It’s not enough to know where and what to eat when you travel. You also need to learn a little about the how of it. Following the local food customs can significantly reduce friction between visitors and locals while increasing the overall enjoyment of your stay.
When it comes to food and drink, every culture has its rules. And Rome is no exception.
Take a minute to check out these 14 tips so you can eat like a local in Italy’s capital.
- Don’t eat within 10 feet of any monument in the Old Center (including the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, and the Colosseum). You could be slapped with a hefty fine!
- Romans don’t walk around eating their food, regardless of the neighborhood. The only exception to the rule is…
- Grab a cone for the evening stroll (passeggiata) along Via del Corso. Both the stroll and the gelato are an essential part of daily life in Rome.
- Don’t ask to sample a bunch of different flavors. Pick one and commit.
- If the person behind the counter asks ‘con panna‘ (with cream), the answer is YES!
- Only order cappuccino in the morning. And never with a meal! Anytime after noon, you should order an espresso. In Italy, espresso is the exclamation mark at the end of a meal!
- Drink your coffee standing up at the bar. It costs extra (sometimes as much as 3 euro per person!) to sit down.
- Don’t ask for your coffee to go. There are no paper cups and no such thing as take-out. (You also won’t find any sprinkles or syrups to drizzle on top.)
AT THE MARKET
- Don’t touch the tomatoes! Or anything else. Ask the vendor for what you want. (Point if you’re Italian isn’t up to snuff.)
- You don’t need to tip in Italy. You’re probably already paying a supplement through the servizio (service charge) on your restaurant bill and/or the coperto (cover charge), sometimes both.
- If you still want to tip, just round up the bill a few euros.
- The proper way to eat long pasta is with a fork. Just a fork. No spoon. No knife.
- Take three or four strands, then twist them around your fork until you have the perfect bite.
- And for heaven’s sake, don’t slurp! 🙂
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Top Tips for Your Trip to Rome
Where to Stay
When in Rome, I stay at The Inn at the Spanish Steps. The location is perfect – right above the luxury shops on Via Dei Condotti and literally steps from the famous Spanish Steps. It is exactly where I want to be!
While not a 5-star, the service is remarkably good at this luxury boutique hotel. And it has the character and quirks (like a vintage lift) I’ve come to expect from properties associated with Small Luxury Hotels of the World. It also has a lovely rooftop terrace perfect for enjoying an aperitivo after a long day of sightseeing.
Bonus: the oldest cafe in Rome, the Antico Caffe Greco is right next door! A latte will set you back about 9 euro but consider it the price of admission to a Roman institution.
Essential Rome Experiences
My only regret when touring Rome was not upgrading to a private viewing of the Sistine Chapel. Instead, I stood shoulder to shoulder with 2,000 strangers, unable to see my toes, barely able to breathe, and just a heartbeat away from a full-blown panic attack. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough!
If you only splurge on one thing in Rome, let it be a VIP Small Group Tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel with Viator. After the doors close to the public, you’ll have 30 minutes inside this incredible (and empty!) chapel. You’ll also get to skip all the lines and see secret spots like the Room of Gold plus classic sites like Raphael’s Rooms, before ending with a Sistine Chapel after-hours visit — 30 minutes just for your group of 15 people. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Day Trips from Rome
When you need a break from the crowds and chaos of Rome, escape with one of many Rome day trips. Popular day tours from Rome include exploring the ruins of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, making a trip to Tivoli to see Hadrian’s Villa, and taking a gleaming high-speed boat to the island of Capri where you can sip limoncello and visit the world-famous Blue Grotto.
If you’d rather explore on your own, you can hop a train to the nearby medieval town of Zagarolo and explore the ancient city of Palestrina.