fellini's La Dolce Vita are long gone... Today, you would only risk a fine!
4) NEVER ORDER CARBONARA PASTA WITH THE WRONG INGREDIENTS: the authentic Spaghetti alla Carbonara recipe, one of the typical dishes of the Roman gastronomic tradition, requires only a few simple ingredients. Of course, pasta (preferably spaghetti or other kinds of pasta like mezze maniche or rigatoni), eggs, diced pig cheek, Pecorino Romano D.O.P. cheese, pepper, and salt for the cooking water. In order not to accentuate the savouriness of pecorino cheese and pig cheek, salt should not be used in the sauce. Having said that, if you don't want to make the waiters shudder, avoid asking for unlikely ingredients such as cream, mushrooms, onion, garlic, parsley, and so on. Carbonara, in Rome, is sacred!
5) NEVER CROSS THE STREET WITHOUT LOOKING: whether you are near a traffic light with a green light for pedestrians or a zebra crossing, always pay attention to vehicles coming from both directions. Because of the literally infernal traffic that you will see with your own eyes when you arrive in the Eternal City, Romans are in a bit of a hurry and are not known for being very patient when driving. This is not an excuse, but it is better to always be careful.
6) NEVER UNDERESTIMATE TRAFFIC AND DISTANCES IN ROME: as mentioned in point 5, getting around Rome is by no means an easy task. Romans are forced to endure hours and hours of traffic every day and this, unfortunately, is also valid for visitors coming to Rome. Just think that the city with its 1285 square kilometres is really huge, especially if compared to other Italian or European cities such as Milan or Paris. Rome is 7 times bigger than Milan (182 square kilometres) and even 10 times bigger than the Ville Lumière (120 square kilometres). Unfortunately, due to the traffic and the continuous works in progress, changes in the direction of travel from one day to the next (Editor's note: this could be counted among the irrefutable laws of physics), the punctuality of surface transport is not guaranteed. So, once you have planned your itinerary, give preference to travel by tube and walk wherever possible, avoiding road traffic. However, travelling underground will not allow you to appreciate all the corners of the city which, like an open-air museum, reveals itself to visitors in all its impressive beauty.
7) DON’T SHIFT AWAY FROM TOURIST ITINERARIES: unless you are with locals who know the city or accompanied by expert guides, avoid leaving the areas most frequented by citizens and tourists without asking for advice. Both during the day and at night, as well as in any other city in the world, you could risk entering, unknowingly, into not recommended zones.
8) NEVER ORDER A CAPPUCCINO AFTER MIDDAY: cappuccino in Rome, as in the rest of Italy, is synonymous with breakfast. In reality, it is not a question of time but of the combination between a cappuccino and a savoury dish you may have at lunch or dinner... Even if "there is no question about taste", as the famous Latin phrase de gustibus non disputandum est states, cappuccino usually accompanies a good croissant or a baked product. Try it to believe it!
9) DO NOT ENTER THE PLACES OF WORSHIP IN CLOTHES OR NEVER WALK „UNCLOTHED“ ACROSS THE CITY: this is valid everywhere, but in Rome in particular, especially in the Vatican or in the churches. We suggest not to enter with shorts or too short skirts, low-cut dresses that leave the shoulders and decollete bare and in sight. Even if it is hot, we are not on the beach. So avoid walking around - we are clearly referring to men - shirtless in the streets of the city. In addition to a bad sunburn, you risk a fine!
10) DON'T THROW COINS INTO ANY FOUNTAIN YOU SEE: many people believe that throwing coins into any of the more than 2,000 fountains in Rome is a tradition or an auspicious gesture. Nothing could be more wrong. The only one that has this peculiarity is the Trevi Fountain, mentioned above for other reasons.
11) NEVER USE YOUR OWN CAR IN ROME: dealing again with the above-mentioned traffic if you decided to use your own car, remember that even driving "alla romana" -or in the Roman manner- is one of the experiences to be avoided. Impatient and easily angered, Roman motorists and motorcyclists (and in this category we obviously include also some picturesque bus drivers), are often protagonists of singular scenes worthy of the theatre. Moreover, there is no navigator who can keep up with the sudden changes that Rome undergoes from night to day and vice versa. New bans, new directions, closed or interrupted roads are the order of the day, often without any logical basis. Not to mention parking, restricted traffic zones... So be patient and, to paraphrase the great poet Dante Alighieri, leave your car you who enter!
12) DON'T VISIT ONLY THE HISTORICAL CENTRE: although the historical centre is home to the majority of places of interest, Rome is a multifaceted and multi-layered city that offers its peculiarities, far and wide, throughout its entire urban fabric. In addition to the classic and most popular itineraries, don't underestimate the possibility of visiting some of the more peripheral but equally worthy areas. One of the examples we would like to suggest is the historic and vibrant Garbatella district, one of the beating hearts of the city. Just a stone's throw from Ostiense railway station, it can be easily reached on the B line of the tube, which has a stop of the same name called Garbatella. Another good option could be a walk in the elegant and particular Coppedè district.
13)DON'T LEAVE NOTHING TO CHANCE AND DON'T WANDER WITHOUT A GOAL: Rome, besides being big, is really full of places, monuments, sites, churches, palaces, buildings, etc... to see. It is a good idea to plan a detailed itinerary to follow in order to optimise time and to avoid missing anything along the way or getting lost along the intricate alleys and streets of the historic centre... Have a good map and, if in doubt, ask for information: the Romans, like the Italians, even if they don't know your language, will be able to guide you with the help of a few keywords and their strong communication and incomparable interpersonal skills.
14) DON'T TAKE PICTURES WITH GLADIATORS, LEGIONARIES AND CENTURIONS IF NOT WITH A PREVIOUS "NEGOTIATION": along Via dei Fori Imperiali -which leads from Venice Square to the Colosseum- near the entrance to the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum, near the Colosseum itself and sometimes at Castel S. Angelo, you will come across the famous Roman gladiators, in period costumes. Who wouldn't want a photo to capture the memories of an unforgettable trip? Agree on the "fare" in advance to avoid any unpleasant situation.
15) DO NOT TALK TO A.S. ROMA SUPPORTERS ABOUT S.S. LAZIO OR TO S.S. LAZIO SUPPORTERS ABOUT A.S. ROMA: for those who are passionate about football at an international level, the age-old rivalry between the two teams of the Capital is nothing new. For the fans of both teams, their own team is not to be touched. Even if they call themselves 'cousins', there is nothing familiar or affectionate between them. Those who have had or will have the opportunity to watch a Derby match know what we are referring to taunts that are sometimes not very nice and civil, but sometimes unique and imaginative. "La Roma nun se discute: se ama!" (literally you don't question A.S. Roma team, you love it!) is the slogan of the deep-rooted belonging to the Giallorossi colours. Moreover, even the symbols express a strong attachment to the origins of the city itself: the Capitoline she-wolf for A.S. Roma team and the imperial eagle for S.S. Lazio. Football in Rome is not a sport but a philosophy for many Romans, so be careful not to get your side wrong... because whether it's Roma or Lazio, the team is sacred!
At the end of this roundup of suggestions, it is obvious that Rome, with its merits and flaws, is still a unique city that is worth visiting and discovering in its entirety.
In the hope that we gave you some useful advice and, why not? made you smile, we conclude with an Italian telegraphic but effective proverb: "Forwarned is forearmed"! That is, if you know about something before it happens, you can be prepared for it. It really seems to be tailor-made to close this brief compendium.
CHOOSE ROME'S ATTRACTIONS THAT WON'T DISAPPOINT!❯
When in Rome, do as the Romans do