Tutte le strade portano a Roma — All roads lead to Rome.
This is an ancient Italian saying, and if it is true, then you’ll be visiting Rome sooner or later!
Roman people are quite used to tourists, who are looked upon as if they are almost a different typology of human beings altogether. Well, isn’t it true that we all change a bit when on vacation in a different country, after all?
Romans are generally welcoming, but it is wise to pay attention to some things that they find it hard to accept. The basic idea is “Don’t do what the Romans don’t.” This is because some tourist habits are somewhat funny, while others are just plain offensive.
Let’s see some suggestions:
1. Do not throw coins into every fountain you see. Coins go into the Fontana di Trevi only.
Living in Rome, it’s so easy to spot coins in almost all the fountains. This always makes people smile, because every Roman knows that the only one in which you should actually throw a coin and make a wish is the Trevi Fountain, and the Trevi Fountain only!
2. Don’t get a lot of single-fare public transport tickets. Get a 3-day, 7-day, 30-day pass instead.
Public transport tickets cost 1€ (but the prices are most probably going to go up starting from June 2012) and allow you one single metro trip or a 75 minutes trip by bus. If you’re going to use public transport a lot, you’d better get a pass that allows you to use buses, metro and trams as much as you want.
BTI ticket costs 11€ and lasts 3 days; CIS pass costs 16€ and lasts 7 days; a monthly pass costs 30€ and is valid for the calendar month. You must validate the pass on the first use using one of the small yellow machines at the entrance of the metro stations or in the buses, and keep it with you at all times, in order to be able to show it to the ticket inspector if needed.
3. Cling to your stuff. Do not keep your money in the most accessible pocket of your backpack.
If this is your habit, Roman pickpockets will just love you. This is a basic rule! Be travel-savvy and keep your documents and money in separate purses and check on them every now and then. Do not put valuables in an external pocket. Do not leave anything unattended even for a few minutes. I-phones and MP3 players are now the most targeted and stolen items, so take good care of them.
4. Fountains are not for washing your feet, and no, you can’t dip them in “just for a minute.”
Rome is so hot in the summer, and your feet will be tired of walking on the hot sanpietrini, the typical Roman cobblestones. So it is just normal to desire to dip your feet in fresh water, but even if you really want to, resist the urge to sit on the border of a fountain and dip your tired feet, as it is forbidden and locals find it disrespectful.
You can use one of those small public drinking fountains called nasoni (big noses) instead. It’s very easy to find one and nobody will blame you.
5. Avoid tourist menus as much as you can and get some proper food.
This looks like an easy one, even if there are many tourist-trap menus in the center of Rome, so many that it isn’t really easy to avoid them, especially when you don’t know where to go. If you prefer a quick snack, it’s also nice to get a look in a supermarket or in an open air market, where you can get fresh ingredients for a panino and some fruit, just like a local.
Also, it is a good idea to try avoiding what you can get at home; you’re in Italy after all! Be curious!
6. Don’t divert your attention!
Always beware of pickpockets, especially when travelling on buses, metros and public transport, but also when in line for something and when shopping in crowded places.
Some bus lines are especially famous for the high number of robberies that happen there every day. For example, the 64 line is one of them. Thieves do not always look seedy—they actually look pretty normal and friendly—but they’re expert scammers. You may get bumped or approached by someone when walking on the street or pushed when in line or while you’re window-shopping. An old trick that usually works is to cling to your bag. For example, get your backpack or bag on your belly and hug it with nonchalance. Even Romans do it, so it’s definitely all right.
7. Avoid entering a church, a place of culture or a museum in a very summery (as in, skimpy) dress.
It is a good idea to keep a big scarf or spare clothes in your backpack, so you can quickly wrap them around your shoulders or legs when visiting some buildings. There is a dress code for many of them, and sometimes the janitors just don’t let you in if you are not covered enough.
So check your tops, short pants and skirts; if they show too much skin, there are chances that somebody will stop you from entering. This applies to both men and women.
8. Do not leave your trash on the streets, in somebody’s bike basket or on the steps of a building.
If you can’t find a bin near you, then keep that rubbish in a plastic bag or in your pockets until you find one.
Rome is such a beautiful city, but just too often visitors don’t care enough about keeping it clean. Many places are littered with rubbish such as food leftovers, cans, wrapping paper, and broken umbrellas. Romans always wonder bitterly if tourists do it in their home cities as well…!
9. You don’t have to pay for everything you’re going to visit. There are so many free places!
While it is true that some museums and palaces are worth the ticket, it is a pity to limit your visit to those places. Gather some useful info before going to Rome! For example, the Pantheon is free, and the Vatican Museums are free on the last Sunday of every month.
Besides, it is nice to visit some not-so-touristy places...You will have a taste of “real” Rome. What about wandering through the small streets, or taking a walk in the most beautiful quarters of Rome, like Trastevere, Testaccio or Coppedé?
Moreover, Basilicas are usually free to visit and contain so many works of art. The big city parks (usually called “Villa-something,” like Villa Pamphili, Villa Borghese, Villa Ada or Villa Torlonia) are free too. You might also like to visit the Appia Antica Park, both walking and biking.
10. Do not accept flowers, toys or anything else from strangers. Refuse firmly and keep walking.
You will definitely meet people who will try to scam you, putting stuff like roses, small toys, bracelets or even little holy pictures in your hands, offering it to you as if it were a gift, or for “good luck in Italy” or because they “need help,” or because “you’re beautiful.” They will then ask for money and give you trouble if you refuse or give them just a few coins. This is when it can help to learn to speak Italian before you travel so you can provide a quick response.
So a firm No grazie (no, thanks) is in this case the best answer. If they approach you while you’re walking, just keep going and pay attention to your belongings in the meantime. Sometimes one person will approach you, while a partner takes away your stuff while you’re distracted. Never let your guard down!
Travel tip shared by Tiziana Battiston